March 31, 2016

JOURNEY TO THE PORTRAIT’S SECRET #84: July 31, 1946 series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.

The tractor trailer having slid to a stop, Edwina Olds, most lately Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) nodded then looked out the window. The cow she’d stopped in time to avoid smashing it death, stood in the middle of the road and behind it loomed a sign that read, FAIRELANE CREAMERY.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill, sharing the passenger seat next to her exclaimed, “This is it!”

Just then an old man and a young man, both with shotguns, stepped into the road and the headlights. The older man shouted, “Come on out with your hands up!”

Freddie grabbed the door handle and jerked it up. Ed exclaimed, “Stop right there, boy!” He froze.

“What?” the boys said in unison.

Ed shook her head, saying, “I’m highest ranking here and so I’m your commanding officer. You both stay here while I speak with the gentlemen with the loaded weapons. We ain’t in the Philippines anymore and we ain’t at war. So…” she opened the door slowly and with hands raised, stepped out of the cab and down to the ground without closing the door. The boys heard her say, “Excuse the rough stop, Sir. I have two boys with me, on Tommy Hastings and another Freddie Merrill who said I might check with you to buy some fuel for my rig. They seem to be pursued by Socialists from Duluth and as I’m a friend of theirs, I’m working to take them back to the safety of their home in Minneapolis.”

At the mention of their names, Charlie Fairlaine lowered his rifle, stepped behind his father and ran up to the passenger door. He yanked the door open, looked at the boys, and shouted back to his father, “It’s them, Dad!”

The elder Fairlaine lowered his shotgun, shooed his cow back to her corral then said, “Pardon me, ma’am. You be…”

Ed lifted her chin and said, “Lieutenant Edwina Olds, Women’s Army Corps, recently retired.” She nodded at the sign, “I take it you’re the Fairlaine advertised?”

Charlie jerked his head to one side and Tommy and Freddie climbed down while Ed and Mr. Fairlaine negotiated a fill on gas. Charlie gave them both unexpected slugs in the shoulder and grinned at them. “Good to see you two. Stayin’ out of trouble?

Tommy started to say, “Yea…”

Freddie said, “Hardly! The Socialists are chasing us ‘cuz Tommy’s mom has some kind of crazy picture or something and they want it so bad…” Tommy slugged Freddie, hard, because Mr. Fairlaine and Ed were looking over at them. Freddie rubbed his shoulder, looking down at the ground and pouting.

Ed called over to them, “Come on, boys! Mr. Fairlaine’s going to give us a fill – but you have a job to do, too.”

Freddie looked at Tommy, who let his eyes grow wide. “What…”

“Come over here, boys!” Ed snapped and they hurried. Charlie walked after them, grinning.

“Now listen careful, boys. Mr. Fairlaine here has a trade he’d like to make with us – ‘cause I don’t have any cash on me for gas. Only the company checks. So I had to make a deal in order for us to fill up and get you back home before our Socialist enemies catch you and me and turn us into roadkill.”

She nodded to Mr. Fairlaine, who said, “I’ll fill this honored veteran’s gas tank on one condition – and it’s up to you two.”

Tommy said, “What could we do, Sir?”

“My thoughts exactly! But Charles here seems to think you might be able to help him out. Next summer, the wife and I are going to California to see her sister. While we’re gone, we were thinking that the three of you might just barely be able to maintain the farm. No pay – but I’ll give this here veteran all the gas she can pack and won’t charge her nothin’. Charlie will get your help and me and the wife might actually take a vacation for once in our lives.”

“What do you say?” Ed asked.

Tommy looked at Freddie who shrugged and said, “Get me away from home.”

Tommy nodded and said, “Me, too.” He looked at Charlie, “Might be fun, too.” Ed held out  a hand, first to Tommy, then to Freddie and they shook. Then she held out a hand to Mr. Fairlaine, and he shook. Next to them, the truck rumbled.

Ed looked up just as a sliver of sun broke the horizon. She said, “Looks like it’s August the first, boys. Let’s get gas and get you home.”

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