This 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.
Edwina Olds, most lately Lieutenant, WACS (ret.), held out a hand to Tommy Hastings. They shook. She turned to Freddie Merrill and they shook.
She turned to Mr. Fairlaine, and instead of a handshake she snapped a salute. Startled, the old farmer returned it. He was breathing hard as she held her salute rigid until he dropped his hand. She dropped her. He whispered, “How did you know?”
She smiled, “I’d know an old soldier anywhere.”
His eyes widened as he said, “I was twenty-one when I got home.”
Nodding, she climbed up on the logging truck’s running board and lifted her chin to the boys. “Let’s go. We’ve got Socialists to catch before they commit a crime.”
Mr. Fairlaine said, “Thank you, ma’am.”
“Thank you, as well, Sir.” The truck rumbled, rattling as Ed gunned the engine. She slammed the door up just as a sliver of sunrise broke the horizon. She said, “Looks like it’s August the first, boys. Let’s get going.” They rolled out of the farmyard. Freddy stuck his arm out the window and waved wildly. Charlie waved back. Even Mr. Fairlaine lifted his hand in farewell.
Ed glanced at her watch. “Not quite six am yet. Three hours to the Cities. It won’t even be lunchtime.”
“But will we get there in time,” said Tommy, “to stop all those guys from hurting Mom?”
“What?” Freddie and Ed exclaimed in unison.
“The picture – the portrait thing – in the kitchen...”
Ed upshifted and the truck gathered speed. They passed through the tiny town of Glenn like it wasn’t even there. Pretty soon the road widened out, not quite two lanes either way, but not one single lane either. “Maybe it was J Edgar Hoover,” she said. Tommy looked at her, eyes bugging. But she laughed. “I’m kidding, kid!
Tommy said suddenly, “Arnie and Freddie said before though, that maybe Ma was with a man who was a socialist, and somebody took a picture of him shaking hands with a man who was a communist, right?” He looked at Freddie.Ed leaned forward as well. “That’s still the best idea I heard about this whole thing.”
“But it don’t help my ma! If they get there first...”
“They won’t get there first,” said Ed.
“How do you know that?”
The truck roared along the road and she nodded to a smaller truck parked off to the side, its hood propped open. “Because I think that’s their truck broke down on the road!” All three of them started laughing as they roared south. Tommy stopped first. Then Ed. Finally Freddie stopped laughing. Ed said, “I just thought of something.”
“If their truck’s broke down, where were they?” said Tommy.
The cab was silent as the miles rolled by. It wasn’t long before they slowed to pass through Isle. Freddie said, “You don’t really need to slow down here.” He looked out the window at the southern shore of Mille Lacs Lake. “We were about here when the Witch of Anoka,” he glanced at Ed, “You remember her – she tried to hex you.” Ed laughed, nodding.
“Why not slow down then?”"We seen here and some other witches here, plus there was people from the Mob here. A whole bunch of ‘em chased us out of one of the cabins!”
Ed shook her head, “Witches, mobsters, dairy farmers, me, Socialist Finns – everybody except me – chasing you from here to kingdom come! What a story this’ll be for your kids!”
“It ain’t a story!” Tommy exclaimed. “It’s all true!”
Ed shook her head, still grinning in the morning sunlight streaming through the truck window. “I know that and you know that, but when you try and tell someone about it they’ll think you’re crazy!”
“I don’t care about that! I just want to get home in time to save my mom from the Socialists!” The truck fell into silence again. Ed asked if they wanted to stop for breakfast in a little town called Page. She added, “I don’t think they’re going to be on the main road, Tommy. They don’t want to look like a mob – and they sure won’t get a ride if they all walk together! Even I wouldn’t pick them up.”
“They gotta be up to something!” he said. “Maybe they’re gonna steal a truck! Maybe they did last night and they’re already at my house, torturing Mom and Dad!”
“Tommy, calm down!” Ed said.
He sat back, scowling then finally said, “If I eat something, I’ll probably throw it up.” There was a long pause. “I just don’t want anything to happen to my mom.”
“I don’t, either,” she said.
“Why? You don’t even know her.”
Ed shrugged then let more miles pass before she said, “All I know that if she has such a great kid as you, she must be worth rescuing.”
The truck kept rolling in the bright light of day as a dark cloud descended inside the cab.