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.
When Edwina Olds, most lately Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) roared past Socialists from Duluth and mobsters from Anoka without slowing, Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill caught sight of a fist shaking and shouted obscenities before the truck disappeared into the aurora before dawn. Twenty minutes later, they saw a string of men walking along the side of the road.
It was obvious that the group of men heard the truck.
Three of them turned, waving their hands in the air and slowly stepping out further and further into the road. Ed muttered, “They come much farther out, I’ll have to stop or run ‘em over…”
Freddie said, “You can’t kill ‘em! Not just because they want a stupid picture!”
Tommy turned to stare at his best friend and exclaimed, “They’ll kill us for Mom’s picture – the think it’s gonna wreck their socialism or something. But they’ll kill us.” He looked at the men edging out into the road. “It looks like they’re crazy enough to kill themselves, too.”
Ed, watching the group, nodded. She didn’t slow down, though she wasn’t going really fast. The men had stopped moving, standing and taking up almost the entire side of the road. She said, “If we stop, they’ll beat us to a bloody pulp, at least.”
Tommy said, “Can you miss them if they don’t move?”
She glanced over at them, smiled grimly, and said, “Most likely. Long as none of them jump right in front of me.”
Freddie leaned back, slid his butt toward the front of the truck and stared at the ceiling. “Fine. Fine. I don’t wanna die either way, but long as you can miss ‘em, do it.”
Tommy slid down as well. Ed gunned the engine. The truck sped up. Tommy sat up just in time to see the socialists scramble back to the side of the road. A car racing down the road toward them laid on its horn as they between the men and the car. Ed burst out laughing, upshifted, and accelerated. Tommy lay back, sliding down until he was on the floor, back to the truck door, sitting on Freddie’s feet. Looking up at Ed, he said, “You’re the craziest lady I ever met.”
“Lucky, too,” Freddie grumbled.
Ed shook her head, “I won’t argue either point, boys. But the luck and craziness didn’t start here. Imagine what people said when I joined the WACS.” She paused as the truck settled into a steady growl. “Imagine what people said when I told them I was gon be a truck driver. But I survived the war and I’m gettin’ paid for something I love doing.”
“Driving boys around while Socialists, mobsters, witches, and crazy farmers are chasing them?” Freddie said glumly.
Ed snorted, nodded, and said, “Yep, even driving boys around while Socialists, mobsters, witches, and crazy farmers chase after them.” She looked at Freddie and added, “Especially the Socialists part.” She turned back to her driving in time to see a road sign that proclaiming that Minneapolis was 100 miles ahead. She said, “Seventy miles boys, and we’re home. One hour.”
Freddie sighed and said, “A lot can happen in seventy miles. A lot.”