After a weekend off-campus, visiting a friend from freshman year who attends school in Moorehead Minnesota my daughter sends me a text to let me know that she, her roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend are on the road headed back to Bemidji. She sends a few details of the trip and lets me know that in addition to Moorehead she also visited Fargo North Dakota. That is when it happened, the mental ping-pong volley in my head of my own limited visits to Fargo.
In the spring of 1978, my ninth grade choir had a stop in Fargo on our way to Winnipeg Canada. I believe we performed in a church there and then were parceled off in pairs to stay in homes of congregation members. I recall a stop at the West Acres Mall where my classmate whose father was an author inquired at the book stores as to if his latest book was available. We wore “Winnipeg or Bust” shirts that we had created with iron on letters and several of us wore cowboy hats, which oddly did nothing to represent that we were the “Southwest Indians”.
That would be the first of several trips to Winnipeg for me over the next few years. As a member of a girls organization, Job’s Daughters, I had made friends with a group of Canadian women a couple of years older than myself and I would visit to attend some of their special functions and also went once for New Year’s Eve. While my choir trip had involved two coach buses and a small crew of chaperones who were actually just high school students who contributed to our delinquency, my personal trips to see my friends were typically me riding solo on a Greyhound bus. I have a girlfriend who took her younger sister on the same trip during that era, at the border it was suggested that the next time they should bring a note from their parents, as a verification they were not in fact running away. You need a passport to get into Canada now, I have no recollection of showing any identification at the border, it was simply my word as to who I was and who I was planning to visit. There was no backup plan if someone didn’t meet me at the station. I was fifteen the first time I went.
I recall one trip when I was seated on the right side of the aisle, in perhaps the third row that at one station the passengers remained on the bus and the driver exited to retrieve some sort of delivery items. Almost immediately after the driver entered the station a man jumped on the bus and came to my seat, said “excuse me ” (so that I would move my left arm off the arm rest) and used tools to remove the panel on the outside of my seat. Once it was removed he reached in and grabbed several small bags of white powder and began shoving them into the front of his golf-styled jacket, the elastic waist holding his loot in. When all had been retrieved he quickly rose and departed, leaving the seat dismantled and the tool on the floor. Moments later the bus driver returned and looked at the scene and me, as though I were responsible. An older woman across the aisle explained to the driver what had happened. I never mentioned that episode to my parents.
During a trip when I was perhaps sixteen I opted to sit on the driver’s side near the rear. At a later stop a guy in his twenties got on, came back and “sat me in” despite there being vacant seats. He was chatty and said he had been in the Canadian military. He wanted to tell me about his tattoos and how during a trucking strike he had traded two cases of beer for one of them. He talked my ear off until our stop in Fargo, where I headed to the women’s room quickly. I thought it best to stay in there as long as possible and waited until about ten minutes before boarding to step outside and survey the surroundings. It was less than thirty seconds later that I saw the young man across the depot and heading my way. I quickly turned to enter the sanctuary of the lady’s room only to discover I had made a pretty significant error. The bathrooms had designated entrances and exits and in my haste I had turned and entered the men’s room. I quickly corrected my error, only to discover that a group of a half a dozen young men were laughing loudly at my mistake, while explaining to their blind friend what had occurred, to which he responded in a thick Canadian accent “She probably thought I was in there!” Another random Fargo memory.
That was the trip where the bus was held up at the border after the men inspecting my luggage were unable to arrange my clothing in the manner I had packed them and broke the hinges on the suitcase. They also went through the stacks of photographs of me and my friends from my previous trips and commented on my wardrobe choices and other things I doubt were part of their job description. I returned to the bus only to have the soldier boy ask what took me so long. When I explained he responded “they didn’t even find the knife hidden in my boot and I just left all my porn in my carry-on here on the bus.” Just another trip detail that I failed to share with Mom and Dad.
I’m glad my daughter got to go to Fargo with friends and if I never go on another road trip again I bet I have enough memories to sustain me. I carry around a lot of information in my mental luggage. Every once in a while I need someone to break a hinge and let some fall out.