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More Crossings

A Verlyn Klinkenborg piece in the NYT today ("Crossing Nevada") brought vivid memories to me of a very similar crossing for my family and me. It took place at about the same time as Klinkenborg details in his essay -- hell, we could have passed his car on the road.

We had a Ford Galaxie, too. It was a 1962 though, and I'm not sure what we were driving when we made our trip from California east. (The one we had was aqua blue, a convertible with a white interior and top. Sweet.)

And, we were headed from California back to Michigan. After spending about a year in the Sunshine State, as my little kid memory marks it, my parents were throwing in the towel and taking us back home. Jobs were scarcer than anticipated for my dad, a construction electrician, and it was apparently time to bail.

I think I was in about 2nd grade. We must have taken at least a couple of days to drive that trailer behind our car all that way. (On second thought, Verlyn's car probably passed us!) In that whatever car would have been my mom, my dad, my younger sister by 18 months, and my older sister by 9 years, but I don't have any memories of the drive itself except for one.

Along about Nebraska, a bee flew into the back of the car and stung my foot. We had to stop and go into an ER in some unnamed town because I had swollen up with hives and was itching something fierce.

In the tented cubical next to me was a little girl screaming and crying. She had drunk gasoline. Now how would I know or remember that detail? The stuff that goes into little kid heads... I also remember that I was scared for her, but relieved for myself. I knew she was way more screwed than I was in this whole ER deal and I felt better for it.

It's Verlyn's mention of Star Valley in the piece that got my memory churning this morning though.

I remember my dad used to pick out places he'd like to live, where he'd like to move some day, and he never stopped doing it. Not even after the California experiment, which surely must have been marked as a failure. He'd read about the history of a place and sometimes even subscribe to a local paper.

And, Star Valley was one of the places he'd picked out and talked about.

Like Verlyn, I'll bet my dad wondered why he didn't just steer that car full of wife and kids, and the trailer full of all worldly goods, toward that magical oasis to live.

Nope, it wasn't to be. We landed in Dearborn, Michigan instead. Drives out to places like Star Valley were henceforth relegated to fall hunting trips with other men who spent most of their year working in the shops and factories and construction sites of Detroit.

But it wasn't a forever bust. When my dad retired, my parents moved up to rural northern Michigan, to another place on a map that had been thoroughly studied and subscribed to. And that move didn't require a cross country trip.

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