Monday, September 13, 2010
I have been traveling for weeks, but North Dakota is still hundreds of miles ahead of me. At least two more weeks of walking. Then, a stroke of luck. I meet a man who tells me that the train goes to North Dakota. I rub my fingers against my thumb, to say I have no money for a ticket. He laughs, which I take to mean neither does he.
And so with a little instruction I “hop” a train from Chicago as far as Fargo. From there I follow the Red River north to the farm of Karl Fjeldståd. As far as Jozéf’s brother, Sergei, knew, Jozéf was working for this Karl Fjeldståd. I should have had my first inkling of disappointment then. Jozéf, after all, was never given to hard labour in a farmer’s fields.
This landscape feels empty to me – flat and forlorn. The openness I loved in the spring is now punishing under the summer sun. The wind blows ceaselessly, a constant reminder of how small and powerless one is against nature. My thirst is unquenchable and my skin burnt red. I take to traveling in the mornings and evenings, and as far into the night as I dare for fear of walking in circles in the dark. My feet are blistered and I am exhausted, but impatience will not allow me to rest when I am so close to my journey’s end. To Jozéf.
It is night as I near Karl Fjeldståd’s farm. Their barn is visible a mile away, lit by torches and alive with the gay sound of fiddle music. As I draw closer, I hear singing -- the beautiful, spirited singing of many voices together. I see men and women, dancing together. My heart quickens at the thought of Jozéf’s expression when he sees me.
I find Karl Fjeldståd outside the barn, a spry man in his fifties, a little drunk -- no happier to see me than Sergei had been. For one thing, my arrival has interrupted a party. (My appearance must have been frightful compared to the pretty women dancing in fancy dresses inside the barn.) For another, the mere mention of Jozéf’s name sends him into a fury. Jozéf left weeks ago, he says. He ran off with Karl’s best boots and before the planting was done.
I am devastated to have come so close, only to find that Jozéf is gone.
Kristian, Karl’s son, takes pity on me and gives me food. In truth, the handsome young man is taken with me, don’t ask me why. Perhaps because he longs to be a traveler, like me. He is too young, too innocent to imagine what drives me on.
Kristian shares a secret with me, a secret his father does not know. Before he left, Jozéf told Kristian that he was going to find gold, in a place still further west, still further north. In a place called Telegraph Creek, in Canada. A thousand miles away. A thousand miles! My heart sinks. Will this road never end? But there is no question. I will keep going. I will find a way. For at the end of this road, I will find Jozéf.
Labels: Travel blog