‘Drive South’ starring Henry Fonda as CharlieEmbed from Getty Images
and Jean Arthur as AnnaEmbed from Getty Images
Music by Duane EddyEmbed from Getty Images
Scene 1 – Introducing Anna
Anna looked out at the Minnesota night sky.
A distant moon illuminated swarms of ghostly moths fluttering by her window.
Snow and ice all around. And, the Cold … the Cold.
No matter how thick the blankets you sheltered under you were always cold in Minnesota in Winter.
A Winter which seemed to reign all through the year.
How many stars were there above Lutsen?
Thousands upon thousands. And, she had wished upon every one.
Wishing that one day, soon, she would be looking at those same stars somewhere far away where the days and nights were warm.
With someone who would take good care of her and call her Anna not Anni-Frid.
Like Papa and the boys always did. Papa was already planning a marriage for her to a local farmer, a widower, who came of ‘good Norwegian stock’.
Anna. The name she called herself. The name she would take with her out into the world beyond the fences of the farm.
South. Like the birds to live, to thrive, she would have to head South.
Scene 2 : Introducing Charlie
Charlie came from the South.
Now you could blink your eyes twice and miss all there was to see in Alapaha.
But it was home. The air smelled sweet and the peaches were so fine – straight off the tree.
And, if it wasn’t for that trouble he’d got into with the local Sheriff on account of a misunderstanding about the ownership of a truck he won, fair and square, in a card game with one of the Faulkner boys he would be there still.
Instead, he had to high tail it out of there without a backward glance. Better that than a long spell behind bars or be baked to death on the chain gang.
Sure, he didn’t know how he would pay the next time he needed gas. But, with a grin, he thought somehow he would find a way. He always did.
He knew the dirt roads and trails round here better than anyone. Forty miles of bad road and he would be long gone.
All they would ever catch of him would be the dust he left behind!
Scene 3 : Love and flight
Now, Charlie was thousands of miles away from the Southern sun in Minnesota. Still, there wasn’t a car or a tractor ever made that Charlie couldn’t make run even if everyone else had given up on it.
And, there was always work in farming country for a man who could save the struggling farmer the price of a new machine by resurrecting an old one.
Word got around. And so did Charlie. Farm to farm making those machines last one more harvest.
Charlie thought The Olsens worked harder than Georgia mules. And it seemed they were about as talkative too.
They were head down and close mouthed from sun up to sun down.
Though Charlie liked to talk he’d come to understand that these Norwegian folks spoke only when it was strictly necessary.
Only Anna spoke as if talk was a pleasure. When they got a chance to talk before the shadow of Mr Olsen or one of his five hulking sons intervened.
But, you can say a lot in a very few words. A lot.
Old Mr Olsen near cracked a smile Charlie got his old John Deere running again. Come in boy and wash up and let us share supper with you.
Anna is a fine cook – we will miss her food when she leaves us to become Mrs Nordstam come spring.
And, as he came into the house there was Anna haloed in the half light .
And, that was that. He couldn’t, wouldn’t, let her become another man’s wife.
He knew from the look in Anna’s eyes that she had been waiting for him just as much as he must have been waiting for her.
Some things don’t need words. A look is more than enough.
He told Mr Olsen he’d come back in the morning.
And he did. At three. Before anyone was awake.
Apart from Anna. He knew she would be awake. And waiting.
They had to walk a long ways in the still moonlight to where he had parked the truck.
They didn’t speak but they both knew that they were bound together now and that the road ahead, however bumpy, would be one they traveled together.
So, as the truck pulled away heading South their faces were shining bright as any star and their hearts were on fire.
Charlie said they would find a preacher once they crossed the state line.
And they drove South. South.
Under the canopy of heaven.
Scene 4 – Odyssey of love
Together in the truck and the truck stops they found they were as close as two people can be.
As the ribbon of the road unfurled they told each other the stories of their childhood and their secret dreams.
They would never forget the changing light and the charging of their hearts as they headed South.
The names of the towns they passed through or where they stayed when Charlie was working became hallowed beads on their love’s rosary.
Redwing, Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Aitkin, Brainerd, Little Falls, St Cloud, Elk River, La Crosse, Potosi, Dubuque, Lomax, Kampsville, Granite City, Cairo, Columbus, Tiptonville, Golddust, Locke, Memphis.
Of course, there were times the truck broke down and days when they thought they’d never see another dollar.
Charlie got in a fight a time or two and Anna longed for the days when they would have a home to call their own. A home where they could have a family.
In the meantime they kept moving.
Scene 5 – A home of their own
Kept moving. ‘Til the day they found Bell Buckle or Bell Buckle found them and they claimed each other.
Turned out Bell Buckle was in sore need of a first class mechanic and a woman with a smile as bright as the Southern sun.
Under the Southern sun two become three, then four and finally five.
And, they were never really cold again.
Duanne Eddy with his trusty Gretsch 6120 made some of the defining instrumentals of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Every home should have his Greatest Hits securely shelved.
I intend to write much more about Duanne when, ‘Peter Gunn’ features on The Jukebox later.