Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Return to New Orleans, 43 years later

Wick's World


This month marks the 43rd anniversary since a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

In 1971 my soon-to-be wife and I had been dating quite regularly at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion where I was finishing up my degree. Although she already graduated, we met each other on campus and soon discovered we had a lot in common. We had both returned from spending the summer traveling Europe. She bought a Euro-rail Pass that allowed unlimited rail travel throughout Europe. I had my thumb, which pretty much allowed me to follow wherever my rides took me.

That was not an easy task as I was traveling with a large backpack and European cars tend to be rather small. I once stood at an Autobahn exit for 23 hours. The nearby town of Holzkirchen is still etched in my mind. It was only a few months ago when I found out that Holzkirchen translates into Hell’s Kitchen. How appropriate was that? I once got a ride with a camel tender. It was actually more of a walk. All the camel did was carry my backpack for which I was grateful. I also rode in a horse-drawn wagon in Czechoslovakia.

Let me take the story back to South Dakota. I dropped out for the second semester as the traveling bug had once again bit me hard. Mardi Gras came early that year and my friend, Padre (he later became a Catholic priest), and I had made plans to hitchhike to New Orleans. As often happens with plans, this one went awry. The smartest, best looking cutie on campus asked if she could come along. I said, “Adios Padre,” and, “Hello Babe.” We have been together as a couple ever since.

We got dropped off by friends at the Vermillion exit at I-29 and stuck out our thumbs. A black sedan carrying two middle-aged men pulled over immediately. As we got in the back seat, my wife gave me a frightened look. She pointed at doors and I realized there were no door handles. I picked up on it immediately. Our first ride was courtesy of law enforcement.

The front seat passenger turned toward us and flashed his FBI badge. He then asked for our IDs. We complied and he soon realized my future wife was 22 years old and I was 25. My wife looked quite young back then as she still does today. She also has jet black hair.

“We thought she might be the 14-year-old runaway from the Reservation we are looking for,” the agent explained. “We can drop you off on the far end of Sioux City,” he offered.

Our next ride took us all the way to Jackson, Mississippi. By then it was almost midday so we walked over to a nearby roadside inn and got us a room for the night. This was the notorious spot where we were warned about the unfriendly city of Jackson.

The innkeeper said, “There are two things we don’t like down here in Jackson ­— blacks and hippies. Ya’ll best be getting out of town as soon as that sun comes up.”

Being young, adventurous and rather naïve, we took his advice and made our way to New Orleans by nightfall.

Forty–three years later we stopped for the night at a La Quinta Motor Inn in Jackson. Although we realized it wasn’t exactly the same place where we stayed a lifetime ago, it was good enough to bring alive the old memories. This time around we mingled in the courtyard with Hispanics, blacks and several white families on their way to the football bowl games being held all over the south. Hippies seemed to have vanished from the past generations and were nowhere to be seen; although when we got to New Orleans many street musicians still fit the stereotype.

Everyone in Jackson was amicable and, although it was Christmas night, we were directed to an open Oriental Food Mart that had an attached restaurant. Maybe it was from eating gas station food for the last two days, but we agreed this was one of the best Chinese meals we had ever eaten in our lives.

We awoke to a bright, sunny day and by nightfall we were back in “The Big Easy” — New Orleans, Louisiana. The real fun was about to begin.


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