Mary Beth Writes

From: December 17, 2005                          

As we trek ontowards Christmas we are encountering characters suggested by the traditional Christmas story; a shepherd who's actually a local dairy farmer, an innkeeper who manages a hotel on Durand. 

And now we meet a wise man traveling from afar.


When I met Eddie Jirgensen, who works for Merchant's Moving and Storage, the first thing he asked was, "You're not gonna say I'm a wise man, right?"

I said I'd call him a traveler.

He sighed his relief. 

"It would be a stretch to call me wise; but traveling, sure. That's what I do."

Eddie was just back from a 7000 mile/12 day jaunt to Atlanta, LA., Seattle and back home. He put 368,000 miles on his truck in the past four years. He's away from home 180 nights out of the year.

Eddie knows about unfamiliar people and strange phenomena.

How does one become a traveler-for-hire?

"My dad came from a POW camp in Latvia at the end of WWII. Mr. Eastman, the owner of this company, sponsored him. Dad arrived in Racine, the next morning he came to work here, he never worked anywhere else.  Dad was so thankful for his job and his life in this town.

"When I graduated from Park High School in 1970 I tried a few things, but by two years later, I applied for a job here.  They hired me and that was that.  I'm one of the last of those guys who works one place all their life.  I'm thankful, too.  This is a good company to work for."

"The job I have is actually called Relocation Specialist and these days we mostly work for corporate types.  Someone gets a job transfer; we go to their house, pack up their stuff, put it in the truck and drive it to their next house. 

Eddie chuckles. "I meet great people this way.  For example, we were packing the family of a CEO who was moving to become CEO of an even bigger company.  They owned so much stuff it took three trucks to pack it all.  Anyway, all that money and pressure, and when the wife learned that it was my birthday, she got me a cake!  Most of the people I've met over the years are that friendly.

"A few aren't.  Every once in a while you meet people who, well, let's just say their money has not enhanced them...

"I hate to drive in New York City, though I've done it a lot.  Once I was right down in the financial district.  I needed to make a wide right turn but couldn't because a parked vehicle was in my way.  There I was, across both lanes of the street, stopping all traffic for 20 minutes, at noon, in Manhattan. 

"Weirdly, no one was honking.  Cars were lined up behind me as far as you could see, but they were all silent. 

 "I found out later Mayor Giuliani had just instituted a car horn ban."

I ask about inconvenient moves.

"Once we moved a grand piano into a second floor by taking out a window and then part of the wall.  Then we built a ramp from the top of our truck into opening we'd made.  We hoisted the piano on cables, and then moved it along the ramp. 

"Another time we removed the staircase plus part of the wall to lower a pool table into a basement.

"Some years ago we moved two enormous taxidermy-stuffed bears; one was a polar bear the other a grizzly.  They were so big we had to lay them on their sides in the truck.

"There are two things that people always say to us.  One is 'You never know how much stuff you have until you move,' and the other is; 'We'll never move again.'"

"But they always do

"It can get tense when you are emptying a house because of a divorce.  A wife who was leaving her husband told us he would be home after work.  As I was packing the bedroom I came across a picture of the couple.  The husband was this huge mountain of a guy.  I showed the picture to my partner, we worked double time to get out of there before he came home!"

"Packing homes that are breaking apart can be sad. You see that the grass isn't always greener somewhere else.  You gotta work it out if you can.

"On the road we see a lot. In California I was almost knocked out of my bed by an earthquake.  I've seen so many blizzards and rain storms.  I've never seen a tornado, though I've driven through places hit by them or by hurricanes.  We always work in teams of two so we're usually safer than other long-haul trucks.  We take turns, we catch sleep regularly and we can talk, too, if it gets too quiet.

"I've always been interested in haunted places. I met a woman in one of those really old houses in Washington DC.  She said her house had a ghost who would sometimes show up wearing a purple velvet coat like those ones Washington and those early guys wore.  There's a haunted battle field in Iowa, though I never sensed anything odd there.  There's a house here in Racine where we've moved things, that has an attic room that just makes you sad to walk into it."

"I remind myself all the time, 'Take a good look around, you'll probably never see this place again.'"




What interesting people u meet! Good story
Mary Beth's picture

Almost (not all, but almost all) people are interesting. One of the most amazing adventures of being a writer has been the opportunity to ask perfectly polite humans perfectly nosy questions. It's been 12 years since I interviewed this guy and I still remember how handsome he was (for an older guy!), his humor and obvious love for his wife and family, and - the house in Racine he was sure was haunted.

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Car Accident & Not Buying the Farm Today

My friend Karen texted last night that she is okay but she had been in a car accident in the afternoon. A driver had not stopped at a stop sign, thus plowing into Karen’s rear driver-side door.

Her accident reminded me of one I was in with my son years ago. This is the newspaper column I wrote about the event.

Hold a good thought for Karen today, okay?  She texted this morning, rather poetically, “I feel like I’ve been dragged through a knothole.”


When History isn't in Museums

I stayed twice for several days with a Maya family in Guatemala’s altiplano. This adventure happened during my second day of my second stay with them.

Senor Jorge, the 50ish father of the family, asked if I would like to take a walk to see a Mayan antiquity. It took a minute to understand his question since my high school Spanish was a long time ago.

Yes, I would!

Genealogy, Comets, and Pedigree Collapse

 We are still able to see NEOWISE in the evening. 

More info about how to see it here: 

Len took this photo a few nights ago. The white stripes in the foreground are lightning bugs!

I wrote this column in 1997 and remembered it this morning.       



 I wrote this in 2008 when I was the coordinator of the Jail Employment Program in the Racine County Jail.


Dear Pals,

Tuesday morning the four women in my current Jail Employment Program group went out from my office, per usual, to look for work.

"Broken Days"

If you type my name into the Internet this quote pops up; "If growing up is the process of creating ideas and dreams of what life should be, maturity is letting go again."  

The line is from this essay, Broken Days, published in Mothering magazine in 1987.

Later it was published in the Utne Reader.


Hurricane Charley, 2004 "Why yes, we were there."

 I went back in my file of old writing and found these two columns I wrote in August of 2004. This was the FIRST time we had a vacation sidetracked by a hurricane…


Hurricane Charley

Part I

For our family vacation, we'd made reservations at a resort in the Florida Keys.  We thought a week to swim, read, explore a little, eat great seafood, and just generally kick back to enjoy each other -- would be wonderful. 

I still bet it would. 

We sure don't know.

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