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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A-Z M is for Aunts


Reprint of old column from 5/22/2004 

Happy Mother's Day to all the women who raised us! 

This was my all-time favorite moment from the "Friends" TV show. It's a few hours after the birth of Ross's son (not with Rachel) and all the friends are meeting the baby for the first time. Monica, Ross's sister, holds her newborn nephew tenderly, tears in her eyes with awe for this new life in her family.


This was first published May 10, 2002

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were talking with our kids about the best and worst jobs we have had. I said picking asparagus was pretty boring. My husband didn't like the day he was a taxi driver. We both love writing when it goes well, we get a lot done, people tell us what clever people we are, and we earn lots of money from it. These aspects of writing come together about once a, well … I'm sure it's right around the corner.

My daughter prodded, "Come on, Mom. What's the best job of your life?"

Dark River

The photo is the Platte River in Nebraska. This post was a newspaper column for the Racine Journal Times in 2003.


Dark River

"I think us here to wonder."  (From "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker.)

The day was one of those glorious October days when the sun blazed through gold and crimson trees; the incense of burning leaves perfumed the air. It seemed a shame to go inside simply because night was coming on.

"Let's take the canoe out on the river tonight."

Where Heritage is Found

Last week I spoke with a woman who  is working to support MayaWorks.

I sent her this writing I did back in 2006.


I stayed several days with the Sepet family, a very cash-poor Maya family that lives in the altiplano, the mountains of Guatemala.  These people were so intelligent, gracious, strong, and hospitable.  

This adventure happened during my second day with them.

Quarantine Dairy #669 A Rerun


I have a lot of projects to get through today. I wrote this in 2006 when I worked at Target for six months. I still like it.


This week I saw an inspiring sight.  I saw a little kid completely lost in his imagination. 

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.”


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