A bright blue Volvo FH750 stands on the side of the road only miles from Sor Vanger, last town on the Norwegian side of the border with Russia. The temperature has fallen quickly, and the road, already thickly covered with snow, is increasingly dangerous. Two heavily muffled men reluctantly leave the relative warmth of the truck’s cab in order to meet twelve men, women, and children, blindfolded so they might never identify Steinar and Oddvar, “praerieulvs” or “coyotes”, who hide fleeing Norwegians in the large sand boxes located under the truck’s chassis, above the wheels. On nights such as this, only sand dropped from the truck’s entrails will keep the wheels on the icy road into Russia. Steinar and Oddvar know the roads and know just how much space they have, putting the heavier border busters over the rear wheels where weight is as important as sand.
Steinar, the praerieulv in charge, is a wiry man of about fifty, dressed in conventional Norwegian casual clothing under his winter gear, slacks, blue shirt with open collar, brightly patterned sweater presenting reindeer bowling. This is not his first rodeo, but the current flood of Norwegians fleeing Trondheim has crested in the past few weeks, leaving him exhausted and his resources worn thin. He is resigned in describing the work ahead.
“Ever since President Trump opened the floodgates, I have more business than I can handle. I see twenty or thirty families a day, all trying to bust out of Norway. I’m not sure I can keep up.”
Oddvar, the younger and more excitable guide chimes in. “Me too. I’ll go when I can. People don’t know what it’s like here. Medical care for everyone, high salaries. We got almost no crime here in Trondheim. A guy got trapped under his van last week. Big news.” Steiner nods. “You think you know dull, but you don’t even begin to know dull.” Oddvar spits with contempt. “I get excited, you know, when I hear the president wants us to come. He didn’t even mention Sweden. Maybe too many Swedes already.”
Einar Pen, an engineer with Norsk Hydro has waited for weeks for this opportunity and has arrived with his wife and three sons in tow. Steinar explains the ground rules as Pen shrugs into the jumpsuit he will wear hiding in the truck, as his family will as well. He grumbles a bit as he is to be wedged into the few square feet of space above the truck’s right rear wheel. He is six foot and seven inches of university trained metallurgist with a head the size of a watermelon. Groaning, his labored breath turning to frozen mist as he labors, Pedersen assures his wife that all will be well once they get to Russia where an easy train ride gets them to Pulkovo airport in Saint Petersburg.
“Yes, sure. Hardship now, but in only a few months, it will be beautiful. Just like the Wild West.” Pedersen coughs broadly, scattering chunks of frozen phlegm onto the dark night. “Right now, we have it so good, you know? Good for everyone. No excitement. Everybody has a good life. Money. You know.”
“Now, Eidar…” Pedersen’s wife interrupts. “We do this for the kids.”
The three Pedersen boys stand quietly.
“Sure.” Pedersen grins widely. “But we live in Alaska in a few months, hunt bears, have guns.”
Berit Pederson shuffles uneasily; the Pedersen boys fist bump.
Nerves are on edge as the praerieulv hands out parkas and backpacks.. With practiced certainty he separates the Vikings from the victims, the younger from the elders.
Do not fall behind, I will have to leave you, we MUST leave you, there are going to be casualties, but we have to keep going.
Berit slumps anxiously as she is seated in the cab of the truck. The boys have been placed inside sacks of turnips which will be delivered to grocers in the small towns on the Russian border. “We thought about El Salvador or Mexico, exciting too, and warm, but Eidar, he wants to be a cowboy, like John Wayne, and he says US is just as dangerous but clean.”
In the wake of the president’s encouragement of Norwegian immigration and the flood of emigrants deserting the Norwegian economy, the Storting resorted to draconian measures, placing guards at the airports and monitoring the highways. Only commercial vehicles have been allowed to travel into Russia. In December, Erna Solberg, Norway’s Prime Minister, spoke with grave concern before the Parliament.
“Americans have taken so much from Norway, stolen some of our greatest human treasures. Yes, certainly, it was hard to see Sonja Henie skate off to Hollywood, but since then, look at who could have been honoring Norway: Marilyn Monroe, the Olsen twins, Eliot Ness, Knute Rockne, Paris Hilton, Rene Zellweger, Adam Lambert, Kristen Wiig, Roald Dahl. The American entertainment industry has been built in the broad shoulders of Norse immigrants.
No more. We keep our people now. Did I mention Mary Kate and Ashley?”
Then, we are insulted. This Prairie Companion mocks the Norwegian bachelor farmers in Minnesota. “Ya, sure” and so forth. From Garrison Keillor who is not even Danish much less Norwegian. Canadian and Scottish. Maybe never even has been to Norway. Maybe some jokes about Canadian bachelor farmers would be a good thing. Maybe he jokes not so much this day.
A brittle snowfall continues to cover the highway as the truck rumbles from the dark bypass. The Pedersens, like countless thousands, will soon land in Anchorage, secure in the knowledge that there, at least, they are wanted.