14 March 2017

The Motor Chums in Alaska: A Field Trip [1979]


[A passage from The Motor Chums in Alaska, or, The Search for Incan Gold, written 12–14 March 1979]
“Y
ou want me to sponsor a field trip to Alaska!” exclaimed Mr. Kemp incredulously.
Tom nodded as Harry spread out maps and contracts in a businesslike manner. Ned glanced nervously at the clock. “Tom,” he observed, “the game’s just about to start.”
Tom waved him off. “We feel,” he said firmly, “it would be an educational experience in several dimensions, allowing the students of Horatio Alger High to optimize their latent capabilities in a novel environment. It will enhance decision-making skills, ability to verbalize needs in stress-situations, and provide conflict-resolution for certain key students here.”
“Our plan,” added Harry, “is to follow a westward route over the Great Lakes, which will allow us to look over such sites of interest as Detroit and Kalamazoo. Then reaching the b order of the Federated Northern States, we will pass into Dakotah territory and perhaps examine a tribe of Wild Indians.”
With that an interruption was felt as an apparition with a water bucket broke in. “Marse Tom! Ise done closed de bettin’ windows.”
“Good,” said Tom briefly.
“The game!” exclaimed Ned. “Tom, we have to get out there.”
“Our route will touch on several scenic spots,” Harry continued, “passing over Yellowstone Park and Snake Eyes or Dry Gulch Canyon in Wauregan.”
“A pause for refueling in Seattle—a brief glimpse of the frontier backwoodsmen and raw lumberjackery—and then it’s off for the Sootka Valley in the heart of unexplored Alaska,” finished Tom with a flourish.
“I’m not going,” said Mr. Kemp with finality. “It is a trip entirely without value, and dangerous besides. I cannot justify spending class time on such a project.”
“But it’s the chance of a lifetime!” protested Ned.
“A chance to end our lives miserably in the Alaskan ice floes,” said Mr. Kemp. “Do you lads have any idea what travel by dogsled is like?”
“We’ll be going by airship,” said Harry.
“That’s worse than ever,” said Mr. Kemp, throwing up his hands, “If we don’t crash into a mountain or blow up, we’ll have an engine failure in the wilderness.”
“All us Motor Chums are skilled aviators,” said Tom, “There is no danger of anything of that sort happening.” He pulled a magazine from his pocket. “This is yours, isn’t it, sir?”
The Audifax Society Bulletin,” read Mr. Kemp. “I haven’t seen a copy of that for years.”
“I believe you were fired from Harvard for an article in this issue,” said Harry. “‘Corporate Rape of our Natural Surroundings.’”
“I’ve marked a couple of passages here,” said Tom. He read, “‘Little good can come from emissions of toxic gasses into the air from smokestacks across the nation.’”
“Here’s another,” said Ned, “‘Wanton interference with the natural order, especially on foreign shores where these matters are little understood, can only create catastrophes and perhaps sow for the FS a harvest of hate.’ As if we weren’t bringing the blessing of civilization to places like Africa and Europe!”
“And, ‘If F.S. Steel has its way there will be no wood in 1950,’” read Harry.
“I won’t be blackmailed,” said Mr. Kemp. “I’m sure you could stir things up royally, but I will not give in. I will not sponsor a field-trip to Alaska.”
“Sir, you leave us no choice,” said Harry, “We had intended to keep it secret, but now we must reveal the real purpose of our trip. We have good reason to believe that a hitherto unknown civilized race may inhabit the fastnesses of the Sootka Valley.” Briefly he described the evidence, suppressing only all mention of the Gold City.
“Can’t you fit this trip into your scientific expeditions, sir?” Tom demanded politely. “Last year you looked in on the Melanesian Ngrillas. The year before you studied the Philippine Tasmanians. Surely this year you could chart the Eskimos or something.”
Mr. Kemp sighed. “All my life,” he said, “I’ve been searching for utopia. I suppose I may as well search in Alaska as anywhere else.”
“Then you’ll sponsor the trip?”
“I will,” said Mr. Kemp. “But no good will come of it,” he added ominously.
The lads were too excited to take notice of this, however. With a happy “hooray!” Ersatz threw his water bucket high into the air, distributing the contents about the room. Ned turned a cartwheel while Tom strode briskly through the door. Harry paused just long enough to gather his papers, and then joined the other lads in following their collective leader.
As they reached the locker room Bingo Wright and Larry Lawton shoved the helmets on their heads and gave them their gloves. “Come on!” Larry said, “They’re waiting for you.”
The team took the field in high spirits, for by Tom’s capable management, they expected to turn a good profit. Perhaps the spirits of Tom and his friends were higher than most, for Motor Chums Industries owned a good percentage of Badger’s, Inc., but all stood to gain. A deafening cheer rang out when Tom took the pitcher’s box, for he was known and liked for miles around, and the Badgers therefore offered a small discount in ticket price to those who agreed to provide this moral support.
The first round went against our heroes. Although Tom’s work was as good as ever, Bingo dropped a hop fly on the twenty-fifth and even Dick missed an easy liner to the goal. The sole run was scored by Dick, and neither Tom nor Harry even came to bat. The score stood 14-3½.

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