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  • It was easy to profile us as hippies. After all, we drove around in a VW bus with a bunch of kids and even looked the part. I had a full beard that went down almost to my chest and had a willowy wife with large glasses and a pony tail. Nobody paid much attention in the Great North woods but, as we wended our way to Maryland in the summer of 1970, with our soon to be Ojibwa foster daughter Cheri, more and more people stared at us. Few said anything but body language communicates a great deal. In Maryland we visited the farm of one of my former bosses, Mary Brown. Her husband was named John; you really can't make this stuff up! Going to John Brown's farm – so near to Harper's Ferry had been a regular event. Their local barn cat had new kittens and I said that the kids could pick out one from the litter. Of course, they could not decide so we ended up with all three which were appropriately named Blackie, Whitie and Dumdum [he could only walk backwards at that point but he was as cute as could be].

    We visited family in New York State and then, after breezing through Canadian customs, with a cherry “welcome to Canada,” drove across the trans Canadian highway to Sault Saint Marie in Michigan. There we had to pass through American customs; all friendliness stopped at the border. A burly agent took one look at us, the bus, the loaded roof rack, and motioned us aside to an area full of other cars in what seemed to be all states of dismemberment. From what we could see the vast majority were young people. He came up to the driver side window and said “We are going to search this vehicle for illegal materials and contraband. Open up the side door.” It was patiently obvious that he thought that he had a “bust” on his hands – damm hippies! I unlocked the side door and told him that there were sleeping children inside. He brushed by me and flung open the door. A dirty diaper, a verrry dirty diaper, proceeded to fall on his foot with a splat. Cheri raised her head and said “what the fuck is going on?” Dumdum raised his back up and hissed. Geoffrey, the youngest and in a crib, started to cry and the other three kids began to stir around.

    He took a look at his foot, at Cheri, Dumdum and the now two other aroused cats and slammed the door. Pointing his finger at me he commanded “get the hell out of here.” I locked the door and we escaped.

    Upon reflection we were quite lucky. We had two drivers licenses and no passports. There was nothing to indicate that the four children were ours or were, indeed, American. Cheri had nothing at all to prove her identity and the three kittens were not vaccinated.

    Subsequently, we have made a number of trips to Canada as tourists and to visit our only daughter, Aimee, in Newfoundland. We still get the cheery “welcome to Canada” and the same surly treatment upon returning to the American border, but we now have passports and proof of vaccination for the dogs. No VW, just a GMC SUV.

    What are we missing here?

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