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Al Capovilla Goes Shopping with Little Red Wagon

It’s hard to imagine having to tote groceries home, especially in winter, in a little red wagon.  But that is what Al Capovilla did every Saturday when his grandmother, Gusippina Bombini, went shopping downtown.

Capovilla lived with his grandmother in Dunsmuir, Calif.  Because she spoke only Italian, young Al acted as translator and pulled a Red Flyer wagon three miles to town and back, even in winter when the city’s steep roads were covered with snow and ice.  Al said later that he feared the wagon would slip out of his hand and careen downhill, with only his tennis shoes as brakes.

They always stopped at the bakery for day-old doughnuts, while the butcher gave them dog bones and meat scraps for Al’s dog, Spotty.  They strapped the piled-high groceries with ropes.

One Saturday they met an old Chinese man who told Al to walk in the gutter where a small trickle of water flowed downhill.  “No slide here, no ice here,” he assured them.  Al said he felt they had found  “safe passage.”

Source: Capovilla, Al. "Red Wagon Shopping." Siskiyou County Italians: Cultural & Economic Contributions. II ed. McCloud: E. Mary Silva, 2010. 47. Print.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.