Return of the company town

A typical early 20th Century Iron Range miner worked long hours before retiring to a home and bed owned by his employer. He returned his wages to the company in exchange for just enough food, clothing and tools to survive. If the miner had a wife she possessed even fewer choices. Her very survival, and… Read More →

‘Power in the Wilderness’ podcast Q&A July 20 in Hibbing

I’m writing a new book, “Power in the Wilderness.” At almost five years, this represents the biggest individual project I’ve ever attempted. During the process, filmmaker Karl Jacob and I decided to co-produce and host a podcast of the same name. We sought to drum up interest in my book and his film project about… Read More →

Frogs, dogs and the soul within

So there I was, driving down the road. I checked my side mirror only to see a northern gray tree frog hanging onto the side of my minivan. But it wasn’t just clamped on like one of those old Garfield windows clings. Rather, its froggy back legs dangled precariously in the highway wind. One tiny… Read More →

Truth about past nothing to fear

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer is out. In “The history of what is not true” I add an entry to the recent debate over how Americans understand our past. Avoiding the well-worn tropes of the political controversy, I instead focus on my own research experience. About 100 years ago, powerful men created a… Read More →

The meaning of independence

Today is Independence Day.  In the United States, July 4 is always Independence Day, our country’s birthday. But this year brings new meaning to the words and symbols of our national holiday.  Here in northern Minnesota this weekend teems with traditional celebrations — parades, Iron Range street dances, and spectacular fireworks displays. With COVID-19 rates… Read More →

People, like water, must flow somewhere

All water flows from one place to another. Water moves from high ground to low, through peat and sand, slowly cutting mighty stones into sediment. Then it changes form. Evaporates. Falling back to earth, water begins anew. I grew up in the St. Louis River watershed, specifically the Sax-Zim bog that drains into the southbound… Read More →

Iron Range 4th of July returns with gusto in 2021

Today I present one of my favorite annual features at MinnesotaBrown: the annual Fourth of July weekend lineup of Iron Range regional parades, street dances and fireworks displays. I’ve only been posting my newspaper columns this year as I finish my book. But I just had to come out of my book-writing cave to put… Read More →

Reassurances on the longest day

Today has long day written all over it. This is my favorite contextual joke of all time, one I proudly deliver each year on the summer solstice. My Facebook memories record each year’s entry, always the same.  You might think I tell this joke because I am a dad. But I’ve been doing this long… Read More →

Latest Reformer column explores collapse of local news

The Minnesota Reformer published my latest column today, this one about the collapse of local newspapers. Last week the International Falls Daily Journal announced it would cease publication later this month. This comes after other small weeklies have closed while other papers have either merged or reduced publication. It’s not just happening here, but across… Read More →

The world changed and it’s not changing back

The iron mines run hot. Houses sell fast. Cars and trucks fly off the dealership lots, to the point where some customers must wait to buy one at all. Anyone raised amid the booms and busts of the Mesabi Iron Range would recognize this as a boom. And yet, dissatisfaction oozes from local dialogue. The… Read More →