No parallel for Olympic excellence

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo unfold unlike any held before. Delayed until 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic, new variants of the virus surge across the globe. Thus, thousands of athletes from around the world compete in front of mostly empty stands.  It must seem deflating to work tirelessly for a young lifetime to achieve… Read More →

Preparing for life, not war, in challenging future

The wooden chipmunk statue in front of the Wa-Ga-Tha-Ka Resort stands as one of the defining landmarks along the Wabana Road in rural Itasca County. It’s been there for decades. But in recent years this whimsical woodland creature has quietly and quite unintentionally become a harbinger for the climate future of northern Minnesota. Each spring,… Read More →

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 →