In building community, every little bit adds up to a lot

A few weeks back, my son’s Boy Scout Troop in Grand Rapids helped build 25 wheelchair accessible picnic tables. The extra long table tops will adorn parks across Itasca County, everywhere from Nashwauk to Deer River, allowing people who use wheelchairs to easily join in a family meal. Henry and I built one picnic table… Read More →

The economics of dignity, how a tiered economy tears us apart

To read the local papers, a visitor might conclude that the biggest problems facing the Iron Range these days is whether or not we support our most powerful industry *enough.* I find this curious. Because when people talk about “the problem on the Range these days,” they usually mean people working multiple jobs to pay… Read More →

A journey through time, to town and back

Just before the 20th Century a trip into town from Balsam Township in east central Itasca County took two days at full speed. The winding journey required paddling a canoe down the Prairie River, crossing several portages depending on the time of year. I imagine one might camp at the midpoint somewhere near the modern… Read More →

The marauding bog of All Hallow’s Eve

October, month of the dead. The leaves fall and the flowers die. Colors fade to gray, brown and a deathly yellow. Hence the annual debauchery of Halloween, one final howl before the virginal snow and holy days of winter. Which monster will haunt you this All Hallow’s Eve? Dusk bathes the shoreline of North Long… Read More →

‘The claw is our master’

The penguin sat atop a veritable iceberg of stuffed animals outside the Chinese restaurant. Penguins can’t smile in the wild, but this one grinned like a Cheshire cat under the bright lights of the machine. I’ve always had a thing for penguins. Perhaps I’ve just got a soft spot for any awkward misfit with hidden… Read More →

The Hunt for Bob October

All this brisk autumn air reminds me of the first time I saw Bob Dylan perform at the DECC in Duluth on October 22, 1998. The show was an elaborate excuse for me to see my girlfriend from Hibbing after I had moved away from the Iron Range for college. She wasn’t as much of… Read More →

The pasty, perfect food above ground or below

Minnesota’s Iron Range gets plenty of attention for its ethnic foods. Melting pot. Immigrants. Grandma’s kitchen. Yada yada. But you’ve got to reckon with the fact that it’s a lot easier to nosh on a can of pizza-flavored Pringles at the gas station than it is to get your hands on some halfway decent krumkaka…. Read More →

Learning to love swamps, even the dismal ones

Another northern Minnesota fall brings me to the family hunting shack in Greaney, a scrubby stretch of land near Cook and Orr. Most folks would get there on Highway 53, but I live north of Nashwauk. That means I get there by cutting across the back roads of Itasca and Koochiching counties, through the ghost… Read More →

Moving mountains for an Iron Range future

Soon the Hull Rust Mine View in historic North Hibbing will be closed for good, set to reopen next year at a new location to the east. Shortly thereafter Hibbing Taconite will blow to bits the very mountain of taconite on which the viewing stand sits to send the iron ore on its way to… Read More →

Then and Now: how our economy changed

The wealthiest member of the first Roman triumvirate, Gen. Marcus Licinius Crassus, was so rich that his enemies made a show of pouring molten gold down his throat. Today, you could fill a Roman legion with Americans who are richer than Crassus. Killing them with gold would be a logistical nightmare that only they could… Read More →