When a boy becomes a snowman

One of the most obvious rules of parenting is not to put your baby in a snowbank. But what happens when your baby grows up to be a survivalist?

On cold times in cold places

We risk our bodies and minds to the effects of the deepest freeze of the year, a time when people sort themselves by coping language and poor decisions.

Whirling West on a metal bird

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain, “The Innocents Abroad” I live in the woods of Northern… Read More →

Reading coded language of Iron Range landscape

The youngest parts of the Mesabi Iron Range are the century-old towns spotted along its back like so many pimples. The geology, the nature and even human occupation go back millennia. Nevertheless, most people who live here see “local history” as a mysterious narrative that begins suddenly during the Grover Cleveland Administration. It’s not hard… Read More →

Spring brings a new world on foot

And suddenly the road is clear enough to walk. A little mud but less than usual. Spring came late to Northern Minnesota, but like the prodigal son we welcome it into our hearts. Last month’s winter lamentations hang like deflated balloons in faraway trees. Fresh spruce fingers reach beyond last year’s grasp. Small dumb flies… Read More →

Farewell video stores, your strange era is over

Forbes, Minnesota, lies on the four corners of Highways 7 and 16 just off the central line for the Duluth, Missabe, and Iron Range Railroad. The railroad was there before the roads, one of the early routes hauling iron ore from the Mesabi Range to the docks in West Duluth. Those tracks were the reason… Read More →

Top Ten Tips for Dinosaurs Seeking to Survive Winter

Sixty-six million years ago a 7.5 mile-wide asteroid hurtled from the depths of space toward a warm, lush planet ruled by lizards. The meteor plunged into the Gulf of Mexico, then just a shallow sea, “instantly vaporizing thousands of billions of tons of rock.” A black cloud of boulders exploded from sea level to the… Read More →

Cheers to Craigville, where everybody knew your name

This photograph was taken by Russell Lee for the U.S. Farm Security Administration. If it looks familiar it’s because it’s the picture they show on the opening sequence of “Cheers” as John Ratzenberger’s name appears on the screen. Ratzenberger played the annoying but lovable mailman Cliff Clavin. But what I didn’t know is that Lee… Read More →

Road deconstruction season in northern Minnesota

People seem testy this summer. Is it the news? The local economy? Or is it because our drive to work has become infested with dump trucks and the oily smell of steaming asphalt. It’s road construction season. Nothing unusual there. In Northern Minnesota, summer stands as the only time for street, road and highway work…. Read More →

Things You Will See at Your First Iron Range 4th of July

Most every little hamlet in Minnesota claims some special Fourth of July tradition. After all, Minnesota was born in the patriotic fervor preceding the Civil War, swaddled in the stars and stripes and raised to feed, build and Bob Dylan-ize America. A territory founded on the cornerstone of community (and large, powerful railroads), the Fourth… Read More →