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 →

A dog’s love and loss, all in a lifetime

“It’s inevitable when you buy the pet. You’re supposed to know it in the pet store. You are purchasing a small tragedy.” ~George Carlin Every pet owner tells the story of picking out their dog. They go to the animal shelter. Walk the rows of kennels. Maybe stop at a house with puppies. “I want… Read More →

The good ship Taconite, flagship of empire built on Mesabi Range profits

For just shy of $1.3 million you could be the owner of yacht currently docked near Vancouver, British Colombia. Made of virgin teak, this century-old wooden pleasure ship has been on the market a couple years. Apparently, today’s oligarch-on-the-go simply doesn’t have the time to maintain such an antique. I can distinctly recall my father’s frustration trying to restore… Read More →

The Chinese engineer who mined an American life on Minnesota’s Iron Range

Wen Ping Pan was arguably the fastest man in China in 1912. Also among the nation’s best tennis players, he had his pick between competing in the Olympics against Jim Thorpe or playing in the esteemed Davis Cup tennis tournament. Ultimately, he did neither. Geopolitical change would radically alter this young man’s life, most of… Read More →

From horse and buggy to hybrids, the woman who lived history


My great-grandmother Ruby Peck died Feb. 26, 2017 at the age of 103. For most of my life she lived alone in a small house set amid the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania. My great-grandmother was a rock-ribbed Republican who voted that way because the GOP was the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S…. Read More →