Same letters, new words

In June of 1998 I covered Legion baseball games for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. One hot summer night some kid threw a no hitter. The kid was my age but I pretended to be a grownup to interview him. Afterward, I typed up the story in the newsroom. All of a sudden Christina Hiatt, one… Read More →

The haunting truth of human nature

For the past couple years I’ve been reading old Hibbing newspapers for my book. I find that reading every paper from every year is exhausting but still the best way to research. This method provides context about everything going on in the community, including the national and international news that shaped people’s attitudes. So I’ve… Read More →

IRRR must adapt or be smashed to pieces

Amid a global pandemic and watershed moment in social justice it seems mundane to raise a parochial political concern like the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (nee IRRRB). Over the years the IRRRB has been involved in many important, boring, and sometimes questionable investments in public works and economic development under administrations… Read More →

Regaining a lost year

The year 2020 will go down as the strangest of my life so far. But I have something to compare it to. For younger people these strange times will provide the experiences they’ll draw upon the rest of their lives. That’s why decisions they’re making right now will profoundly influence times yet to come. The… Read More →

We all fall down

Masked men pelted cars with rocks. A mob stopped all traffic from entering or leaving the city. An opposing horde accosted people on the street, including women and children. Smoke bloomed on the horizon. “Who started the fires?” “Whose side are they on?” This isn’t Minneapolis in 2020. This was Hibbing in 1916. That summer,… Read More →

The rise of post-commute opportunity in northern Minnesota

Around 1960 my grandfather Marv Johnson quit the Keewatin police force to work at the Erie taconite plant in Hoyt Lakes. He told me that his take-home salary doubled that day. It was the first time he felt confident he could provide for his growing family. There were downsides. For one, the job almost killed… Read More →

Now less than ever

It’s hard to watch TV these days. It’s not just that American society seems locked in death struggle over the existence of objective reality. (Though, that’s certainly not helping). No, the more persistent annoyances are the growing heaps of advertising cliches. And there’s one phrase that seems to have scummed on the surface of the… Read More →

Rites of passage

On Friday Hibbing Community College held its annual commencement ceremony. No, the sounds of organ playing “Pomp and Circumstances” did not fill the cavernous Hibbing High School auditorium. Indeed, the excited students could not congregate in the cafeteria before marching across the stage. For the first time in many years of teaching I didn’t hide… Read More →

Another giant awakens

Photographs of early Mesabi Iron Range mining are in black and white. We may identify the gray material in the rail cars as iron because, well, why else would those sturdy mustachioed gentlemen have shoveled it up? But the early open pit and underground mines were very much driven by color — bright, vibrant hues… Read More →

Mail voting safe, secure and simple

The first time I voted in a general election I was lying on a set of dorm room sheets that wouldn’t be washed until spring. Cigarette dangling from my lips, I marked my ballot for Jesse “The Body” Ventura as Minnesota’s next governor. Democracy prevailed. However you gauge the wisdom of my first ballot, it… Read More →