To build Iron Range economic hopes we must keep working


The steam cloud pouring out of the stack at Keewatin Taconite once again guides my daily commute from the wilds of Itasca County into Hibbing. For nearly two years, the eastern sky bore only the unforgiving blaze of the sun. Now fluffy white billows remind that hundreds of miners are back at work. Unfortunately, KeeTac’s… Read More →

Power poles like fingers to the sky

They’re putting in new power poles along the county highway near our dirt road in Balsam Township. The old poles, faded grey, lean askew like the bright orange temporary fence that tries and fails to prevent people taking a short cut to the portable toilets at a tractor show. The new poles lay alongside the… 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 →

For peat’s sake: making the most of the moist

I grew up in the Sax-Zim peat bog in Northern Minnesota. This glorious 300 square mile swamp provides bountiful food and breeding ground for migratory birds the world over. It was also the site of my family’s ill-fated junkyard where, so far as I knew, all water swirled in rainbow hues. Growing up in a… Read More →

Trump’s budget betrays rural America

Rural voters backed Donald Trump in the 2016 election for many reasons. For some, it was ideological. Rural areas have become more politically conservative, home to more people who believe in hands-off government and stricter regulation on social issues. Other voters saw the progressive social changes of the past ten years and felt overwhelmed. For… 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 →

Making our community whole

Last Sunday, the Hibbing Daily Tribune reported that the Hibbing Food Shelf would close later this month. Among the reasons cited was a lack of community volunteers and funding, and the rising cost of food. This happened despite the growing number of people who need the temporary assistance of a food bank. Across Northern Minnesota,… Read More →

Government in the bag

At age 10, I controlled the government. It all started with a knock on the door of our trailer house. We lived on the family junkyard along County Highway 7, a couple miles south of Eveleth Taconite in the Sax-Zim bog. Such knocks came rare and usually involved directing toothless men back to the shop… Read More →

Power plays go beyond hockey on the Mesabi Iron Range

This week the state hockey tournament takes place in St. Paul. This sporting spectacle doubles as a cultural celebration for the people of the North Star State. Once, the whole state bowed to the gods of hockey from our beloved blue collar Mesabi Iron Range. Today, however, the big suburban schools dominate the competition. The… Read More →

Timeless truth of ‘wire and lights in a box’

As televisions bleat the confusing news of our times, I can’t help but visit my memories of Mike Simonson. Mike was my mentor at KUWS on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Superior and a veteran radio news reporter. He taught me how to ask questions. On a good day I remember. Mike required student… Read More →