Should I stay or should I go: mobility and rural politics

When I was 18 I wanted to leave the Iron Range as badly as any of my classmates. Everything I wanted to do, the entirety of the life I wanted to live, could only be found elsewhere. In many parallel universes I surely did just that, now typing away at some suburban office or pouring… Read More →

‘Holy’ Miles Lord echoes through Minnesota history

To some, judges are supposed to stay hidden in the chambers of Minnesota law, better forgotten than seen or heard. But we learn about one judge who relished the spotlight and used it well in “Miles Lord: The Maverick Judge Who Brought Corporate America to Justice.” This new book from the University of Minnesota Press comes… 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 →

The fall and rise of America

What are we going to do with all these fallen public figures? The ones who harass. The ones who abuse their power. It’s one thing to throw them all out of office, get them fired, or shame them into resignation. But then what? Do we put them on a bus? Where do we send that… Read More →

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 →