Great Northern Radio Show cruises home to Grand Rapids

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Mr. Rogers. If you’ve never heard of him, or seen his groundbreaking children’s show, that’d be reasonable. It’s getting a little old now. But some of you might have seen the recording of his testimony defending federal funding of public broadcasting back in 1969. Others might have seen the viral story… Read More →

Minnesota’s summer clock more ticks than tocks

I’ve heard a version of the following statement from several different people this year: “I’m not worried about lightning, thunderstorms or tornados, but I am worried about ticks.” This from the hearty meat-and-potatoes stock of Northern Minnesota, people who chip ice off their beards to eat food they killed with a crossbow. You know it’s got… Read More →

Hibbing native: save the world, eat bugs

If we’re being honest, we’ve all eaten a bug at one time or another. I’ve dined on a few pedaling my bike across the back roads of Northern Minnesota. And never mind how many crawl into our mouths at night without us knowing. Yet not many of us eat insects on purpose. Our parents told us… Read More →

School’s out for fish: hook, line and existentialism

This weekend brings Minnesota’s fishing opener, Mother’s Day, and the beginning of graduation season. These annual events affect us all, but none so much as local fish. Thus, today’s play in three acts. We begin in the weeds: FISH: Mother! Oh, mother, I am to graduate! MOTHER: Who are you? FISH: It is I, your… 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 →

As words change amid Info Age, ‘Truth’ rises to the top

Every time we use a word we create a small, rapidly vaporizing artifact of a time, a place, and its people. That’s why language is the cornerstone of any culture. Each year I report on the annual list of top words from the Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas. I spoke with Paul JJ Payack,… Read More →

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 →