Reading coded language of Iron Range landscape

The youngest parts of the Mesabi Iron Range are the century-old towns spotted along its back like so many pimples. The geology, the nature and even human occupation go back millennia. Nevertheless, most people who live here see “local history” as a mysterious narrative that begins suddenly during the Grover Cleveland Administration. It’s not hard… Read More →

Mapping new world, new climate

We learn in history class about the search for the fabled Northwest Passage. This coveted sea route between the East Indies and Europe promised untold riches to explorers and traders of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries. They searched the Great Lakes, cut inland through Lake Vermilion, forging West. Always these aquatic prospectors crashed headlong… Read More →

Real hope for rural broadband on the Iron Range

Growing up I always lived just outside the towns of the Iron Range. Back roads. Cracked pavement and dirt roads. My family ran small businesses. Some lasted a while. Some not so much. Such is the nature of small business. The ‘80s were bad. They were for a lot of people. School changed my life…. Read More →

Great Northern Radio Show at Hibbing HS auditorium

I’m spinning headlong into an intense couple of months of work projects. I’m teaching full time and continue working on my book. Now I have something new to announce: An exciting Nov. 17 Great Northern Radio Show broadcast at the Hibbing High School auditorium. We’ve played Hibbing a couple times, but never this ornate 1,800-seat… Read More →

Trade war rattles even sturdiest American trucks

Understanding trade policy can be overwhelming. Tariffs. Trade deficits. NAFTA. Currency wars. But pickup trucks offer explicit clarity on how trade policy hits people where they live. Take the popular Ford F-150. It’s the top selling truck in America. You can find a F-150 in almost any parking lot on Minnesota’s Iron Range. This is… Read More →

U.S. Steel balancing act offers economic warning

As the United Steelworkers union and U.S. Steel inch toward a strike, many on Minnesota’s Iron Range wonder why. The economy is good. Steel is selling for a high price. So, why is U.S. Steel playing hardball with its workers? The answer exposes some concerning facts not just in the steel industry, but across corporate… Read More →

The merits of fairness in America

You’ll hear a lot about the American Dream in coming months. You’ll hear that the dream is dying, that it’s alive and well, that the dream faces peril, or even that it’s forgotten entirely. But do we even know what the American Dream is? In this, we may invoke the most American of products: Coca-Cola…. Read More →

New eyes for an Iron Range future

I think one of the best ways to begin strengthening a community is to see the place from a visitor’s point of view. Here on the Iron Range, a place with a cultural tradition of multi-generation families and insular social groups, that’s even more important … and hard to do. As a native Ranger, I… Read More →

Canadian vacation imports memories

This year my family and I decided to go North for our annual summer trip. We would travel to Winnipeg, Manitoba, a cosmopolitan city set in the middle of endless miles of prairie (“endless point six” once you convert to metric). Why? Quite simply, we drew a circle around our home in Northern Minnesota to… Read More →

Farmer-Labor tradition means more than just jobs

We see some curious sights this election year. Oh, I can’t get into all of them. Our times are too strange for that. But one thing struck me as especially odd. It was members of the Republican Party arguing that they are now the “Republican Farmer Labor” party. This comes amid claims that candidates like… Read More →