Too Many Sticks: Losing the fight against fifth-grade fascism

As warm winds blow and winter snow melts into vernal rebirth I am reminded of springtime in the fifth grade when the fascists won the war. It was April of 1991. A championship for our Minnesota Twins seemed as unlikely as the fall of the democratic republic my friends and I created on the Cherry… Read More →

2020 Hindsight: Revisiting the future of our past, Part 3

This is the last of a three-part series. See Part 1 and Part 2. There is no historical blind spot quite like the recent past. The living defend their memories, true or not, with self-interested passion. The recently departed are far more saintly than the long dead. Over the past three weeks I’ve been exploring… Read More →

2020 predictions column: time for an otter one

“Twenty twenty,” says the ophthalmologist. “That’s my vision?” I ask excitedly. “No, you’re as myopic as a rhino,” she says. “That’s the year to write on your check.” I can’t believe it. It’s 2020 already. The year that we once believed would be “the future.” But here I am, going to the eye doctor like… Read More →

Northland safe from Halloween horrors … or is it?

“I can’t even imagine.” I never cared for that phrase. Because it’s almost never true. What makes something horrible is not that you can’t imagine it happening, but that you can. Horror is based less on fear of the totally unknown but on fear of the imagined unknown. When you get lost in the woods… Read More →

A little bit country

The misguided passions of youth run strong. It took time for me to mature into an emotionally stable adult. How old am I? About that long. Maybe longer. One of the teenage fervencies I now regret was my disdain for country music. I grew up in Cherry, which isn’t a town so much as a… Read More →

When a ditch is more than a ditch

One-hundred and four years ago, the iron mines around North Hibbing ran hot with thawing hematite while the early June weather proved every bit as unpredictable as today’s. The gates to the city seasonal parks swung open in torrential rain, but people still walked through them to sit on the benches. Because, after a long… Read More →

Oracle projects some otter fate in 2019

Pssh. Sploink. Pssh. Sploink. Pssh. Sploink. Pssh. This is unlike any steam boat I’ve ever been on. Come to think of it, I’ve never been on a steam boat. So this is a first. For one thing, the vessel appears to be homemade. Milk jugs keep it afloat. Twine holds it together. And the paddle… Read More →

Oral history of this blog with notes

Earlier this week I appeared on the Duluth News Tribune Pressroom Podcast with co-hosts Christa Lawler and Brady Slater, produced by Samantha Erkkila. The podcast team and I had been trying for years to figure out when I’d be in Duluth on a weekday with time to spare. We finally found a moment after my appearance… 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 →

R-O-C-K in the Co-op, eh?

The Mesaba Co-Op Park sits on the border between Cherry and Hibbing. You can’t escape this place as a key setting for Iron Range history. This refuge for mostly socialist Finnish immigrants became a playground and a proving ground for 20th Century leftist politics in Northern Minnesota. And it’s still here! While the place continues… Read More →