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 →

Farewell video stores, your strange era is over

Forbes, Minnesota, lies on the four corners of Highways 7 and 16 just off the central line for the Duluth, Missabe, and Iron Range Railroad. The railroad was there before the roads, one of the early routes hauling iron ore from the Mesabi Range to the docks in West Duluth. Those tracks were the reason… Read More →

Oracle says future is mean in 2018

I dream of an old schoolhouse, a maze of stained oak trim and hardwood floors. Cavernous hallways and stairwells double back on themselves. I run the labyrinth. Not all footsteps are my own. I’m lost. Hissing bursts of steam punctuate a mechanized droning sound. I awaken in a small dark space. The dream ends, but… Read More →

Talking Gus Hall at FinnFest

I’ll be leaning harder than ever on my 1/4 quotient of Finnish blood as I prepare to speak Sept. 21 at FinnFest in Minneapolis. Here’s how this sort of thing happens. You might recall that early last month I presented a talk about Gus Hall, the noted American communist leader who was born and raised… Read More →

Survey to spur high speed internet across Iron Range

I have fiber optic internet service direct to my home in rural Itasca County. Why? Enough of my neighbors filled out a survey and kept pressure on local leaders to get our area added to broadband expansion projects by Paul Bunyan Communication. Residents of the east central Iron Range will now have the same opportunity…. Read More →