COLUMN: The weather alert radio of love

This is my weekly column for the Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece ran was broadcast as commentary on the July 31 episode of “Between You and Me” on KAXE.

The weather alert radio of love
By Aaron J. Brown

Since first dawn storms have rumbled across the surface of the Earth. The early storms belched fire and sulfur. Later ones spit out the water that fostered life as we know it, starting with tiny organisms and eventually dinosaurs. Then the dinosaurs walked the globe, making noises with their mighty footsteps that closely resembled thunderstorms. And so when there was a storm one night one dinosaur says to another dinosaur, “Hey, do you hear that? It sounds like us up there, rumbling around.”

“Ha ha,” said the other dinosaur. And that’s where that joke came from. The dinosaurs.

Meantime, almost exactly one decade ago I married Christina, a wonderful woman, extraordinary in almost every way, except for her desperate fear of unknown weather conditions. That’s why our nightstand contains two devices that make loud noises. One of them is an alarm clock that functions largely as you’d expect. The other is a weather alert radio that tells us whenever personnel at the National Weather Service are awake. Whereas the alarm clock also operates as a radio, the weather alert radio also operates as nocturnal howler monkey that wakes up angry every time it rains.

There’s a very good reason the alarm clock and weather alert radio both sit on her side of the bed. Mainly, I might punch both things. I’ve never punched a person, or an animal or a wall, but I might punch the alarm clock and I’d definitely punch the weather alert radio. Punch it. So. Hard. All told, this is probably for the best.

Allow me to explain how the weather alert radio has come to hold such a low position in my hierarchy of electronic devices. Again, let’s compare the alarm clock. The alarm clock makes a loud, unpleasant sound in the morning because I told it to. Knowing the condition I’d be in, the wise, forward-looking evening me caused the alarm to be set. (More accurately, Christina sets the alarm as she has since I screwed something up 10 years ago, something I’ve long since forgotten, along with how to set the alarm clock or turn it off). But no one in the house controls the weather alert radio. Once plugged in and programmed, the weather alert radio works for someone else.

More than twice the volume of the alarm clock, the weather alert radio is supposed to warn us whether there’s a severe weather or tornado warning for our area. Loosely speaking, the radio goes by county. We live in Itasca County, which is kind of big, so when a thunderstorm is grumbling through Bigfork to the north or Warba to the south the howler monkey starts a whoopin’ and a wailin’ in Balsam. Thrust from a deep slumber into a state of extreme consciousness, I realize – for the first time – that there is a gentle rain outside. But don’t be deceived. Using some kind of funnel and a great deal of effort one could drown in a gentle rain.

Indeed the weather alert radio almost has the opposite of its intended effect on me. When I hear it, I dismiss out of hand anything the robot voice tells me after the alarm. “Tornado watch? Well, that’s useless. Call me when the twister is at the end of the road!” Sometimes loud storms don’t even trip the alert, which is both welcome and frustrating at the same time.

The screeching, erratic machine next to the alarm will remain, however, just like the pillow shams that I sometimes feel like burning in the driveway. (Pillow shams are not necessary). These objects endure because I continue storing cheap beer in the pantry next to the children’s fruit juice, blocking out hours a week for fantasy football roster management and leaving out a different toiletry item on the sink every day, never in the same place. When the bleating pulse of the weather alert radio warns us of a theoretical storm in the night it provides strange comfort to one of us and inexplicable rage to the other. However, it also reminds the two flawed people in this room that we have figured out a system that, somehow, still works.

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range writer, blogger and instructor at Hibbing Community College. Read more at or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.” He and his wife Christina Brown (author of the blog Northern Cheapskate) celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary on Thursday, Aug. 4.


  1. you have a great platform to address real issues of the iron range and you end up writing self indulgent articles. there is plenty of time for that when the good times return to this troubled part of the state…I’m sure readers appreciate the literary value but when you have mothers having to choose between milk for their babies or insurance for the car that takes them to work (true story) you have an opportunity to take your articles from good to great…sorry for writing in this public forum, wish you had anonymous feed back form. you can remove this comment after you read it.

  2. Hi. Thanks for your feedback. I’ll go ahead and let this ride for others to see so that they can also see my response.

    I have written massive amounts of serious reporting and commentary on issues related to the Iron Range and its social condition at this blog over the years. Less lately, because I’ve been trying to branch out into other forms of writing (and that’s another story). I’m a “writer,” see. What you read here is a column that I wrote for my regular Hibbing newspaper Sunday slot. It was originally intended for the Saturday BYM show on KAXE, which follows a different topic each week. This week was “stormy weather” and I used the prompt to write this in honor of my wife Christina and my 10th anniversary this week. It is about relationships and I’m sorry you don’t like the topic.

    No, see, I’ve been writing and writing and writing about all kinds of problems the Iron Range has and people smile and they nod and they tell me I’m doing great, just great. Keep it up! But the one thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that I, Aaron Brown, can’t and won’t fix the Iron Range by myself. Other people are going to have to add their voices and ideas to the mix, too, and put their names on it.

    This blog discusses Iron Range news and politics, yes, but it’s also where I share my other forms of writing, too. I do all of this for free, except for my prepared items published and broadcast elsewhere, such as this piece. The issues, the news, etc., I do gratis because I care. I shan’t explain the ease of starting your own blog if you want.

  3. Anonymous says

    sincere appologies. not meant to offend you or your family. you seem to be the only outlet not swayed by hype or herd mentality.

    as to writing a blog, I cant do what you do.

  4. No, no offense taken. You caught me on a bad day and it almost seemed like my subconscious was talking to me. Your original point is well taken, there are a lot of problems that are not getting attention in our current media/political environment. I am poking around this concept for a column for next week, inspired by you! I hope you don’t take my use of your comment as a call to arms personally; remember, that fundamentally I agree with you.

  5. Anonymous says

    Aaron, you keep on doing what you’re doing….I totally enjoyed & got a huge laugh reading your article on weather alert radios. I was at my daughter’s in Madison, WI when some horrendous weather was going through & fully experienced the dog & radio competing for the airwaves! In these tough times, we need you & other humorous writers since laughter is necessary for good mental/physical health. After all, ‘laughter is the best medicine!’

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