Frankly speaking about food, faces and other F words on the Range

After I announced that Jeff Manuel would be writing some thoughtful, historically-minded guest posts for MinnesotaBrown, a UW-Superior classmate and fellow former Promethean editor wrote me. Frank Haataja is from the Cloquet area south of the Range, southwest of Duluth, and offers this, an entertaining and considerably less academic outside view of the Iron Range.

When I saw Aaron Brown posting guest blogs I was all “HELL YEAH! I lived on the Iron Range for like two years! I’ll write a guest blog about all the cool stuff I learned!”

In my plash of jubilation I overlooked one minor detail: What cool stuff did I learn, exactly?

My elation was sobered some when I failed to recall more than two “lessons”: The amazing food, and an incident at the Sawmill in which a slushy fat woman flipped out and bit a man’s face.

So let’s talk food. It’s much prettier.

In 18 months of covering sports for the Mesabi Daily News, I was on hand for nearly everything that happened at the Hippodrome (Eveleth-Gilbert’s hockey arena)— even the peewee tournaments if I was able to. Why? Because their chili dogs are so good you almost need to wear a condom when you eat them.

I would bring four into the press booth to start games. Half of the rickety press counter would be the WEVE broadcast heap and the other half would be a fortress of slop-ridden snack boats. Meanwhile, I’d be writing game notes on my knee.

Countless times a goal was scored, and I’d look around all wide-eyed with my head tilted sideways and half a dog length jammed down my throat. I’d push my King Kong bite down and gasp, “Who scored that?”

At a Virginia hockey game, I once farted so loud in the booth that WEVE’s color guy almost fell out of his chair. Five minutes passed before he could speak again.

I sometimes wonder if those guys miss me.

In Ely, I would sit in the booth at Veterans Memorial Stadium gorging myself on burgers and hot dogs while BEST baseball coach Tom Coombe and Ely coach and tastefully named Frank Ivancich discussed new concession food ideas with me. As a result, most of my game stories amounted to little more than “Ely won because they scored more times.”

On a serious note, I speak with Iron Rangers constantly who have never set foot in Ely’s beautiful ballpark. So many people will spend their entire lives in that region without ever experiencing it. I don’t care where you live; go there at least once before you die.

The food, baby, it was everywhere! Just writing about it makes me want to drive up there. The burgers at Dahlin Field, and I never passed through Aurora without hitting the A & W; the bake sales at Cook games and E-G swim meets – I mean the swimming, I totally went for the swimming; and the tailgating before MI-B home games. Sure, I had to dodge certain fans (some may still be cursing my name), but the grilled wares were worth the danger.

And that’s just the sporting events. I never even touched on Rudi’s Rangers or Goodfella’s cordon bleu sandwiches or the greatest pizza on Earth at the Vermillion Club.

Outsiders give the Range a lot of yuck-yuck about the median weight of the area’s population, but that’s merely a token of their ignorance. If you’re skinny up there, chances are you’re missing out on something fantastic.

Just, try to avoid eating faces.

Frank Haataja writes at Kinked Slinky.

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