COLUMN: Everything’s heaven in 2011

This is my annual “predictions” column for the Jan. 2, 2011 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune

Everything’s heaven in 2011
By Aaron J. Brown

My clomp-clomping boots flatten the frozen swamp grass like corn flakes along the Canadian National rail line somewhere off Highway 7 south of Zim. I’m running now not just because I’m late, hours late on account of the snow, but because anything less than a fast trot will leave my feet hardened in the cold. I’ll need some dexterity for what’s about to happen.

There remains some dispute about the old mound on the other side of the line, down farther in the swamp past the tamaracks out where no road could ever go. Some say the mound was built by the ancient Indians, others say it was constructed more recently by a highly developed race of beavers. All I know is that whoever or whatever conceived the entrance to this temple hill was filled with spite. I leap against the side, digging my feet in and pumping my legs with muscles seldom used. My lungs burn with the cold air before I reach the top where a spent spool of electrical wire blocks the door to this earthen dome. I rap three times on the top.

“Oy there, mmmmmm, thpppt,” mutters the aged female voice within. I have awoken the Oracle of the Sax/Zim Bog and she needs coffee.

Fortunately my reusable stainless steel java carafe is still warm inside my pack. Descending the ladder to her mossy abode I pour a cup for each of us and sit wordless on the mastodon skull she had fashioned into a macabre divan.  I’m nervous. This meeting was arranged differently. The oracle had purchased a laptop computer this year, which she used to send an urgent e-mail, or at least I presumed it urgent on account of the capital letters.


This was not normal and the oracle was clearly in a hurry to complete our annual talk about the upcoming year. This morning, however, she sits calmly for our prearranged meeting, warming up the visions by listing predicted headlines for 2011.

  • Congress votes to eliminate Congress.
  • Tall ships return to Duluth, this time for blood and treasure.
  • Angry birds become depressed, fling selves away from buildings.
  • Iron Range changes name to Irony Range after ferrous wheel collapse.
  • Childhood obesity, bullying reach perfect equilibrium.

At this point the Oracle raps her cane against the moist floor of her swamp mound, proceeding to more detailed predictions.

  • A scandal will overtake the Hibbing City Council. A fashion scandal.
  • An unexpected special election on the Iron Range will take place. An unexpected candidate will win. That candidate will support mining projects and purport to love children.
  • The city of Hibbing dispatches mobile stop sign crews to slow the alarmingly fast flow of traffic between stop signs.
  • Minnesota Highway Department crews replace common road salt with healthier sea salt. Area deer become easy, smug targets in fall hunting season.
  • An environmentally friendly way to extract copper from the earth is revealed when your Cousin Jeebus steals a length of underground cable from the county. He creates one job and three ancillary jobs in the scrap and law enforcement industries.”
  • The Minnesota Twins beat the New York Yankees in the playoffs with a pitching rotation composed entirely of appliance delivery drivers. And by ‘New York Yankees’ I mean ‘Kansas City Royals.’ And by ‘playoffs’ I mean ‘an exhibition game involving child umpires.
  • Brett Favre uses his first year of retirement to compete on Dancing with the Stars. Audience members are aghast during his first dance when his arms fall off and his partner is returned 68 yards to the house by Troy Polamalu.

But Madam Oracle, I call out. These predictions aren’t all bad. In fact, for all the dire news of the past year – the economy and dissatisfaction among voters – it sounds like 2011 will be just fine.

At this point she smiles, drops a flash bomb at her feet and scuttles over to the kitchen, arranging letter magnets on the refrigerator to read “A-OK.” It would be a long walk back out to the train tracks and home, but at least I could rest easy knowing that the future was nothing to fear.

Aaron J. Brown is a writer and community college instructor from the Iron Range. Read more at his blog or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. Great column! Although I am sure you have thoroughly confused many old school Rangers who are now muttering gruffly about pot smoking writers…

  2. Thanks! Though if I were on pot I wouldn’t have to write columns like this. This is cheaper.

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