Time out of Mind on Minnesota’s Iron Range

There are a lot of odd patterns on the Iron Range. Finding them is great fun, and why I’ve endeavored to stay here and write.

Most people see the economic patterns. Mines up, mines down. Pawn shops and the Wal-Mart. There’s the drawn out process by which the Friday night boys cruising main street in their used pickups become just like their fathers. Maybe that’s not unique to the Range, but the microcosm of the geography gives the phenomenon a certain aura.

And, of course, there’s the big city newspaper columnists who occasionally visit Hibbing to see the town where Bob Dylan grew up. They all seem to form different conclusions, though usually centered on the idea that time seems to pass differently on the Iron Range. That’s certainly what Garth Woolsey of the Toronto Sun found in his column “Times Not a’changin’ in Bob Dylan’s homtown” today.

Woolsey fondly describes the town as captured in the 1950s. In my experience (though I wasn’t even alive in the ’50s) I can certainly see that in the town. The early ’50s represented Hibbing’s modern pinnacle, so the town maintains some of that glory. But then again, those coming to Hibbing for Dylan reasons tend to see that era because they’re looking for it.

When the wind catches Hibbing from a different direction you can see a town caught in the ’70s, with long wavy hair and no thoughts of tomorrow. A different light and you see ’80s paralysis, an amber image of a town that stopped growing cold in its tracks when the American steel industry folded in on itself.

I’m not one to judge. I’m frozen in the late ’90s when I began to realize the power of the internet, watching the information and opportunities appear over the lines, whisking my friends away while I wait earnestly for something important to pop out here on the other end. So far, just columns.

(h/t Matt Nelson)

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