This Land is Our Land

PHOTO: Paul L. Dineen, Flickr CC
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Every Fourth of July Americans mark our Independence Day. It’s a day for us to set aside our many difference for several nonconsecutive minutes. We celebrate what unites us. 

Red, white and blue. We learn as young children that these are America’s colors. It’s a funny thing about colors. They exist in nature. But we decide what they mean.

Speaking of all things American. How about baseball. When I was a kid I decided to join the t-ball team at the Forbes Elementary school. I came to this conclusion late. I think it was the day of the first practice. My parents drove me to the ballfield at my little country school, nestled along the railroad tracks that hauled iron ore to Duluth.

Now, early memory is a hazy proposition. But one thing I do recall was that because I was so late to join they didn’t have enough uniforms. Perhaps they were just saying that in hopes I’d leave. Or, more plausibly, I found none that fit my husky, non-athletic 7-year-old frame.

To save the day, my mom offered to sew one for me. (As an aside, I think you’re getting a pretty good picture of my childhood here).

So, in order to sew the uniform, mom later asked me what are my school colors?

School colors? I hadn’t even considered the idea. Red, I said. And I guess kind of a tannish yellow.

My mom looked perplexed. Tannish yellow?

Well, I said, you drive by there all the time. Look for yourself.

I was referring to the physical colors of the school’s exterior. Red brick trim and stucco siding.

No, no, no, mom said. Your school colors. What are the colors that represent the school.

Represent the school? What strange language was she speaking?

Well, she said, what color are the other kids uniforms?

Oh, I said. They’re blue. With white letters. Mom sighed in relief. She could handle that.

Later I would realize that these colors mattered. Other teams wore different colors. The colors determined which side you were on. My shirt might have been a little different than the others, but it was still blue and white. Because when you’re wearing a uniform, you don’t need to know faces and names, just colors.

Today we spend a lot of time worrying about the colors we wear. Not just our clothes, but the lenses we look through. There’s always been religion and politics to separate us, but now we can hashtag any division we like and find someone, somewhere willing to wear the same colors as us. And so we grow apart from our family and neighbors.

How quickly we forget that this land was made for you and me.

There’s a reason most astronauts come back from space humble. They’ve seen the truth. We’re just tiny specks on a stretch of dirt spinning through space. They know our troubles are small and our universe is so big. And we should, too.

This land paints many colors.

The earth is brown, green and blue. But also red and yellow with purple highlights and stripes of orange. These are the real colors.

My school colors were red and yellowish tan. And if you can think of a better way to describe those colors you can look for yourself down at the intersection of St. Louis County highways 7 and 16. The school closed 30 years ago but the building still stands. Some people live there now, cooking eggs in my old classroom. I wonder if they hear the echoes of childhood voices singing, this land.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, June 30, 2019 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. Elanne Palcich says

    Great 4th of July message. Thanks, Aaron.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.