Gas prices in context

Politicians possess some of the longest memories I’ve ever encountered. As someone who’s written political opinions for more than 20 years, I sometimes meet political operators still mad about something I literally forgot writing. Politics is a grudge business, with loyalty a commodity to be traded like oil and stored in strategic reserves. And yet,… Read More →

Old wars, new generations

My memory of the Cold War comes with a strange and oddly specific recollection. I was a kid when the Soviet Union broke up. Like most American kids, I was raised on a steady diet of patriotic fervor with a dose of casual fear that our Russian adversaries might infect us with their wicked worldview…. Read More →

The final leg of the Cross-Range Expressway

Just over 100 years ago the Babcock Trunk Highway opened to motorists. In doing so, a network of bumpy local roads became a paved highway that united the towns of the Iron Range.  It wasn’t like our highways today. The Babcock went through, rather than around, most towns. The locals rather insisted on that. But… Read More →

The death of stories, and their resurrection

I recently finished reading every single edition of the erstwhile Hibbing Daily Tribune and Mesaba Ore / Hibbing Daily News from the years 1913 to 1926. I’d guess that’s about 3,000 individual newspapers, eight to 24 pages apiece. Is that a humblebrag? Honestly, it seems really hard to tell. It might just be a call… Read More →

Novak’s ‘Steel’ holds enormous weight

Good fiction tells truth that nonfiction struggles to spit out efficiently. As I’ve been toiling on a thick tome of Iron Range history, along comes a novel that cuts right to the point.  The story of the Iron Range isn’t just mining and immigrants, unions and politics. It’s an untold trauma that lingers for generations,… Read More →

Kindness, an art form we can all create

A few weeks ago my family got sick. Several of us had runny noses, sore throats and fevers. Given the times, we wondered exactly what we caught. Was this COVID-19 or something else? We went to the clinic to be tested. There we saw a nurse and a doctor. They administered a nasal swab, looked… Read More →

‘Hockeyland’ comes home

Northern Minnesota’s obsessive relationship with hockey has endured since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. For some, the hockey lifestyle defines an entire 20-30 year period of life, perhaps longer as new generations continue the tradition.  Even those who don’t play hockey see their lives affected by the game. Classrooms empty during state tournaments. Local fast… Read More →

Comfort food

One of the simplest American foods perhaps best reflects our culture: Macaroni and cheese. Though not all mac and cheese is the same, most people in our country are familiar with some version of it. Those differences also reflect the diversity of the United States. Why is mac and cheese such a good example of… Read More →

January: The month that knows what it is

When I went off to college in another state I remember the happy ceremony of my arrival on campus. Friendly resident assistants helped move my mini fridge up the three flights of stairs. Despite the folly of it, I actually brought a wooden bookshelf and about 40 of my favorite books. The good samaritans cheerfully… Read More →

Beyond the swan song

  I remember in school when we read “The Trumpet of the Swan” by E.B. White. Like White’s other famous children’s novels, “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little,” this story centers on an animal with many human abilities.  In this case, we meet Louis, the trumpeter swan who has no voice. A boy, Sam, forms a… Read More →