Return of the company town

A typical early 20th Century Iron Range miner worked long hours before retiring to a home and bed owned by his employer. He returned his wages to the company in exchange for just enough food, clothing and tools to survive. If the miner had a wife she possessed even fewer choices. Her very survival, and… Read More →

Frogs, dogs and the soul within

So there I was, driving down the road. I checked my side mirror only to see a northern gray tree frog hanging onto the side of my minivan. But it wasn’t just clamped on like one of those old Garfield windows clings. Rather, its froggy back legs dangled precariously in the highway wind. One tiny… Read More →

The meaning of independence

Today is Independence Day.  In the United States, July 4 is always Independence Day, our country’s birthday. But this year brings new meaning to the words and symbols of our national holiday.  Here in northern Minnesota this weekend teems with traditional celebrations — parades, Iron Range street dances, and spectacular fireworks displays. With COVID-19 rates… Read More →

People, like water, must flow somewhere

All water flows from one place to another. Water moves from high ground to low, through peat and sand, slowly cutting mighty stones into sediment. Then it changes form. Evaporates. Falling back to earth, water begins anew. I grew up in the St. Louis River watershed, specifically the Sax-Zim bog that drains into the southbound… Read More →

Reassurances on the longest day

Today has long day written all over it. This is my favorite contextual joke of all time, one I proudly deliver each year on the summer solstice. My Facebook memories record each year’s entry, always the same.  You might think I tell this joke because I am a dad. But I’ve been doing this long… Read More →

The world changed and it’s not changing back

The iron mines run hot. Houses sell fast. Cars and trucks fly off the dealership lots, to the point where some customers must wait to buy one at all. Anyone raised amid the booms and busts of the Mesabi Iron Range would recognize this as a boom. And yet, dissatisfaction oozes from local dialogue. The… Read More →

Our awkward summer of smells

We’re bracing for something unusual right now: the prospect of a normal summer. The global COVID-19 pandemic went on long enough that the weirdness of it began to feel routine. Now we each must adjust, again, back to a life similar to our old one.  The first thing I’m noticing is smell. Wearing a mask… Read More →

And fate shall dwell at the crossroads

The intersection of Itasca County Highways 57 and 336 is one of those sleepy crossroads you see all over the back woods of northern Minnesota. When my wife and I moved to that neighborhood 16 years ago I learned that no road goes directly from one place to another. Every highway leads to an intersection… Read More →

Love, hate, and a year of Bob Dylan

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote another piece about Dylan’s 80th Birthday for the Minnesota Reformer a few days ago. That piece was designed for a broader audience, while I aimed this one at a more local readership for the Mesabi Tribune. It was a surprisingly fun exercise to approach the same subject with a different goal… Read More →

Pressure, time, and the tricky business of hope

Pressure and time. That’s how minerals concentrate into ore formations beneath the earth. You might learn this in a geology class. But pressure and time also explain how humans extract those ores. Now we’re talking economics, the kind that affects our lives here on the Mesabi Iron Range. This spring brings an avalanche of news… Read More →