The dark days of light

In winter, I turn my garden bean arch into a light arch. I run strings of white lights along each metal wire of the cattle panel. Then, when I am sad, I stand under the lights. This has been happening more often. After all, this is a sad season in sad times. I do not… Read More →

Rural EMS needs emergency policy solutions

Small towns and rural counties across the state face an emergency services crisis. Failure to solve the problem could leave rural people without timely access to advanced life support after accidents or medical incidents. On Nov. 25, I wrote about challenges facing the Nashwauk ambulance service in eastern Itasca County. In subsequent weeks, communities across… Read More →

The steel wheels of fortune spin again

Strange clouds hovered over Hibbing recently. From a distance, they looked like smoke or haze, but the phenomenon was actually dust blown off the dumps and tailings dams of Hibbing Taconite. Normally, mitigation prevents this from happening. But it was too cold to water anything and there was no snow to suppress the dust like… Read More →

Range housing woes hit home

My kids aren’t kids anymore. In just a few years they’ll move out on their own. I remember the excitement of that time of life, but as a parent I’m struck by the enormous financial burdens they’ll face. In 1999, our first apartment rent in Hibbing was a little over $300 a month. You can’t… Read More →

Loss of Nashwauk ambulance would affect huge area

If you drop a wheel off the side of a county road, you realize how easy it would be to roll into the ditch. That chest pain you feel is probably just indigestion, but what if it was a heart attack? Cutting a fallen tree. Changing your car’s oil. Climbing a ladder to retrieve holiday… Read More →

Paint the town red

Nothing good happens when a middle aged man from the Iron Range gets a Doja Cat song stuck in his head. Plump, scruffy, festooned in plaid with a Stormy Kromer cap on my head, now is not the time for me to mouth “B****, I said what I said” at a fellow motorist. And yet,… Read More →

Where the wild deer are

Hunters harvested fewer deer in northern Minnesota during the rifle opener this year. Experts cite several theories to explain the downswing, including habitat, climate, predation and fewer hunters. But the real answer will shock you. [INT. well furnished library of a palatial mansion. DOE sips tea while gazing out a picture window. BUCK sits in… Read More →

Humor comes home to ‘This Small Town’

November brings homecoming season to small towns across America. No, not high school homecomings or summer reunions. People choose to go to those. I’m talking about good old fashioned family holiday visits, the kind borne of obligation, ritual and guilt. And love! Of course! Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range knows all about homecomings. For a century,… Read More →

Woods and waters, cheese and beer

What is the difference between Minnesota and Wisconsin?  A foreign journalist asked me this question a few years ago. I prepared to extol the supremacy of my native Minnesota, only to emit a series of clicks, ums and ers. The journalist couldn’t tell the difference. My delay in responding only seemed to prove her point…. Read More →

The here and now of a sci-fi future

As daily news comes to resemble science fiction, I imbibe in more science fiction. No matter how fantastical the genre becomes, or how far it reaches into the future, science fiction reflects the present better than political science. Sci-fi speaks without inhibition about what we want, what we fear, and how we feel about ourselves…. Read More →