Every year is a Brown Christmas

I often tell people from outside Minnesota that the snow and cold don’t really become unpleasant until after Christmas. Everything before then is a crisp, cool puff of snowy magic.  But here along the Mesabi Iron Range we’ve received very little snow this month. As we approach Christmas Day we might have a brown Christmas…. Read More →

The cat came back … again

Nineteen years ago I was the 21-year-old boy editor of the erstwhile Hibbing Daily Tribune. That year I wrote the most consequential article of my entire career. It wasn’t my best work. The story could have used another edit. Its journalistic veracity was thin, to say the least. But more people read this story than… Read More →

From iron to steel without emissions

Let’s start with the bad news. Climate change is actively reshaping the whole world; adding billions in property damage, rising insurance premiums, and increased human migration. Among the side effects: economic inequality, declining air quality, natural disasters, and yes, even pandemics. We may come to regard our current struggles with COVID-19 as a normal part… Read More →

Trauma in the American story

When the Joel and Ethan Coen movie “Fargo” came out in 1996, Minnesotans complained that we don’t really talk that way. But the fact that the (only slightly) exaggerated regional dialect is what most of us remember from “Fargo” displays the wit of the Coen Brothers, both Minnesota natives themselves. Because “Fargo” isn’t about the… Read More →

In chaos, only gratitude will do

Thank you. Simple words not said enough. We gather this week for Thanksgiving. But not like usual. We gather in our homes, mindful of events outside our control. Not all of us can travel for the holiday this year. Instead, we approach the day with trepidation as the COVID-19 pandemic rages out of control across… Read More →

On whitetails, nimrods and a northern Minnesota tradition

If you walk into a deer shack and call the biggest guy there a “nimrod,” you might be in trouble. But that’s just because you’re in the wrong century. In another time you’d be paying him a compliment. How “nimrod” became an insult is an elaborate story worthy of any late night deer camp conversation…. Read More →

All politics is national

We now understand that 2016 was no fluke. Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, a post-WWII bastion of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, now leans toward the Republican Party. And the DFL shows no sign of regaining lost ground anytime soon. The old days are truly gone. The numbers from Tuesday’s election weren’t overwhelming. President Trump won most… Read More →

Vote for local leadership, not furniture

Over 120 years, Iron Range mayors have come in all types. They are Republicans and Democrats (with a few socialists for flavor). They are wealthy elites and blue collar laborers. Some are educated savants who elevate the human species to new heights. Others are raving buffoons elected solely because of they know how to drive… Read More →

Water, land and climate

An epic conflict shapes the future of northern Minnesota. But it doesn’t feel like a conflict. Rather, it feels like selling out and settling for less. And it might take 40 years before we know what hit us. This battle gently boils in the rooms where estates are settled, where families decide how to pay… Read More →

Old book teaches perils of power

Used paperback book stores smell like cigarettes and coffee, the boiled essence of a schoolhouse cloakroom and the back alley behind a restaurant. If you lick one of the books — and you shouldn’t — I suspect it would taste salty. This is merely a hypothesis. It was at just such a store in the… Read More →