Tuesday, July 14, 2009 By Aaron Brown
The Brainerd Library has done a great job of building community support for its library lecture series. This was the final event of my scheduled "first year" release tour for "Overburden" and it couldn't have gone out on a higher note.
Meantime, this was my first book event near one of Minnesota's "Big Three" iron ranges, the Cuyuna Range. Nearby Crosby and Ironton represent the epicenter of the Cuyuna Range where my family spent some time working the mines in the 1950s and '60s before relocating back here on the Mesabi. The main highway bypasses Crosby and Ironton now but I made sure to head back the "other way" to drive through those towns on the way home. My first reaction as I drove up through downtown Ironton and especially Crosby was, "OMG, is that Nashwauk? Or Coleraine? Or Mt. Iron?" It's amazing how there is some unnatural quality that identifies an Iron Range town, even if that town isn't on the Mesabi. It might be the specific age of the buildings (almost exactly a century, covered in red ore dust). Maybe it's the vaguely ethnic names still on some of the buildings. I don't know. About the only different thing about Crosby vs. a Mesabi Range town is the abnormal number of antique stores, an attribute probably owed to its proximity to the tourist center of Brainerd.
My dad lived in the Crosby area for a time as a very young child and speaks of Serpent Lake, where my great-grandfather lived when he was a mining engineer in the area. I never knew how close Serpent Lake was to the city of Crosby, how it butted right up against the town. It was great to see some of the places and names associated with my family on this trip. I hope to come through again in the future and spend more time at the historical sights. I fear this may involve a solo trip. (Some men sneak away from their wives for dalliances, I sneak away to read highway markers).
The "Overburden" release tour is over, but I remain available to talk about the the book, the Iron Range, new media, journalism, communication topics and northern Minnesota culture at events of most kinds. Contact me for information. Meantime, you can always pick up your copy of the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble online or stores, or at local stores like Howard Street Booksellers in Hibbing, Village Bookstore in Grand Rapids, Woodward's in Virginia, Lisa's Upstairs Bookstore in Ely and tourist sites throughout the Iron Range.