Sunday, November 29, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Jump back, recession; here comes Santa
By Aaron J. Brown
There’s a moment after Thanksgiving dinner when the pants feel tighter, the couch calls like an upholstered siren, and you realize that this is your reality for the next month at least. This is the holiday season, you see, and while not everyone in America recognizes the same holidays, we do retain our God-given right to get fat and broke really fast.
It’s been a tough year for many. Nevertheless, if anything in this world is recession proof it’s the passage of time. Christmas will come just as assuredly as Thanksgiving and Fourth of July came before. While the middling economic situation we’re in might diminish holiday gift shopping, I know what I’ve seen. The Snuggie ™ , a warm fuzzy garment/blanket hybrid that resembles a cult uniform, is available at a prominent local box store. As long as that’s the case I’m going to bet that most folks aren’t starving. At least, for food. Human affection remains another matter.
This week a solemn annual ceremony was performed. Across the cities of the Iron Range, out into the tameless countryside, along the major highways rose hundreds of bulbous, white sentries. An army of inflatable Frosty the Snowman replicas, each larger and more windswept that the last, snapped to attention in yards of all sizes and socioeconomic landscaping design. These inflated snowmen defy the fact that there is no snow on the ground. The green grass taunts the season, but here we know the snowmen, even if false and plastic, will win. White on green today will become white on white all too soon.
The repetitive lawn decorations notwithstanding, this season brings reckoning. Every year I decorate my house with lights. Or, so I say. In truth I didn’t put up a single string of lights last year. I remember the first year I strung up lights on my own, just about a decade ago when I illuminated a tree in front of our house before my new wife returned home from work. Since then we’ve had three children, and like all children they are irrational beings who do not facilitate the decoration of one’s home with elaborate electrical adornment. They do, however, light up the house in their own rowdy way, a method invisible to the outside world. Not to worry, we live in the country, anyway. Who’s going to see it but us?
Hibbing alumnus Bob Dylan recently released his first full length Christmas album, “Christmas is in the Heart.” For a lot of Iron Rangers that’s the sort of Bob Dylan news that passes without much notice. For instance one could say, “Hey, did you hear that Bob Dylan is a centaur now?” Another could reply, “Geez, he’s always up to something, isn’t he?” But for me and a lot of other fans, a Christmas album initially seemed a bridge too far, even for Dylan – kind of like a winter invasion of Russia. (Ask Napoleon).
To my pleasant surprise the Dylan album is actually pretty good; weird as heck, but a treat for fans of Dylan and/or ironic musical twists. His new music video “Must Be Santa Claus” is what sold me initially. Here’s Bob Dylan, singer/songwriter of some note, performing a lighthearted song about Santa Claus with accordion accompaniment. He sings and sings, and then some kind of strange party fight breaks out in the video, something that could have come from 1939 as easily as it could have come from 2009. There’s Dylan for you. Why follow the trends of today when you could dip back into a previous century?
There’s something about Dylan’s unusual Christmas album that seems apropos for the upcoming holiday season. This year is not typical, it is, however, the year we have, and there is joy to be found within.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog MinnesotaBrown.com. His recent book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” explores the humor, history and potential of northern Minnesota.
Friday, November 27, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Thursday, November 26, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Tune in to "Between You and Me," the unique show featuring the people and spirit of northern Minnesota, between 10 a.m. an noon on 91.7 FM in the area and streaming online all over the world at www.kaxe.org.
Meantime, happy Thanksgiving to one and all!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Not so fast! In truth, $16.95 is the retail price of "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range." My debut book makes the ideal gift for anyone from the Iron Range, living on the Iron Range, interested in the history and culture of the Range or even just anyone who likes the strange netherworld between rural and urban, modern and old, and all the irony that exists in those margins. The book also explores the challenges of raising kids in a blue collar place when your job involves writing and the internet. This past year "Overburden" won the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award.
The book might be a good gift, but a signed copy of the book might just might make a GREAT gift. Trust me, I have no bias whatsoever. On Friday, Nov. 27 I will be signing books at Woodward's book store in the Thunderbird Mall in Virginia, Minn. from 1-3 p.m. I'll sign books, personalize inscriptions, listen to your stories, share outtakes from the book and explain my next project (but, if you prefer, I'll just sign the book and ofter a guttural Midwestern grunt).
I'll be in Duluth on Dec. 5, Hibbing on Dec. 11 and Grand Rapids on Dec. 19. Check the sidebar for locations and times.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Sunday, November 22, 2009 By Aaron Brown
To sleep, perchance to write
By Aaron J. Brown
Dreams supposedly reflect your fears, inadequacies, hopes and desires. Lately I’ve been having writing dreams.
Recently, I told everyone I know that I was stepping away from blogging to focus on my fiction. A novel. The Great American Novel. I didn’t call it that, but everyone knows that’s what you mean. It’s code. Your going to shake the dust off this little town (or large metropolitan area, or vague suburban area, or vast untamed wilderness and/or prairie) and become a Writer with a big “W.” Sunday columnist for a regional daily? Yeah, that’s nice and all, but, you know. (This is also code).
The writing started with a flourish, much like the excitement that would accompany my entry into Ultimate Fighting or professional tennis. I’d buy my tights and/or rackets and, for a moment, the excitement of the situation would overshadow the reality. Oh dude, I have a job! Oh dude, I have kids! Oh dude, I have been writing pithy 600 word newspaper columns for almost a decade … maybe that is, like, entirely different than writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Maybe, indeed, I am a living cliché.
The other day I had a rare vivid dream. I have many dreams, mostly vague, sprinkled with unusual psychological cues. Too much food (dreams about food). Too many beers? (Dreams about beers … or bears, language is fluid). For me, and perhaps for most, dreams are neither predictable nor surprising.
But in this particular dream I was an observer, not a participant. The scene was a home day care. Kids ran. Kids screamed. Kids expressed frustration with the human condition. I can recall the pattern on people’s shirts, plaids and stripes, but also could feel their emotions. The day care was both a sanctuary and a prison for these children, as they brought the burdens of their home life with them. One particular boy seemed especially troubled. His dad was always late to pick him up. This affected the staff. The boy could sense the tension.
“So literary!” While I slept, my dream self was writing more (and better) than my waking self had written in months. Here I saw the vulnerability of a child juxtaposed with societal norms pertaining to child rearing. In the dream, the father arrived to pick up his son well after the predetermined time. Professionally dressed and tired, he mumbled a half-hearted apology to the staff while his son silently shuffled to his side. As the door closed, the staff muttered as they cleaned.
“This is gold!” And as I thought that, I saw the father earlier that day – without the five o’clock shadow and sagging eyes. He was a doctor, you see, and a good one. He tended to his patients, fought for them, well, like a father should fight for his son. But it wasn’t easy. Administration was holding him back, denying him the chance to save lives. The system was flawed and he grew frustrated. Topical!” I thought.
The final straw came as the doctor ate lunch. He was interrupted by a hospital lawyer, advising him not to perform a critical operation. My writer self began to realize the true possibilities of this plot: Conflict, humanity, intrigue. I watched the doctors face fall, his brow wrinkle. Suddenly, he became … so … angry. His skin … started to turn color. With his arms held out to the side, his shirt sleeves began … to tighten.
“No!” my writer/narrator/subconscious self yelled. “It couldn’t be!”
The doctor’s skin was now a deep green, his shirt burst open and his body increased notably in size. His eyes glowed. He smashed the table, threw his lunch tray and ran, presumably to perform the operation anyway – or else fight crime. And I realized the ugly truth. The reason that the doctor was always late to pick up his son was because he was the Incredible Hulk. Even in my dream, I cursed the implausible plot twist. Later, the doctor would wake up in his normal state, dazed and wearing tattered clothing. Checking his watch, he would dash to pick up his son at the day care.
Dreams can lift hope, and sometimes they can smash a good plot. Hulk Smash. The writing continues.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog MinnesotaBrown.com. His book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” won the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award.
Saturday, November 21, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Friday, November 20, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Tune in for "Between You and Me," 10 a.m. and noon Saturday on 91.7 FM in northern Minnesota or streaming live all over the world at www.kaxe.org.
Thursday, November 19, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Minnesota Discovery Center announces layoffs
CHISHOLM – The Ironworld Development Corporation Board of Directors today announced that Minnesota Discovery Center (formerly Ironworld), a 660-acre museum, entertainment venue, research library and park in Chisholm, MN, will temporarily be closed to the public, effective Friday, November 20, 2009, at 5 p.m.
“We would like to thank our employees for their patience and understanding as we determine what the future holds for this institution,” said Minnesota Discovery Center CEO, Mike Andrews.
Iron Range Resources created the nonprofit organization and negotiated a Management Agreement in 2007 for its operations. They supported the nonprofit through an endowment of $10 million and a transitional subsidy that is to be phased out over a five-year period. With the world recession, the endowment declined to $5.9 million this spring, resulting in substantially lowered funding levels.
The new name, Minnesota Discovery Center, provided a broader platform in the effort to re-invigorate the facility and give it national importance. This strategy worked. Revitalized programming within budget yielded a 15% increase in attendance figures despite cold weather, five months of highway construction, and an economy where tourism spending in northeastern Minnesota saw double digit declines.
“The financing model developed two years ago, combined with the world economic situation, just doesn’t work”, states CEO Mike Andrews. “Our overhead costs, not fundable by grants or sponsorships, are considerably higher than our declining subsidy and endowment interest. Although we experienced an increase in visitor attendance, it is not enough to make that up difference in a limited market.”
The temporary layoffs affect 47 dedicated employees who have been passionate about the success of the facility.
“The board is currently reviewing all options for continuing operations,” said Rich Puhek, IDC Board Chair. “We owe it to our dedicated staff and to the public that has been so supportive of the Minnesota Discovery Center to continue to make every effort to succeed.”
The IDC Board remains optimistic about the future of the facility.
Minnesota Discovery Center opened in 1977 as the Iron Range Interpretive Center with 34 exhibits and a nominal admission charge. In 1979, the Hall of Geology was added, followed by the 1980 opening of the Research Center library and archives. In 1986, after an 18-month shutdown, the facility re-opened as with a railroad, amphitheater, new admissions building and "Festival Park."
Thursday, November 19, 2009 By Aaron Brown
In addition to the name change, the Discovery Center has been going through an extended transition from state management to that of a private nonprofit corporation. The facility was never intended to be a financial boon to the region; rather it was intended to be an historical and cultural interpretive site for the people of the Iron Range. Nevertheless, the anticipated announcement is particularly rough. Layoffs and a temporary closure are expected unless emergency funding is secured. The development is not being presented as the end of the facility, but those involved expect serious restructuring.
Fundamentally, the thing to remember is that this facility was built for the people of the Iron Range so that they, too, could remember their history and celebrate their unique culture. That mission should not be abandoned regardless of what happens next.
UPDATE: WDIO has the story. No different than what I've heard.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 By Aaron Brown
The MDN has its story behind the pay wall. The DNT will post its story on Thursday, according to its food blog.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 By Aaron Brown
On consolidation ... and on the future of Iron Range education. Both of the stories focus on the plight of the St. Louis County school district, which is important, but a Range-wide discussion about the merits of consolidation and a new focus on educational outcomes is also long overdue.
St. Louis County schools are holding a special Dec. 8 operating levy vote that some say could determine the survival of this rural northern Minnesota district.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Bill's story is balanced enough to point out that environmental groups oppose the project because it uses coal. That's true, I guess, for some. But the project's biggest problem isn't coal. It's that it's a massive taxpayer funded boondoggle that can't and won't stand on its own two feet. This project is a mix of the worst elements of capitalism and socialism, serving the needs of the few through questionable means.
Even the most optimistic realist (one not on the company dime) could predict only a tiny fraction of the original jobs promised through this project. At "best," we're gonna get a small natural gas plant with an adjoining science experiment. For all the millions of public dollars and time invested, the Mesaba project just isn't worth it. It never was. The reasons why have been presented to key local officials and local media outlets. They have ignored it. Newspaper stories like this are a huge part of the reason why this thing has gotten as far as it has.
But, I've said this all before. If the company is going to hold its line, I guess I have to hold mine. I'll write about something else today to cleanse the palate.
Monday, November 16, 2009 By Aaron Brown
The start-up company Excelsior Energy, an organization that grew out of power industry lobbyists and lawyers, still has no customer and no permits and almost no private investment. It's been rejected by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and faces stiff opposition from Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power, two strong forces in the state's energy industry. The whole project is based on the political support of "clean" coal technology, a technology that does not currently exist and that cannot practically be developed on the Iron Range because of our hard rock geology. Local politicians, state politicians, federal politicians and government bureaucrats of all political stripes have united behind a myth that could be built, the same way the Monorail was built in the satirical cartoon The Simpsons. This is not satire. The Mesaba Energy Project is a sad metaphor for everything that's wrong with politics on the Iron Range and probably every place else where population loss and economic trouble fosters false hope. So many other ideas for entrepreneurship, technology and infrastructure could have better used the money and political energy burned, like a lump of coal, on this foolish snipe hunt.
Hey, I don't lose sleep over coal. Lots of Range facilities burn coal. I don't like coal, but hey, coal can just get in line with all the other things I don't like, including state budget shifts, public education funded by local property taxes and beef casserole. It's the principle of this thing still bothers me and always will. I haven't written about this topic since July. That's how I prefer it, frankly.
Sunday, November 15, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Notes from November
By Aaron J. Brown
2nd week of deer camp arrives
The local TV accounts from the deer hunting opener always amuse. The news van parks at a wild game registration site and films the first successful hunters as they drag their deer onto the scales. These hunters always report a wildly improved hunt from the previous year. Amazing that the hunt keeps getting better and better, every year, no matter what! It couldn’t be that the only people who tote carcasses to registration sites on the first day are those who shot their deer as soon as the season began, could it? Indeed, one might suggest that no one shows up to tell the DNR what they didn’t shoot.
If the reporters wanted to be brutally accurate they’d be out in the woods (in orange) filming the weekend warriors sleeping in their stands, lamenting the presence of a wolf pack or sitting back at the shack nursing their aching heads. The DNR will release the real numbers in due time and then we’ll know for sure.
Taconite worker health study begins
I’ve been in touch with an official with the University of Minnesota School of Health about the start of the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study. That’s a whole lot of boring words strung out in a row, but some high emotions and deeply impacted lives are responsible for this happening. You might remember the hubbub when many ex-taconite workers were being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer often found in people working industrial jobs. In 2007, there was demand for a state study on the matter, some political intrigue, and eventually money was allocated.
For reasons of research integrity, a select sampling of taconite miners have been invited to participate in a very simple review. The results of this process could greatly improve the lives of those who have worked in taconite mining in the past and those who work there now. For as bad as the economy is these days, no one needs additional mesothelioma. If you are asked to join the study, participate if you can.
The phantom recovery
Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Kelleher filed a report that was republished in several area newspapers last week about the state of the Iron Range economic recovery. In short, we’re still waiting for the substantive boost from the slowly improving national economy. Joblessness is higher here in Hibbing than anywhere else in Minnesota and the prospects of our local mines resuming production soon are mixed at best.
As we celebrate Hibbing’s new slogan “We’re More Than Ore” (indeed, it could substitute as the slogan for the entire Iron Range) we must also remember that we are still deeply connected to the booms and busts of the iron mining industry, and that other economic growth will be necessary for us to enjoy genuine community prosperity.
Schools of Hard Knocks
Amid all the bad news there was a surprising piece of good news for a cash-strapped local school district. Voters in Nashwauk and Keewatin voted to approve part of an operational levy request that will close a massive budget gap in the Nov. 3 election. They had lost a referendum last year, as had Greenway, the St. Louis County schools and other financial beleaguered districts around the state.
The organizers of the Save Our Schools committee deserve congratulations for their well-organized and effective campaign to pass the bond measure. They provided a lesson for any district hoping to pass a levy in such hard times. On the other hand I must point out the reality of our situation here on the Iron Range. Any hope of providing advanced math, college writing, music and art, along with the extracurricular activities that most parents expect to be available to their children will require more than this month’s vote. No matter what town you live in, all Iron Range residents should seriously consider the merits of a regional educational model, one that provides regional hub public schools and smaller specialty (or charter) schools in other existing buildings. No one referendum can solve the problems of N-K, Greenway, St. Louis County, Ely, or others, so the time for a meaningful “One Range” consolidation plan is long overdue. Done properly, the results could prove better for all students, teachers and communities involved than the status quo.
Hunting, cancer research, the economy and school consolidation: Yes, this is just the right amount of controversy for one week.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog, MinnesotaBrown.com. His recent book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” is out now.
Friday, November 13, 2009 By Aaron Brown
The show airs from 10 a.m. to noon on 91.7 FM in northern Minnesota and streaming live all over the world at www.kaxe.org.
Sunday, November 08, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Ask a Stag
By Aaron J. Brown
For almost everyone, deer hunting conjures at least one touchstone memory: the Disney animated movie, “Bambi.” Hunters shoot Bambi’s mom and then Bambi’s dad emerges from the woods to protect him. Later, there’s a thing with a forest fire and blah, blah, blah, Bambi grows up strong. Some find Bambi’s dad a reassuring figure of strength amid tragedy and injustice. Others, especially those out in the woods this weekend, find him to be a trophy buck, and also delicious. Well, this week I’ve really scored a coup. Joining us now is Bambi’s dad, the Great Prince of the Forest, for what I hope becomes a regular segment: “Ask a Stag.”
STAG: Good morning.
AB: Good morning. Say, can you, uh, do the line.
STAG: The line?
AB: You know. The line. You know which one.
STAG: (Long pause). “Bambi, your mother won’t be coming back.”
AB: Awesome. “Your mother can’t be with you anymore.”
AB: Awesome. You hit that so well. (imitating) “Bambi … Bambi.”
STAG: Yes, yes, well, let’s just move on.
AB: Right, so I have some questions here from listeners and I figure you pass along your wisdom like we’re all Bambi and you’re our single dad, Great Prince of the Forest.
AB: OK, so, first question. This one is from Zack. “Dear Stag. I’ve been having some problems with my girlfriend. She just doesn’t understand me. What should I do?” What do you think, Bambi’s dad?
STAG: Zack, perhaps you are a mighty buck, capable of bounding through a forest at high speeds. Perhaps your hooves are made of steel and your antlers glean with the moonlight. That’s no excuse for not being a sensitive lover. You must cherish your doe. Nuzzle her snout. Briefly copulate. And in 25 to 31 weeks she will bear you a fawn.
AB: Excellent advice, Great Prince of the Forest. Good luck, Zack. The next question comes from Chad who writes “Dear Stag, sometimes I feel like everyone is out to get me. Am I just being paranoid?”
STAG: Chad, yes they are trying to get you. In every tree, in every ditch, along every country road there lies the very real possibility that you will draw your last painful breath from a cruel world. You might wonder if they are not trying to get you, and that the urine you smell is real urine from a fertile doe, but it is not. They are trying to get you and they will. Maybe not this year. Maybe not next year. But eventually.
AB: Well, time is running out and we have time for just one more question. Diane asks “Dear Stag, any tips for someone going through menopause?”
STAG: Well, the first thing, Diane, is that what you’re going through is a beginning, not an end. (GUNSHOT) …. Oh, my. (groaning, sounds of painful struggle).
AB: Stag, Stag, are you OK? Oh my God, you’ve been shot. Someone shot you.
STAG: (muffled) I know, idiot. Of course I’ve been shot.
AB: Why are you rubbing on that tree ? Doesn’t that hurt.
STAG: It’s a flesh wound … I’m working the bullet out … to avoid infection. Yaaa (more painful moaning)! Listen, man, I’m going to ditch.
AB: Hey, now, Stag. We signed you for six episodes and an option. We had a deal.
STAG: (continues to struggle, pain). Call my agent.
AB: Stag, I’m in for a million five on merchandising and cross promotion. I’ve got a garage full of “Ask a Stag” keychains. Don’t screw me on this!
STAG: (continued painful cries) Hey, pal. Don’t forget who you’re talking to. I’m Bambi’s dad. B-A-M-B-I. Cultural icon. And I’m bleeding out my haunches.
AB: You’ll never work in this wooded hallow again!
STAG: I’m out (sounds of bounding deer through forest).
AB: Hey. You’re leaving a blood trail … just sayin.’ (pause) Well, there he goes. Happy Hunting, everyone.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog MinnesotaBrown.com or in his recent book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”
Friday, November 06, 2009 By Aaron Brown
The premise is "Ask a Stag" an advice segment featuring the wisdom of the paternal buck. I play myself and Bambi's dad and use a lot of creative editing for a unique effect. I wonder if something amusingly macabre will occur! You'll have to tune in between 10 am. and noon on Saturday to find out! The show's topic is "November" and people will be talking about all sorts of seasonal topics, most notably this weekend's Minnesota firearms deer hunting season opener. The show can be heard 10-noon on 91.7 FM or streaming live online at www.kaxe.org.
"Between You and Me" is a call-in and music program that allows northern Minnesota's unique culture to just sort of hang there, all obvious and such, while callers explore a topic -- either timely or inane, sometimes both. Call in with your own stories at 218-326-1234.
Sunday, November 01, 2009 By Aaron Brown
A vital life in the ‘zone of plenty’
By Aaron J. Brown
Living on the Iron Range means navigating between good and bad economic news on lands north of the power. The power is elsewhere, you see. The power is east. The power is south. Lately, the power is even west. The power is not here. Iron Rangers live powerless, despite their great, immeasurable power.
This fact is disguised by our lives. We in northern Minnesotans operate in seasons, some celestial and some of our own design. As Halloween approached this past week some considered the costumes they would wear, or the costumes of their children or dogs. “Field of Screams” was going on. Next up is the deer hunt and soon enough Thanksgiving will arrive: the ham, the turkey, the relatives. Then Christmas, and ice fishing, snowmobiling and shoveling. The kids need our attention. Then school will be out, and in. The mines are open, then closed.
Here in northern Minnesota it’s easy to believe that nothing will change and that we are indeed powerless. In fact, the story of the last 30 years has done nothing but implant that belief in an entire generation. If you leave that’s understood, and if you stay you exist in a bubble of your own creation, separated from all those outside your circle. In all this, it’s even easier to forget that history has called the Iron Range’s number many times before.
Early this year I received a letter from Earl Currie. Currie shared an old Great Northern Railroad advertisement from 1943 along with his own recollections from living in that time in West Duluth. He watched as the iron ore of the Range met the shipyards of Duluth on its way to east to feed the American war machine. The Great Northern ad reads:
“All the gold buried at Fort Knox, Ky., is less important to Victory than the rich iron ore deposits of the Mesabi, Cuyuna and Vermilion Ranges of Northern Minnesota. The Mesabi Range alone contains the world's largest developed deposits, and much of this ore lies in open pits. … The fabulous iron ore deposits in Minnesota are only part of the wealth contributed to America by the Zone of Plenty -- and delivered by this vital artery of transportation.”
This ad is accompanied by a map showing the 1943 routes of the Great Northern Railway, running across what the company terms "The Zone of Plenty." The Zone of Plenty includes the northern plains states, the Northwest, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Chicago and – lit up like a Christmas tree – the entire state of Minnesota. How many maps do you know that show Hibbing and Virginia in the same sized font as Chicago and New York?
The vague wartime train propaganda actually does a great job of explaining, in the present tense, why the Iron Range is so significant to the nation's economy and history. This rich value now stands in stark contrast to our beleaguered economic present, but if we’re smart the “vital” life may again be part of our future.
In 1999, at age 19, I purchased a Great Northern Railway hat at a model train show in Dyersville, Iowa. The guy asked me why I would do that, since there weren't any Great Northern routes near there. "There are where I'm from," I said. I remembered the Great Northern logo on all manner of historical trains, displays and documents from my recent and yet vague youth. I didn’t know then what I knew after I read Mr. Currie’s letter about the Great Northern. The “Zone of Plenty” remains the future of the Upper Midwest, just as it did during World War II.
Our minerals, our timber and water ensure the future of the Iron Range. Some demand, and jobs, will always exist for these pursuits. But these things do not ensure power for our people. In this 21st century, which might seem greatly removed from our past, a single truth remains. The zone of plenty is ours – to protect, to use, or to destroy. We make our own future.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune“Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range”. Contact him or read more at his blog MinnesotaBrown.com. His book "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range" is out now.