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The Iron Range: Welding together a new future

People ask me, “What is the Iron Range?”

People ask me, “What is the Iron Range?”

It’s always some version of that question. Maybe it’s “What’s the deal with the Range?” or “I’d like to understand the Range so that I may perform some professional function there without being beaten with an old boot.” It all works out the same.

Sometimes people call the area surrounding the Iron Range “God’s Country” because it is so beautiful. That’s a little overwrought for my taste, but I do like the idea that if God created the bounty and beauty of northern Minnesota, He also created Buhl. And Nashwauk. And Sparta. And the concrete spires from an old railroad bridge that stand sentry over the known-only-locally back exit out of Hibbing as you head out to Kerr, Kitzville and Kelly Lake locations.

You don’t come to the Iron Range for a hug. You come here to watch people collide with nature, and each other, and a sense that it could all come crashing down someday that somehow makes mortality an easy pill to swallow. You temper your soul in hard towns and salve your soul in nature.

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This seems an awkward time to bring up the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, or IRRRB as it’s known by some, or “Wha?” as it’s known, or not known, by most of the state. This state agency oversees funds paid by mines in taconite production taxes in lieu of local property taxes. So it’s a state agency with local government functions. It goes through odd gyrations as political winds shift from DFL to GOP, or one development philosophy to another. It succeeds and fails, and sometimes neither.

It is, to coin the Range’s favorite cliche, what it is.

And what it just did was actually do a really good pair of TV ads touting the Range to a larger audience:

That’s IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich as one of the narrators, who tells me the footage was shot locally by an Iron Range engineering student. The copy was written by Cherry Townships most venerated writer, IRRRB public relations man Lee Bloomquist.

Here’s the second one:

My first reaction to this one was, “boy, that’s a lot of welding.” But then upon consideration I thought, “one should not understate welding when discussing the Iron Range.”

As a younger reporter I once panicked upon hearing that a local mine in shutdown had welded shut the gates. A friend reassured me: “They weld everything. And they they cut it open and weld it again. It’s what you do when you have welding equipment and torches laying around with nothing else to do.”

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Here’s to welding with a purpose, and the Iron Range.

This post was written by Aaron J. Brown and originally published on Minnesota Brown. Follow Aaron on Twitter: @minnesotabrown.

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