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North Country, the

The area Minnesota way, where Bob Dylan grew up. See also Hibbing.
From: Tiernan Henry (HENRY.TIERNAN@UCG.IE)
Subject: nature/nuture
(April 96)

bruce weber did a series of articles in the new york times a couple of years ago, which he filed as he cycled his way from the pacific to the atlantic coasts. one was filed from duluth, and was a delightful pen-portrait of the iron range as seen from a cyclists point of view (ie that the roads are terrible and your ass will be sore for a couple of states), and weber took in hibbing, ely and other range towns. remember, judy garland, roger maris, and kevin mchale are all rangers too.

as is rudy perpich.

track it down in the nytimes records. i have it clipped somewhere, and will post it here next week.

i arrived in duluth, if not quite off the potato boat, not long after leaving ireland. i moved from st. paul to the twin ports in the spring of 1989, and had soon found the house where the zimmermans had lived (on 6th i think, i have photos somewhere). needless to say i was in hibbing as soon as possible, and have more photos of that house. also, for anyone in the region, check out "zimmy's sports bar" -- i kid you not -- and get yerselves a t-shirt, featuring drawings of maris, and high-school-era bob on the front.

friends who worked for mpr played me tapes of interviews with dylan's high-school friends (they were done for a planned, but not developed, story) ad had a great local perspective. (mpr-duluth producer jim neumann did a great piece which may have gotten npr broadcast on bob's 50th birthday, with interviews with john bauldie, some dylan school friends, and a pile of folks drinking in "zimmy's", worth checking out. and not just cause jim is a friend!)

despite what is sometimes printed about it, duluth and hibbing folks are quietly proud of bob, and retain a certain pride that one of their own has done so well. i certainly met few people who bore any illwill towards him, and i met many who did remember him. it is odd how it would crop up; again, my peripheral involvement with mpr-duluth and with the duluth news tribune meant that i met a lot of folks involved in the arts and in politics in the area, and there were a few um-minneapolis friends who were also rangers who remembered him, and who ran into him on occasion. a friend of jim's told me that she knew bob from hibbing, and that they were at the u at roughly the same time. when he was getting ready to leave for new york he told her that he'd see her there sometime. years later, in the 80s, she was in new york and ran into bob on 5th avenue. they chatted about family she said, and that as they parted, he said, "i told you i'd see you in new york".

it is a very tough place to live. not violent tough though. economically the region has never recovered from the downturn in ore demand, and it is a darned cold place to live during the winter, especially so for a paddy used to mild winters. my first winter there, a mild one by local standards, shocked me. it just got colder every day, and everyone else didn't seem to notice. by winter two i was an old hand and when i caught myself remarking that a february day that had reached -10 was "springlike" i knew that i was becoming a neo-ranger.

it is astonishingly beautiful and affective country. the geology alone would make you drool (the canadian shield makes an appearance, and some of the oldest exposed rocks in the us are to be found near duluth), if drooling at geology is your thing (guilty, m'lud). the winter light has a metallic clarity and sharpness that is unlike anything i've seen anyhwere else in the midwest, and the sight and sound of that big lake heaving and stretching is truly wondrous. when the ice cracks and snaps the sound is like gunfire, and the ice reared up and random-packed on the beach looks for all the world like freeze-framed storm waves.

moving north along the shore, the signs of the iron industry -- the huge rusting loaders and docks and the boarded-up buildings -- are a reminder of what came from the mesabi range. cut overland to hibbing and the scar of the mine is colossal. everything is magnetic there.

that country doesn't let you go quickly.

take a trip. go see it in the fall, and go inland and wander the backroads. go in winter and bring yer cross-country skis. watch that sky, that almost tidal lake, the hanging curtains of the northern lights, the reminders of a place where ore older than most of the rest of that big country was extracted to build that new country, and then see if you can rent "highway 61", a delightfully quirky film with some interesting thoughts to share about baby-bob dylan.

if you can't get there don't worry. listen to all those records; it's all over them and shot through them like diamond pipes. drive up i-35 some winter's night well after midnight, heading from the cities to duluth and listen to "shooting star", under a green-lit sky of cascading light.

and see a shooting star.

it's still with me.