Most times we give little thought to formations from decades past, but in one sentence I can say much. “I live perched on the rim of a natural-ore mine and within a few miles of a pilot taconite plant.”

Unpack. With natural iron ore recognized, use of the resource moved forward in ways far beyond a simple discovery. No need for a growing-thriving Twin Ports without ore or grain to ship.

In general ports don’t recognize they are neither mining nor shipping same as farmers and miners are removed from transport issues. There’s no malignity, fault or ignorance other than connected parts focusing on their role. Miner, farmer and shipper aren’t daily involved in the process of flour milling or iron making.  

In my boyhood home the EMJ (Engineering and Mining Journal) was far easier to come by than Playboy, along with not needing to be stashed in secrecy. (I’m tempted to root out a pun in the above sentence, but why bother?) Ninety-nine percent of EMJ content whooshed over my head, but the obvious web of industry going so many directions made an impression.

And guess what? Once local and national industry worked out (cracked) use of plentiful low-grade taconite, the game was on for others to copy. As a product, taconite pellets could be produced to facilitate a certain kind of iron or steel through careful control of additives. Not a brand-new notion.

Back in natural ore days oxygen rich ore from Tower Soudan was mixed with other ores for improved iron-steel production.   Once breakthroughs are made and found to be repeatable it’s fairly easy for others to pick up the ball and run away with it. Leaders aren’t necessarily going to end up winners. At one time Aruba (recently in the news for other reasons) in the Caribbean had the world’s largest oil refinery. Then Venezuela (close enough to be seen on the horizon) stepped in to scoop up ninety percent of the refinery jobs.

More to it, of course. Royal Dutch Shell Oil was involved and Arubans hold passports as citizens of The Netherlands. (Possible sign of current active colonialism, but you figure it out and go tell an Aruban what you think about their plight. I’ll watch.)

Anyway, I’ll guess it was a wrench from shipping petroleum OUT to having to bring tourists IN. Then, of course, refining in Venezuela was taken over in another version of what the Range and Ports have seen and live in.  

Was it in our control to prevent exportation of jobs and industry? Does it make any difference if we claim to understand according to one political-economic notion or another? I think not. Easy pickings will be picked. However I see things suits me and makes no difference, anyway. My view is limited, incomplete and flawed. I try to remember that.

Does that explain why I can be vexed by someone with right ear planted on right shoulder trying to correct me on posture? In my simple and limited view I try to keep things in some order.  

For example, have you heard cases made for who should get credit for discovery of the New World? Was it the Phoenicians or Egyptians or Congolese? China and Melanesians are also contenders along with Viking and Irish. A sizeable number of plausible arguments are out there. To which I say so what?

The discovery itself didn’t make much difference until it met the Rs of ability to be Reliably Repeated. (Turns out the Portuguese were early in N. America for whaling but kept that a trade secret.) Maybe it’s just human nature for the present electric passion to set aside the difficulties of the path leading to flip-a-switch simplicity.

Our electric drive began with a DC view. Thirty two volts was common in early gas or oil fueled generators that could be tied into large Oxide batteries. (There used to be many such batteries for the Lift Bridge. Maybe they remain, ghost of the past and a reminder.)

Impressive engineering all of that, but flawed because DC does not travel well. It took a whoop of time before Westinghouse and Tesla won the day via Niagara Falls and very American notion of a World’s Fair.

I need know none of that to flip a switch. Nor need I factor in how much copper must be mined to feed my hungry little switch. (Remember we tried plentiful aluminum for wire. A great idea, but.)   I’m among those who will say schools on the Iron Range were reasonably good. We were expected to master this or that to pass. Some mastered well. Others, like me, tended to fake a lot of it, say by muddling through Algebra and coming out with a shrieking fear of numbers.

Regardless, schooling was decent enough. Another education, however, came in the body and blood of Rangers. Way ahead of the game, Rangers were pronoun enforcers. Say we instead of I and you’d get an eyeful in an instant. Gads how I, sometimes overstepping in my speech, hated those hard-hitting blunt bastards ever ready (and eager) to cut you down with unpleasant remark, “That a banana in your pocket?”  

Rangers were relentless realists. Annoying as hell, but I have to thank them for that. A box on the mental ear was just what I needed to fly a bit straighter. I was never going to “get it” the way many of them did, but I “got it” enough to halt many a headlong march toward a cliff.

In my case (maybe yours as well - I don’t know) this turns blunt as Ranger remarking with Christian charity about a pants pocket. Last time I went through Customs my tongue was bleeding from not asking for a burner phone and bus ticket. I mean after-all, I paid for a Passport so shouldn’t I at least get the freebies? (Don’t need them, but I could sell ‘em.) But why start arguments that can’t be won? If I were I’d go back to the birth certificate that assigned me the wrong eye color.