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Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomeEditorialThe Long Way Home

The Long Way Home

I have found the perfect part-time job for re­tired freight brokers like me who need to sup­plement an inflation battered Social Security income. The last several summers I toiled in retail sales, helping folks find what they need and ringing up sales for my never satisfied employers. Many a beautiful North Shore day was spent indoors, entertaining customers who dubbed me as “a hoot” in a Google review.

Not this year.

Much to my surprise, I’ve been hired by the Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to serve as a Watercraft In­spector, seeking out invasive species that may be affixed to a watercraft and sharing a bit of knowledge with the public about Aquatic In­vasive Species (AIS) and how we can control their spread. Trained and authorized by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), I’m ready to go.

My surprise at getting hired is attributed to the fact that I’ve never had a government job before, and due to what comes off my key­board, I’m not always viewed positively by those who make government their career. Life often reminds me to never say never.

Instead of standing at a POS (Point of Sale for the retail challenged, but also a description of the damned thing when it malfunctions. Come to think of it, the POS label is applied to me by folks, once they get to know me), I’ll be stationed at various boat landings checking for funky plants and animals and getting the word out about how to control the spread of those dreaded things. Hopefully boat owners will see the “hoot” side of me and not a POS with a hi-vis vest and a clipboard.

Just about a year ago I wrote an article for this paper headlined, Jet Skis Are Not the Only Invasive Non-Native Species in North Shore Lakes.

I started the article not knowing much about AIS. Zebra Mussel infestations that clogged water inlets at power plants and water treat­ment facilities were all over the news several years ago. Eurasian milfoil was, in my dis­tracted mind, just infesting the popular sport­ing lakes around the Twin Cities. That’s about all I knew.

Some of these AIS were introduced to the pristine (irony intended) waters of Lake Supe­rior by ocean going vessels dumping the ballast water they carried from origin while approach­ing Duluth so they could load up with grain, coal, and the occasional export container. I recall the days when container shipping was in its infancy and the Port Authority intend­ed Duluth to be a player in the export of con­tainers. They spent serious money on cranes and lifts to handle them. Duluth never quite made it with commercial exporters of contain­erized traffic, but international bulk shipping still takes place and thrives today. And ocean going vessels drop their ballast before entering the inland water system.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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