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Monday, March 4, 2024
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The Long Way Home

It’s taken me quite a long time to call myself a writer. Despite all the contracts, marketing materials, regulatory filings, newspaper col­umns and stories that I’ve written and edit­ed, I hesitated to call myself a writer. I even published a book, Ideas and Insight From 40 Years in the Freight Business, before I admit­ted to myself that I am a writer.

We tend to think of writers as the sages of wisdom who have agents, best sellers, block­buster movie deals and exotic book tours with auditoriums filled with adoring fans. It just ain’t so.

Everyone has stories to tell. Putting it all down on paper is a gift, to the one doing the writing and the ones who will one day read it.

A few examples.

My great-uncle Gust, after spending 20 years underground on the Cuyuna Iron Range, booked himself a trip back to Sweden to see his sister, and maybe decide if he wanted to stay. He kept a diary, a record of his activity, in Swedish. And now, several decades later, it fell into my hands. A relative translated it for me and it brought back fond memories and new stories of the gnarled and half deaf uncle who was always a dancer and who proved his strength in younger days with handstands on barstools to win bets and impress the ladies.

He was a writer.

Bob “Babe” Babenroth married my aunt Vona in their golden years in Stevens Point, WI. The two of them were in the same crowd of “The Point” for most of their lives. So when Babe took the time to write a memoir, a record of his memories of family, friends and events, I was glad to get my hands on it. It was in a three hole folder and probably printed at the Office Depot. No agent or publishing deal. He wrote it for us in the next generations, not to be on the New York Times bestseller list.

He was a writer.

Ted Hashimoto married Becky’s aunt Har­riet, also in their golden years. Ted was an adolescent, born American and growing up near Los Angeles when Japan raided Pearl Harbor. He and his family were packed off to a concentration camp in Utah and the family farm was lost to some unscrupulous charac­ters. He came of age in time to enlist in the US Army just as WWII was concluding and his tour of duty brought him to Japan as an interpreter for the occupation forces over the next five years. By the early 50s he was back in southern California, raised a family and built a successful scaffolding business where he worked well into his 90s. He wrote a mem­oir, again for the next generations in his ex­tended family.

He was a writer.

Like what I write, none of these are consid­ered suitable by publishers and “elite” writer wannabes. But they mean the world to some­one who knows the writer or her subjects, maybe years down the road.

So get crackin’. I’m positive you have sto­ries to tell. Write ‘em down, even a little at a time. Notebooks are cheap.

You don’t need to show your writing to any­one, but don’t throw it away. Someday some relative of yours might just find it and learn something about you and about a time and place that have changed forever.

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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