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The Long Way Home

Today, an observation, a pair of mini-rants, and a bit of nostalgia.  

An observation based on a Depression-era quote from Will Rogers and watching the Re­publican side of the US House of Represen­tatives.

“I am not a member of any organized po­litical party. I’m a Democrat,” Rogers wrote.

A Native American, Rogers was a vaude­ville performer, movie actor, and prolific and acerbic writer about current affairs. He ap­peared in 71 films and published over 3,500 newspaper columns. He died in a plane crash in Alaska in 1935, only 55 years old.

One is left to wonder what he would write about a Congress that has tied itself into a Gordian Knot as crises in Eastern Europe and the Middle East boil, and our government fac­es a debt ceiling-related shutdown in a month because one party is too disorganized to se­lect a leader.


Rant one.

What’s up with the names given to grand­parents these days?

Our first granddaughter popped out in Reno 21 years ago. At 48, we were relatively young to be grandparents, but when Stepha­nie, daughter number one and the new mom, asked what we wanted to be called, we said Grandpa and Grandma. We never thought there was an option, but Stephanie’s in-laws insisted on being called Nana and Papa.

Growing up, I called my Swedish-born grands by the honorific Grandpa and Grand­ma. The American-born grands we called Grandpa and Grandma. Same on Becky’s side. We didn’t know there were options.

There are. MaMaw, Meemaw, Nana, Pop­pow, Papa, and so many more.


The best generation of my family some­times calls me Gramps. But most often, it’s GRANDPA. It’s much easier to remember when signing birthday and graduation cards.


Rant two.

What’s up with all the festivals on the North Shore?

From Duluth to Grand Portage, there is a festival or fundraiser every weekend, spring through fall. The tourism folks in Lake and Cook County diligently ensured no weekend goes eventless. Grand Marais won’t end with Moose Madness at MEA weekend in Octo­ber. It’s planning events into December and January.

Many new folks living here on the shore probably think it’s always been so. Well, it hasn’t.

During the last part of the previous centu­ry, Cook County had just a few events in the summer months. Grand Marais held a Fourth of July parade and fireworks. The Art Colony hosted an arts festival shortly after. The an­nual Fishermen’s Picnic in August ended the festival season.

Tourists and seasonal residents were still here in significant numbers during the rest of summer through the leaf-peeping season in those days.

If you’ve been to one of these events, you’ve maybe been to them all.


A bit of nostalgia.

The first week of October is National News­paper Week. Newspapers hold a special place in my heart.

It hurts to see how daily papers like the Du­luth News Tribune have cut back to two edi­tions each week. Seeing weekly newspapers closing at an alarming rate. The average age of people buying newspapers in retail outlets is far past the so-called “retirement age.” So, I’ll leave with a quote from the inimita­ble Mark Twain: “A newspaper is not just for reporting the news as it is, but to make people mad enough to do something about it.”

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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