Friday, July 14, 2017
ray of light
----------------- [excerpt from Bob Dylan's Chronicles] ----------- The upper Midwest was an extremely volatile, politically active area -- with the Farmer Labor Party, Social Democrats, socialists, communists. They were hard crowds to please and not too much for Republicanism. John Kennedy, before he became president, when he was still a senator, had come up to Hibbing on the campaign trail but that was about six months after I left.
My mother said that eighteen thousand people had turned out to see him at the Veterans Memorial Building and that people were hanging from the rafters and others were in the street, that Kennedy was a ray of light and had understood completely the area of the country he was in.
He gave a heroic speech, my mom said, and brought people a lot of hope.
The Iron Range was an area that very few nationally known politicians or any famous people ever made it through. (Woodrow Wilson had stopped there in the early part of the century and spoke from the back of a train. My mother had seen him, too, when she was ten years old.) If I had been a voting man, I would have voted for Kennedy just for coming there. I wished I could have seen him.
My mother's family was from a little town called Letonia, just over the railroad tracks, not far from Hibbing. When she grew up the town consisted of a general store, a gas station, some horse stables, and a schoolhouse.
The world I grew up in was a little different, a little more modernized, but still mostly gravel roads, marshlands, hills of ice, steep skylines of trees on the outskirts of town, thick forests, pristine lakes large and small, iron mine pits, trains and one-lane highways.
Winters, ten below with a twenty below wind-chill factor were common, thawing spring and hot, steamy summers -- penetrating sun and balmy weather where temperatures rose over one hundred degrees. Summers were filled with mosquitoes that could bite through your boots -- winters with blizzards that could freeze a man dead. There were glorious autumns as well.
Mostly what I did growing up was bide my time. I always knew there was a bigger world out there but the one I was in at the time was all right, too. With not much media to speak of, it was basically life as you saw it.
The things I did growing up were the things I thought everybody did -- march in parades, have bike races, play ice hockey. (Not everyone was expected to play football or basketball or even baseball, but you had to know how to skate and play ice hockey.)
The other usual things, too, like swimming holes and fishing ponds, sledding and something called bumper riding, where you grab hold of a tail bumper on a car and ride through the snow, Fourth of July fireworks, tree houses -- a witches' brew of pastimes. You could also easily hop an iron ore train by grabbing and then hanging on to one of the iron ladders on either side and ride out to any number of lakes where you could go out and jump in them. We did that a lot.