Uncle Tom Jew

In the seconds between shoving my third and fourth White Castle-sized pork sandwich down my throat, I yelled across the lavishly appointed basement toward my host. He and his wife had invited fifty Twin Cities WASPs, and me, to watch Mike Tyson’s pay-per-view, main-event boxing match in Las Vegas against heavyweight Frans Botha on their […]

The Botched Hanging of William Williams

A couple of months after President Theodore Roosevelt had given the inaugural address for his second term of office, an itinerant named William Williams was convicted of first-degree murder. In one of Minnesota’s most infamous crimes, Williams had killed a teenage boy, Johnny Keller, and his mother. An English laborer, Williams had worked as a […]

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Standing History

I am upstairs in a dilapidated building. The room is empty and exudes a sense of its age. Wood floorboards and cracked plaster are coated with dust. Late afternoon sun pours through windows that nearly fill one wall, while their grime casts odd shadows. Crouching low, I’m holding some loose cardboard-thin pieces of the floor. […]

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Too Deep, Too Dark, Too Cold

The gales of November still rage with controversy and treachery, as shipwrecks and their grisly cargo become the hot new tourist attraction. A beacon of light shines out from the tip of an eighty-mile stretch of shoreline known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast. It shines from the lighthouse at Whitefish Point, Michigan, over an area […]

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The Big Blow of 1913

November is readily acknowledged as the stormiest month on the Great Lakes. Each year around the beginning of this steely month, over the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, two storm tracks converge. From the north bear down the Alberta Clippers, full of freezing polar air. From the lee slopes of the Rockies […]

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

When the Edmund Fitzgerald was launched in 1958, it was the largest ship to sail the Great Lakes. At 729 feet and able to haul more than 25,000 tons of iron ore, the freighter was dubbed “The Pride of the American Flag.” Year after year, the Fitzgerald hauled iron ore and taconite out of the […]

The Wreck of the Madeira

In late November 1905, one of the worst storms still on record overtook Lake Superior in what became known as the “Mataafa Blow.” Just north of Split Rock, the steamer William Edenborn struggled along the North Shore on its way to Duluth, towing behind it the Madeira, a massive 436-foot schooner-barge. As the winds swelled […]

Sole Survivor

Back in 1966, Dennis Hale had been sailing for three years, all of them on the 580-foot freighter Daniel J. Morrell. The Morrell was in its sixtieth year, one of the oldest of the many freighters plying the Great Lakes. The ship had just finished its already long season, but when another freighter developed engine […]

Stranded On Third

I feel like throwing up: Willie Mays is screaming at me. He’s slammed the brakes on, and his sports car is screeching to a halt, and he is throwing me out. I feel nauseated, even though I’m perfectly aware of the fact that the “Say Hey Kid” of yore has famously turned into the Say […]

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The Minnesota Model—Unglued

After more than 50 years at center stage in American politics and government, Minnesota has been relegated to the supporting cast in the nation’s capitol at the beginning of the 21st century. The North Star State’s once-impressive Washington presence has dwindled. A host of nationally prominent figures of both parties who have played leading roles […]

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