First column for Northshore Journal

My corporate overlord here at the Northshore Journal, Christine, has consented to publish a weekly column from me, The Long Way Home.  I sold the idea to her this way. “I'm thinking of using a column to put out some smaller stories from here (Cook County). Maybe a cranky rant or two about the weather, or fishing, or spouses, or local politics, or?”

“Bring it on,” she said. So here we go.

In the fall of 2016, the first year we could collect Social Security, my wife Becky (referred to often as the Bohunk) and I came back to Cook County for our retirement. Earlier that year, while living in a suburb of St. Louis, she made what seemed an off-hand comment that she would like to return to the North Shore for our “golden years.” I asked her where I was going to go. “Well, you can come with me, I guess.”

As often happens when an intention is expressed, things fell into place almost right away to bring us back to Grand Marais. We found a house in the Hovland suburb of Colvill that met the Bohunk’s criteria for a north shore home and my price constraints--on Craig’s List of all places. Our Illinois house was predicted to be on the market for 284 days, sold in a week to a cash buyer.

We moved here the week before Thanksgiving in 2016. Closed on the purchase of the new to us house that Friday. And moved in during the first sleet/snowstorm of the season. Welcome home to us.

In the previous millennium, I was Publisher/Editor of the weekly newspaper here in Grand Marais. One of the more popular parts of each edition were the columns from various regions of the county, from the Gunflint and Sawbill Trails to the east end of Hovland and Grand Portage. These columns, written by wonderful folks who lived in each area, touched on all the comings and goings of friends and neighbors. Social media and community radio, along with coffee shops, gas stations, and hardware stores seem to have replaced those columns as sources of local news. I may be tilting at a windmill, but I’d like to try bringing the old spirit back.

Speaking of Social Media, I’d like to put in a good word for Facebook. One of the connections I made there a couple of years ago was with my sixth-grade teacher, Mel Jackola who I hadn’t communicated with for some 50 years. I’ve enjoyed getting up to date on his life and family and the correspondence we’ve had has been gratifying to my sentimental side. 

That connection brought back a memory I had of an important lesson he taught me all those years ago at Centennial Elementary School in Richfield. I was summoned to the front of the class where Mr. Jackola had drawn a small circle on the chalkboard about the height of my face. He had me stand close to the board and put my nose inside the circle. Then he had me raise my arms, palms up, where he placed an encyclopedia on each hand. To remind me to keep my arms horizontal he would tap my thigh from behind with a pointer when my arms went down. In the meantime, the class went on. The lesson, which I’ve never forgotten, is “Pay attention.” 

So when Christine decided to give me a chance as a reporter for this fine publication I posted the good news on my Facebook page. Mr. Jackola congratulated me with this, “From your posts on FB and as I remember you as my sixth-grade student, you have a lot of wisdom to share with the members of your community…I hope you will realize that the rewards for your effort is not what you get for it, but what you become by it.” 

Until next time, I’ll be paying attention. I hope you will too.

Published 1/28/2022   Northshore Journal