By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – For Petoskey writer Gary Barfknecht, growing up after World War II on the Mesabi iron range of Northern Minnesota meant bitter-cold winters, the uncertainties of a mining economy, wandering lost in the backcountry, learning to hunt, playing hockey and making the most of short summers. His new memoir, “Rooted in Iron and Ice: Innocent Years on the Mesabi” (North Star Press of St. Cloud, $14.95), describes the region as a “frigid, isolated, inhospitable strip of mineral wealth,” making up a “small, insular foreign country with its own culture, language and one-of-a-kind terrain.”
Barfknecht said his experiences are similar to those of people who grew up during the same era in the Western Upper Peninsula. Both had similar climate, similar economies, similar wildernesses and similar mixes of dozens of ethnic groups drawn by the mines’ huge demand for labor. “Iron mining started in the western U.P. As those mines started to tap out, those miners started to move to Minnesota,” he said.