Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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A Sense of Where We Are: Westward Expansion

| Mon Aug. 23, 2010 5:45 AM EDT

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This Post Is Banned In Bemidji

| Sat Aug. 21, 2010 7:57 PM EDT

Not this one: Some cities do cows. Some cities do bears. Bemidji did beavers. Cue controversy (Photo: Tim Murphy).Not this one: Some cities do cows. Some cities do bears. Bemidji did beavers. Cue controversy (Photo: Tim Murphy).Bemidji, Minnesota—The most controversial piece of public art in the state of Minnesota sits on the corner of 4th Street and Beltrami Ave., in downtown Bemidji. For now. When I asked for directions at the Blockbuster outside town, I was told it had been moved. When I asked again at the supermarket, I was told it was no longer there. "But it's exactly what they say it is," said the teenaged boy at the deli counter, stifling a laugh.

"To be honest, I don't really understand why it's so controversial," say Christine Lundquist, sitting on a bench with her back to the controversy. "I guess they decided freedom of expression was no longer in the Constitution. That's how Deb wanted to paint it, and that's how it should be."

"I sit out here and read a lot. I eavesdrop—and I've only heard one negative comment. They said, 'That's disgusting!'" She rolls her eyes. "I mean, obviously it's a vagina…"

The View From My Windshield: Fog of Ore

| Sat Aug. 21, 2010 11:27 AM EDT

Duluth, Minnesota—With the Iron Range fading, the Atlantic's westernmost deep-water port has seen its population fall from 107,000 in 1960, to 86,000 today. The best way to see Duluth is to climb to the top of the abandoned ski jump in the Chester Bowl, the city's sprawling, forested central park. But failing that, you could do worse than going to Leif Erickson Park and looking southeastLake Superior permitting.

A Sense of Where We Are: The Source

| Fri Aug. 20, 2010 10:39 AM EDT

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Bemidji, Minnesota—Our route north from New Orleans has more or less paralleled the Mississippi River; at last count, we've crossed the river 20 times and seen river towns in their every make and model—rural Delta towns, abandoned junction cities, manufacturing hubs and distribution centers, gambling ports, and whatever exactly you'd call New Orleans. But all of that ends today, when we'll cross over for the 21st and final time on our way to Lake Itasca, where my sources tell me the Mississippi actually begins.

As it happens, the man who finally figured this out*, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, also kept a blog of sorts, and it's all available for free on Google Books. Check it out; it's what I'll be reading for the next day or so.

*I should say, "the white man who finally figured this out." Schoolcraft could have been spared the considerable stress of the expedition if someone would have just bothered to ask the Native Americans. Or if he'd gotten it right the first time he explored the region, instead of falsely concluding that the river began in Lake Cass. But then he probably woudn't have gotten the sweet book deal, either, so I guess you take the good with the bad.

Bob Dylan's Iron Range Home

| Thu Aug. 19, 2010 1:04 PM EDT

"The Grand Canyon of the North": (Photo: Tim Murphy)."The Grand Canyon of the North": (Photo: Tim Murphy).Hibbing, Minnesota—If you're ever thinking of recruiting a band of immigrant followers, buying up a big chunk of mineral-rich real estate, and founding your own eponymous city, there are a few critical guidelines you absolutely must adhere to. Fresh water is always good; so is an escape plan, lest things start to go all Roanoke. But most importantly—and this really can't be overstated—make sure you've thought of something really badass to say, so that it can someday be etched on the giant granite statue commissioned by a loving future generation.

Frank Hibbing understood these lessons well. Which is why, as he stood atop the future site of Hibbing, Minnesota in January of 1893, less than two decades before the world’s largest open-pit ore mine was blasted out of the ground on which he stood, he said this: "I believe there is iron under me. My bones feel rusty and chilly."

That is actually what he said. Hibbing wouldn't exist, at least in anything like its past or present state, if it weren't for the taconite that Frank felt so poetically in his femur. Or rather, Frank’s Hibbing doesn't exist today, precisely because of the iron. Less than three decades after our hero planted his flag in the Mesabi Range, mining companies, eschewing mining companies' long-held tradition of quietly buying out select residents at decimals on the dollar until the whole town has no choice but to leave, paid for the town to relocate a mile-and-a-half south so they could extract the ore beneath it.

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