I’m from around there

I went back home with the clearest intentions: capture my childhood using the newspaper’s office camera. Because nostalgia is a fucking fog machine that muddles everything, and you have nothing better to do at the farm during Thanksgiving break.






It didn’t work. My objective camera and I couldn’t break through the overcast skies and memories.







Don’t get me wrong. My childhood was practically perfect, and I let God know that nightly. I was, and am, so thankful for my upbringing.
The farm itself, though, I didn’t think to thank. It was just there — the backdrop to my first eighteen years of life.


This photo essay attempts to capture and shed light on these oversights, expanding on the intangible significance they’ve had.


Fogs be damned.






Minnesota Highway 9, looking south. A left, right, and left will take you home.







The hay shed is three football fields long. The runway and pasture takes three hours to mow.






Scientists say Lake Agassiz dried out here some 10,000 years ago. My shoes stay muddy, though, leaving tracks where ever I go.
And I’ve gone, especially compared to my house of hermits.
I’ve gone to college, the second in my family.
I’ve gone to New York City and Seattle, to Frisco, Texas, and Terre Haute, Indiana.
The farthest my father has gone in five years is Duluth — for a mandatory wedding.

I could’ve inherited the farm and our thousands of acres, but I left.













The Manston Township cemetery and its two dozen stones are always under lock and chain. We don’t have a problem with security.






It’s hard to think outside of the box when dirt roads grid the countryside into mile-by-mile-by-mile-by-mile blocks.






In the periphery, you take care of yourself. Who else is there. There is too much work to worry others with your problems. Nobody says this, of course. But the absence is loud enough. Mom is working another 12-hour at the hospital. Dad is in the field, forever trying to outrun the rain.

Practice self-resiliency to ensure lack of burdening.

Isolation isn’t bound to physical proximity.








If you hit the lever just right, you can sneak some gas when Uncle Shawn isn’t around.



Overhead power lines create a canopy of electricity.



The town hall bustles on the first Tuesday of November. Tens of people exercise their democratic rights and Ruthy Dow hands out “I Voted” stickers. The hall smells like propane.



Out on the frontier we’re wary of those in power, those perched atop their books who look down upon us. Those who neglect to celebrate multiple intelligences.

The educator in me wants everyone to become enlightened. I’ll fight ignorance and apathy to the grave, for the best way to help others is to teach them how to help themselves, to think for themselves.

But just because someone lacks a formal education doesn’t mean they’re uneducated.

Rural America isn’t dumb; it’s tired.






Grandpa isn’t here. His liver gave out before spring planting in 2005; we spread his ashes with the fertilizer.



Driveways are gateways to the world and umbilical cords back home.
















A volunteer cottonwood grows.


If surroundings don’t make you, they sure shape you. I grew up in the vast silence of the western Minnesota prairies. Maybe that’s why I’m loud. I grew up with the world telling me I’m from nowhere, so I’m foolish enough to think I can make it anywhere. I grew up lonely and independent, and here we are.

I’m from nothing, and I know that’s everything.











My farm, from a grain bin.


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