Saturday, September 18, 2021

University days and carefree nights...

dissecting frog cousins
by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune/September 18, 2021

I see the college kids are back on the local campuses. Sigh. It makes me recall my own embryonic college days, way back in the mid-20th Century.


I was just 17 years old when I enrolled at the University of Minnesota Duluth Branch. That’s what it was called then. They cut the branch off the tree of learning years ago.


So suddenly I was an official college freshman, expected to wear a maroon beanie — called a “dink” — and demonstrate loyalty to my new institution of higher learning. I didn’t get a freshman beanie. In fact, I didn’t get a lot of things, like: To make it through college you have to actually “study.”


The rest was pretty much fun. Meeting new kids and becoming friendly with former rivals from Duluth Central, Morgan Park, Cathedral and East. I was a Denfeld man (boy?).


Things didn’t go well for me in those early college days, but they were fine on the nights. College was so liberating, compared to high school. In most cases, you didn’t even have to attend class if you didn’t feel like it. Nobody cared. If you did attend, you could light a cigarette outside the classroom door as you exited. Nobody cared. Just about everybody smoked.


All this was very liberating to me, as, I’m sure, it was for the rest of the freshmen and freshwomen, some of whom were serious about studying and learning stuff, to the point where quite a few pipe-smoking boys actually had plastic shirt pocket protectors for transporting pens and pencils. These students were mainly over in the sciences and destined for great things, it seemed to me.


I tried to stay away from the sciences as best I could but you couldn’t avoid them entirely. Some basic math and science were required, and those disciplines were never my strong suit. I was more of an English, history and ballroom dancing kind of student.


Yes, I took a course in ballroom dancing, which qualified as a physical education credit, one of four you needed to qualify for graduation. I thought golf, bowling and downhill skiing were fun too, but never did any of them in later life. Famous football coach Jim Malosky was golf instructor before he got famous.


But back in the science department, things were not so good. In fact they were downright bad.


I took freshman basic biology, which involved dissecting a spotted frog that looked alarmingly like a distant cousin of the spotted frog I had dissected in 10th grade. Same course, really, three years later. We also did worms. Yuck.


Microscopes were involved too, for viewing “cells.” I thought cells were rooms in jails for crooks or units of the Communist Party in America. You didn’t have to see them through a microscope. They were all over the news. The war was cold in those ancient days.


To make a short story long, I muddled through the course to the best of my limited ability, guessing a lot on tests and hoping for the best. Hoping for the best is not a good practice in higher learning. Applying oneself, like studying hard, yields better results, I learned much later in my academic career.


So I was quite tense at the end of the quarter (three quarters a school year in those days instead of the current two semesters). Grades were sent to students by mail so I kept an eye out for the mailman (yes, they were all men then) every day.


Finally they came. I got an A in choir, B in dancing (two left feet) but a D in basic biology, which counted more on your academic record than singing and dancing. Life can be so unfair.


My older brother had already graduated and knew the college ropes better then this freshman. He suggested I go to the professor and say I think I deserve a C. Would that be asking too much?


So I made an appointment with Professor Frogstad in his small private office and made my pitch. I believe I deserved a C, I told him.


A kindly man, the professor, seated at his desk, looked up at me hovering above and said, “Mr. Heffernan, you have no idea how lucky you are to get a D.” Hmmm, They call you “Mr.” in college too, no matter how poorly you do, which is nice. So at least there was that.


I beat a hasty retreat without saying much. I hope I said thank you. And that was my introduction to college. I goofed off a little more and took a break before I came to my senses and actually studied and paid attention to lectures, making it to graduation after five years. Cap and gown, college diploma proclaiming a bachelor’s degree and on with life.


That turned out to be journalism — at this newspaper. In journalism you are thrown in with a varied lot of people: High-level politicians, business leaders, movers, shakers, the innocent, the vagrant, the thief, the murderer. (Yikes! Lighten up, Jim.)


Many years later, I became acquainted with former UMD Chancellor Lawrence Ianni, who learned I was a UMD grad. Since I had a fairly high local profile and a moderately successful career, he decided to honor me with a “Distinguished Alumni Award,” given at a fall commencement ceremony. Of course I was honored but wondered at first if it was such a good idea.


“Have you seen my grade transcripts?” I asked.


He went ahead with it anyway, I’m proud to say.


ADDENDUM: At the ceremony, I had to give the commencement speech to graduates. I titled my speech “The Skin of Our Teeth.” I’m sure the irony of that was lost on everyone…but me.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Swearing, but not on a stack of Bibles...

Written by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune/September 4, 2021


Driving along a well-traveled highway a few miles north of Duluth on a recent beautiful summer Sunday afternoon, I spotted a home-made, fairly large sign in an unkempt yard with two words: The first was a vile four-letter word starting with F and the second word was “Biden.”


That happened a few days after I stopped at a traffic signal in the heart of Duluth behind an SUV with a plethora of bumper stickers adhered to the rear door. One that stood out for me was a similar sentiment for Trump.


So we’re even. And those are pretty good examples of the rural-urban political split in our country these days, not to mention how crude and vulgar our politics have become.


Of course, here I couldn’t write out the naughty words on those signs. This is a family newspaper (as are all “regular” newspapers) and most operate the same way when vulgar terms are reported. They simply use the first letter followed by ellipsis or follow the first letter with “word” as in X-word.


I think we can all agree that our political discourse has grown increasingly crude in recent years. There was a time when politicians would refer to those challenging them as “my worthy opponent” even if privately they resented the H-word out of them. Or disputing political parties would refer to each other as “the loyal opposition” even if they really thought they were all full of S-word. (Refers to what the farmer hauled another load of.)


When I was a child, I was told swearing was a sin (along with dancing and card playing). Every time you uttered a swear word, Jesus wrote it down (not the word, heaven forfend, but that you used it) and if you had too many on his list, no going to heaven for you when your time came. So I felt guilty as a child when all of us neighborhood kids spouted rough language from time to time. But I was very young and concern about going to heaven or H…. was at a minimum. That, of course, is no longer the case.


The H-word is a funny one. Sometimes it’s a vulgarity and other times it’s OK. “Go to h….” is over the proper line just a bit. But “come hell or high water” is OK under most circumstances. “Heck,” of course, suffices everywhere as a substitute, as does “darn” for that other word (more on which later). But “come heck or high water” just doesn’t cut it even if you’ve been “to heck and back.”


I don’t think anyone — even the most devout — believes H.… or D.… are profane like F…. When I was a teenager, having advanced further into the world of cussing from time to time, there was also the issue of the “obscene” gesture. We all know what that means when we read about it in the family newspaper.


When it is absolutely necessary for a family newspaper to report that someone has raised a middle finger of one hand, the other digits enfolded in a fist, they call it an “obscene gesture.” But is it? Obscene?


I don’t think so. Vulgar maybe. My handy computer push-button dictionary says the word obscene refers to things that are “offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency.”


So, does what is often referred to informally as “flipping a bird” meet that obscenity standard? I suppose it depends on one’s obscenity standards. I haven’t flipped one in years, although some drivers are handy with them if they catch you making a mistake in traffic that offends them. We all are offended by different things, I guess. I prefer to stick out my tongue in response. Be careful though; that could get you shot these days if road rage ensues.


That bumper sticker I described above reminded me of one I saw on a car’s bumper years ago that has become my all-time favorite. It simply stated, “WHERE AM I, AND WHY AM I IN THIS HANDBASKET?” Everybody knows that refers to H…. and I’ve been wondering the same thing myself lately with all the war, famine, pestilence, death and problems finding a decent host for “Jeopardy.”


I promised earlier I’d get back to the D-word. It’s become so benign now that I could probably spell it out in quoting someone in a family newspaper or referring to “damn the torpedoes,” a Civil War statement that has made it to our own time.


Back in the late 1930s, though, the D-word was not accepted in polite discourse and the makers of the movie “Gone With the Wind” had trouble getting hero Rhett Butler’s famous last line to Scarlett O’Hara, taken directly from the novel, onto the screen intact. The obscenity police hemmed and hawed and finally agreed, although the studio had to pay a fine.


So, as Rhett was departing and turned to the distraught Scarlett, he didn’t have to say in response to her question about her future, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a darn.” No, they had to let him say he didn’t give a “d….”


I’d spell it out, but this is a family newspaper.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at 

Friday, August 20, 2021

How it was in Duluth when Elvis was here...

Written by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune /August 20, 2021

Elvis Week ended in Memphis three days ago, and I missed it again. The annual event at Elvis’ mansion Graceland marks the anniversary of the singer’s death.


It’s been 44 years; it’s longer than he was alive. He died on Aug. 16, 1977 at the age of 42. Most notable for Duluthians is that he performed in the Duluth Arena twice not long before he died — Oct. 16, 1976, and April 29, 1977.


As arts and entertainment writer for this newspaper at the time, it was my responsibility to “cover” the Elvis visits. I have written about this before, but I thought I’d summarize some of my memories, and add some not mentioned before, one last time — almost on the anniversary of his death.


Glancing over what I just wrote, I realize I hadn’t bothered to include his last name: Presley. He’s so well known it’s not really necessary.


I well remember the day he died. I had a small office in the corner of the newsroom and one of the copy editors, responsible for monitoring the wire services, stuck his head in my doorway and said, “Elvis is dead.”


Bombshell. Bombshell to my generation (which is essentially Elvis’ generation) and a bombshell to me, because I had so recently covered the iconic rock star on his visits here. I got pretty close to him at his performances and once standing in his presence as he sneaked into the Radisson Hotel in the dark of night through a service entrance.


There were about a dozen people outside the hotel entrance when he alighted from a black Cadillac with his girlfriend and walked over to the non-public doorway. He stopped briefly and just locked at us with a slight smile before he turned and walked into the hotel to board a service elevator to his room. He’d reserved three floors, reports claimed. His plane, the Lisa Marie, was at the airport.


I guess I was standing about six feet from him at that moment. Many years later I stood six feet above him at his Graceland grave.


I was not a rabid fan of Elvis like a lot of people of my generation. We were in high school when he suddenly emerged on the popular music scene from “Heartbreak Hotel” and forever changed it. I thought he was pretty cool and liked his songs, but I never bought a recording or went to his movies.


Still, it was exciting to cover his Duluth visits for the paper. Back in those days, the newspaper reviewer of just about every concert or show was given what were called “ducats” — free tickets. Not Elvis. It seemed like the Elvis people didn’t want press coverage. Wouldn’t even talk to us.


As was the practice in those days (but no longer), no way were we going to buy tickets — we’re the free press which means we get in free; it’s in the Constitution isn’t it? — so I contacted Joe Sturckler, then manager of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) and made a deal. He would meet me and a photographer at a pre-arranged remote entrance and sneak us in. But, he said, if Elvis’ people caught us and threw us out, he could do nothing.


Elvis’ people didn’t catch us, but we didn’t have seats, all reserved. The result was we stood — right down in front at the side of the stage located on the east end of the Arena. We mingled with the mob of audience members who would run up and down the aisles to get pictures or a closer look at their idol. One teenage girl near us at the first concert fell and appeared to break her leg.


It was pretty much the same for both concerts. Sneak in. Work our way down to the stage and watch the spectacle. Elvis’ show was largely the same both times too. He had several warm-up acts, and then mounted the stage to great fanfare music (“Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, the main theme of the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”) wearing an ornate white jumpsuit with a wide belt around his ample midsection. He spoke quite a bit and performed a passel of the songs identified with him. You know them. They are the soundtrack of mid-20th Century America.


I think both reviews — reports really — I wrote of the concerts survive in various corners of the Internet. I haven’t seen them lately, but I always remember that in the last one — about four months before he died — I wrote that he looked quite healthy. Hmmm. I didn’t go to med school.


By that stage of his life, he had gained quite a bit of weight, and it was noticeable. But he gave the audience what they came for, including passing out sweat-soaked scarves and bestowing a few kisses on quite a few of the rapturous women who made it to the edge of the stage just below him.   


Both times, when his hour in the Duluth spotlight was up, he sang one last number, turned and dashed for a waiting vehicle on Harbor Drive and a short ride back to the Radisson.


A deep-voiced announcement echoed through the hall: “Elvis has left the building.” (He might have said “arena,” can’t remember.)


In many decades of reporting, the Elvis visits are among the most memorable. Maybe THE most memorable. In retrospect there is a sense that it was a brush with modern American cultural history.


The famous orchestra conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (“West Side Story” and much more) once said “Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century.” Beatle John Lennon once remarked: “Before Elvis there was nothing.”


Well, there was Beethoven, but, yup, Elvis was something.

For more on Elvis in Duluth, check these links HERE, HEREHERE.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Gone with the wind off Lake Superior...

Written by By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune on August 6, 2021

Some like it hot, they say. I’m one of them. I like it hot, as it has been this rare summer in Duluth and the northland. And we’re just a week into August. Whew.

 How does it happen that a native Duluthian, such as I, could be so fond of hot weather when in most years we get so little of it? That’s exactly why. We traditionally get so little of it that when we do, when the mercury hovers near 90 Fahrenheit, I become elated, but at the same time wary that it could abruptly end.


I learned to like it hot in my childhood, listening to my parents decrying the northeast wind’s arrival all too often in summer. That’s the wind, commonly known as the “nor’easter,” that ushers the cool air perpetually hovering over our beloved Lake Superior into our city.


You could be enjoying a perfectly lovely day, a southwesterly breeze wafting in nice warm air, when suddenly — oops — the wind would change to a northeaster and the temperature would drop from, maybe 80, to around 57. Ugh. Break out the sweaters and sweatshirts, raise the top of the convertible; it’s going to be cooler near the lake. (More on “Cooler Near the Lake” at the end of this column.)


When I was a child growing up in what was known in those ancient times as Duluth’s West End, one of our neighbors had a weathervane atop his garage in the alley behind our house, visible from our small pantry window.


It never failed. Even the gentle wafting of the first breaths of a nor’easter wind would reverse the arrow on that weathervane from southwest to northeast and the temperature would start dropping. In our family, we kept our eye on that weathervane whenever we were experiencing a nice warm day, just waiting for the arrow to point toward the lake and change everything. Goodbye nice warm day.


Oh, the dread. Oh, the disappointment. Chilly in July. That’s why I like it hot.


In my early 20s, when I was on active duty in the Army, I was stationed for a time at Fort Lee in Virginia in July. The weather is always hot south of Richmond, Va., in summer. Back then, there was no air conditioning in the barracks, just large screened windows in case a cool breeze might come up as the troops slept. It seldom did.


Fellow soldiers, some from the South, would be writhing in their bunks, sweat pouring from their brows and backs, fitful sleep caused by the unrelenting heat. I, in their midst, would throw a sheet over my boxer shorts-T-shirt clad body and sleep like a…well, I hate to employ a well-worn cliché, but how better to put it than to say I would sleep like a log in the high summer heat of the deep South. (Well, there’s “sleep like a baby” too but everybody knows babies’ sleep isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.)


How could a private soldier from the far north sleep soundly through hot summer nights in the South? I always figured that, being from Northern Minnesota, Duluth in particular, I was finally thawing out. 


Back here on the home front and recalling way back during my early years, there was one drawback whenever the blessed southerly breezes pushed the cold air back on Lake Superior. The warm wind would invariably be accompanied by a strange odor, a sort of sweet stink. This was universally known as the smell of Cloquet.


When you smelled Cloquet, you knew it was going to warm up, making it kind of a mixed blessing. Of course the odor came from Cloquet’s wood industries, their air quality unregulated in those days by the environmental concerns that were invoked later. The ranks of those of us who remember the stink of Cloquet are thinning.


Still, it was worth it if the breezes brought warm weather, as far as I was concerned.


I have visited the vicissitudes of Duluth weather before in this column. Years ago I composed some light verse with the title “Cooler Near the Lake.” I’ll just reprint the final two verses here, one more time…make that one last time:


“I know the day is coming when

The real God’s Country beckons,

And when St. Peter meets me there,

He’ll ask my home, I reckon.

When I tell him it’s Duluth,

He’ll say, “For heaven’s sake,

Ain’t that the place everyone says

Is cooler near the lake?”


“That’s it,” I’ll cry, “oh kindly saint,

And in this realm please spare,

From chilly off-lake breezes,

And winter underwear.”

“If it’s heat you want,” he’ll reply,

“In the other place you’ll bake!”

“Fine, send me any place except

Where it’s cooler near the lake.”


We’ll see.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Shelter in Place: poetry for our new reality...

Our friend and St. Paul resident, Stan Kusunoki, did it again! His poetry captured real life through the eyes of a devoted teacher in two previous books of poetry we've enjoyed (Items in the News & 180 Days: Reflections & Observations of a Teacher). His newest book of poetry, Shelter in Place, promises to provide thoughtful insights as a devoted teacher while facing our new reality of Covid. We don't have to have professional experiences in the classroom to relate to the feelings and real life scenarios Stan presents through poetry.

We are looking forward to reading Stan's poignant insights in Shelter in Place and hope you too will explore our "new Covid reality" through the eyes of this most talented poet and teacher.

 Kudos to words of poetry and to Stan, a most talented poet!

Jim & Voula Heffernan 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Here’s the latest news back from the future...

"From golf courses to highway construction, news from the future has a familiar ring."

 Written by Jim Heffernan  for the Duluth News Tribune on 7-23-21 for publication on 7-24-21.

 Here’s a potpourri of the latest Duluth news for 10 years hence — say July 2031.


DATELINE DULUTH — The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced yesterday that the “Can of Worms” project in the city’s recently re-renamed West End neighborhood is at least half finished and should be open to traffic by the turn of the next century.


The complicated junction of Interstates 35 and 535 encompassing also U.S. Highway 53 has been under construction for more than 10 years, starting circa 2020. “We’re making great progress on the project some have called the Can of Worms,” said a DOT spokesperson. “We hope drivers will be patient and observe detours leading through various neighborhoods including several alleys. Be careful in alleys where garbage cans are often placed,” he warned.


On a separate front, fishing advocates and others have objected to the monicker “Can of Worms,” saying it insults our worm friends. Gerhardt Clitellum, a University of Worms in Worms, Germany, worms expert noted that many birds survive entirely on a diet of worms.


The neighborhood and business district near the “Worm Can” was once known as Lincoln Park but reverted to be called West End in 2025 when Cadillac dealers sued, complaining the name endorsed competing Lincoln automobiles. Attempts by some craft brewers in the district to change the name to Hopside failed in a divided City Council.


Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, local warfare between supporters of the former Lester Park Golf Course in far eastern Duluth and advocates for Enger Park Golf Course in the central part of the city continues unabated. The conflict mushroomed several years ago when advocates for reopening Lester surreptitiously bombarded Enger with a toxic chemical grass killer called “Agent Brown,” rained down from a drone.


After the links turned into a brown field, local contractors proposed turning the course into a mega gravel pit providing good-paying jobs, a move opposed by local environmental groups. Advocates for reopening Lester after Enger was destroyed were thwarted by lawsuits and arrests of Lester advocates suspected of waging chemical warfare on Enger.


City officials also pointed out that reopening Lester would likely involve razing recently constructed luxury condominium units with spectacular views of Lake Superior serving the city’s underserved upper crust,


The latest developments leave Duluth with no public golf courses, termed a “blessing” by environmental interests advocating returning them to what nature intended: woods.


City officials also have become concerned that the School Board is continuing to dicker over the sale of “old” Central High School atop the Duluth hill and “old” “old” Central High School, sometimes called “Ancient Central High School” in the downtown area.


Sale of both to interests hoping to develop housing were thwarted in the mid-2020s when developers chose instead to develop housing for the well heeled on the property once hosting Lester Park Golf Course.


The former plans to turn historic old Central High School downtown into a large apartment building changed in 2028 when the School Board accepted an offer by a Hollywood independent film company planning to film a new version of “Rapunzel” utilizing Central’s imposing clock tower from which the title character could let down her golden hair.


“This could mean millions for our schools,” said board member Sonja “Stormy” Weathers who beamed she has been offered a role in the movie, portraying the mother of the alluring golden-haired “Rapunzel” possibly starring middle-aged Taylor Swift. Other members of the School Board will be cast as “extras,” a spokesperson said. The superintendent will play “The King” if there is a king. Research is planned.


On another, unrelated, news front, progress on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline from Canada to Superior by way of several of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and a passel of Indian reservations has been halted due to unexpected popularity of electric cars and trucks. “Come to think of it we might not need that much oil after all,” said a company spokesman shortly before he was terminated.


Under construction for over a decade, it has been proposed that the section of pipeline already built be turned into the longest water slide on the planet. Entrepreneurs from Minneapolis propose running water through the pipeline instead of oil and offering tourists and locals rides on small craft designed especially for pipeline rides. “This would top Ye Olde Mill at the Minnesota State Fair,” said a backer.


Concerns have been expressed by environmental experts that the amount of water needed for such a project would drain at least 3,000 lakes in northern Minnesota and cause Lake Superior to rise markedly at the outlet, threatening Duluth. “Glensheen would be under water,” said Lester “Joe” Popple, a registered watershed analyst and part-time ventriloquist. “Park Point would disappear,” he mouthed.


Developers question that lakes would be drained, but noted that if so they would make excellent sand traps for several golf courses replacing the former Enger and Lester courses in Duluth.


Film at 10.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at 

Friday, July 9, 2021

D. Duck and M. Mouse new QAnon suspects?

Written by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune, 7-10-21 edition

We’ve been hearing a lot of “conspiracy theories” that offer alternate realities about who actually attacked the U.S. Capitol last Jan. 6, and other matters of national concern like who won the last presidential election.


Many of these tales are attributed to what is known as QAnon and repeated by certain high level political operatives and even some Congress members as “truth.” It’s been called the “big lie.”


I spent almost the entire day Jan. 6 glued to the TV watching the insurrection. Many men in the mob were wearing red MAGA hats and earlier in the day had attended a rally outside the White House led by the then U.S. president, who was challenging the last presidential election’s outcome. Of course you know that. Who doesn’t?


But in the ensuing months, conspiracy theorists, often inspired by QAnon, have claimed that those in the mob attacking the Capitol were not supporters of the former president at all, but others — even Democrats in disguise and anti-fascists  — who were trying to make the ex-president look bad.


The latest is that the FBI was behind the whole thing, causing further spinning in disgraced FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover’s grave. Poor Hoover hasn’t had a day’s eternal rest. Then there is the claim that the mob consisted of a group of peaceful, patriotic tourists seeking to tour the Capitol. Yeah, right.


Do you suppose the QAnon believers and supporters might be running out of theories on who, other than supporters of the ex-president who actually did it, might have been responsible for the riot that threatened members of Congress, damaged the Capitol building and shook the very foundations of American Democracy?


If they are running out of theories, today I offer a few more, free to QAnon conspirators. So here are some new ideas for the QAnon crowd to pursue in trying to whitewash the insurrection.


All that said, I now offer a list of a number of fresh conspiracy theories for QAnon to consider in blaming others for the attack on the Capitol that are equal in credibility to those already advanced.


— Have they considered the possibility that Donald Duck, who wears a blue jacket but no pants, was behind the whole thing? Ridiculous? Hold it. Duck’s three sons, Huey, Louie and Dewey are grown now and have come under the influence of Donald’s wealthy uncle Scrooge McDuck, a well known activist and George Soros-like supporter of liberal causes who might gladly finance an insurrection to make the immediate past president look bad. Go ahead and take it, QAnon. It’s free.


— Then there’s Mickey Mouse and wife Minnie. With Disney’s millions — billions? — behind him, Mickey, who wears pants but no jacket, could easily have financed and organized a fake MAGA riot with the help of other Hollywood elites seeking to blame the good-hearted supporters of the then-outgoing president. Ms. Minnie Mouse, who wears high-heel shoes on great big feet, is said to be considering a run for Congress as a left-wing supporter of the Affordable Care Act and other traitorous causes opposed by QAnon and others. (Possible error alert: It might have been Daisy Duck, Donald’s spouse, who had big feet. Check Google.)


— Let’s not forget Bugs Bunny. He’s perfect. He’s against everything. He could easily have been behind the whole thing, munching on a carrot and asking pertinent questions like, “What’s up, doc?” How about a noose for the vice president?


— And d-d-d-d-d-on’t ignore Porky Pig, all you QAnon masterminds looking for others to blame. Or Elmer Fudd, or outspoken rooster rabble-rouser Foghorn Leghorn, a natural for QAnon conspiracies. But enough anthropomorphism. There are plenty of human candidates for QAnon conspiracies too.


— People think Dagwood Bumstead is such a nice guy, only interested in eating huge, layered sandwiches and not taming his cowlicks. But what’s he up to behind the scenes when he’s not sneaking a catnap or kibitzing with Blondie? Take a look at neighbor Herb and the others in his carpool. They could have organized the mob that started the attack while actual, real, supporters of the erstwhile chief executive were busy helping the poor, the homeless and the overtaxed, even as Bumstead boss Mr. Dithers dithered.


But enough. Whoever is behind QAnon conspiracy theories absolving those who attacked the Capitol on Jan 6 of any responsibility for attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 are good enough themselves at coming up with others to blame.


That’s all folks.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Confessions of a non- marathon runner...

Grandma's Marathon, Duluth MN
Written by
by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune on   June 26, 2021


This is being written a few days ago when we here in Duluth were still basking in the warm afterglow of the return of Grandma’s Marathon. Welcome back, Grandma, although I didn’t participate in any way this year, even as spectator.


I have in the past, though, and several times greeted our son at the finish line, exhausted but exhilarated. I am always amazed at the thousands of men and woman who run the full or half-marathon. It is beyond my comprehension that anyone would put themselves through that.


It’s always been my deeply held conviction that it is beyond human endurance to run 26 point whatever miles. Don’t forget that history tells us the first person to run that distance, in ancient Greece, dropped dead at the end. Doesn’t surprise me one bit.


Before I’m judged as a marathon heretic, I should point out that such skepticism is rooted in my generation. Coming of age in the 1950s, our culture back then was motor-driven. Almost nobody ran distances, and not many people were that keen on walking at length either.


Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, Grandma's Marathon
Oh, there were a few kids in high school who participated in cross-country foot racing, sprinting at track meets, relay racing, and the like. These boys were called “Thinclads” when their races were covered by the newspaper, which wasn’t often. I don’t recall girls in school participating in that sort of thing at all. They were busy practicing archery clad in their demure blue one-piece gym outfits.


Personally, I tried not to run at all, if I could get away with it. Innate laziness had something to do with it. When I was a kid a neighbor remarked to my mother that I sat around too much. As a teenager I can recall taking the family car to the corner grocery store half a block away from our house. Not every time we needed bread and milk but a few times. I liked to drive.


It was the ‘50s, so long ago now.


So in the ‘70s when we started to hear about marathons around here (of course Boston had had one for almost 100 years) I was nonplussed. I recalled my active duty Army days in boot camp when sadistic sergeants would order what was called “double time” on forced marches to nowhere. Double time is sort of a trot, half way between walking and out-and-out running. It resembles the pace of most marathon runners.


“Hup, two, three double-time” they’d shout intermittently as we marched along well-trod back roads of Fort Lost-In-The-Woods, Mo. (AKA Fort Leonard Wood), sometimes our M-1 rifles (yup, it was that long ago) slung on our shoulders, sometimes with full packs including bedding.


This was no place for a lazy kid from Duluth, but what choice did you have? Boys were still subject to the draft in those days. One time as we double-timed along, gasping for breath, one of the recruits near me fell out to the side of the road and collapsed in the ditch. The sergeants thought he was faking it, but when an ambulance was summoned it was taken quite seriously.


The next time I saw him was back in the barracks, all decked out in civilian clothes the Army had bought him at the PX. Turns out the Army docs had diagnosed a heart condition he didn’t know he had and they sent him home, his military obligation over. I was jealous.


Another thing about that era that might surprise younger people is that a high percentage of the population smoked cigarettes. I was no exception, especially in the Army where cadre would reserve 10 minutes of every hour, saying “light ‘em up.” Nearly everyone did.


Cigarette smoking and endurance running do not go hand-in-hand, I need hardly point out. But nobody cared about endurance running anyway. Once a year the Army insisted that everyone run one mile, apparently to prove the troops were in top condition. One mile, I repeat.


On the day I was caught up in that nonsense, we were trucked to a quarter-mile oval course on the base and ordered to run around it four times. They didn’t seem to care how long it took, just so we ran a mile.


A few of us — four or five friends — took off together trotting in our combat boots as the sergeants at the starting line watched us. When we were across the course from where the sergeants were standing, we slowed to a walk and lit ‘em up, puffed a bit and tossed the butts, after which we trotted past our leaders. I don’t recall my exact time for running the Army mile but I think it was around 11-12 minutes with a couple of Pall Mall cigarettes along the way.


Oops, looks like I’m running out of space here in the paper. Did I say “running?” Well, you can’t avoid it entirely. For the record, I quit smoking cigarettes about five years before the first Grandma’s 45 years ago.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at