Saturday, September 2, 2023

Oppenheimer film brings back A-bomb memories...

Bombing of Nagasaki, Japan/8-6-1945/Wikipedia
Written by By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune/Saturday, 9-2-23

I was five years old that summer when the Atomic Age was unleashed upon our world — the world I would grow up in.

It seemed exciting. Big bomb. I was used to hearing about bombs and bombing. The first five years of my life were a time history recalls as “World War II.” I came into consciousness during that very period.

But the atomic bomb was different. I had no grasp of the human tragedy when two of those bombs were dropped on Japan. I recall the jubilation here in America, in my family and in my home town Duluth, that the war was over, thanks to the atomic bomb.

No more rationing of sugar (jam was hard to come by) or gasoline for our car, or tires. Peace and prosperity had arrived (although at that age I wouldn’t have been able to put it that way), and we’d all live happily ever after, just like the characters in my storybooks.

Didn’t happen, did it.

These ruminations were prompted by the popular movie “Oppenheimer.” I recall my parents looking at the stark headlines in the Duluth newspapers and talking about this atomic bomb when it was first detonated (the subject of the movie) and then a couple of weeks later dropped to end the war. It seemed exciting to my five-year-old mind, but also scary.

Not to worry though. Of course it could never happen to America, to Duluth, to our neighborhood, to us. We would always be safe here. Of that I was confident. But maybe not as confident as I seemed.

Later that summer (the bombs were dropped in August 1945) I was playing on the front porch of our family home in what was then known as the West End neighborhood. I suppose I was pushing toy cars around, or something of that sort. My mother was inside the house, keeping an eye on me from time to time through the screen door. It was a beautiful late summer day.

But my contented play was abruptly interrupted by a horrifying sight. Glancing skyward toward the ridge of the western Duluth hillside, there suddenly appeared what was, to my young mind, an atomic bomb. An atomic bomb right here in Duluth.

It was huge (atomic bombs had to be huge, right?) and shaped like a giant bullet but pointy on both ends like a humongous football. And it moved slowly over the Duluth hilltop skyline right toward our house. The Atomic Age had materialized before my young eyes.

I cried out and ran into the house and the safety of my mother, who didn’t immediately understand what had alarmed me so. I must have said the atomic bomb is coming. The atomic bomb is coming.

She darted to the porch with me in tow, looked skyward and saw my atomic bomb. It was a blimp, or dirigible, or Zeppelin as they are sometimes called. It slowly glided overhead and continued southeastward out of our sight.

Safe.  She consoled me by explaining it was just a friendly aircraft shaped like an elongated balloon. On with my happy childhood.

But I never forgot it (to wit this column). And it was the first realization that maybe our world isn’t as safe as one thinks in early childhood. There have been quite a few wars since, and our main adversaries — sometimes enemies — all got the bomb before I fully grew up, but no nuclear bombs have been used. Yet.

I didn’t know then what was in store as the years went on, of course. I had to get through first grade…and the Atomic Age.

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, August 5, 2023

What’s all this about artificial intelligence?


Ahead of his time on hairstyles
Written by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth NewsTribune/8-5-23   

The following screed blew into my lap while sitting in a park one day in the merry-merry month of May. Or it might have been in June by the light of the silvery moon. Then again, maybe it was a night in July, beneath the starlit sky.

 Whatever. I looked the blown-in-by-the-wind mini-manifesto over and decided to share it.


It begins: “What’s all this talk about artificial intelligence? I’m one of the smartest people I know, and it’s the real McCoy, Buster.  Not artificial.


“Describing it they just use the initials A.I. thinking everybody knows what it means. Well, there ain’t nuttin' artificial about my intelligence. Everybody whom knows me knows that. I don’t believe in it. My great uncle once removed (from the hoosegow) had a wooden leg that we all admired. Took it off every night to sleep. That’s artificial leg intelligence on display right there at home.


“At first I thought A.I. stood for Albert Instine (ain’t sure I spelt it rite), the smartest man on Earth when he was alive. He came up with the theory of relativity which led to people understanding about their relatives, like how they were related to their third cousin. We were a little confused about my great uncle with the wooden leg until Albert Instine cleared it all up with his theory of relativity.


“I don’t see no need for artificial intelligence when we — I’m talkin’ men like me who think deep alot — can figure everything out all by ourselves without using no computers. Can’t help it; we just know stuff. How? I learnt my education out behind the barn. That’s all you need. Put your jeans on before your boots. Hello?


“But back to A.I. (Albert Instine). He liked to look up at the stars at night when it wasn’t too cloudy. You could tell he was really smart by the way he wore his hair. He was decades ahead of his time on men’s hairstyle, which involved strict avoidance of barbers. That was one of his greatest accomplishments. Saves money too. He was so admired I read where a farmer named one of his chickens after him.


“But enough about Albert Instine.


“So now we hear that the writers and actors in Hollywood are on strike because they fear they could be replaced by artificial intelligence. If you ask me, it’s about time. I don’t see TV much (the wife likes “Price is Right”) but every time I turn it on, I doze off. I say they need artificial intelligence.


“Then I read somewheres that AI might someday surpass human intelligence. Well, they better not try to surpass me, that’s for sure. When I was in school the teacher told my parents I might be the smartest kid in the class if I ever showed up. This was before I quit school after eighth grade to get started on my chosen field, to become a circus clown (don’t laugh, it’s a serious business), but that never worked out when the circuses sold the elephants, leaving the clowns with nothing to shovel.


“In the meantime I traveled around the county alot stopping here and there at one of our lakes to fish. I got damn good at it too, pulling them in head over tail until some game warden came along claiming you needed a license from the state to fish. What? The state owns the fish? All the walleyes? All the bass? Both small mouth and big mouth?


“That was when I decided to enter politics, and you know where that can lead. I never went to jail, though. Politics is a pretty good deal.


“I better cut it off right here. Just give me three squares a day, a nice recliner for watchin’ the Twins on the tube, a six pack of brew, a friendly mutt and a loyal wifey to bring home the bacon and take care of the domicile (fancy word — told you I was smarter than most) and I’ll get along just fine. 


“No artificial intelligence needed, nohow. I got the real thing.


“Finis. (Yup, I know my Latin too. Then there’s Sempis Fideler. Go tell THAT to the Marines!)”


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, July 1, 2023

Kwik Trip shortage concerns city leaders...

A typical KwickTrip (Wikipedia)
Written by By Jim Heffernan for The Duluth NewsTribune/6-1-23

DULUTH — City officials yesterday expressed “deep concern” that Duluth is falling behind other Midwestern cities of similar size in the number of Kwik Trip gas/convenience outlets located here.


“Some neighborhoods are totally unserved by Kwik Trips,” said Randolph “Randy” Ramshackle, Duluth’s director of Urban Planning, Housing, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. “Even Superior and Hermantown are catching up,” he lamented.


“Accordingly, the city will appoint a Kwik Trip Task Force (KTTF) to seek out sites for more Kwik Trip convenience outlets to supplement the existing seven or eight… or nine, or 10. Whatever.  Who knows?” Ramshackle declared.


One site under consideration is in the Duluth Civic Center, the cluster of government buildings — City Hall, the St. Louis County Court House, the Heaney Federal Building and also the new Jailhouse Flats. This downtown Kwik Trip would replace the Priley Fountain in the Civic Center with an attractive Kiwk Trip complete with a car wash, Ramshackle said. “What good is a fountain anyway?” he said. “We’re not exactly Rome, Italy.”


The task force will also look into other areas of the city where there is no Kwik Trip serving residents. “Look at Fond du Lac in far western Duluth,” Ramshackle went on. “What are residents there supposed to do, drive all the way to West Duluth to go to a Kwik Trip?”


At the same time, Parks, Recreation and Horseshoe Pitching Director Patricia “Pickle” Ball announced the city will consider converting lightly used Chambers Grove Park in Fond du Lac to a site for a Kwik Trip.  “It’s perfect,” she said, “right off Highway 23 for travelers and handy for Fond du Lac residents, who have been convenience store deprived since the village’s founding in 1679 by Daniel Greysolon Sieur Dulhut and Father Hennepin.”


Dulhut, who also went by the name “Jean” was a smart French explorer but he never learned to spell his last name correctly, historians have observed. Father Hennepin, Dulhut’s spiritual leader and cook (specialty: Eggs Benedictine) later moved on to Minneapolis to foster an avenue.


Other sites for Kwik Trips are also being considered. Two of the most prominent are Bayfront Festival Park on Duluth’s waterfront and Brighton Beach Park along Lake Superior in the city’s easternmost environs.


“Brighton Beach is a natural locale for a Kwik Trip, relieving motorists of the concern for having to drive all the way to Two Harbors to go to a Kwik Trip. Plus, nearby Lake Superior would serve as a handy catch basin for soapy car wash overflow,” parks chief Pickle Ball said. “And Canal Park area is completely Kwik Trip-less” she pointed out, adding, “Bayfront Festival Park sits idle 80 percent of the time while a Kwik Trip there would be used 24-7 —every day all day and night. It would be very handy to Canal Park.”


Skyline Drive is also unserved by a Kwik Trip. City engineers are looking into the possibility of installing a Kwik Trip near Enger Tower, although steep hills there would be a challenge. “The view would be stupendous for drivers filling their tanks,” city engineering associate Ariel V. Bridges said. “We’re going to make that happen come heck or high water.” Bridges reportedly is very devout and is loath to utter bad words.


Also under consideration is the area of Park Point beyond the ship canal. The seldom used Lafayette Square playground would be a perfect fit for a Kwik Trip, urban planning director Ramshackle said, and also the vast parking and volleyball area near the Park Point beach house. “Ideally, we would put Kwik Trips at both sites,” he said, obviating the need for residents to drive too far on the point.


A spokeswoman for the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, Abby Westminster, said, “The chamber welcomes any additions to the city’s tax base and business activity and will cooperate in every way with much-needed expansions of Kwik Trips in our community.”


An opposition group, Grandmothers and Pump Jockeys for Gas Choice (GPJGC), vowed to organize an anti-Kwik Trip rally, complete with concerned-appearing sign carriers in appropriately inscribed T-shirts.


Film at 10.

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 

Friday, June 2, 2023

When it’s time to bid farewell to ladders...

Written by By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth NewsTribune/6-3-23                            A newspaper ad for those gizmos that promise to keep the falling autumn leaves out of your roof gutters proclaims, “Say goodbye to your ladder.” The ad features a portly man with very little hair hugging his ladder, apparently trying to say goodbye and feeling mighty bad about it.

Is this really the message the gutter cover people want to convey? I would feel terrible saying goodbye to my current ladder (a seven-foot folding step jobby) but, of course, at my age I have parted with several ladders. I had a big aluminum extension ladder back when I had a two-story house but I think I failed to actually say goodbye when we parted.


Goodbyes are always hard. I said goodbye to my youth several years ago, I’m afraid. Can’t recall exactly what the words were or if there were words at all. You wake up one morning and it’s gone, along with more hair than you’d care to part with. (No pun there.)


I have said goodbye to a couple of revered cars, especially my first little pre-war (that’d be World War II) coupe, but the memory of it will always be in my heart.


If you are thinking about getting a Gutter Helmet (that’s the actual brand name of the product in the farewell to my ladder ad, but there are others too), you should be prepared to properly say goodbye to your ladder.


You can come up with your own words, of course, as you stand in the yard hugging your ladder goodbye, but there are many heartfelt goodbyes in the world of literature and pop culture, even in the Good Book, that might come in handy and make both you and the ladder feel better about parting.


Perhaps the most famous parting comes from Shakespeare that I think would make your ladder feel better about being shunned. It’s from “Romeo and Juliet” when Juliet says in parting from her lover, “Goodbye, goodbye, parting is such sweet sorrow.” How could a ladder resist such an endearing farewell?


There are others too, just as poignant. Like in “A Tale of Two Cities” when Sydney Carton is about to say goodbye to his head on the guillotine: “It is a far better thing that I do than I have ever done.” That might be a little heavy for your ladder but it’s sincere.


Then there’s the famous film “Casablanca” when Rick talks to Ilsa at the end as they are parting and she resists. He says she won’t regret leaving, “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.” I wonder if my old extension ladder got over our parting. I have and will for the rest of my life.


But enough of this nonsense. Well, not quite. What if you are glad to get rid of your old ladder, rungs and all? When it comes time to say goodbye, there’s the penultimate scene in “Gone With the Wind” when Scarlett pleads with Rhett not to leave, and he says, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”


Be careful, though. There’s that most famous ladder in the Holy Bible, called Jacob’s Ladder, that shows up in a dream Jacob of Genesis had. That ladder goes all the way up to heaven. Pretty tough to say goodbye to that one.


Still, there’s a goodbye in an old song that sums this all up quite well, I think, with the correct sentiment in saying goodbye to your ladder because you won’t need it to climb up and scoop the leaves out of your gutter. Just tell the ladder, “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again, some rainy day.”


And finally, the classic song “Autumn Leaves” has a line that couldn’t fail to capture the moment of saying goodbye to your ladder: “…I’ll miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall.”


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, May 6, 2023

Republicans, Democrats differ on everything...

Written By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth NewsTribune on 5-6-23

Dire warning: This column is about politics. (Yikes!)

I spent my last 25 years of active journalism working on the opinion pages of this newspaper. In that role, I met and interviewed just about every politician and political aspirant from this region as well as statewide office seekers and incumbents — including a couple of vice presidents of the United States. You know the names of those two Minnesotans.


This is not to boast about all the important people I’ve met — governors, U.S. senators, congress members, legislative leaders, city leaders, dog catchers — but rather to illustrate that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time around politicians from both major parties (and a few from minor parties, including one who shares a given name with Jesse James).


You pick up on certain traits in people who seek public office, some of whom succeed. After the successful ones have been in office for awhile, they all, regardless of party, seem to have read the same playbook about how to be a politician.


For example, when speaking publicly, they never refer to this country simply as the United States; they always thunder “United States of America” in case there is any confusion about which United States they mean. And they say the people they serve are always “hard working” Americans who “roll up their sleeves” a lot. I have known many Americans I wouldn’t consider hard working, not excluding myself. I roll up my sleeves for a COVID-19 shot. They are also very quick with “thoughts and prayers” when the occasion suggests it.


Incumbents above a certain level never appear on TV or before a gathering of constituents without American flags (a.k.a. Old Glory) behind them, preferably several, in case there was any doubt about their patriotism.


Some things have changed, though, in recent years since I left active journalism — mainly the widening gap between the two major parties. Once opponents were referred to as “worthy” when referenced, and their party “the loyal opposition.” No more.



Thus, I have compiled a list of ways I see how Democrats and Republicans differ these days on major, and some minor, issues. I am not favoring one side over another here, although I obviously have a political ideology. These are just things I notice as I observe the political divisions play themselves out today, especially in Washington. Here goes:


— Republicans think Democrats are socialists or communists. Democrats think Republicans are autocrats or fascists.


— Democrats are for abortion and against guns. Republicans are against abortion and for guns.


— Sticking with guns, Republicans like AK-47 assault weapons with high capacity magazines. Democrats like squirt guns and read high capacity magazines such as Time, Newsweek and Mad. (What, ME worry?)


— Democrats are concerned about climate change. Republicans are concerned about diaper change.


— Republicans like Fox News. Democrats like Wolf…Blitzer. (Never allow either one in the hen house.)


— Republicans say Democrats are soft on crime. Democrats say Republicans are hard on the poor.


— Democrats like electric cars. Republicans like electric chairs.


— Republicans oppose all forms of taxation and are against government spending. Democrats are quick to support taxation and expand government spending.


— Traditional Republicans like creme brûlée. Democrats like peanut butter. (Serious caveat: There are indications that this has been reversed in recent elections.)


— Democrats embrace critical race theory. Republicans defend the Indianapolis 500.


— Republicans are wary of the federal bureaucracy, calling it the “deep state.” Democrats are less concerned about the deep state than the deep throat.


—Democrats want to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans want to raise the roof.


— Republicans embrace “replacement theory” promulgated by Fox News. Democrats don’t care if they go bald.


— Errant Republicans get in trouble over sex. Misbehaving Democrats get in trouble over money.


— Republicans claim the Jan. 6 march on Washington was as innocent as a Sunday school picnic. Democrats say the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection threatening our democracy.


— (Here’s one that won’t surprise you.) Republicans hate President Biden and want to see him impeached. Democrats despise ex-President Trump and want to see him jailed.


So here we are.— a country divided against itself. How long can it stand?


Finally, I suppose there are committed politicians who will resent some of these observations of the differences between the two parties. That’s fine. I believe more politicians should be committed. Pick your asylum. 


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, April 1, 2023

Bird flu under the cuckoo’s nest...


Written by By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune/4-1-23

In honor of April Fools’ Day, here’s all the fake news that’s unfit to print.

DATELINE: EAST EGG, N.Y — The government announcement last week that American chickens should be vaccinated against bird flu has ruffled the feathers of the avian world, with many chickens and other of their feathered friends vowing to resist.


While some chickens have welcomed the news, a vocal minority is vociferously resisting the mandate, claiming the order infringes on their freedom and liberty to range freely. Others claim these resisters have gone “cuckoo…not to disparage a fellow bird,” sang songbird Jenny Wren.


Powerful Sen. Foghorn Leghorn, I-Moon, who has aligned himself with foul resisting vaccination, clucked: “I say, we will never submit to this, I say,

unconstitutional order by, I say, deranged leaders in the capitol, I say again.” Leghorn is known for peppering his orations with “I say.”


Speaking in favor of vaccinations, activist Desmond “Daffy” Duck noted, “I’m no chicken but this is a bird flu epidemic. We ducks and other feathered friends like loons and coots are threatened by bird flu as well, not to mention geese.” Among those others, grouse are said to be ruffled. Another duck leader, Donald, declined to comment.


Meanwhile, the leading foul expert in the National Institute of Bird, 

Fish, Insect and Reptile Safety (NIBFIRS), Dr Anthony Swan, has been berated and attacked by Sen. Leghorn’s followers, trumpeting expletives at him for advocating chicken vaccination.


One prominent opponent, Emmet “Chicken” Little, said, “The sky is falling,” when informed of the vaccination plans. “No chicks of mine will ever submit to it,” Chicken Little asserted, referring to his 200-plus offspring. “We lay a lot of eggs,” he noted, “not all of which become chickens per se,” adding that many become “breakfast.”


Not all in the avian community are resisting, however. A bird named Tweety (who declined to give her last name) said she doesn’t fear the vaccine but there are many other dangers threatening birds. “I tot I taw a puddy cat just this morning,” she chirped. Pigeons reportedly don’t care, nor do gulls.


Sources also said turkeys are becoming increasingly concerned. One, Thomas “Drumstick” Turkey, said if his fellow turkeys submit to vaccination, there won’t be much to be thankful for come Thanksgiving. “Of course, there never is much for us turkeys to be thankful for on Thanksgiving,” he lamented.


Rhode Island Red, anti-vaxer and spokeschicken for eastern bird breeds regardless of provenance, like the Baltimore Oriole, vowed to lead a chicken coup against the government if officials persist with bird flu vaccination efforts. “We’ll organize every coop in the country for this coup,” Rhode Island Red declared.


Seasonal bird migration is considered chiefly responsible for the spread of avian flu in the United States. Senator Leghorn called for erection of a huge net the length of the southern border to thwart further migration. “And I say we’ll get Nicaragua to pay for it,” Leghorn vowed.


Local ornithologists expressed concern that such a net could prevent arrival in the spring of welcome birds, citing the robin red breast, finches, thrushes, gulls, wrens, the scarlet tanager and the scarlet pimpernel. Roman Catholic leaders decried preventing cardinals from their annual visits. Pope Francis, who hails from South America, is said to have added this to his multifarious concerns.


“This chicken vaccination business is like inviting a wolf into the hen house,” said Ronald Raven, a spokesbird for many species of migrating birds. In response to a question from CNN asking if he believed he could be infected with bird flu, quoth Ron Raven, “nevermore.”


Film at 10.


Editor’s note: This exclusive report will be submitted for a Pullet Surprise.


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, March 4, 2023

It’s in to be thin, out to be stout–or not...

Oliver Hardy, 1938–Wikipedia
Written by By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune/03-04-23

Talk about politically incorrect: Sportscaster Terry Bradshaw summoned Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid on the victory stand after the Super Bowl by telling Reid to “waddle over” to the mic.


Whew. Bradshaw has been excoriated on social media for this insult to the winning coach, who, if you take a good look at him, is pretty husky. Husky is a long-standing euphemism for “fat.” Few use “fat” anymore, not even when describing aging former football great Bradshaw himself, whose corpulence (another useful euphemism for “fat”) is quite obvious in his multifarious TV appearances analyzing pro football.


Got all that? It’s a pretty fat paragraph.


Why all this now, after the 2023 Super Bowl way back in February is largely forgotten, even if Fat Tuesday kicking off Lent isn't? It got me thinking about my days as a chubby — call me fat if you must — kid, a long, long time ago when peanut butter reigned supreme in my life.


Yup. I could wolf down three or four slices of folded toast slathered with peanut butter and dunked in milk for breakfast — every day. Then came a hearty lunch, followed by a meat-and-potatoes supper, gravy galore. Can’t ignore dessert — banana cream pie anyone? How about those after-school and before-bedtime snacks? Never missed them, chased with whole milk.


You pay a price for that, and my price was getting too weighty as I approached puberty. It showed up in my athletic abilities. When we had to run the 50-yard dash in seventh grade I clocked the second worst time in the whole class.


Also, in junior high gym class I couldn’t make it to the top of the climbing rope. I struggled to pull myself about half way up and had to slide back down, eliciting a disgusted look from the whistle-packing gym teacher.


I was humiliated. It lasted a couple of years, and then it pretty much ended by the time I got to high school when I shot up to just over six feet tall. But if you have ever been what the world sees as fat, you always feel kind of fat, no matter how you might slim down over the years.


So, I am sensitive about fatness, even if Terry Bradshaw apparently is not.


Fatness has a proud history in the United States, though. There was a time when it was openly acknowledged, and might be coming back. (To wit: Popular singer Lizzo, who put on a lot of her weight in the Twin Cities.)


Many show business luminaries of the past didn’t seem to mind being fat. There were the musicians Fats Waller, Fats Domino and Chubby Checker. Going way, way back a hundred years, one of the biggest male movie stars was a guy named Fatty Arbuckle. The villain in “From Here to Eternity” was Fatso Judson.


William Howard Taft is acknowledged to be our fattest U.S. president. Jiggle the letters in his last name around, and it even spells FATT. Then there was that popular radio and TV detective “The Fat Man,” who “tipped the scales” at 200 and some lbs. while solving crimes. 


Gee, I wonder how many of the rotund folks I’ve cited here are even recognized by most readers today.  Do many of our fellow Gopher State denizens remember Minnesota Fats? He was played by stout Jackie Gleason in a movie. Then there was lovable Oliver Hardy who won laurels as a fat movie comedian.


I also wonder if polka dancing fans still hop to the “Too Fat Polka” that was popular in the ‘50s. Those were harsh times. How about, “Fatty-fatty two-by-four, can’t get through the kitchen door.” Dreaded words by anyone carrying extra pounds, and so insensitive.


I think things are better now for the overweight. The words “morbidly obese” seem to have replaced “fat” in describing the greatly overweight. Morbidly? Cripes, I’m glad they didn’t put it that way when I was in junior high, though. It would have scared the living daylights out of my parents.



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, February 4, 2023

Top secret documents revealed in Duluth...

PLEASE NOTE... My DNT (Duluth News Tribune) columns will now be published monthly, with my next in print column set for March 4, 2023. Please check my blog from time to time as I enjoy writing more often and might write a column on a whim here on this blog. So... stay tuned here. Jim

Written by Jim Heffernan for the DuluthNewsTribune 2/4/23

Holy smokes! This classified document business in Washington, D.C., has me shaking in my boots.

You’ve heard about it, haven’t you? It’s on the news constantly. Trump and Biden kept certain classified documents that were supposed to go to the national archives after they left office. Biden hasn’t left office, of course, but these documents are from after he left office as vice president. And now former V.P. Mike Pence is involved back home in Indiana.


It seems like that’s one of the biggest things going on the news — even bigger than the debt ceiling and climate change, not to mention the price of eggs and Taylor Swift concert tickets. Oh, and “Fibber” George Santos of course. (Did you know he is a direct descendent of Santo Claus?)


Now every time I hear another “breaking news” report about how the FBI has uncovered more documents, I wonder when they’ll be coming for me. Yup, you read that right. Little old me right here in Duluth.


Here’s why: When I was on U.S. Army active duty a long time ago (how long is an eon?) I and the other inductees were given manuals on how to do everything. I mean everything. You’ve heard of “the Army way,” right? There’s the Army way and then there is the way any normal person would do anything. They usually are not the same.


So, in training they handed out manuals telling troops how to do everything, like how to dress (put pants on one leg at a time), how to hang your uniforms in your locker, where to place your toothbrush in your foot locker, and so on and so forth. Oh, there were also manuals outlining how to sling a rifle over your shoulder like a continental soldier (even if your ears hang low and wobble to and fro) and how to pitch a pup tent even if you don’t have a dog. When I say everything, I mean everything.


The thing that has me spooked is that these manuals were always stamped “SECRET” or “TOP SECRET” in big blue letters on their covers. I guess they didn’t want the Russkis to find out things like how to tuck your fatigue pants into your boots without using blousing garters. The war was very cold during those years but not as cold as sleeping in a pup tent on bivouac in February.


After a short stint on active duty, I returned home to serve in the National 

Guard and Army Reserve for six years. This was a way of fulfilling what was called the “military obligation” of all non-bone-spurred American males (only males) once they turned 18 years old.


But enough history. The reason I’m concerned about the current classified documents imbroglio is that I might have a few of those “TOP SECRET” manuals left over from my military days stored in my garage. I can’t be sure, but I did end up with a few remnants of Army stuff after I got out.


What if the manual outlining how you must make your bed…er…your cot is out there? You know, how to fold the sheets and tuck the blankets so tight you could bounce a quarter off of them, and where to place the pillow. What if the Chinese got hold of that top secret information?


So lately I keep a wary eye out the window every time an “official” looking car passes by, in fear that they might be coming after my “top secret” manuals — if, indeed, there are any in my garage.


These are nervous times.


I’m also quite concerned about some Army flatware I ended up with — don’t know how. I have two forks, two knives and one spoon, all engraved with the letters U.S. on their handles. We have them in a kitchen drawer and use them quite frequently. Nothing like an Army knife for spreading peanut butter on toast.


But what if the FBI searches my house and finds these unintentionally purloined utensils sitting right there in our kitchen drawer? And wouldn’t they wonder why I have two each of knives and forks, but only one spoon?


I’d have to tell the FBI agents that our little dog laughed to see such a sight — when a dish ran away with the spoon. That was shortly after the cow jumped over the…well, you know.


Nervous times indeed.


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