For quite some time now, I have usually carried a camera with me. The ubiquity of cameras in cellphones has helped. For example, I have an iPhone 4, which, in a pinch, can take quite nice photos. For weekend excursions and trips that might have something interesting, I will take our Nikon D5100. I purchased this camera before my 2012 trip to Japan. Before that Nikon, it was a different Nikon – a D60. But, for a number of years and prior to leaving Hibbing, it was a late 1970s Pentax ME 35mm. I, more or less, usurped ownership of this camera from my father. He had bought it new, and it was often part of outdoor summer outings in the mid-1980s.
I remember standing on top of a mining dump (these are large hills of waste rock and dirt from a bygone era of iron mining), we were near Kelley Lake on the outskirts of Hibbing, MN. A side note, in the map, above, Kelley Lake is the marker on the left. I stared off in the distance; my father stared through the camera and its 205MM zoom lens toward the east northeast. He was looking at Minntac, the mine he worked at, at that time, located 21 miles away.
The camera was kept in a closet under the steps at the house in which I grew up. In the early 1990s, before I was old enough to drive a car, I rode my bike. I rode miles and miles everyday; often north to trails that ran along mine-owned properties. Occasionally, we would cross over onto mine-owned property and go swimming in the then-abandoned-and-water-filled pits.
Friends and I would take photos of many things. Water running out of a distant, long forgotten mine shaft – from the days when iron mining was conducted below the surface. We would also photograph weekly mine-blasts, the abandoned foundations of the city that moved, and sometimes, we would end up in front of the camera.
While visiting my sister in Japan this past year, I was looking at a bookshelf she had in her living room; on the top shelf, there was a photo of me – I was on my Raleigh mountain bike, and I was wearing a backpack. The photo was in black and white. I stared at the photo. I could remember where the photo was taken, and the approximate time of the year.
I was fourteen. It was the middle of the summer of 1995. My friend John F. and I were biking around Hibbing and we were following the railroad tracks that still cut through Hibbing; we were just west of the old depot building riding through puddles of water. I believe it had rained earlier in that day.
John and I took hundreds of photos that summer, and of all those photos that we took, that one photo of my young-self that is currently sitting on a bookshelf in Japan, is the only one that I know of that has not been lost.