Ironworld & Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Ore

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

This past weekend my wife and I went on an odyssey to the far off lands of the Iron Range to seek out the roots of Bob Dylan. 

Everyone has a Bob Dylan story, mine is probably not much different for yours.  When I was younger I of course heard his music in passing… By that I mean that I remember hearing several of his songs, but not understanding “who” was singing them.

I remember INXS’s “Mediate” ripping off Dylan in a video with “Subterranean” queue-cards of words being dropped.  I also remember The Travelling Wilburys and the guys in that band (Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison). 

There was this whole “revival” thing happening and Pretty Woman the movie hit the theaters when I was baptized into the dating scene.  Roy Orbison died not long after he was in the Wilburys and was having a come back at the time with, “Pretty Woman” the song too.  

About eight years passed until I had Dylan pop into my life again.  The first time was when I saw him live, and the second was when a close friend became obsessed with his music.

In 1999 I saw Bob Dylan and Paul Simon play together at Canterbury Downs in Shakopee, MN.  We pulled into the parking lot in a beat up car filled to capacity with college kids, finding a spot between the endless lines of shiny SUVs.  Sitting down on the ground I found it interesting how the rest of the older audience around us were enjoying their lawn chairs and snickering at us.  The Soccer Moms, Doctors, Lawyers, and off duty Police Officers were also passing other things around along with their scarlet looks.   

Paul Simon went on first and to quote an older lady sitting next to me, he was, “wonderful, spectacular, and superb…” This was before graduating from college and when the movie The Graduate became a mirror of my life a few years later.  This was when I was 20 and still didn’t know spit, but I was learning.  (BTW: those of you guys out there graduating college, it is required that you watch The Graduate.. “Plastics”)

Bob Dylan followed Simon and was awful.  This god-like nasally troubadour I grew up knowing had turned into a naggy sounding old lady.  The sound system wasn’t great, we were outside, I don’t know; it just wasn’t sounding right.  You also couldn’t understand what he was saying.

I never saw him tour again after that.

Over the next few years Dylan popped up more and more into my life and music selections.  Then he did a TV commercial back in 2004. 

So on Saturday, after visiting the Renaissance Festival in Twig… and what a great festival… but… why is it whenever I go to Twig I see someone exposing too much in public?  (Go to www.thefountainheads.com and read my article on the Naked Biker/Alrights show in Twig from a few years back about my last visit)

While walking through the festival I noticed someone in front of me wearing TIGHT spandex/pajama material pants with a string “g-string like” thing running up the back.  As the person turned around, sure enough, it was a dude…  Another guy had on a “codpiece” made of leather…

The women were a bit revealing in another direction.  They had their corsets so tight that some bosoms looked like they might explode if the wind blew right. 

Sure there are other things to do at the Renaissance Festival, but the people there are the best!  People coordinate their outfits and go all out, great fun.


(Virginia, MN)

Driving further up the range to Ironworld and their Bob Dylan exhibit we first stopped in Virginia to see the lookout.  Then we found gas for 10 cents cheaper a gallon than in Duluth, and then we arrived at Ironworld.



I loved the Bob Dylan exhibit and Ironworld as a whole.  It was my first time up on the Range so everything was pretty impressive.  The exhibit on Dylan was interesting, but what I liked the most were the concert posters from various shows throughout his career. 

There were also some excellent pictures, and a story of the young man from Hibbing.  The exhibit was more about Dylan as a person than about his musical achievements though.  You really got a sense of who he was and the museum lets you look through Dylan’s eyes as a person… You can even look through his bedroom window, which is on display.

After our walk through the rest of the large museum and grounds we headed up to Hibbing to see Dylan’s boyhood home.  My wife remembered the exact address, but signs also led the way to the now purple house.  Hibbing itself was just how I always pictured a mining town: stone, 1950s-ish, rough-looking bars, and unionized.  You could feel the hardworking character of the town and its deep history.

While driving home I got to thinking about Bob Zimmerman and how he left the area to go somewhere else.  Being in Hibbing one day made me feel claustrophobic, but that’s not to say I couldn’t make it home later in life.  To someone as large as Bob Dylan though, Hibbing is in no conceivable way big enough to keep him around.  He traveled a long road, which was displayed excellently at the museum. 

When I got back to Duluth I was struck with the thought of that now old man Bob Dylan, and what he accomplished and inspired so many to do in life.  Hibbing made him that type of person… Seeing the Iron Range is walking in the footsteps of where greatness swelled, and labor gave birth to the fruits of creativity.