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Spence is right. The setting closely resembles the famous "Cheers" tv series. I only wish I had written this all back at the time it took place and I could have sued them for stealing my idea! (Although you will note little similarity between Norm, the accountant on Cheers, and the steroid and amphetimine crazed CPA who shows up later in my version.)

Those who may have followed my Alternate MBA Program story on TMF's MOotFL Board will recognize many of the characters and events. Although this stretches the Nanowrimo rules a bit, I think I can call this "fictionalized history" in that while most of the characters and stories are based on actual people and events, I'm changing the chronology somewhat to make it seem more logical.

Anyway, here's Chapter 2:

DS&DQM by S Baker

Chapter 2, Roots

Almost everybody raised on Minnesota's Iron Range, from whence the main characters in this story emanate, are descended from Europeans who immigrated around the turn of the Century to work in the newly opened iron ore mines. The heterogeneous mixture of Eastern European, Italian, Scandinavian and other ethnic groups produced a distinct local culture. Iron Rangers have always been notoriously fun loving and outgoing, but can also be reckless and provincial.

Like most mining based economies, the Range experienced severe boom and bust cycles. For young people, escaping a life of hard toil in the mines meant leaving the area to find work or obtain an education, most commonly in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. Even after relocating, Iron Rangers tend to stick together and retain their group identity. Anybody who ever attended a college in the upper Midwest along with two or more Iron Range students can attest to the infamously rowdy "Ranger Parties".

Rangers even have their own distinctive means of speaking. A combination of the myriad foreign language influences, (in 1920 it was reported that only 20% of the population had English as a native tongue), and a rapid, clipped style of speaking similar to a Canadian accent, interspersed with colloquialisms and colorful idioms quickly identified you as being from "duh Range".

The area's Americanized immigrant families have always been very patriotic and civic minded. They traditionally produce the highest voter turn-out in Minnesota, which usually has the highest voting percentage of any State. Even though social attitudes of the area have always tended towards the conservative, Rangers tend to associate law enforcement with mining company authority, not entirely without good cause. This produced an odd moral value system. If a kid got caught stealing from a neighbors garden he could expect to get his hide tanned good by his "old man". But if Dad "brought home" tools, welding torches, cases of flashlight batteries and paper towels, or anything else left "laying around" at the mine, this was considered a "fringe benefit", or retribution for real or perceived mis-treatment by the company.

This confluence of social norms contributed to an odd tolerance for certain activities of questionable legality. Stories of local involvement with marijuana smuggling in the early 1970's were considered in much the same way as bootlegging had been during Prohibition. Marijuana smuggling was looked upon as "just another guy trying to make a living", although paradoxically if you happened to get caught smoking the dope you could expect the full wrath of the legal and social community to align themselves against you.

David, Dirty Larry, and Yank's fathers all did manual labor in the mines, and they had been raised with a clearly defined work ethic. The Iron Range was renowned for good schools, which were funded by mining industry taxes, and obtaining a good education was looked upon as another opportunity for hard work in preparation for a lifetime of even more hard work. There was almost a reverse snobbishness directed towards anyone who worked with their mind rather then their hands.

This blue collar emphasis seemed even more pronounced by the lack of any counterbalancing social forces. The profits from iron ore mining never made their way back to their source, the money being sent directly to the mining company shareholders and mineral rights feeholders out East via their minions and adminstrators in Duluth, eighty miles to the South-East. Thus, what came to pass for "upper classes" on the Range was a small cadre of low level mining company executives and local educators and professionals who were so vastly outnumbered they usually did their best to downplay any differences they might have had with the "working class".

This was where Brian and I had something in common. Because my paternal grandfather had been one of the 20% English speakers in the 1920's, he was able to work his way into a superintendent job in the mines, which was a bit better paying and less exposed to seasonal layoffs. My Father was able to attend college, with some help from the GI Bill, and became a Civil Engineer. In spite of my Grandfather's admonitions, he accepted a job in the engineering department of the largest of the mining companies, and help an upper level position.

While my Mother's parents both came directly from the Old Country, (Austria/Serbia), her father could read and write, and so was able to establish himself in business and became a prominent local merchant. He made sure my Mother and her siblings all attended college, with most of them became teachers.

So while my parents were both better educated and financially more secure than most, they were always careful to make sure my Brother, Sister and I didn't take anything for granted and taught us to measure a persons success by their methods and not their means.

Brian's family was "not from around here", as the expression puts it for anybody whose family hadn't lived in the area for a full three generations. His Father was an attorney who took a postion with the only law firm in town and unfortunately died at an early age. His Mother resumed her previous career as a college teacher, and was able to raise her family of five in relative comfort.

Perhaps because his family lacked a native's understanding of the area they were percieved by many to flaunt their education and postion, or as the locals might say, to put on airs. Brian, the oldest son in the family, wasn't generally popular in high school, being easily distinguished by his nice cloths, newer car, and somewhat derisive attitude.

I'd always gotten along well with Brian, having been endowed by my parents with an openmindedness that extended in both directions along the social spectrum. I had been somewhat involved in his illicit opertions prior to his arrests for drug trafficing and was anxious to renew his aquaintance when he completed his prison term.

Brian had big plans for the little neighborhood bar and grill, and while he was away several key aspects had already been put in place. He arranged for Tom B, a freind of his who was an experienced cook, to train in Chicago at the establishment that had made the Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza famous, and a pizza oven had been installed in the already hot cramped kitchen behind the bar. It would be interesting to see what happened next.
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