January ?, 1997

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen

Sometime January 1997

The Arctic Blast Snowmobile Parade showed the world what a civilized group of outlaws we really are.  Thanks have not changed that much since the famous Chicago evangelist, Billy Sunday, proclaimed Ely as one of the two worst places in Creation.  The other place was hell.  I imagine there are also parades in hell where evil snowmobilers mock authority with humor.  There might even be County Commissioners in hell who have a streak of government disrespect.

It was rumored that some of the Vikings wanted to give money to Mike T. Loe Defense Fund.  I confess, my reaction to all this is one of amusement.  My funny bone has been amply ticked by the many letters of support for this evil intruder into Mother Nature.  I can only conclude that many Elyites officially condemn the actions of Mike Loe, while admiring the young man’s attempt to outwit the United States Government.

Ely has a love affair with insubordination.  We are basically outlaws.  I am at a loss to explain this completely.  Perhaps, there is too much iron in our water.  Perhaps, the long winters have frozen our neurons too many times.  Then again, it might be we enjoy being a square peg in a round hole. 

I don’t think we secretly worship Satan.  Nor do I think the Prince of Darkness whispers in our ear, “Go ahead, take your Arctic Cat and go ice fishing on Knife Lake!”  I think the Loe Affair is more along the lines of a sophomoric college prank.  Many of the restrictions concerning the BWCAW are downright anal retentive.  For example, sailboats are the quietest boats on the water, yet because some government twit states a pulley is a mechanized device, sailboats are not allowed in the BWCA. 

We worship free will in Ely.  We worship the ability to live and create as we please in our ever changing wilderness city.  How else could you explain our love affair with snow sculptures?  They are here today and gone tomorrow.  We enjoy the sense of freedom when we paddle our canoes or snowshoes across a frozen expanse of water.  Many earn their living in unconventional ways.  There are few 9 to 5 jobs in Ely.  Our culture shines in comparison to any of the richer suburbs of Minneapolis and Chicago.  I would like to see my old community put on Fiddler!  There are enough talented people in Ely to put on five or six versions of Fiddler. 

Talent, creativity, individualism and the unconventional do not survive in over regulated environments.  The well of support for Mike Loe is one aspect of all this.  His was a rebellious act.  It was not the most constructive I have seen, but it fits in with our strong feelings of free will.  I think Ely would be very happy to be a separate city state.  We have never had too many positive things to say about the dictates of Washington DC.  We enjoy being 100 miles from the county seat.  Many folks wish the capitol of St. Paul was even farther than 240 miles away.

Granted there are other lawless towns.  Cities like Los Angeles are full of murder, violence and lawyers.  Our outlaw nature tends to be very different.  Ely would not want to attract people like OJ Simpson; I prefer our benign outlaws.

I would hate to think what might happen if Ely ever was an independent city state and lost all influence from St. Paul.  Billy Sunday’s observation about Ely and hell just might become too truthful.  I prefer Ely being somewhere between naughty and nice.

If Mike Low really wants to make a statement he should admit his guilt, pay his fine and say, “I’d do it again.”  That would cement his fame as a rebel for freedom.  Some would condemn him to a parade in hell, but others would be applauding from the curbside of Hades, just as they did on Sheridan.


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