Way back on Sunday, May 12, 1996, I might have left the readers of the Daily Tribune in Hibbing with a little white lie.

Let’s just call it what it turned out to be: Fake news.

The final headline to my final regular outdoors column in that paper (which was dubbed ‘In the Woods’) read, “This is the end, ” and the first paragraph went like this: “Well, this is my LAST outdoors column as a member of the Daily Tribune staff. ”

I cringe when I read it now: Using all caps for a word was really, really, junior college level writing.

But I had a point I wanted to make loud and clear, which I summed up pretty immaturely in the next paragraph of that column (commonly known as the nut graph for those of you taking notes at home): “I don’t necessarily want it to be that way but circumstances have required me to move on. ”

Yuck.

From there I rambled on and on like a whiney troll on Twitter about how my bosses at the Daily Tribune were making me work Saturdays and how I was being assigned a new beat area I didn’t like and blah, blah, blah.

It was a pretty juvenile piece to be honest and it really angered the publisher of the paper at the time, who, after reading it, immediately got on the phone to the higher ups that owned the Mesabi Daily News (where I was headed) and the Daily Tribune then and my new boss/editor Bill Hanna, to let them know just what a problem she thought I was.

She also told anyone who would listen that I’d never work at the Daily Tribune again.

Which, ironically, was what I wrote in the column.

And that’s how my first job in the newspaper business ended – with the smoldering remains of a burned bridge left behind in my 20-something wake.

I still don’t know how that column got past my editor at the time. What I do know is he’s long gone, that publisher is long gone, and I’m back.

Sort of. The Daily Tribune and the Mesabi Daily News are no more – they merged into one this week.

Now it is the Mesabi Tribune and a whole new era.

When I heard the merger news, I wasn’t sad or mad. I was actually excited to know that I’d be part of a new and improved newspaper and be back providing outdoors news and views to west end of the Iron Range.

You see, despite my rough departure from The Daily Tribune I really liked me job. That’s probably why I kept a copy of that final column for all these years.

I had been hired two weeks after graduating from college to write a weekly outdoors story, but the job quickly morphed into a full-time news reporter position. Together with my former co-workers like John Saccoman, Beth Pierce, Jack Lynch, and, of course, sports editor Gary Giombetti, we put out what I thought was a really good product for the year I was employed there.

It’s where I found my niche as a journalist. I wrote a weekly outdoors column and feature story and was the editor of the page, which, interestingly turned into two pages quickly after it was created due to how popular it was.

It was really the first time the Daily Tribune had a dedicated outdoors section and when I left that paper, I took what I had learned as the outdoors guy to the next level at the Mesabi Daily News, expanding my horizons along the way.

When I first applied to be the outdoors guy at the Daily Tribune, all I really knew about were hunting and fishing. And I didn’t really know a whole lot about either of those things outside of having hunted deer and fished a little bit. But combined with my ability to write, I figured out a way to make it work.

Since then, I’ve grown and learned both as an outdoorsman and a writer. My position at the Mesabi Daily News has allowed me to experience a wide range of activities - from fishing Lake Superior, to discovering the awesomeness of our state’s snowmobile trails, to bird hunting, hiking, biking, and more - that I might not have had I not answered that ad way back in 1995 for an outdoors columnist.

I’ve won awards for my stories on the plight of the moose in northeastern Minnesota and a column on the passing of a deer member of our hunting party, and I’ve met and talked to a whole ton of different outdoors loving people from Orr to Duluth, Grand Rapids to Hoyt Lakes, and everywhere in-between.

Each of those people has taught me something about the outdoors in northern Minnesota that I hadn’t known previously, and I’ve tried to pass that knowledge on to my readers along the way.

Hundreds of stories and columns about the great north woods we live in and all the things there are to do here – a wealth of experiences and information and knowledge and the joy it has brought to me and my family – all thanks to that little job at the Daily Tribune.

And now I’m back and looking forward to the next chapter.

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