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  • Last summer I took a road trip to the Upper Pensinsula of Michigan. My wife and her sister were spending a week renovating an old park pavilion on the Lake Superior shoreline near Ironwood and I planned to meetup with them and bring my wife home to St. Louis.

    The trip took me well away from the city and into the deep rural countryside of Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Lots of vast corn fields and wide open spaces. Forest, too, as I got closer to the Upper Peninsula.

    These are the lands that voted for Donald Trump. At that stage of the race, billboards and yard signs were not that prevalent, but where they were, all I saw were Trump signs. With my city outlook, I tended to discount these but if this election has taught me anything, it's that I need to shake myself out of my preconceptions.

    Eventually, I arrived at the town of Ironwood and checked myself into a cheap biker motel. It was hot and the room did not have air conditioning. If the cool lake wind hadn't started coming in after dusk, it would have been an uncomfortably sticky night.

    Ironwood, like so many rural towns, has a commerce strip on the outskirts with most of the motels and fast food food restaurants and a older downtown area. If there is any prosperity to be seen, it's usually on those outskirts. Ironwood was a little better than many, catering to holidaying tourists and attempting to parlay the old mainstreet buildings into attractions, but it was far from universally successful in this.
  • Years before, the town had prospered from the mining industry as attested by storefront displays and murals. Lots of workers in these - but I saw few people walking the town as I strolled around.

    A little further on I came to law office with a couple of signs tacked to the front door.

    One advertised office hours; the other was a notice of foreclosure on the building. If the town lawyer couldn't make enough money to pay his property taxes, who was?
  • I walked on a little further to Joe's Pasty shop. Pasties are a local delicacy, a reminder of the west of England. Cornish immigrants provided some of the labor for the local copper mines and they brought their recipes with them.
  • Joe's was welcoming and the pasty all the more so, but, again, was largely empty. A tourist stopped by - not to buy food or drink but simply a few t-shirts. At least they were selling.

    I finished my coffee and walked a little further. There were some fine old buildings in this town.
  • Yet all seemed underused. Not a ghost town by a long way, but just enough of a hint that it could become so.

    I was particularly saddened to see the town camera shop was closing down.

    Ironwood is in Gogebic County. Donald Trump received 4019 votes; Hillary Clinton got 2925.
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