|ASHLAND ORE DOCK...AN ICON OF THE PAST|
|DOWN IT GOES!|
Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 31 degrees, wind S, very strong at times. It is snowing heavily. We have blizzard conditions and the barometer predicts more snow, of which about 4” has fallen. Doesn’t sound like a lot but give it time. I cleared the driveway once and anticipate that will pretty much be my occupation today.
We had a number of errands to run yesterday in Ashland, and as we began our return journey, heading west on Hwy. 2 through the city along the lake front, giant cranes caught my eye, and we drove toward them.
In the past such cranes would indicate construction of new major buildings or infrastructure. I knew immediately what these cranes represented; the dismantling of community history. The cranes are beginning to dismantle the last of the giant ore docks, constructed nearly a century ago during the heyday of iron ore mining in the region. Back then great steamers tied up at the docks, to be filled with iron ore from the iron ranges, brought to Ashland by rail to be shipped to the steel mills of Gary, Cleveland, Buffalo and other great Midwest manufacturing centers. Jobs were plentiful, paid well, and the city’s population was double what it is now. Those ore docks have been an icon of Ashland and the region for a hundred years, once pointed to by all with pride, and with confidence in the future. In later years the ore docks were pointed to with pride in the city and the region’s past. There has been great lamentation in recent years, not for the economic decline of the city and the region, for few remember now, but for the demise of the ore docks, the principal icon of the past. The people have worshiped the ore docks much as the Easter Islanders worshiped their great stone faces, out of awe and tradition, but without true understanding.
Something is terribly wrong here. Symbols of past greatness overshadow the promise of our future. Every excuse is made, and every obstacle is placed in front of projects such as a new iron mine which could revitalize the city and the region. Proponents of progress are shouted down, and the status quo is king. History should be respected, but it should not rule the present nor pervert the future. We are not France.
Generations before us came to cut the trees and dig the earth and sail the seas. We, to whom they gave life and dreams through their toil and vision, are filled with wonder at what they did, but are too timid, or too vain, or too preoccupied, or too lazy, or too stupid to follow in their footsteps. Many of us follow instead a new and foreign philosophy, I would call it a religion, which purports to save the earth while it destroys mankind.
I was talking to a man yesterday who said he spent thirty years working in the Ashland paper mill, a good paying job that had given him a good retirement. That was the first I had ever heard of the mill. Where was it, I asked? “Where the new Honda and Toyota dealership is, down by the ore docks,” he said.
We won’t mine iron ore because it affronts the earth. We won’t make paper because it pollutes the air. We no longer manufacture the things we use in our daily lives. Our cities decline, our children learn foolishness or worse and are without a future, and we occupy ourselves with writing bad verse and worrying about wolves.
So the old ore docks will be gone, and new ones will not be built because there is no ore to ship in the long ago boats because no one is allowed to dig the ore out of the earth. And few will have the money to buy the new automobiles we no longer make at the car dealer where the paper mill used to be. And the ghosts of our grandfathers will wonder why they bothered.