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An Iron Ranger's view: Hey Jack, you’re the reason I can’t watch golf

It is impossible for me to watch golf on TV. In an apparent attempt to give snob appeal to a game where grown men and women chase a little white ball around a course, television networks routinely hire British announcers to describe the play, and I cannot tolerate the precise, snobby diction of British announcers.

Listening to them gives me a sick feeling that has everything to do with my being an Iron Ranger. It has to do with repressed childhood memories.

When I was a kid living on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range of the 1940s, there were still many Cousin Jacks populating the Range. Cousin Jacks were Cornish (or British) mine bosses hired by the iron ore mining companies to get as much production as they could out of the inarticulate, and therefore seemingly stupid, Finns, Swedes, Slovenians, Croatians, Italians, and other European immigrants who worked in the mines. Only a few of the Jacks did their jobs decently; most were tyrants.

During my formative years, I listened to my grandparents, my father and mother, and many of the townsmen whom I admired tell stories about the atrocities of the Cousin Jacks. I was told the Jacks lived in the nicest houses in town, many of which are still in use. The Jacks drove the nicest cars. Their wives and children had the best of clothing. They sat in the front pew in their churches. Their children were treated with deference at school. Their daughters were warned to stay away from the workingmen’s sons, handsome as they might be. I was told Jacks didn’t need to have vent fans in their bathrooms.

It was up to the Jacks’ discretion whether a foreign-born miner stayed on the job or was fired. These Jacks considered the working men to be barely human. Many of the Jacks demanded gifts from the miners as a requirement of employment. Some of the Jacks demanded time with miners’ wives as a requirement of employment.

I was told that if a Jack died (of natural causes or otherwise — mostly otherwise) and was buried in the local cemetery, in many cases, the miners who worked for him and hated him would get crazy drunk, drive to the cemetery and defecate on his grave. I was told this happened so often bodies had to be exhumed and moved.

During my formative years, I listened to the precise British diction and the seemingly intelligent and cultivated accents of the local Jacks. And my brain made never-to-be-forgotten associations between the voices I heard and what the Jacks did to my fellow Rangers.

So when I first listened to golf matches and tournaments narrated by British announcers with their precise diction, the repressed-but-still-hurtful feelings popped unbidden right out of my subconscious. When I hear phrases like “in the bunka,” and “Creama missed an easy putt,” and “no golf cots allowed,” and, “just unda the tree” and “paw foe,” I feel sick to my stomach. As a result of that Jack-generated nausea, I haven’t watched a golf match in 30 years.

I know that forgiving the Jacks would be the cure for my problem, and forgiving them would allow me to enjoy golf tournaments announced by the British. But that will never be. Because of my indoctrination during my formative years, I can’t forgive the Jacks, and I never will forgive them for what they did to my ancestors, the immigrant Rangers of so long ago.


Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, retired educator, lifelong Iron Range resident and regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.