Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

BBQ at its best in Nelson, Wisconsin September 2, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 1:56 PM
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WISCONSIN MAY BE KNOWN for its cheese. But one small Wisconsin town is noted for both its cheese and BBQ. That would be Nelson, Wisconsin, across the Mississippi River from Wabasha, Minnesota.

Nelson Cheese Factory serves as a destination for Wisconsin and imported cheeses.

You can't miss the vibrant exterior of B & B Barbeque in Nelson, Wisconsin.

You can’t miss the vibrant exterior of B & B Barbecue in Nelson, Wisconsin.

And just down the street at 208 N. Main, you’ll find J & J Barbecue, a mom-and-pop restaurant serving Southern style BBQ that’s mouth-watering delicious.

Love this sign at the order counter.

Love this sign at the order counter.

Owners Jim and Laura Grandy, Minnesota natives who once lived in South Carolina, have perfected their smoked meats and their specialty mustard-based BBQ sauce.

J & J features hickory smoked meats.

J & J features hickory smoked meats.

The tantalizing smokey aroma will draw you off the highway into this one-of-a-kind joint as much as the BBQ and mustard hue exterior and signage promising the best ribs on the river.

My Southern BBQ Pork Sandwich served with savory baked beans and potato salad.

My generous Southern BBQ pork sandwich served with savory baked beans and potato salad.

While my husband and I didn’t try the ribs on a recent lunch stop, I ordered the Southern BBQ pork sandwich and found it simply superb. Randy chose a wrap—Carolina pulled pork with blue ribbon coleslaw tucked inside—a choice I found tasty, but he didn’t. I wondered why he was ordering a wrap because that isn’t his style and he doesn’t like coleslaw. But he felt pressured to order at the walk-up counter, the one negative part of our dining experience. When you’re new to a restaurant, you need time to study the posted menu.

I love the unique and kitschy interior.

I love the unique and kitschy interior.

On that particular Thursday, a steady steam of customers stopped to dine in or carry out Styrofoam trays packed with BBQed goodness.

You'll find more than BBQed meat here.

You’ll find more than BBQed meat here.

I’d highly recommend J & J BBQ. Just, please, don’t do as one grandma, overheard asking her grandson, “Would you like the chicken tenders or a hot dog?” I wish she’d encouraged him to try the fabulous BBQ.

Walk past this sign and into the next room to enter the bar area. On the other side of that you will find a gift shop, Laura's Place.

Walk past this sign and into the next room to enter the bar area. On the other side of that you will find a gift shop, Laura’s Place.

FYI: J & J Barbecue is open Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Farming of yesteryear remembered & celebrated at show August 30, 2014

IT’S MOSTLY ABOUT THE MEMORIES, I’ve decided.

A snippet of the tractors displayed at the show.

A snippet of the tractors and more displayed at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

Past memories.

Spotted at the flea market...

Spotted at the flea market…

And building memories.

A sign along Highway 3 welcomes visitors.

A sign along Highway 3 welcomes visitors.

The Rice County Steam & Gas Engines, Inc., annual Labor Day weekend show, which continues through Sunday, brought back many memories for me as I wandered among tractors and flea market merchandise and more for nearly four hours Saturday.

The young and the older guide a John Deere toward the parade route.

The young and the older guide a John Deere toward the parade route.

Curve of a Surge milking machine. Putt-putt-putt of a John Deere tractor chugging along the tractor parade route.

Al and Marllene Sutherland of Country Junction, Tripoli, Iowa, pose with the replica small scale farm buildings Al constructs from memory. The corn crib in the foreground includes 400 pieces and sells for $200.

Al and Marlene Sutherland of Country Junction, Tripoli, Iowa, pose with the replica small scale farm buildings Al constructs. He taps into his memory to design and build the buildings. The corn crib in the foreground includes 400 pieces and sells for $200.

The agrarian lines of a corn crib.

Vintage oil cans grabbed my attention at the flea market.

Vintage oil cans grabbed my attention at the flea market.

A Midland oil can. An NFO sign. All so familiar.

Rows and rows of tractors, including these John Deeres, line the grounds.

Rows and rows of tractors, including these John Deeres, line the grounds.

As I paused to admire an aged, rusty John Deere, an elderly woman said the green machine brought tears to her eyes. It was exactly like the one her father drove.

Brothers William and Jacob climb atop a Farmall.

Brothers William and Jacob climb atop a Farmall.

Nearby, grandparents smiled as their two great grandsons climbed onto a Farmall. Building memories.

Several steam engines are part of the exhibition.

Several steam engines are part of the exhibition.

If you’re into farming of yesteryear and flea markets, then consider attending this event. Gates open at 7 a.m. Sunday and close at 5:30 p.m. A tractor pull is slated for 9 a.m. Admission is $8 with 12 and under free.

Ford tractors, including this one from Westbrook Ag Power (where my oldest brother is co-owner)

Fords, including this one from Westbrook Ag Power (where my oldest brother is part owner) were the featured tractor at this year’s show. This Ford is owned by a rural Northfield man.

The show grounds is located three miles south of Northfield on Minnesota State Highway 3. For more information, click here.

BONUS PHOTOS:

You can buy a chance to win a Golden Jubilee 1950s Ford being raffled by the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines, Inc.

You can buy a chance to win a Golden Jubilee 1953 Ford tractor being raffled by Rice County Steam & Gas Engines, Inc.

Checking out the Minneapolis Molines.

Checking out the Minneapolis Molines.

My favorite t-shirt of the day. The show presents a rural fashion statement.

My favorite t-shirt of the day. The show always offers photo-worthy rural fashion shots.

Every time I attend this show, I order a BBQ shredded pork sandwich from the Rice and Dakota County Pork Producers.

Every time I attend this show, I order a BBQ shredded pork sandwich from the Rice and Dakota County Pork Producers.

PLEASE CHECK BACK for more photos from the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Dari (not dairy) King (not queen) August 29, 2014

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GROWING UP IN A POOR farm family with five siblings, it wasn’t all that often we got ice cream treats in town. Maybe Schwans ice cream in a dish or cone from the basement/porch freezer. But not soft-serve at a walk-up/drive-up.

Dari King in Redwood Falls

Occasionally, though, Dad would treat us to a cone at the Dari King in Redwood Falls. This was back in the day when a small cone cost a dime. But even then a dime was a dime was a dime.

Forty years after I left the farm, the independent (non-chain) Dari King still stands, serving ice cream and more to the next generations. How sweet is that?

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

Meatesota, Minnesota, whatever August 28, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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THE BILLBOARD MESSAGE plays on Minnesota’s tag, “Land of 10,000 lakes.”

Fareway Foods billboard

But it doesn’t work for me, this Fareway Foods sign along Interstate 35 just north of Faribault promoting the grocer’s meat department with “Meatesota, Land of 10,000 steaks.”

I don’t get it. What 10,000 steaks?

The thing is, I really do like Fareway’s meat, although I have yet to try a steak. I am not a big steak eater. But I certainly savor Iowa chops.

If this is the Iowa based company’s effort to cozy up to native Minnesotans like me with a spin on our state’s thousands of lakes theme, then this fails in my marketing book.

But I suppose in theirs it succeeded. After all, I noticed the billboard and now I’m writing about it.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, to be two… August 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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Boy throwing dirt

 

DON’T YOU WISH sometimes that you could be the carefree kid again? I do.

 

Boy and his dirt pile

 

I wish I could be like my great nephew, Hank, with nothing to worry me—climbing dirt piles, tossing clumps of dirt, running here and there as fast as my short legs can move me.

Boy and his bunny

 

And then when I was all tuckered out, I’d slip inside the house and cuddle a plush toy before settling onto my mother’s lap.

 

Boy sleeping, bunny on floor

 

My head would dip and nod against her until I fell into sweet slumber. Then she would ever so gently lift me from her lap and snug me onto billowy cushions, my curls pressed against the armrest, my fingers furled against my forehead.

 

Boy sleeping close-up

 

I know I can’t be two again. But I can dream.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Crazy about cars in Kenyon, Part II August 26, 2014

Vintage vehicles lined several blocks of a residential neighborhood just off the main drag through town, Minnesota State Highway 60. The location was perfect for those wishing to check out the downtown.

Vintage vehicles lined several blocks of a residential neighborhood just off the main drag, Minnesota State Highway 60. The location was perfect for those wishing to check out downtown Kenyon.

A RECENT CAR SHOW in Kenyon, at this southern Minnesota community’s annual Rose Fest, presented a multitude of photo ops.

I'm always drawn to details like this dice on a lock.

I’m always drawn to details like this die on a lock.

I focused on the shiny, the unusual, the beautiful, the interesting, the whatever caught my eye.

I called this a hippie van.

I called this a hippie van.

And between all that photographing, I met John, a former co-worker of my husband, and John’s wife, Diane. John and Randy had not seen each other in something like 35 years, when they worked together at a Rochester automotive parts store. John recognized Randy first. It was a wonderful moment, to see these two guys reconnect.

So sometimes it is not all about the cars. It is about the people and the moments. And rats if I didn’t fail to photograph that reunion.

Enjoy these images from the Rose Fest Car Show, minus John and Randy.

I prefer original, but some guys like to modify their cars.

I prefer original, but some guys like to modify their cars.

Love the graceful curves of this Bel Air.

Love the graceful curves of this Bel Air.

A mini version of the car always draws my artistic attention.

A mini version of the car always draws my artistic attention.

Composing this image, I appreciated the melding of car and beautiful house. Turns out the house is a funeral home.

Composing this image, I appreciated the melding of car and beautiful house. Turns out the house is a funeral home.

So many trophies I wondered if everyone gets one.

So many trophies I wondered if everyone gets one.

I'm ever watchful for shiny bumpers and reflections.

I’m ever watchful for shiny bumpers and reflections.

Remember going to the A & W drive-in?

Remember going to the A & W drive-in?

I still don't understand this staging.

I still don’t understand this staging.

All original.

All original.

Always appreciate the dice.

Always appreciate the dice.

A Chevy my husband likely wishes he owned.

A Chevy my husband likely wishes he owned.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

Roses & cars in Kenyon August 25, 2014

Kenyon, Minnesota, welcomes visitors to its recent Rose Fest.

Kenyon, Minnesota, welcomes visitors to its recent Rose Fest.

WOULD YOU EXPECT to find roses at a car show?

I thought not.

One of many beautiful roses spotted at the car show.

One of many beautiful roses spotted at the car show.

But in the small southern Minnesota community of Kenyon, organizers of the Rose Fest Car Show handed out roses to early arrivals. How sweet is that?

Another rose spotted...

Another rose spotted…

An unexpected surprise. A rose on a dashboard. A rose lying on a car seat. A rose on an engine.

Kenyon's Boulevard of Roses cuts through Minnesota Highway 60.

Kenyon’s Boulevard of Roses cuts through Minnesota Highway 60. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Now I’ve been to quite a number of car shows, but never to the one in Kenyon, where roses are planted for blocks in the boulevard of Minnesota State Highway 60 running through the heart of town.

This car show impressed me. I can’t pinpoint precisely why I so enjoyed this show. But I found lots to draw my eye from the quirky to the nostalgic to the shiny and more.

Enjoy these images from the Rose Fest Car Show. And then check back tomorrow for more photos.

Loved this car.

Loved this car.

My absolute favorite moment, and shot, for the wistfulness. He was so immersed in admiring those trophies that he didn't even notice me snapping away.

My absolute favorite moment, and shot. This boy was so immersed in admiring trophies that he didn’t even notice me.

But Chad noticed me because I asked him to stand still so I could photograph his tattoo

But Chad noticed me because I asked him to stand still so I could photograph the tattoo of his 1958 VW bus Westfalia…

...which looks like this from the front.

…which looks like this from the front…

...and this inside, all ready for camping.

…and this inside, all ready for camping.

Definitely not as family-friendly as Chad's VW bus art.

Definitely not as family-friendly as Chad’s VW bus art.

Another favorite of mine, the Roadrunner.

Another favorite of mine, the Roadrunner.

Every vehicle is marked, so if you're a serious student of vintage cars (I'm not), the necessary info is right there.

Every vehicle is marked, so if you’re a serious student of vintage cars (I’m not), the necessary info is right there.

I've never seen anything like this backward opening hood.

I’ve never seen anything like this backward opening hood.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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