Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The greening of Minnesota May 27, 2015

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The greening of an abandoned farmsite between Faribault and Morristown.

The greening of a farmsite between Faribault and Morristown.

AUTUMN HAS ALWAYS been my favorite season here in Minnesota. But spring holds an appeal almost equally as strong.

Corn rows emerge in a field near Delhi in southwestern Minnesota.

Corn rows emerge in a field near Delhi in southwestern Minnesota.

We are in the throes of spring with trees now leafed out, dormant grass morphed to life and the black landscape of fields sprouting corn and soybeans, as if a farmer took a green pen and ruler and inked lines across the land.

Minnesota State Highway 68 south of Morgan stretches out behind me in this snapshot taken of the passenger side mirror. Green breaks this monotonous stretch of roadway.

Minnesota State Highway 68 south of Morgan stretches out behind me in this snapshot taken of the passenger side mirror. Green breaks this monotonous stretch of roadway.

On a day trip to Belview and back to Faribault on Saturday, I delighted in the greenery of rural Minnesota. I find visual joy in viewing a landscape transformed. The intensity of green almost hurts your eyes. It’s that vivid.

The steeple of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity emerges from the canopy of trees in New Ulm.

The steeple of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity emerges from the canopy of trees in New Ulm.

I treasure these late spring weeks, for I know this emerald gem is mine for only a sacred short time.

Beautiful greenery in Waseca.

Beautiful greenery in Waseca.

TELL ME ABOUT the season in your part of the country or world. What do you see in the landscape that surrounds you?

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A photo essay: Celebrating Memorial Day in Faribault May 25, 2015

The Color Guard always leads the parade.

The parade begins with the Rice County Central Veterans Association Honor Guard/Color Guard leading the way.

FOR THE THIRTY-THREE YEARS I’ve lived in Faribault, I’ve rarely missed a Memorial Day parade and the program that follows in Central Park.

Little Ivan arrives for the parade in a car pushed by his dad, Jake.

Little Ivan arrives for the parade in a car pushed by his dad, Jake.

It’s a time-honored tradition of music and marches, salutes and speeches, flags and families.

Saluting the flag.

Saluting the flag at the ceremony in Central Park.

I’m proud to live in a community where patriotism and service to country and respect for the American flag and all it means runs strong from generation to generation.

From kids to adults, many are dressed in a patriotic red, white and blue.

From kids to adults, many are dressed in a patriotic red, white and blue.

Honorary Grand Marshall, Adrian Gillen, rides in the parade alongside his wife, Jean. The couple both served their country and were duo grand marshalls.

Grand Marshal, Adrian Gillen, rides in the parade alongside his wife, Jean. The couple both served their country and were duo grand marshals.

David Kirkpatrick, who is my eldest daughter's classmate, was the honorary grand marshall.

David Kirkpatrick, who is my eldest daughter’s classmate, was the honorary grand marshal.

The Shattuck-St. Mary's Crack Squad always marches in the parade and always fires their guns.

The Shattuck-St. Mary’s Crack Squad always marches in the parade and always fires their guns.

Cub

The Scouts always hand out American flags during the parade.

The parade includes vintage vehicles.

The parade includes vintage vehicles.

You know the parade is ending when horses and riders arrive.

You know the parade is ending when horses and riders arrive.

At Central Park, the Bethlehem Academy Band awaits their turn to play the National Anthem.

At Central Park, the Bethlehem Academy Band awaits their turn to play the National Anthem.

Some attendees clutch American flags.

Some attendees clutch American flags.

Honored veterans Adrian Gillen, left, and brothers Matt and David Kirkpatrick.

Honored veterans Adrian Gillen, left, and brothers Matt and David Kirkpatrick.

Veterans Travis Quinlan watches the program at the park with hundreds of others.

Veteran Travis Quinlan watches the program at the park with hundreds of others. He was also a classmate of my eldest daughter.

Hundreds gathered in Central Park for the program, presented on the bandshell. The Girl Scouts participated with a presentation on flag folding and more.

Hundreds gathered in Central Park for the program, presented on the bandshell. The Girl Scouts participated with a presentation on flag folding and more.

Archie Temple walked in the parade and then arrived at the park for the Memorial Day program. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1952-1956, during the time of the Korean War.

Archie Temple walked in the parade and then arrived at the park for the Memorial Day program. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1952-1956, during the time of the Korean War. That’s his original Navy uniform.

Honored combat veteran David Kirkpatrick address the crowd as grand marshalls Jean and Adrian Gillen watch.

Honored combat veteran Matt Kirkpatrick addresses the crowd. Grand marshals Jean and Adrian Gillen are seated next to the podium.

David Kirkpatrick gives a few brief remarks.

David Kirkpatrick speaks briefly.

As is tradition each year, members of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 43 place wreaths on the memorial cross.

As is tradition each year, members of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 43 place wreaths on the memorial cross.

The Color Guard is an important part of the day's events.

The Honor Guard/Color Guard is an important part of the day’s events.

As they left the park, veterans Travis Quinlan, left, and David and Matt Kirkpatrick posed for one last photo. Travis and David were Faribault High School classmates.

As they left the park, veterans Travis Quinlan, left, and David and Matt Kirkpatrick posed for one last photo. Travis and David were Faribault High School classmates.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

American pride on Memorial Day weekend

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Downtown Waseca, Minnesota, on Memorial Day weekend.

Downtown Waseca, Minnesota, on Memorial Day weekend.

MEMORIAL DAY BRINGS a focused gratefulness for freedom. And nothing is more visually representative of freedom in the U.S. than the American flag.

Another scene from downtown Waseca, on the other side of the street.

Another scene from downtown Waseca, on the other side of the street.

This weekend those flags are flying seemingly everywhere. On front porches, from flag poles and from lamp posts.

Driving eastbound on U.S. Highway 14 between Nicollet and Mankato.

Driving eastbound on U.S. Highway 14 between Nicollet and Mankato.

I feel my national pride swell at the sight of flags flying in communities like Elysian, Waseca and Morristown. On a Saturday trip from Faribault to Belview and back, I noticed the red-white-and-blue adorning homes, businesses, pick-up trucks and even silos. Just outside of Morristown, a couple grilled on their deck, an American flag waving in the wind just inches away.

A business in downtown Belview, Minnesota.

A business in downtown Belview, Minnesota.

I am thankful to live in this country. And grateful to those men and women who died for freedom. Because of them, I am free to express myself through writing and photography. Free.

The American flag on a bag of  Crystal Sugar.

The American flag on a bag of Crystal Sugar.

On Sunday, as I diced rhubarb in my kitchen, I pulled a bag of sugar from the cupboard. And there, at the top of the bag, was printed an American flag. I paused in that moment, remembering the words I’d sung hours earlier at Trinity Lutheran Church, where I am free to worship:

God bless America, Land that I love,
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with a light from above…

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
“God Bless America” by Irving Berlin

 

Bird out of the cage May 23, 2015

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Bird art perched on a front yard rock.

Bird art perched on a front yard rock in a Northfield, MN., garden. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

PLEASE TAKE TIME this weekend to read and/or view this story from Fargo:

http://www.inforum.com/news/3749387-fargo-tv-anchor-shares-personal-story-physical-emotional-abuse

It’s that important.

Be free. Be that bird out of the cage.

FYI: If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help. Call your local domestic abuse hotline or the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Have a safe plan to leave your abuser. You deserve to be free of physical, emotional, mental and verbal abuse, control and manipulation.

Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: A World War II veteran from Kenyon May 22, 2015

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Portrait #24: Howard Homeier

Howard Homeier in his cherished early 1950s Chevy pick-up truck.

Howard Homeier in his cherished early 1950s Chevy pick-up truck. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

When I met World War II veteran Howard Homeier of Kenyon, in Kenyon, in August 2009, he’d just come from Kenyon Veterans Memorial Park. There, with other members of the Kenyon Veterans Color Guard, he’d participated in a ceremony during this southern Minnesota community’s annual Rose Fest.

Howard and I chatted briefly about his service with the U.S. Army in the China Burma India Theater. Then I admired his vintage 50s truck, with Howard allowing me to photograph it and him in it.

What I mostly admired, though, was Howard’s patriotism and support of veterans. Although I didn’t ask, I’m certain he does not take freedom for granted. He understands its cost. This vet put his freedom into practice by serving in Kenyon city government.

Nearly six years after meeting Howard, I still remember him. I hope you, too, this weekend remember and honor a veteran.

#

This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

 

 

The patriotism of the Winnebago County, Iowa, courthouse square May 21, 2015

At the top of the hill looking down the street we just traveled to reach downtown Forest City and courthouse square.

At the top of the hill looking down the street we just traveled to reach downtown Forest City and courthouse square.

THE RED-WHITE-AND-BLUE BEDECKED gazebo caught my attention as we drove up the hill, past grain bins and Dollar General, into downtown Forest City two Saturdays before Memorial Day.

This oversized gazebo sits in the Winnebago County Courthouse square.

This oversized gazebo sits in the Winnebago County Courthouse square.

What a delightful, patriotic welcome to this northern Iowa county seat, home to Waldorf College, Winnebago Industries and Heritage Park of North Iowa.

The courthouse was built in 1897 for $20,496. A south wing was added later.

The courthouse was built in 1897 for $20,496. A south wing was added later.

The Winnebago County Veterans Memorial rests on the side of the courthouse near the gazebo.

The Winnebago County Veterans Memorial rests on the side of the courthouse near the gazebo.

The Union Soldier statue was purchased by the local Women's Relief Corps in 1899. The chapter was founded to care for Union soldiers and to assist their widows and orphans and to honor the dead. There are 151 Civil War veterans buried in Winnebago County.

The Union Soldier statue was purchased by the local Women’s Relief Corps in 1899. The chapter was founded to care for Union soldiers and to assist their widows and orphans, and to honor the dead. There are 151 Civil War veterans buried in Winnebago County.

This eye-catching display of American pride drew my eyes to the gazebo and then to the imposing 1897 Romanesque style courthouse. Both sit in the Winnebago County Courthouse square, graced by two war memorials—that of a Union soldier and the Winnebago County Veterans Memorial.

The vintage Sherman tank.

The vintage Sherman tank.

A Sherman tank anchors a corner of the block.

A sculpture on a corner of the courthouse.

A sculpture on a corner of the courthouse.

Aiming my camera up at the towering courthouse.

Aiming my camera up at the towering courthouse. Notice all that architectural detail.

Another courthouse sculpture.

Another courthouse sculpture.

The Union Soldier was constructed from zinc by J. L. Mott Iron Works of Trenton, New Jersey, at a cost of $155.

The Union Soldier was constructed from zinc by J. L. Mott Iron Works of Trenton, New Jersey, at a cost of $155. The monument was restored in 2005.

The fountain atop which the Union soldier stands was also built by J. L. Mott Iron Works. It is of French Victorian design. The goat head symbolizes strength and victory.

The fountain atop which the Union soldier stands was also built by J. L. Mott Iron Works. It is of French Victorian design. The goat heads symbolize strength and victory.

It was a lot to take in, to photograph. Artsy architectural details add visual interest to the fountain and courthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. I only wished it had been a week day so I could have toured the courthouse interior.

I appreciated the patriotic colors on The Legion.

I appreciated the patriotic colors on The Legion.

But, since I couldn’t get inside, I focused my camera on the exterior, all the while watched by two elderly men across the street near the Legion. I expect they were wondering about the couple in the car with Minnesota plates and the woman shooting pictures with a fancy camera. Perhaps I should have chatted it up with them. The likely could have told me a story or ten.

FYI: Click here to read my first, and then my second, blog post on other Forest City, Iowa, attractions.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Honoring rural life at Heritage Park of North Iowa May 20, 2015

“COME BACK ON SATURDAY,” Monte Topp advised. “There’ll be 25,000 people here.”

“No, thanks,” I said.

Heritage Park of North Iowa is hosting Tree Town Music Festival opening this Thursday.

Heritage Park of North Iowa is hosting Tree Town Music Festival opening this Thursday.

And that is how I learned about the May 21 – 24 Tree Town Music Festival in Forest City, Iowa, with Saturday headliner Blake Shelton. Yes, the Blake Shelton, whom even I, not a fan of country western music, know as a judge from The Voice.

But Monte wasn’t talking much music when I met him at Heritage Park of North Iowa last Saturday morning. He was focused instead on the weekend Steam School which drew folks from around the country to learn the ins and outs of operating steam engines.

Gathered to learn about steam engines.

Gathered to learn about steam engines.

Steam engine tractors.

Steam engine tractors. It takes a full day to move all of the steam engine tractors out of a massive building on-site.

Checking out a steam engine tractor during Steam School.

Checking out a steam engine tractor during Steam School.

A sampling of steam engine tractors were lined up across the road from the historic church.

A sampling of steam engine tractors lined up across the road from the historic Beaver Creek Church.

Yet, he found time to take my husband and me inside two expansive buildings to view massive steam engine and vintage tractors. This member of the Heritage Park board knows his stuff. Names and dates. A quarter of a million dollars to purchase that steam engine tractor and another $250,000 invested in its restoration. One-of-a-kind. Only one left. If you want to know anything about anything steam engine, ask Monte.

A Wallis tractor was among the many tractors stored in a massive building.

A Wallis tractor was among the many tractors stored in a massive building.

A tractor seat.

A tractor seat.

Monte Topp, who hails from Fertile to the east of Forest City, is a John Deere guy.

Monte Topp, who hails from Fertile to the east of Forest City, is a John Deere guy.

We threaded our way around hulks of machinery in spaces so dark I could only take a few photos. Heavy scent of oil overwhelmed as did thoughts of yesteryear at this 91-acre site dedicated to preserving America’s rural history.

Several log cabins are on site, including this trapper's cabin.

Several log cabins are on site, including this trapper’s cabin.

I peered inside a partially open door to see that this building is appropriately dubbed the doll house. It's filled with dolls.

I peered in a window to see that this building is appropriately dubbed the doll house. It’s filled with dolls.

There are even, to my automotive machinist husband's amazement, two buildings devoted to flywheels.

There are even, to my automotive machinist husband’s amazement, two buildings devoted to flywheels.

One of my favorite buildings, a corn crib.

One of my favorite buildings, a corn crib.

A rural heritage park would not be complete without a barn and windmill.

A rural heritage park would not be complete without a red barn and creaky windmill.

A sampling of smaller steam engine tractors were lined up across the road from the park's historic church.

An overview of the grounds. I was about to open the door on the grey house when I realized someone lives here.

Buildings—ranging from a church to log cabins to barn, barbershop, jail, school, farmstead house and much more—create this impressive park. As luck would have it, we were not there when the park was open to the public and had to settle for an exterior walk-around.

“Come back this afternoon,” Monte advised as his phone rang.

We couldn’t. But that doesn’t mean we won’t return another time.

FYI: Click here to read my first post from Heritage Park. And check back for one more photo story, this one from downtown Forest City.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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