Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Stopping in Iowa September 15, 2014

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THERE ARE STOPLIGHTS and then there are stoplights.

Stoplights in Dubuque, red

I could not believe the number of stoplights at this intersection in Dubuque, Iowa. Crazy.

You better know where you’re headed when you encounter this intersection in this major metro area just across the Mississippi River from Illinois.

Stoplights in Dubuque, green

We were aiming for the downtown, one you will definitely want to visit if you appreciate historic architecture.

Love, love, love this old river town, which my husband and I explored on a recent get-away. I know, who goes to Iowa, you ask, especially if you are a Minnesotan. We did, on our way to our final destination in Galena, Illinois, another historic river town.

Iowa presented some sweet moments and interesting discoveries, all of which I will share in upcoming posts. Our southern neighbor may bill itself as offering “fields of opportunities.” But, thankfully, this state presents more than fields. Even this prairie farm girl tired of all the corn and demanded finding a faster four-lane route aiming east toward the river and hills.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The faith of my forefathers September 12, 2014

A view of Immanuel from the church balcony. The pews, the chancel furnishings and the stained glass windows from the old church were incorporated into the new church.

A view of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Courtland, from the balcony. The pews, the chancel furnishings and the stained glass windows from the old church were incorporated into the new sanctuary. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I love to tell the story,
’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.

Katherine Hankey

IT SEEMED A FITTING HYMN sung by the Men’s Choir during a recent Sunday morning worship service at Immanuel Lutheran Church, rural Courtland, Minnesota.

Male voices blended in perfect harmony, a soothing symphony of the aged song that transcends time, a hymn as powerful today as it was for past generations.

Karl Jr. and Anna Bode, their nine children and a daughter-in-law. That's by grandpa, Lawrence (originally spelled Lorenz) in the front row in the white dress.

Karl Jr. and Anna Bode, their nine children and a daughter-in-law. That’s my grandpa, Lawrence (originally spelled Lorenz), in the second row in the glasses.

And the past prevailed on this Sunday, a day set aside for a reunion of the descendants of Karl Johann Bode, Jr. and his wife, Anna (Dallman).

The Karl Jr. and Anna Bode siblings, including my grandfather, Lawrence, right front.

An old photo of the Karl Jr. and Anna Bode siblings, including my grandfather, Lawrence, right front.

My husband and I were there, representing my mom and our siblings—the daughter and grandchildren of Lawrence and Josephine Bode.

A historical sign outside of Immanuel Lutheran Church, east of Courtland, Minnesota.

A historical sign outside of Immanuel Lutheran Church, east of Courtland, Minnesota.

Fitting Scripture read:

Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.

Deuteronomy 32:7

Beautiful aged stained glass windows highlight the sanctuary.

Beautiful aged stained glass windows highlight the sanctuary.

My Bode forefathers left a strong legacy of faith, evident in this very church they helped found in 1859 after moving from Illinois to Minnesota. Stained glass windows from the old church have been incorporated into the new, a visual connecting today’s generation to those before them.

The symbolic bouquet.

The symbolic bouquet.

Red roses in a stunning altar bouquet honored my great grandparents. Nine yellow roses represented each of their children, Herman, Alma, Otto, Paul, Emil, George, Lawrence, Carl and Ervel.

The Bode cousins pose for a photo at the reunion.

The Bode first cousins pose for a photo at the reunion.

I am proud to be a part of the Bode family, a family still firmly standing upon a foundation of faith.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Artwerk, Steve style September 11, 2014

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MY FRIEND STEVE, married to my friend Jackie, is an artist. Oh, he may not term himself as such and he prefers you call his creations artwerk rather than artwork. Seems more masculine, this bulk of a guy claims.

Conduit and pipes transformed into art for placement on Steve's wooded acreage.

Conduit, pipes and metal transformed into art for placement on Steve’s wooded acreage.

But I am 100 percent certain that the art Steve crafts from what many would term junk qualifies him as a bonafide artist. He’s even dumpster dived for art materials and salvaged items from scrap piles.

Circles and spirals appear often in Steve's art.

Circles and spirals appear often in Steve’s art.

For now this one-time welder pursues his art passion as a hobby. I’m convinced he could sell his pieces or create works on commission and have suggested such to him. He’s already selected a business name—Big “N” Ugly’s Iron Werks. Catchy. But Steve is certainly not ugly. If I remember correctly, the name relates to some crazy story from his past.

Discarded plumbing provides materials for art in a flower garden.

Discarded plumbing provides materials for art in a flower garden.

Jackie wishes this flowerbed faucet was functional.

Jackie wishes this flowerbed faucet art was functional.

Oversized chimes crafted from discarded clothing racks (etc.) and strung high in a tree.

Oversized chimes crafted from discarded clothing racks (etc.) and strung high in a tree.

He’s transformed clothing racks, tape measures, a springform pan, old faucets, a grater, conduit and more into visual, and sometimes functional, art. The pieces are strategically placed on the couple’s wooded creekside property just off a quiet county road northeast of Medford. I love their land and many times have wished aloud that I desire to retreat here until all stress has exited my life.

Conduit turned art.

Conduit turned art.

A portable outdoor functioning sink created with old faucets, springform pan, plastic pipes and more.

A portable outdoor functioning sink created with old faucets, springform pan, plastic pipes and more.

Fence art.

Fence art.

On a recent steamy summer Sunday afternoon, Steve and Jackie invited my husband and me to tour their outdoor sculpture garden featuring Steve’s vast collection of original art.

The close-up spirals on one of Steve's pieces.

The close-up spirals on one of Steve’s pieces.

A full view of the same piece above and one of the bridges Steve built.

A full view of the same piece above and one of the bridges Steve built.

Even old tape measures are worked into his art.

Even old tape measures are worked into his art.

To view his pieces is to wonder how he can possibly come up with ideas to twist and shape and bend and sculpt cast-offs into abstract art that grabs your attention for its uniqueness, cleverness and artsy appeal.

A practical use for an otherwise useless washer agitator, repurposed as a beverage holder.

A practical use for an otherwise useless washer agitator, repurposed as a beverage holder.

Boat seats repurposed as a seating area on a retaining wall.

Boat seats repurposed as a seating area on a retaining wall.

Who thinks of using a vintage meat grinder for art, then suspending it in a tree? Steve.

Who thinks of using a vintage grinder for art, then suspending it in a tree? Steve.

Talk to Steve about his artwerk and you hear his unbridled enthusiasm. This is what he’s meant to do. To create. Artwerk.

Steve has built several of these sheds, this one graced with some of the art he's crafted.

Steve has built several of these sheds, this one graced with some of the art he’s crafted.

Seriously, how does one shape barbed wire into a ball?

Seriously, how does one shape barbed wire into a ball?

A snippet of an art piece dangling high in the trees.

A snippet of an art piece dangling high in the trees.

FYI: If you are interested in purchasing Steve’s art or having him create a piece on commission, let me know via a comment here or in an email (see my “about” page). I’m tapping Steve’s creative brain about a metal headboard from my childhood. Believe me, he can turn anything into art. Anything.

Steve did not want a photo of himself published, which is why you’re not seeing one here. I have one, but…I will honor his request.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, to be a kid at a wedding September 10, 2014

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KIDS ARE SO MUCH a part of my niece’s life that their participation in her September 6 wedding seemed natural and fitting. Carlyn works in her mom’s family daycare.

Darling flower girls, Ellen and Lainey, never made it to the front of the church to stand with the rest of the bridal party. One of the two burst into tears and then both wedged onto the laps of the bride’s parents, who cuddled these little girls for much of the service. That’s how much my eldest brother and his wife love these two.

The ring bearers, Hank and Connor, cute as cute can be in their black pants, white shirts and suspenders and dress shoes, managed to reach the front of the church. But then they roamed throughout the ceremony. Down the aisle and back up front. Then reverse.

No crying, though, after the initial flower girl’s outburst. So that was good. The cuteness factor just made you smile.

Two wedding guests and ringbearer Hank gathered on the church sidewalk next to the receiving line.

Two wedding guests and ring bearer, Hank, gathered on the church sidewalk next to the receiving line.

Afterward, during the hour-long congratulatory/receiving line process, kids played, wandered and ran outside the church. And when I spotted three of them, including my great nephew Hank, focused on something on the sidewalk, I honed in with my camera. They were oblivious to my presence.

Focused on...

Focused on…

What, I wondered, fascinated them?

Hank needed a drink from his sippie cup, which he toted around most of the afternoon.

Hank needed a drink from his sippie cup, which he toted around most of the afternoon.

Birdseed. Bagged birdseed to be opened and tossed at the bride and groom. It takes so little to entertain kids.

I wish many times now that life was as simple and uncomplicated as opening a bag of birdseed and spilling the contents onto a sidewalk.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My beautiful niece on her wedding day September 9, 2014

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Carlyn and Jared leave the church in the early evening, showered with birdseed.

Showered with birdseed, Carlyn and Jared leave the church in the gorgeous early evening light of a perfect September day.

IT’S SO CLICHE to say that the bride was radiant. But no other word seems fitting for my niece, Carlyn, so in love with her now-husband, Jared, her high school sweetheart whom she married on Saturday at English Lutheran Church in Walnut Grove.

Just a historical note here. The English Lutheran church bell dates back to the late 1800s, when Charles Ingalls, the father of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, donated monies toward its purchase.

Lots and lots of birdseed tossed.

Lots and lots of birdseed tossed at the newlyweds.

The bridal couple, family and guests walked below that bell Saturday before witnessing a beautiful ceremony celebrating faith and family and the beginning of a new life together.

Look at how happy they are...

Look at how happy they are…that loving look Jared is giving his new bride.

Carlyn cried more than any bride I’ve ever seen. Cried walking down the aisle. Cried during the ceremony. Cried when she hugged her parents. So much emotion overwhelming her.

That look, oh, that look on the new groom's face...

That look, oh, that look on the new groom’s face after the ceremony.

And I thought how fortunate she is to live only blocks from her parents, to work side-by-side with her mother in a family-owned daycare. Likewise, Jared works with his father on their nearby farm.

Instead of signing their names in a guestbook, guests signed the leaves on this tree.

Instead of signing their names in a guestbook, guests signed the leaves on this tree.

These newlyweds will be surrounded by those who have loved and nurtured and cared for them their entire lives.

I watched as kids wove freely among adults on the church grounds and at the reception in the Westbrook Community Center. Small town carefree. Connected. Something you wouldn’t see at a wedding reception in a larger community.

Jared and Carlyn await their introduction and entry into the reception hall.

Jared and Carlyn await their introduction and entry into the reception hall.

On one end of the reception venue, kids tossed a toy football back and forth. A boy rumbled a toy truck across the floor. Preschool boys splashed in the drinking fountain.

And in between it all, adults laughed and conversed and danced to the beat of polkas, country line dances, 70s tunes that I once sang as a member of the Wabasso High School choir and more.

As my husband and I passed below street lights outside the community center, past the impressive corner veterans’ memorial and the old brick implement dealership where the bride’s dad (my eldest brother) worked before a new facility was built on the edge of town, I considered what a perfect day it had been. September weather at its best. My mom recovered enough to attend the wedding and reception. And love. Radiant.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating her granddaughter’s wedding September 8, 2014

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SHE WAS DETERMINED to attend her granddaughter’s wedding. And she did, one day shy of three weeks after suffering traumatic injuries in a fall.

Three of my mom's granddaughter's visit with her after the wedding.

Three of my mom’s granddaughter’s (including my daughter, middle) visit with her after the wedding.

She would be my 82-year-old mother.

About the only photo I managed during the ceremony, taken from my place in the pew.

About the only photo I managed during the ceremony, taken from my place in the pew.

Saturday afternoon Mom was among some 400 guests packing English Lutheran Church in Walnut Grove for the marriage of Carlyn and Jared.

The day marked a milestone for Mom, her first outing in three weeks except for the long ambulance ride from a southwestern Minnesota hospital to the trauma unit at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and the car ride back to a nursing home five days later.

The reception was held at the community center in the bride and groom's hometown of Westbrook.

The reception was held at the community center in the bride and groom’s hometown of Westbrook.

Already while hospitalized, Mom set a goal to attend the wedding. Then she decided that she might like to go to the reception for awhile also. She accomplished both.

Guests shower Jared and Carlyn with birdseed as they leave the church.

Guests shower Jared and Carlyn with birdseed as they leave the church.

It is good to have goals when you are eighty-two, or any time really.

I laughed because my mom's nails were painted and I forgot to paint mine.

Nursing home staff painted Mom’s nails for the wedding.

I am thankful to the staff of Parkview Home in Belview for encouraging and working with my mom and even painting her nails for the wedding.

I am grateful, too, for a family that has been there for her every step of the way, encouraging, supporting, loving.

And for prayers. Yes, prayers.

Mom faces a long road toward full recovery. I understand that. But she has already come so far.

Yet, it is not easy to see the fading purple bruises, the oversized bump that still mars her forehead, the neck collar that locks her broken neck in place, her frailness…

There are times when sadness overwhelms me. But then I remind myself to be grateful. For every single day I have my mother.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Appreciating the architecture of historic downtown Winona September 5, 2014

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IT’S BAD ENOUGH when a community experiences a devastating fire in its historic downtown. But then again, less than a year later.

Those were my thoughts, as I’m sure that of many others, upon learning the Mississippi River town of Winona lost a 1912 former YMCA building, now housing KidSport Gymnastics, to a Thursday morning fire.

I believe I'm correct in stating the site of last year's fire was in the building to the right of Blooming Grounds Coffee House on the corner.

Last September’s fire occurred to the right of the corner building housing Blooming Grounds Coffee House. The coffee house reopened this summer.

A year ago, on September 13, fire destroyed the downtown Islamic Center and another building and damaged several other historic buildings.

A portion of downtown Winona with the General Store anchoring a corner.

A portion of downtown Winona with the General Store anchoring a corner.

Just last week my husband I were in Winona, staying there upon our return home from a brief vacation to Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. We parked our van downtown Wednesday evening and started walking, pausing often to study the beautiful, historic architecture which graces this community. As you would expect, I snapped photos, but, unfortunately, not one of KidSport.

Heart's Desire Gift Shop is housed in this mammoth building.

Heart’s Desire Gift Shop is housed in this mammoth building. Take note of the fabulous fourth floor balconies.

Eleven entire downtown blocks are on the National Register of Historic Districts. According to visitwinona.com:

The Winona Downtown Commercial Historic District contains over one hundred sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This area represents Minnesota’s largest collection of Victorian commercial architecture on the Mississippi. Most of the buildings are Italianate or Queen Anne in style and date from between the years 1857 and 1916.

Crank your head up and notice the architectural details.

Crank your head up and notice the architectural details.

If you appreciate architecture and the history of a river town, I’d highly recommend a visit to Winona. Late autumn with tree-covered bluffs, and not buildings, ablaze would be the perfect time to tour.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Everywhere you look, over-sized building and interesting architecture.

Everywhere you look, over-sized buildings and interesting architecture.

We're talking old and historic in Winona.

We’re talking old and historic in Winona.

The Garden Chinese Restaurant occupies an historic downtown space.

The Garden Chinese Restaurant occupies an historic downtown space. It would be great to see the store fronts returned to the original architecture.

The impressive Merchants National Bank.

The impressive Merchants National Bank designed in the Prairie School architectural style by architects George Grant Elmslie and William Gray Purcell and built in 1912. It looks similar in style to National Farmers’ Bank in Owatonna.

More downtown buildings.

More downtown buildings.

The Legendary Tavern fills a space in this stunning corner building.

The Legendary Tavern fills a space in this stunning corner building.

This building seems out of place among all of the historic structures.

This storefront appears out of place among all of the historic structures. Is a gem hidden behind this updated front?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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