Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A ginormous Frosty at an historic home February 21, 2014

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Snowman, really up close

FORGET CREATING a mini-sized version of Frosty the Snowman.

Snowman, looking up at

This oversized snowman stands in the Hoisington family’s yard at 18 Third Avenue Northwest in Faribault. My friend John directed me to the snow art last Sunday.

Snowman, from front of house

As impressed as I was by the snowman, I was even more impressed with the house. I love everything about this historic home’s exterior from the front brick pillars topped by lion statues to the sturdy entry columns to the graceful curves to the signature windows. I can only imagine the beautiful interior.

This reminds me of the stately home along Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis.

John, when trying to direct me to the location, referenced the house as Dr. Mc I-can’t-recall-his-name’s home, which meant nothing to me, not being a native of Faribault. I find that historical reference typical of my community. My husband and I, after all, live in “the Swanson house,” even though we’ve owned our home for 30 years.

FYI: This was photographed prior to our two-day thaw of 40 degrees and prior to our Thursday/Friday blizzard.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: Latest snowstorm, soon-to-be-blizzard, begins February 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:50 PM
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THE WEATHER FORECASTERS were right.

As I snapped this photo from my living room window, this pick-up truck slid on the snowy street.

As I snapped this photo from my living room window awhile ago, this pick-up truck slid on the snowy street.

Heavy, wet snow began falling in Faribault about 90 minutes ago, shortly after lunch.

Mega flakes fell initially, but have now decreased in size.

Mega flakes fell initially, but have now decreased in size. This is another shot taken through a front window of my Faribault home.

It began as a beautiful snow globe snow.

Neither rain nor snow...later than usual mail delivery in my neighborhood.

Neither rain nor snow…later than usual mail delivery in my neighborhood.

But as we Minnesotans know, this is the heaviest to shovel, the most challenging to remove without plugging the snowblower, the type of snow that really slicks the roads. (Be careful out there.)

A blizzard warning remains in effect for my area and most of southeastern Minnesota until noon Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

As soon as the snow began, my neighbor girl was outside building a snowman and a snow fort.

As soon as the snow began, my neighbor girl slipped outside to build a snowman and a snow fort. Faribault schools were closed today because of the impending blizzard. Photo shot through a second story window in my home.

Fun times…

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Mighty Duck II

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I am not good at judging size. But this is one big duck.

The sculpture as photographed last week. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

REMEMBER THAT DUCK snow sculpture I showed you last week?

Well, it wasn’t finished.

Look how sculpting and color transformed this duck.

Multiple rubber duckies not sit atop the giant duck graced with a heart and a colored bill.

Multiple rubber duckies now sit atop the giant duck with a heart on its breast.

Stepping back, a view from the street.

Stepping back, a view from the street.

Fabulous, isn’t it?

What's next?

What’s next?

I don’t think the project is finished yet, based on the pile of blocked snow next to the mighty duck at the Kurt Kletter home, 417 Second Street Northwest, Faribault. I’ll keep my eyes on that duck and any new developments.

FYI: Since photographing this duck on Sunday afternoon, we’ve experienced two days of 40-degree temps. I have not checked to see how this heat wave may have impacted the snow sculpture.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Goin’ quackers during a Minnesota winter February 12, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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THIS COLD AND SNOWY Minnesota winter has many of us natives going a little bonkers.

I am not good at judging size. But this is one big duck.

I am not good at judging size. But this is one big duck.

But at least one Faribault resident is goin’ quackers instead, sculpting a mighty snow duck in the front yard at 417 Second Street Northwest.

Another angle, looking toward Second Street Northwest.

Another angle, looking toward the street.

I spotted the waterfowl a few days ago, when temps reached a high of around zero and the wind was whipping something fierce.

Big duck. Little duck (decoy).

Little duck (decoy). Mighty duck.

Not a great day to pull out the camera. In less than five minutes of shooting, my gloveless fingers were chilled to the bone. Back inside the car, I positioned my hands within a wisp of a heat vent.

Gazing up at one mighty duck.

Gazing up at the mighty duck.

Now you’re going to ask, “Why a duck? And why would anyone do this?”

I nearly missed the rubber ducky atop the snow at the end of the driveway as I hurried toward the car.

I nearly missed the rubber ducky atop the snow at the end of the driveway as I hurried toward the car.

I didn’t knock on the door and inquire. My only thought after shooting about a dozen frames shortly before sunset was to get inside the Chrysler and warm up.

Therefore you get to offer your theories. Go.

FYI: Not that this has anything to do with the duck sculpture. But D3: The Mighty Ducks, a 1996 sports comedy movie, was filmed at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault and at Carleton College in nearby Northfield. NHL player Emerson Eten, who played prep hockey at Shattuck, now skates for the Anaheim Ducks.

UPDATE: After pulling today’s issue of my local newspaper, The Faribault Daily News, from the fresh snow atop my front steps, I settled in with the paper at lunch. There, on page two, were a story and photo about the mighty duck. Kurt Kletter is the artist behind the sculpture, having crafted snow sculptures during the past four winters. Why have I not noticed his leprechaun, dragons and giant stop sign in past years?

Click here to read the story. Mystery solved.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The legend of the Edmund Fitzgerald lives on February 11, 2014

DECADES AGO WHILE TOURING an open iron ore pit on Minnesota’s Iron Range with my parents and perhaps a sibling or two, I met a sailor. Red. His nickname was attributed to his rust-hued hair and beard.

He was a hulk of a young man, crammed into a seat with me on a school bus that bumped down a rugged road into the bowels of the earth.

I honestly do not remember much about Red except that hair and his job laboring on a ship that sailed Lake Superior. We likely talked about the mammoth trucks in the pit. I told him I would be starting college soon and we exchanged addresses.

That fall of 1974, Red sent a few letters, tucked inside official Great Lakes Carriers’ Association envelopes. I can’t recall the content of that correspondence and I soon forgot about Red as I immersed myself in college life.

The Edmund Fitzgerald stretched more than two football fields long. This photo is among many shown in a presentation by diver Jim Christian.

The Edmund Fitzgerald stretched two football fields long. This photo is among many shown in a presentation by diver Jim Christian at the Rice County Historical Society.

Yet, I never really have forgotten him, because of The Edmund Fitzgerald, the iron ore carrier which sank in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975, during a fierce storm. I’ve often wondered whether Red may have been on board that ship. Not likely. But the slight possibility exists.

This past Sunday, I thought about Red for the first time in decades when I attended a presentation on The Edmund Fitzgerald at the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault. The event coincides with The Merlin Players’ Valentine’s Day opening of the play, Ten November, at the Paradise Center for the Arts.

Christina Schweitz, second from left, says is is "an honor" to perform as one of The Three Sisters in The Merlin Players' play, Ten November.

Christina Schweitz, second from left, says it is “an honor” to perform as one of The Three Sisters in The Merlin Players’ play, Ten November. She is flanked by the other “sisters,” Lisa Quimby, left, and Gail Kaderlik.

Inspired by folk singer Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” the theatrical production is filled with humor and compassion and heartwarming tales, according to performer Lisa Quimby. She was among five musicians—three of them female singers—presenting several songs at Sunday’s museum event. The women represent “The Three Sisters,” a trio of waves, each wave larger than the previous and sometimes cited as a contributing factor to the ship’s sinking.

We were shown a half-hour version of this one-hour documentary for sale at the historical society.

We were shown a shortened version of this PBS documentary available for purchase at the historical society.

Diver Jim Christian gestures as he provides information on the iron ore carrier and theories on why it sank.

Diver Jim Christian gestures as he provides information on the iron ore carrier and theories on what caused The Fitz to sink.

Based on information I gleaned Sunday after watching The Edmund Fitzgerald Investigations—a half-hour PBS documentary by Ric Mixter—and a presentation by Minnesotan Jim Christian, who has been diving for 28 years and has explored The Fitz wreckage, I wonder if anyone will ever truly know the precise cause of this tragedy.

Newspaper clippings about The Fitz were passed among audience members while Jim Christian spoke.

Newspaper clippings about The Fitz were passed among audience members while Jim Christian spoke. The ship was built in 1958.

Twenty-nine men aboard The Edmund Fitzgerald lost their lives in the stormy waters of Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. That is a fact.

Some 26,000 tons of taconite pellets, like these, filled the cargo holds of The Edmund Fitzgerald as it journeyed across Lake Superior on November 9 and 10, 1975.

Some 26,000 tons of taconite pellets, like these, filled the cargo holds of The Edmund Fitzgerald as it journeyed across Lake Superior on November 9 and 10, 1975.

Winds on that fateful day were described as “hurricane” force with a gale warning issued during the time the 729-foot long by 75-foot wide carrier was en route from Superior, Wisconsin, to Detroit, Michigan, with 26,000 tons of taconite pellets. The ship, loaded with 15 percent more than its originally designed maximum carrying capacity, according to Christian, rode low in the water while storm waves rose to 70 feet. Can you imagine?

Around 7:15 p.m. on November 10, The Edmund Fitzgerald disappeared. The wreckage was later discovered 17 miles northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan, and has been the focus of many dives and investigations since.

The legend lives on, as does that connection many of us have to The Edmund Fitzgerald, whether through song or theatre or diving or letters written decades ago by a sailor named Red.

Another photo from Jim Christian's presentation shows the 729-foot long Edmund Fitzgerald.

Another photo from Jim Christian’s presentation shows the 729-foot long Edmund Fitzgerald.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE THEORIES offered during Sunday’s presentation as contributing to/cause of The Fitz sinking in Lake Superior in the gales of November 1975. Seas then were termed by a skipper as “the worst (he’d experienced) in 44 years on the lake.”

  • Leaking hatch covers caused by failure to tighten each of the 68 clasps on each of the 21 hatch covers.
  • Mesh screens, rather than watertight walls, separated the three cargo holds.
  • An inability to turn the carrier with three “seas” coming at the ship from three directions.
  • “Beat by the lake” during the fierce storm.
  • The Three Sisters theory of wave building upon wave, overtaking the carrier and causing the cargo to shift forward.
  • Flaws in structural design with weakness in the cargo capacity and too much flex in a ship that was ridden “too hard.”
  • Structural failure of the ship, built in 1958 and the largest carrier on Lake Superior for nearly two decades.
  • Pushing the ship too fast, causing The Fitz and its companion traveler, The Arthur M. Anderson (which made it through the storm), to feel the full fury of the storm.
  • Previous damage to the carrier during grounding and collisions with another ship and with lock walls. The keel had been repaired twice and was termed as “loose again” when The Fitz set sail on November 9.
  • Loaded with too much taconite, causing the ship to ride low in Lake Superior.
  • Negligence.

You can choose to believe what you wish. I’d suggest you do your own research.

This fact I know, though: The legend lives on…

The Paradise Center for the Arts marquee advertises the opening of Ten November.

The Paradise Center for the Arts marquee advertises the opening of Ten November.

FYI: To learn more about The Edmund Fitzgerald, click here to read information on the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website.

Performances of Ten November by The Merlin Players are set for 7:30 p.m. February 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 and for 2 p.m. February 16 at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue, Faribault. Click here for more information about this play directed by Eric Parrish, a seasoned director and a professor at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Formerly “the junkyard” January 28, 2014

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FENCES HEIGHTEN my curiosity. It is the unknown, the wondering what lies behind the barrier, the sense of mystery that intrigues me.

Yes, I read Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys growing up with mysteries still my preferred genre.

Hubers Auto Parts

In the above image, solid panels block the view of junked vehicles at Hubers Auto Parts west of Faribault.

Junkyards, as they were once commonly called, aren’t particularly pretty places. Heck, they aren’t really pretty at all unless you view the contents therein as art or in the context of recycling.

Through the years, these places have attempted to change their bad boy image. Auto parts sounds so much nicer than junkyard, although junkyard possesses a certain romantic ring.

A scene from another Faribault area "junkyard." Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A scene from another Faribault area “junkyard.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

Still, even words cannot diminish the visuals of crushed cars, cracked windshields, smashed doors and the reality that many of these vehicles arrived here with some tragic story.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Brrrutally cold in Minnesota January 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:28 AM
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The temperature monitor in my home registered the outdoor air temp at minus 14.8 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:45 a.m. Yes, I know the time is wrong.

The temperature monitor in my Faribault, Minnesota, home registered the outdoor air temp at minus 14.8 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:45 a.m. today. (Yes, I know the time is wrong.) Temps, unfortunately, are correct.

MINNESOTANS AWAKENED to another brutally cold morning with windchills plunging more than 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Monday.

A screen shot of MarshallRadio.net's weather-related closings list this morning. This shows only a portion of the closings listed for that area of southwestern Minnesota.

A screen shot of MarshallRadio.net’s weather-related closings list this morning. This shows only a portion of the closings listed for that area of southwestern Minnesota.

Across the state, hundreds of schools are closed and activities canceled.

KLGR radio in Redwood Falls listed these area roads as still closed this morning. Minnesota State Highway 19 in both directions between Marshall and my hometown of Vesta is closed due to white out conditions.

KLGR radio in Redwood Falls listed these area roads as still closed this morning. Minnesota State Highway 19 in both directions between Marshall and Redwood Falls is closed due to white out conditions. My hometown of Vesta lies half-way between Marshall and Redwood Falls.

Some roadways, especially in the southwestern region of Minnsota, remain closed due to white conditions and snow drifts blocking traffic lanes.

A screen shot of the Minnesota Department of Transportation 511 website shows road closures and conditions in Minnesota at 8:45 a.m. today.

A screen shot of the Minnesota Department of Transportation 511 website shows road closures and conditions in Minnesota at 8:45 a.m. today.

We’ve been advised to carry winter survival kits if we must travel, to watch for black ice and that exposed skin can freeze in five minutes.

Students in my community, like many through-out Minnesota, have another day off from classes due to the brutal weather conditions.

Students in my community, like many through-out Minnesota, have another day off from classes due to the brutal weather conditions.

Stay home if you can. That’s my best advice.

 

 
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