Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Approaching snowstorm changes Christmas plans in Minnesota December 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:19 AM

ALREADY, SOUTH DAKOTA Governor Mike Rounds has declared a state of emergency as the Midwest prepares for a major winter snowstorm.

This predicted storm is impacting all of us. Earlier this week I e-mailed my daughter who lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and advised her to travel home to Faribault on Tuesday rather than Wednesday. She listened.

I also e-mailed my daughter who lives in south Minneapolis and suggested she drive home after work Wednesday rather than waiting until Thursday. She’s listening too.

We’re all preparing for a storm that is expected to dump up to a foot or more of heavy, wet snow on Minnesota. That, combined with strong winds, will make travel treacherous, if not impossible.

In southwestern Minnesota, where my family was slated to journey on Christmas Day for the Kletscher holiday gathering, I bet authorities will swing snow gates across highways. In that part of the state, winds can whip even an inch of snow into a blizzard or white-out conditions. I grew up there, on the wide open prairie, and I understand the dangers.

As anticipated, I received an e-mail this morning from my oldest brother and his wife, who live in Westbrook and are hosting this year’s gathering: “Just wanted to connect with everyone to see what your thoughts are about rescheduling Kletscher Christmas. The way the weather sounds it doesn’t sound like anyone will be going anyplace…”

Probably not.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had to reschedule the Kletscher Christmas due to snowy weather. And two years ago, we drove 40 mph all the way from Vesta to Mankato on slippery, snow-covered roads during a Christmas Day snowfall. Thankfully the final 40-mile stretch to Faribault was better.

As much as I would like to spend Christmas with my extended family, I value more the safety of those I love. Besides I will be with my family—my husband and our three children. That is truly a gift in itself, especially since last year, my daughter, Miranda, was in Argentina for Christmas.

Wherever you are this holiday season, be safe and cherish the time spent with loved ones.


ORGANIZERS OF THE CHRISTMAS EVE service at historic Valley Grove Church near Nerstrand have wisely canceled that event. In an e-mail I just received, Gary Wagenbach of the Valley Grove Preservation Society writes: “Ken Sahlin and I have reviewed weather and other relevant details and decided on cancellation of our planned, and nicely prepared, Christmas Eve service. Forecasts call for sleet, snow (lots), and the person who plows the church drive doesn’t want the responsibility under the expected conditions.”

I anticipate many more churches will cancel Christmas Eve and/or Day services. So keep your radio tuned for the latest in cancellations and postponements.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The ghostly Annie Mary Twente wishes me a “Mousy Christmas!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:40 AM

WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you received a priority mail package from the ghost of a girl buried alive in 1886? Would you open the box? Or would you toss it in the garbage?

I faced that dilemma on Tuesday when an unexpected package arrived with a return address of “A. Mary from Hanska.”

Instantly, I felt the hairs on my arm rise and not just because of the cold. You see, ever since I heard the true story of 6-year-old Annie Mary Twente, who fell into a coma and was buried alive near Hanska, I’ve been, might I say, taunted by A. M.

Usually, Annie sends only Halloween greetings. But this year she apparently felt I also needed a Christmas gift. Now typically, I like getting packages in the mail because, well, I seldom get them. But this was a bit different, coming from A. Mary.

So I turned to my cousin Dawn for advice. I explained my situation in an e-mail and she advised me to open the package, assuring me that Annie Mary wouldn’t send me anything mean (like the mouse head my husband mailed to his sister nearly 30 years ago. True story, I swear.) But Dawn suggested that the gift could possibly contain Annie’s bones.

Now that was an unsettling thought.

So I proceeded with more than a bit of caution. First, I opened the cardboard box, revealing a wrapped gift and a homemade card wishing me a “Mousy Christmas!” Annie had apparently learned how much I dislike, OK hate, mice.

Then inside, in her childish handwriting, she printed:

Now I was really nervous. I didn’t want to open a box that rattled and that even remotely suggested a mouse-related gift.

With horrible possibilities looming at the forefront of my brain, I tentatively unwrapped the present to discover chocolate candy kisses (at least one thing I like), a Christmas book about mice, a bat and a plastic mouse that poops red and green candies and quite tauntingly wishes me a “Merry Christmas! Guess who?”

Yeah, guess who. I’m guessing my not-so-innocent cousin Dawn and her mom, my Aunt Marilyn (AKA “A.M.”), are behind this whole Annie Mary charade. Upon closer inspection, I discovered a Morgan, Minnesota, postmark on the box. Surprise. Dawn and her family live in Morgan.

So, I decided to accuse my cousin and elicit a confession.

She responded: “Sure, I can confess if that is what you want, but then would you know for sure that I am telling the truth and not just confessing just to confess?!?  A Morgan postmark?  Well, I guess if Norman Bates was in Minnesota, then maybe Annie Mary was in Morgan?  Ever think of that?”

She was referring to Norman Bates of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Bates recently sent Dawn a letter, to which I later confessed authorship. (See my December 15 post, “My cousin receives a chilling letter from Norman Bates.”)

Then Dawn added this warning: “I would continue to watch your mailbox, A.M. may continue to keep in contact with you now.”

Uh, huh. And Norman Bates knows your address too, Dawn.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling