Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

West of New Ulm June 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:12 AM

Traveling along Redwood County Highway 10 between Vesta (my hometown) and Lucan in southwestern Minnesota, a land defined by open spaces, big skies, farm fields and small towns.

DOES SOUTHERN MINNESOTA exist west of New Ulm?

Of course it does, you say. Just look at a map, follow a road west.

Well, folks, I can tell you that for many Minnesotans, southern Minnesota ends at New Ulm, or even Mankato some 25 miles to the east.

I’ve drawn this conclusion after decades of trying to explain where I grew up. Typically, I say that my hometown lies half-way between Redwood Falls and Marshall on State Highway 19.

All too often, I’ll get a blank stare, meaning I must resort to a more detailed explanation that Vesta is west of Redwood Falls, which is west of New Ulm, which is west of Mankato.

Then maybe, just maybe, they’ll understand.

Minnesotans unfamiliar with the southwestern part of our state really ought to spend some time there, in this land of wide open spaces and endless skies, of farm fields and small towns, of grain elevators and water towers that can be seen from miles away.

I’m proud to claim roots in the southwestern Minnesota prairie. My blog name, Minnesota Prairie Roots, honors the land that shaped who I became as a person and a writer.

Although I don’t get back to the prairie as often as I’d like, I’ve never lost my connection to this place. I appreciate the solitude, the wind, the sky—especially the skies—the rich black soil, the weathering red barns, even the cemetery where my father and other family members lie buried on a rare prairie hilltop that overlooks the countryside.

I have not lived in southwestern Minnesota for nearly three decades. But I’ll always consider this land, this place my kids call “the middle of nowhere,” my home.

Well, I rather like “the middle of nowhere,” this Minnesota that lies west of New Ulm, which lies west of Mankato.

One of many red barns along Cottonwood County Road 7 near Westbrook.

A farm site just outside of Westbrook along Cottonwood County Road 7.

Windmills dominate the landscape along Minnesota Highway 30 in the Jeffers area.

A lone farm building along State Highway 30 in southwestern Minnesota.

Horses graze under the spacious skies upon the southwestern Minnesota prairie along State Highway 30.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling