Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reunion stories: A rabbit tale and a tale of murder August 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:23 AM
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THIS WEEKEND my husband, Randy, and I attended mini high school class reunions, albeit impromptu ones.

On Saturday afternoon I met a Wabasso High School graduate while touring Betsy’s house in Mankato. That would be Betsy Ray, as in Maud Hart Lovelace’s main character in her Betsy-Tacy books. Betsy is Maud, who really did live in the restored Center Street house now owned by the Betsy-Tacy Society.

But back to that reunion. Penny, our tour guide, asked where I grew up and I responded, “between Redwood Falls and Marshall” since few people have ever heard of my hometown, Vesta.

Imagine my surprise when Penny says she graduated from Wabasso High School, about 20 miles from my hometown.

“I graduated from Wabasso High School too.”

That led to a bit of reminiscing between me, a 1974 grad, and Penny, a 1964 WHS graduate. Because of our 10-year age span, we didn’t know each other during our school days. Yet, we share that common bond of attending the small-town high school with the white rabbit mascot.

“Another white rabbit,” Penny says several times. Just as an explanation, the town’s name originated in an Indian legend about the creation of the earth. Wabasso, a son of the mighty creator of nations, fled north and was changed into a white rabbit. He was considered a great spirit. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow even writes about Wabasso in his The Song of Hiawatha poem.

A white rabbit statue sits along Minnesota Highway 68 in Wabasso.

But I digress. Penny and I enjoyed our new-found white rabbit connection and our shared love for the Betsy-Tacy books. And then we discovered one more link. Penny taught German at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. I attended the college and, at one time, intended to major in German.

Now, flash forward to Sunday afternoon, when Randy and I are at a reunion of The Trinity King’s softball team. It’s been a day of remembering root beer barrels (the team drink), belly bumps (exactly what you think) and an injured leg splinted with softball bats.

Then Jane and Larry show up. Larry subbed a few times with the team, so we never really knew him. But as the conversation ebbs and flows, we learn that Jane graduated in 1969 from Pierz Healy High School, Randy’s alma mater. Randy graduated in 1974 with Jane’s sister, Nancy.

Soon the two are tossing out family names and memories with the ease of those who grew up in the same geographical area.

Then I mention the murder. One day after classes, a school librarian used his necktie to strangle a student in the audio-visual room. Jane tells us her brother was working in the adjoining room at the time of the late 1960s murder, but heard nothing.

Revelation of this horrendous crime to outsiders always draws the same reaction—stunned disbelief. How could this happen in a school? But it did.

As the Pierz Healy High School graduates continue to discuss other common topics, I wonder: What happened to the murderer/librarian? Is he out of prison? Is he still alive?

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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2 Responses to “Reunion stories: A rabbit tale and a tale of murder”

  1. denise Says:

    found you via google as i was looking on info for the betsy tacy society. i hear there is a reunion next year in mankato, and would love to take my daughters to it!

    you are full of minnesotan news! i have been there 2x (i’m from cali), and one of my good blog friends turned real life friend is a native minnesotan.
    she speaks minnesotan (though she argues she “doesn’t have an accent”) and eats hotdish! native minnesotan for sure!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Denise, thanks for stopping by from warm and sunny California. Can I assume it’s warm and sunny while I’m sitting here in my office cozied under a fleece blanket and looking at a foot of snow outside. I won’t even mention the near-zero temp.

      Do we Minnesotan’s really have an accent? I think it’s something about our drawing out the “o” sound.

      Yes, we do eat hotdish and bars (not sure what the rest of the world call these).

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my Minnesota stories. I love sharing my discoveries.

      As for coming to Minnesota to visit the Betsy-Tacy houses, do. Your girls, if they are B-T fans, would love it. Tour the houses, hit the Maud Hart Lovelace wing at the public library, sit on the bench overlooking the big hill… I have not attended the convention, but I’ve heard it’s great. I live 40 miles from Mankato and visited the B-T houses for the first time this fall. Sad that I waited that long.

      Be sure to stop by Minnesota Prairie Roots again. I promise more interesting stories from Minnesoooooota. Ya, sure, ya betcha.


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