Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Barns full of memories October 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:39 AM
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I photographed this barn along Le Sueur County Road 21 while on a recent drive to see the fall colors.

LIKE COUNTRY CHURCHES and abandoned farmhouses, old barns draw me close, calling me to not only look, but to truly see.

All too often these days, though, my view is periphery, a quick glimpse from a car window of a barn that stands straight and strong or crooked and decaying.

Because these are not my barns on my property, I typically settle for photographing them from the roadway, although I would like nothing more than to meander my way around the farmyard.

Barns evoke memories—of sliding shovels full of cow manure into gutters, of dumping heaps of pungent silage before stanchions, of pushing wheelbarrows overflowing with dusty ground feed down the narrow barn aisle, of dodging streams of cow pee, of frothy milk splashing into tall metal pails, of Holsteins slopping my skin with sandpaper tongues.

Such memories come from years of hard work on my childhood dairy farm in southwestern Minnesota. That barn stands empty now, has for longer than I care to remember. No cows. No kids. No farmer. No nothing.

I have only my memories now and those barns, those roadside barns, which symbolize the hope, the fortitude and the dreams of generations of Minnesotans.

The early 1950s barn on the Redwood County dairy farm where I grew up is no longer used and has fallen into disrepair.

A close-up image of the red barn (above), snapped while driving past the farm.

Another barn in Le Sueur County.

Old silos, like this one along Rice County Road 10, also intrigue me. Growing up on a farm, I climbed into the silo to throw down silage for the cows. Below my brother scooped up the silage to feed cows on his side of the barn. It took me awhile to figure out what he was doing, and that was making me do half his work.

If ever a barn could impress, it would be this one I spotted on the Le Sueur/Blue Earth County line, I believe along Le Sueur County Road 16. I doubt I've ever seen such a stately barn.

Here's another angle of the sprawling old barn. Yes, I trespassed and tromped across the lawn to capture this photo. Imagine the dances you could host in this haymow. What a fine, fine barn.

I zoomed in even closer to capture the barn roof and a portion of the silo.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling