Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A moose in southwestern Minnesota November 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:09 PM
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I SPOKE ON THE PHONE with my mom a few hours ago. As always, I ask her what’s new in Vesta, a community of some 330 in rural southwestern Minnesota.

It’s kind of an inside family joke to ask her this because she once replied to the “What’s new?” question with this answer: “Well, there’s a cardboard box blowing down the street.”

More recently, she’s told me about the corn husks blowing across the prairie from farm fields and onto her yard. Her yard has been raked twice and now it’s littered with corn debris again. She’s going to leave the mess until spring, she updated me today.

I have actually seen corn husks piled in drifts against a chain link fence right across the street from Mom’s house.

But back to that “What’s new?” question.

Today she was prepared with the most unusual of answers. “There’s a moose over by Seaforth,” she informed me. Seaforth is an even smaller town about five miles to the southeast of Vesta in Redwood County.

I was stunned. A moose?

According to information published in The Redwood Gazette, the area’s newspaper, a couple spotted and photographed the bull moose at the end of their driveway in rural Seaforth. The same moose was apparently seen several days earlier near the river by Springfield, which is even further south and east.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources figures the moose is seeking a mate or is suffering from a parasite in the brain, either of which could have caused it to wander so far south.

In any case, southwestern Minnesota deer hunters have been warned to look before they shoot.





An update on whooping cough in Minnesota

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:29 AM
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WHENEVER I HEAR the words “whooping cough,” I listen. Last night a Twin Cities television station reported on the increased number of pertussis cases in Minnesota. Most recent statistics on the Minnesota Department of Health website show 1,000 reported cases as of October 21.

When I last checked those state stats in mid-August, and wrote about whooping cough on this blog, that number stood at 395, as of July 16.

The surge in this highly-contagious disease during the past several months is likely related to the start of school. A statement by the MDH seems to support that: “Minnesota is experiencing a peak period of pertussis that started back in the fall of 2008. Pertussis disease normally peaks every three to five years. Clusters continue to occur in the elementary school setting.”

I take a personal interest in whooping cough because I contracted the disease in the summer of 2005. If you don’t take pertussis seriously, you ought to. It’s called the 100-day cough, and it’s not misnamed, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes, you can die from the disease. Infants and senior citizens are particularly vulnerable.

Yes, vaccines exist to prevent whooping cough. But don’t mistakenly think you are protected because you were vaccinated as a child. Pre-teens need boosters. Adults can get a vaccine targeted especially for them.

If you want to know how many whooping cough cases have been reported to the MDH this year or in previous years in any Minnesota county, click here. As you would expect, the more densely-populated counties have reported more cases.

In Rice County, where I live, nine cases have been reported so far this year, holding steady with the previous two years of seven and nine cases.

But neighboring Steele County has seen a significant increase with cases rising from one and two the past two years to 37 thus far in 2010.

Similarly Mille Lacs County has shown a notable increase in numbers, from none in 2008, to six in 2009 and 29 this year.

I don’t know the reason for the rising numbers in those counties. But I do know that the disease spreads quickly and easily. My husband and one of my daughters caught whooping cough from me although their cases were not nearly as severe. Antibiotics administered in the early stage of the illness can reduce the severity.

I’ll leave you with this final note. When I asked my doctor five years ago where I could possibly have contracted pertussis, he told me, “You could have gotten it standing in the check-out line at the grocery store.”

That, my friends, is food for thought.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling