Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Remembering Pearl Harbor from Minnesota December 7, 2010

MY MOM WAS ONLY nine years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 69 years ago today.

I asked her about this shortly after 9/11.

She shared how frightened she was because, in her small world and for all she knew, Hawaii was as close as a few towns away from her Minnesota home.

Imagine how terrifying the attack must have been for children, and adults, in a world where communication was not instantaneous.

Rhody Yule wearing his USS Arizona cap.

EVERY DAY THE NUMBER of WW II veterans dwindles. And with the deaths of these former soldiers, a bit of our living history dies too. Some of their stories will never be told for many cannot speak of the horrors of war. Others share their stories only with family members and/or their brothers in arms.

I am fortunate to have met one particular WW II veteran about a year ago. He is 92-year-old Rhody Yule, a truly remarkable man. Rhody, while small in stature, is big in heart. He possesses humbleness, strength of spirit, a sharp mind and gentleness of character that we should all emulate. I cannot say enough good things about my friend.

 

Rhody’s military experience included serving in Nagasaki, Japan, cleaning up after the atomic bomb. He won’t say much about his time there, calling the situation “a mess.” Clearly, he saw more than anyone should ever witness.

I asked Rhody once about the possibility of radiation exposure. He had to do what he had to do, he told me.

I’ve seen photos my soldier-friend brought home from Japan. The utter obliteration of the landscape can only be compared to the most powerful and devastating storm times 100 or maybe 1,000.

Rhody, who is a former sign painter and an artist, created a trio of sketches from his time in Japan. The public will have an opportunity to see those during an upcoming exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.

One of Rhody's sketches from Japan during WW II. In the bottom right, you will see an opening into a cave, where Rhody said the Japanese worked on military machining projects.

Another one of the three sketches Rhody did while stationed in Japan during WW II.

I, along with many others, have been working for the past several months to make this show, “A Lifetime of Art, The Rhody Yule Collection,” a reality. The exhibit opens with a reception from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Friday, January 14, and closes on February 26.

In addition to the Nagasaki sketches and many other pieces of art, Rhody is showing a painting he did on a piece of old tent canvas while stationed in Nome, Alaska. He had no other material on which to paint the 1944 circa image of snowplows clearing snow from the military runway. Imagine the history on that piece of canvas, the stories held within the threads of that fabric.

WE ALL HAVE STORIES to tell. Today, the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, let us hear the stories of those who remember this day that shall forever live in infamy. And more importantly, let us listen.

Text and photos © Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Artwork © Copyright 2010 Rhody Yule

 

A Minnesota winter day in photos

This refurbished barn overlooks the Minnesota River near Belle Plaine. The owners installed new windows, resided the barn and added a small deck off the hayloft, which has been remodeled into a party room. It was the site of a family member's July wedding.

YOU ARE IN FOR A TREAT today as I’m going to feature some guest photos by Harriet Traxler of Carver. I’ve never met Harriet and only recently began corresponding with her via e-mail.

But she has a wonderful little hobby that is near and dear to my heart. Harriet is a self-taught photographer who enjoys photographing everything from children to nature, animals and barns. Like me, she pretty much “wears” her Nikon D40 camera.

Next to photographing barns, Harriet most enjoys taking pictures of birds. Several years ago she took a photo that included 24 cardinals. Cardinals seem to especially like feeding on black oil sunflower seeds, she says.

It is her barn photos that first caught my attention. She has photographed more than 1,000 barns in Sibley County and compiled those images in 19 books which she prints and binds. If you’ve followed Minnesota Prairie Roots for awhile, you know that I also enjoy photographing old barns. In fact, right now, my camera is filled with barn (and other) images from a weekend trip to eastern Wisconsin.

But back to Harriet, if you’re interested in old barns and/or enjoy the photos posted here, stop by her website at barnsofsibleycounty.com. You may even want to consider purchasing one (or two or more) of Harriet’s barn books as a Christmas gift/gifts.

Even if you’re not from Sibley County where these barns were photographed, I promise you will enjoy these barn and other rural photos. One of my favorite images in Harriet’s books shows a herd of Holsteins gazing at her from behind a barbed wire fence with a farm site, including a red barn, in the background.

I’ll bring you some of Harriet’s stunning barn photos in the future.

But for today, this photographer is graciously allowing me to showcase several images taken on Saturday, after a major winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow on some parts of Minnesota. Harriet truly captures the beauty of this snowfall. And that is what we Minnesotans sometimes need—to see the beauty rather than all the hard work and inconveniences a major snowfall creates in our lives.

Enjoy and thank you, Harriet, for allowing me to share your photos on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

Farm equipment engulfed in snow makes for a scenic image.

St. John's Catholic Church in Faxon Township, Sibley County, dates back to the 1870s. It is often called "St. John's in the cornfield," Harriet says, because cornfields typically surround the church during the growing season.

Harriet didn't tell me where she shot this outdoor Christmas tree. But isn't it beautiful?

Text © Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photos © Copyright 2010 Harriet Traxler