Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The winters of my childhood January 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:56 AM
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You could hardly wait to rush out the door and slog through freshly-fallen snow, plowing furrows for a game of fox-and-goose.

You could barely wait for Dad to push bucketsful of snow from the farmyard with his tractor and loader into mountains suitable for scaling.


Three of my younger siblings and I pose atop a snow mountain our dad created in our southwestern Minnesota farmyard in this photo dated February 1967.

You excitedly dug into the sides of snowdrifts, hard as bedrock, to carve out snow caves.

You raced across the tops of those snowdrifts, up and down and all around the world of white.


Our southwestern Minnesota farmyard is buried in snowdrifts in this March 1965 image. My mom is holding my youngest sister as she stands by the car parked next to the house. My other sister and two brothers and I race down the snowdrifts.

You packed snow into hard balls, aiming for siblings, wiggling and screaming at the brother who grabbed your collar and stuffed ice-cold snow down the back of your neck.

And when the snow was the perfect consistency, you rolled and packed it into big balls, shoving and grunting and straining, working together with classmates or siblings to build a snowman or a snow fort.

Such were the winters of my childhood on a southwestern Minnesota farm. Fierce. Brutal. But, mostly, fun.

Today, living through one of our snowiest winters in forever, I am reminded of those childhood winters. I would be wise to remember the fun I once experienced on the cold, snowy, wind-swept Minnesota prairie.


This huge, hard-as-rock snowdrift blocked our farm driveway in this March 1965 photo. My uncle drove over from his nearby farm to help open the drive so the milk truck could reach the milkhouse. That's my mom and five of us kids atop the drift.

WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES of childhood winters?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


15 Responses to “The winters of my childhood”

  1. shellriver Says:

    I wasn’t a child in Minnesota, but I’ve been an adult in Minnesota for 25 years now. I have to say I love a Minnesota winter, from the sun reflecting off the snow to the trees groaning in the cold! Thank you for sharing your photos and memories of your childhood Minnesota winter!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I guess if we’re going to live here, we may as well enjoy winter (although sometimes that’s difficult to do). I checked out your winter photos. Nice. Very nice.

      • shellriver Says:

        Thank you! Getting a camera was probably the best decision I made last year. It really helps me appreciate all the seasons!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        A camera truly helps you notice the details in your surroundings. You view everything with a different eye. You notice colors, light, perspective…I could go on and on. If you’re like me, you carry your camera nearly everywhere. And when you don’t, you wish you had it because you missed a photo op.

        Have fun with your new camera!

  2. shellriver Says:

    You are so right! I take my camera everywhere! I am always trying to figure out how the camera would “see” what I am viewing!

  3. Bernie Says:

    I had one of those red things that allowed you to make an igloo in your back yard. You would pack the snow in them and the snow would come out in a brick. I loved that thing! My cousin, brother and I never finished one, but it was fun to try.

  4. Lanae Says:

    I remember!!! We sure had fun in the good old days. I would like copies of these pictures if you can get some. We really are cute kids.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Check your photo album. You may have copies of these images. If not, I can e-mail them.

      Ah, the good old days…when we actually loved snow.

  5. Milo Larson Says:

    My fondest memories was out in Walnut Grove, I was managing a chicken hatchery and a blizzard came in March of 67′. We had a big hatch that was supposed to go to the farmers and couldn’t get them out. We took thousands of baby chicks out of their cartons and put up hanging warming lights, feed & water all over the hatchery and kept them warm & fed for 2 days staying with them the whole time. I think we lost very few.

    Another time we came back from Christmas from my parents in Ellendale and a blizzard had hit while we were gone for a week. The snow was from the top of our 2 story house that was on the west end of Walnut Grove and ended up a block away east of the house. We had to get a farmer with a snow blower on his tractor to get into the driveway.

    This all happened in 1967, and not to mention a few other snowstorms that year. It was a year to remember. After a winter like that the winters since hasn’t seemed quite so bad. I have found storms quite fun if you dress for them and don’t have to travel. Cleaning up afterwards….. not so much.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Wow, that’s quite a story. Thanks for sharing it.

      My hometown of Vesta, where the photos in my blog post were taken, is only about 20 miles from Walnut Grove. I have no difficulty envisioning the snow drift you describe. Winter on the southwestern Minnesota prairie is so much harsher than here in southeastern Minnesota.

  6. Donna Lyon Says:

    Great pictures! We used to sled at my grandparents’ farm in Milton Township, between West Concord and Pine Island. They had a big hill in the pasture, little creek at the bottom. I remember how the snow blows and drifts in Minnesota. Storm fences, we don’t have them in Washington. Our snow is usually so sloppy wet it just plops.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I don’t have very many pictures from my childhood, so I treasure every one. The snow in the farmyard is unbelievable.

  7. Mary Gearen Says:

    Do you have pics of the clothing your mom wore through various seasons while working on the farm and doing everyday work such as milking, gardening, canning, etc? What did she wear on her feet? Did she wear jeans? How did she wear her hair? Was she aware of the fashions of the day? Interested for theater purposes and creating a 60’s 70’s struggling MN farm woman.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Mary, I can check with my mom and see if she has photos of herself in everyday situations. But, given she was the one typically taking the photos and not all that many were taken because of cost, I doubt she would have many.

      I don’t recall her ever wearing jeans. She wore plain cotton blouses in the summer with capri type pants. I can’t recall her winter attire or her shoes. She curled her hair.

      My mom did not help with farm chores. She was plenty busy with raising children, gardening, canning, cleaning, washing clothes, etc.

      Your project certainly interests me. I’d like to hear more about it.

      I will speak to my mom and contact you via e-mail, Mary.

      Readers, any suggestions as to where Mary can find photos of Minnesota farm women from the 60s and 70s?

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