Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The mysterious message at the ANTIQUE MAUL in Sleepy Eye March 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:00 AM
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BECAUSE I’M A WRITER, I notice misspelled words. When I traveled through Sleepy Eye a few months ago, I spotted the improper spelling of “mall” on a building along U.S. Highway 14, the main route through this southwestern Minnesota town. Instead of “mall,” the building was tagged ANTIQUE MAUL.

At first glimpse, I noticed only the misspelled "ANTIQUE MAUL."

So Saturday, when my family passed through this community of 3,644, I had my camera ready to snap a few images of the spelling error out the front passenger side window as we drove by.

Not until later, when I was back home viewing the uploaded photos on my computer, did I realize I had captured more than a misspelling. I’m not certain exactly what I photographed.

My attention was quickly diverted from “MAUL” to the block letter message splayed across the front windows of the padlocked store: “Y WOOD THE LORD TRUST ANY ONE IN SLEEPY EYE? AS U DID TO BABY FAITH: YOU DID TO BABY JESUS!”

What is the meaning behind the strange messages on the windows?

I was stunned. Who placed this message on these windows for all to see? Who is baby Faith and what happened to her? What does this bold, apparently angry, statement mean?

I have no clue.

I called my husband to the computer to study the photo. He noticed more, graffiti scrawled on the windows: “R U A SPOOK…R U A SPY”

We are baffled. What is going on here at the ANTIQUE MAUL in Sleepy Eye?

Further study of the photo reveals bumper stickers plastered onto the padlocked door. They read:

“fight Air Pollution!…Gag a politician!…”

“No Nuclear Dump…”

“MN FAIR SAYS STOP Radioactive Waste…It glows on & on”

The bumper stickers point to an opinionated person with viewpoints that may not exactly fit into this conservative, close-knit, mostly- Catholic, Minnesota farming community.

I lived in Sleepy Eye in the early 1980s when I worked as a local newspaper reporter. I got a good feel for the community then. Maybe it’s changed. But, I’ll be honest here and tell you that, as an outsider and a Protestant, I never felt at home in Sleepy Eye. That feeling of exclusion, but mostly a less-than-ideal work environment and a better job offer at a nearby daily prompted me to leave after only six months.

I don’t know the exact pulse of Sleepy Eye today. But you’ll still find a solid Catholic foundation here which includes a parochial school, a retreat center and a church. I expect the beliefs of that population base are reflected in the pro-life signs edging this town. I appreciate and admire the public stand residents in this area make for unborn babies and their right to life. I support them.

That focus on babies takes me back to that strange, strange message at the ANTIQUE MAUL: “Y WOOD THE LORD TRUST ANY ONE IN SLEEPY EYE? AS U DID TO BABY FAITH: YOU DID TO BABY JESUS!”

I can’t imagine anyone feeling such animosity toward the people of Sleepy Eye. These are, from what I remember, good, honest, hardworking folks. The statement is so condemning.

(Just as a side note, if you recall, Sleepy Eye was the focus of world-wide attention in 2009 when then 13-year-old Daniel Hauser fled Minnesota for California with his mother to avoid court-ordered chemotherapy treatments for his cancer. The family, members of a spiritual organization that promotes natural healing methods, later changed their minds and Daniel underwent chemotherapy.)

The Hauser story has nothing to do with the topic of this post. I mention it simply to point out that even in rural areas (and maybe more so there), individuals have strong opinions and they’re not afraid to voice them.

Does anyone out there know who’s voicing an opinion on the storefront windows of the ANTIQUE MAUL and what, exactly, those words mean?

I would really like this mystery solved and an explanation for the messages I find all too unsettling for a small town in southwestern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling