Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

For the love of reading April 20, 2011

I’VE ALWAYS LOVED to read.

And I’ve passed that love of reading on to my three children, two of whom are now adults and one who is 17. They are all readers.

Even before my girls started school, I read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to them.

Every summer, the folks of Walnut Grove, Minnesota, produce an outdoor pageant based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. Many pageant attendees arrive at the show site dressed in period attire and then climb aboard a covered wagon prop there.

Then I read the Betsy-Tacy book series by Maud Hart Lovelace to my girls. I even nicknamed my second daughter Tib, after the curly-haired, fun-loving Tib in Lovelace’s books. To this day, our family occasionally, fondly, calls her Tib.

A snippet of a mural by artist Marian Anderson in the Maud Hart Lovelace Children's Wing at the Blue Earth County Library in Mankato, Minnesota. The painting depicts the main characters in Lovelace's books, from left, friends Tib, Tacy and Betsy.

Now that I think back on those days of snuggling on the couch with my two girls and later with my son, I am impressed that these preschoolers would sit still for long chapter books. But they did. Of course, I also read picture books and easy-reader books to them.

Long after my trio stopped sitting on my lap or leaning into my shoulders, listening to the stories I read, they continued reading.

Even my boy, my teen. This surprises me. At 17, he still pops out the leg rest on the reclining couch, stretches out his lanky body, grabs a book and reads. For hours. He also reads in bed when he should be sleeping.

There was a time, during his elementary and middle school years, when I checked under his bed for a flashlight and books. He got smart to that and simply hid them elsewhere. So I stopped searching, not wanting to squelch his love of reading even if it meant he wasn’t getting enough sleep.

Today he still reads when he should be sleeping. While I encourage him not to read into the wee hours of the morning, I can’t exactly stop him.

Right now he has two dozen science fiction books stacked in the middle of his bedroom floor: I, Robot and Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov, The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Ringworld by Larry Niven, 1984 by George Orwell, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein…

Science fiction books stacked on my teen's bedroom floor.

Some of the books have copyrights nearly as old as me.

My son found these books at a used book sale sponsored by the local branch of the American Association of University Women. The AAUW holds the sale annually to raise funds for local reading projects. It’s a worthy cause.

Well, Saturday, we “donated” $25 to the cause, dropping that amount for a box full of two dozen science fiction books, a Star Wars video, two Bach CDs, a nonfiction book about Iowa and a vintage elementary school textbook. The last two items on that list were my selections. I seldom buy books for myself, preferring to check them out from the library because I’ll read a book only once. My teen will read a volume multiple times.

I picked up a 1951 edition of this children's textbook at the used book sale. One of the women working the sale said she used it in her classroom and really liked the book. So did I. But I purchased it for the beautiful vintage art.

I found this brand new book for my niece, who will graduate from high school in about a month. She will attend an Iowa university. I thought she might enjoy this children's nonfiction book that will introduce her to her new home state. Either that or she'll think her aunt (me) is crazy for giving her such an unusual gift. If anyone else wants an Iowa book, you'll find a box full at the sale.

Typically I would not pay $25 for nearly 30 used books, some of them well-used. But how could I deny these books to my teen, who said he can’t even find some of the older books in the library system? Yes, he has a well-used library card.

The older women working the book sale seemed impressed with my gangly teen who managed to fill an entire cardboard box with books. They even offered him a several-dollar discount when I told him he would need to pay half the cost of the books. I only thought it fair. I’ve never been the type of mom to buy my kids something simply because they want it. The son didn’t argue.

I had to restrain myself from buying an armful of children’s picture books. For years I bought used books for the library at the Christian day school my children attended. After I stopped volunteering a dozen years later, breaking that buying habit took a bit of resolve.

Since I passed on the many fabulous children’s books, I did the next best thing. I e-mailed two friends with young children and encouraged them to shop at the sale.

HOW ABOUT YOU, do you buy books at used book sales, garage or rummage sales or elsewhere? Have you always loved to read? And, if you have children, do they also love being read to or reading on their own?

FOR ANYONE WHO lives in the Faribault area, today, April 20, is the final day of the book sale, which runs from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. in the old Hallmark store at the Faribo West Mall. I’m pretty certain you’ll find plenty of deals on books as the AAUW will just want “to get rid of” their remaining inventory.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Presenting Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at a Minnesota church April 19, 2011

The parking lot at St. John's United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation's annual performance of The Last Supper Drama.

AS THE FINAL wisps of daylight dissipate into darkness, the church windows glow with the subtle warmth of welcome on this Palm Sunday evening.

Inside, worshippers are already gathering in the tightly-knit pews, eyes focused on the long table before them.

As I wait, seated in a pew tucked under the rim of the balcony, I study the stained glass windows, the suspended ceiling lights where lady bugs cling, the golden cross high above the altar.

Then, shortly after 8 p.m., after the hymn and the invitation and recitation of The Lord’s Prayer, the drama begins unfolding—for the 49th consecutive year.

St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is presenting its annual The Last Supper Drama.

The Rev. Lora Sturm provides brief historical background on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting, the visual basis for the evening’s drama.

Leonardo da Vinci's painting of The Last Supper inspired the dramatic presentation at St. John's. This print was donated to the church in memory of Arnold Keller.

And then the lights fade, slowly, until a spotlight shines only on the cross. Soon that light and the organ light are extinguished, plunging the sanctuary into near darkness save for the remnants of daylight filtering through the stained glass windows.

A quiet reverence, a sense of anticipation, falls upon the congregation in the moments of silence and darkness before the actors begin filing into the church. Small clusters of men, seemingly engaged in conversation, without words to be heard, walk toward the table set with bread and a chalice and a bag of silver, although I am not sure whether the betrayal money was there initially or was carried in by Judas, the betrayer.

In darkness, these actors, these 12 disciples, pose themselves, replicating the positions da Vinci painted into his famous The Last Supper painting. But no one plays the role of Jesus, represented instead by an empty chair draped in white cloth.

The actors position themselves to replicate da Vinci's The Last Supper, except for Jesus, who is represented by the empty white chair in the middle of the table setting.

When the lights flick on, the frozen scene catches me off guard, even though I’ve previously seen the performance. The stillness fills me with a certain sense of peace, yet uneasiness.

I know what is coming. Words from Scripture that will tell of Jesus’ forthcoming death. The accusation that one of the 12 will betray Christ. It is the moment da Vinci depicts in his art—that moment when the disciples learn that one of them will give up their Lord to death.

Yet, in this script penned by a St. John’s pastor, Walter Rasche, 49 years ago, it is the depth of faithfulness that causes me to pause and look inside. Would I be so faithful as to become a martyr, to die, like the disciples, by stoning or crucifixion or beheading?

In their monologues, each disciple speaks honestly of his struggles, his lack of faithfulness, his travels to preach the gospel, and, then, the blessed words of a better and more abundant life found in following Christ.

The actors freeze as they role-play the disciples.

Five of the six disciples sitting to Jesus right with Christ represented by the empty white chair.

The disciple/actors to Christ's left, including first-time actor, 13-year-old Kyle Keller, the youngest cast member.

Judas’ words—that he regrets betraying Christ with a kiss, turning him over to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver—sting.

Judas, front, betrays Jesus with a kiss and 30 pieces of silver.

But the pastor’s prayer afterward encourages and uplifts me: “…hear your voice calling us to follow you…you call us to simply follow…”

And then her benediction blesses me with peace: “The Lord bless thee and keep thee…”

As the actors exit, as the worshipers file out of the sanctuary, I linger, waiting for the opportunity to shoot photos, which weren’t allowed during the performance. The men return, pose at the table, some of them telling me how they watched this drama as boys and now role-play as men.

This year a boy-becoming-a-man, 13-year-old Kyle Keller, plays the part of Philip, standing behind his father, Keith, who has assumed the role of Matthew. The seventh grader is the youngest participant ever in the St. John’s re-enactment. He was talked into playing the part, but says now that he’ll be back.

With two casts, the actors (most of them) return every other year to assume the same character roles. Some travel from the Twin Cities back to this, their home church near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. They speak and gesture like seasoned actors, some growing beards for the occasion, others sporting fake, glued-on facial hair. Sharon Meyer jokes that she has the shaver charging at home, ready to shave off her dairy farmer husband’s beard. Alan Meyer has played the part of Andrew in the evening’s performance.

Occasionally, a new cast member like Kyle is recruited. He’s the grandson of Elsie Keller, who stands after the service next to a print of The Last Supper angled onto an easel in the church narthex. The Keller family gave the print to the church in memory of Elsie’s husband, Arnold, who died in 1999. On Palm Sunday the print is moved from its usual spot in the fellowship hall to this place of honor.

Elsie Keller, 85, stands next to The Last Supper painting given to St. John's in honor of her husband, Arnold.

The evening takes on special significance for this 85-year-old as she watches Thomas and thinks of her husband. Arnold played Thomas in the debut performance at St. John’s and continued with that role for many decades thereafter. Elsie, who was baptized, confirmed and married at St. John’s, as was her husband, hasn’t missed a single performance of The Last Supper Drama.

Her son, Craig Keller, the church organist, tells me that the drama originally was staged on a Wednesday during Lent. At one time there were two evening performances and even an afternoon presentation with the windows covered in black plastic to block out the light.

On this evening, some half-dozen church pews remain empty and I wonder why this place is not packed with a standing-room only crowd.

I’ve been deeply impressed with so many facets of the drama—by the level of commitment within this country congregation to continue a nearly 50-year tradition, by the professionalism of the actors, by the words they’ve shared that make the painting and Scripture and apostles come to life and, certainly, by the actors’ ability to freeze without barely an eye blink or a twitch. How do they do it?

The congregation's original chalice is used each year in the drama.

"Take eat, this is my body..." bread on the table during The Last Supper Drama.

FYI: Next year plan to attend the 50th presentation of The Last Supper at 8 p.m. on Palm Sunday. St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is located about a 15-minute drive east of Faribault on Minnesota Highway 60 and then north on Rice County Road 24. At this point, I expect organizers may add activities to commemorate the 2012 anniversary production.

Credit goes to the following for their parts in presenting this year’ production: directors Shirley Little and Kelly Dahl; co-director Pauline Wiegrefe; organist Craig Keller; narrator Don Katra; prompter Steve Wille; lighting, Ben Heil; greeters Steve and Deb Wille; the youth fellowship ushers; the church council coffee hour servers; pastor Lora Sturm; and actors Alan Meyer, Grant Meese, Craig Mueller, Kyle Keller, Todd Lien, Thad Monroe, Keith Keller, Doug Spike, Marty Budde, Brian Little, Randy Tatge and Paul Meyer.

Thank you all for this exceptional gift during Holy Week.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I’ll skip the sushi April 18, 2011

WHAT FOOD IMAGES pop into your mind when I say “Japanese restaurant?”

Rice? Vegetables? Sushi?

That’s the extent of my Japanese culinary knowledge.

But that will change with the opening of a Japanese restaurant in my mid-sized Minnesota town. I noticed a sign last week in an empty strip mall space along State Highway 60 in Faribault advertising this new restaurant.

A Japanese restaurant is opening in the strip mall in the 600 block of Fourth Street/Highway 60 in Faribault.

Although I don’t eat out all that often and once tried homemade sushi, promptly spitting out the wrapped raw fish and rice, I appreciate another dining option in my community.

We have plenty of fast food and pizza places and restaurants that serve traditional American fare.

We have several Mexican restaurants (like Gran Plaza Mexican Grill and El Tequilla Family Mexican Restaurant) and a Mexican bakery.

Baked goods at a Mexican bakery (once at the center of controversy because of its exterior paint color) in downtown Faribault. The bakery has changed ownership since I took this photo.

Faribault also has three Chinese restaurants, a Somali eatery and a recently-opened Thai restaurant (that I have yet to patronize, but about which I’ve heard rave reviews).

The Southern China Cafe is among four restaurants in town serving Chinese food.

Banadir, a Somali restaurant, is located in historic downtown Faribault.

Now we’ll soon have Japanese cuisine to throw into the cultural mix.

To those of you who live in larger metropolitan areas, the opening of a Japanese restaurant may not seem like a big deal. But in outstate Minnesota, where our dining choices are more limited and where getting the locals to try something new, like God forbid sushi, this ethnic restaurant opening is worth noting.

I have no idea whether the new Japanese restaurant will serve sushi. But I expect it will.

I hope Faribault area residents are daring enough to step outside of their safe pizza, burgers and fries, steak, batter-fried walleye, enchilada, lutefisk comfort zones to try Japanese food. Count me in the door to sample Japanese food, just not the raw fish sushi.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

No April fooling April 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:03 AM
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IF YOU LIVE in Minnesota, you can get fooled into thinking spring has arrived…until you wake up one morning and snow covers the ground. This is mid-April for gosh sakes, not March.

Weren’t temps a humid 80 degrees a week ago?

Wasn’t I raking leaves in short sleeves?

Digging out the flip flops?

Throwing open the windows to air out the stale, closed-in house after a long, long winter?

Wasn’t I suggesting that I pick up romaine lettuce at the garden shop and plant it? But my husband stopped me, warned me that temps could still drop to freezing. I listened, for once. Thankfully. But he didn’t say anything about snow. Oh, no, not snow.

I was fooled, duped, misled into believing spring had arrived.

Saturday morning I followed the limestone path through my backyard to check on the flowers that had already erupted. I paused to photograph the walkway. The circles, created by snow dripping from tree branches, made an interesting pattern. Faribault received 1 1/2 inches of snow overnight Friday into Saturday morning.

A few days ago I intended to photograph my daffodils, but, of course, I didnt. Now they are drooping in the snow.

Snow encases the daffodils Saturday morning.

I hope the budding tulips can survive the cold and snow.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In pursuit of Bambi April 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:56 AM
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OH, FOR A TELEPHOTO lens on my camera…

Since that is not in the cards, the budget or the plan, I find myself often lamenting missed nature shots. It’s not like I can holler to Bambi, “Hey, hold still, will you, so I can take your picture! Move that way a little bit. Just one more shot.”

Nope, can’t do that.

So I shoot anyway, firing my camera in the hopes that once, maybe once, I’ll get something decent on my CF card.

So…, Wednesday evening my husband and I are checking out the rivers in Faribault. We are driving toward Teepee Tonka Park from the viaduct that crosses the Straight River and railroad tracks. And there they are. Four deer. Standing. In a yard.

I am so excited. But already the deer are fleeing, alert to the danger of our approaching van and a car driving up the hill toward them. My only thought is to photograph this quartet.

But I am frustrated because the lollygagging car is in my way. Can’t the driver see that I have a camera? Probably not.

Oh, well, I try anyway, shooting seven frames through the van’s windshield.

And although the results are not stunning or fantastic or overly-impressive, I’ve managed to capture at least one photo that is good enough to show you. And that, folks, is all I can ask for without a telephoto lens to shoot Bambi.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Those of you who live in southeastern Minnesota are probably wondering, “How did she shoot these photos on Wednesday when we didn’t have snow on the ground?” You would be correct in questioning that.  I wrote this three weeks ago and forgot about it in my post drafts. However, since we got snow overnight here in Minnesota, I thought it appropriate to publish today.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Last Supper at St. John’s April 14, 2011

Rhody Yule, a 92-year-old Faribault artist, painted this version of The Last Supper.

LIVING ART. A tribute to Christ. A contemplative event to mark the beginning of Holy Week.

However you view it, a dramatic presentation of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper by a rural church should be on your must-see list for the weekend if you live in my area of southeastern Minnesota.

For 49 years now, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, has presented Drama of the Last Supper in the old limestone church set among flat farm fields and scattered farm places near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in Rice County.

At 8 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 17, as darkness falls upon the land, the sanctuary too will darken and the spotlight will shift to 12 men seated at the front of the church. Alan, Grant, Craig, Kyle, Todd, Thad, Keith, Doug, Marty, Brian, Randy and Paul will assume the roles of the 12 disciples.

Christ, if I remember correctly from attending a previous performance, is not portrayed by an actor.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” Matthew 26:20 – 21

The Betrayal, a painting by Faribault artist Rhody Yule.

So the scene unfolds with a monologue featuring each of the 12 disciples and their relationships with Christ.

“I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29

Enveloped in darkness, listening to the somber words of forthcoming betrayal, worshippers experience the tense emotions that marked The Last Supper, setting the mood for a week that leads to the crucifixion of Christ and then, on Easter morning, to his glorious resurrection.

It is a thoughtful, serious drama presented by the local men, many of whom are repeat performers.

It is worth seeing, worth hearing and worth contemplating as Holy Week begins.

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

St. Johns United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township

FYI: St. John’s is about a 15-minute drive from Faribault. Take Minnesota Highway 60 east and then turn north onto Rice County Road 24. The church is located at 19086 Jacobs Avenue.  A fellowship hour, with food, follows the presentation.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Flat Ole wants my son to move to South Dakota

ALMOST DAILY WHEN I pull open the mailbox, I reach inside to find another handful of letters for my son.

I dutifully toss them onto an end couch cushion, the one spot where he sits, with his laptop, and where he can’t miss his mail.

The stash of accumulating college information sent to my 17-year-old high school junior son.

Sometimes my high school junior opens the letters, but more often than not, he tosses them onto the middle couch cushion where they lie for a day or two or three before I scoop them up and jam them into a plastic shopping bag.

That bag bulges with letters and brochures from colleges across the country. Most arrive from the East Coast, including from some very prestigious colleges. But there are also letters from the West Coast and the in-between Midwest and down South.

I understand why my 17-year-old has stopped opening his mail, stopped reading the spiels about the best programs and students and campuses. After awhile, the pitches all begin to sound the same.

So what does it take for him to actually pause and open a piece of college mail?

For my computer geek teen, it’s all about grabbing his attention by presenting an eye-catching, out-of-the-ordinary, graphically well-designed mailing.

St. Olaf College in Northfield managed to attract the college-bound boy’s interest recently with a brochure that features little tabs to open. Who doesn’t like to see what’s hidden behind a closed door? An air of mystery sparks curiosity and…prompts us to investigate.

 

These five tabs each lift to reveal information about St. Olaf College in Northfield.

For each of five words—St. Olaf College Northfield Minnesota—the tabs lift to reveal a sentence. Behind the word door “St.,” for example, you’ll read this message: “You won’t literally find any saints here, but you will find students who ask big questions and take on big challenges.”

 

Under the word "Olaf," you'll learn that St. Olaf was founded by Norwegians.

And just in case the Minnesota winter may keep you from St. Olaf, think study abroad opportunities.

Honestly, this is, by far, my favorite college mailing that has arrived to date. So congratulations, St. Olaf marketing department, on some creative marketing that drew both my, and the teen’s, attention. Now, if you can show us some hefty scholarship money, we just may have a deal.

The second piece of noteworthy college literature didn’t exactly draw my eye initially. In fact, I almost threw Augustana College’s Go Viking magazine style publication into the recycling bin without a look. Its appearance suggested an alumni magazine rather than a college recruiting tool. But then, lucky for this Sioux Falls, South Dakota, college, I flipped through the pages and discovered—Flat Ole.

The folks at Augustana want potential students to cut out the picture of Flat Ole and take him on their travels. Photograph Flat Ole at famous landmarks, in exotic locales, in historic buildings, etc., and join his Facebook at facebook.com/flat.ole. This whole marketing gimmick, of course, plays off the Flat Stanley storybook character, with the Augie’s  irresistibly charming Viking mascot claiming to be Stanley’s Norwegian cousin.

 

You can clip Flat Ole out of the Go Viking magazine and take him on your travels. Or you can go to his website and download a Flat Ole cutout.

Except for that Flat Ole page, I didn’t read the rest of the magazine. So you judge whether Go Viking represents savvy college recruiting.

Finally, a third piece of college mail grabbed me primarily because of the word “geek,” which would certainly fit my computer brilliant teen. “Don’t be a geek out of water…dive into the G33KOSYSTEM.” I continued to read: “…at UAT, advancing technology will infuse every aspect of your education…the idea atmosphere developed by geeks for geeks…passionate about technology.”

 

Eye-catching words for any student who's in to technology.

And all the while I wondered, what is UAT? I flipped the brochure and read and reread, until I finally noticed the tiny logos in the corners with the miniscule writing, University of Advancing Technology. Still, that didn’t give me the location of the college. So, for that reason, even if this is a graphically-appealing mailing, I can’t give this brochure high marks. It’s important, really, really, really important, to make the college name pop.

 

Although the bright colors and graphic design grabbed my attention, I really had to look to find the name of the college on this UAT brochure.

By the way, my boy and I are not Norwegian. The fact that two “Ole” colleges scored well with me in the marketing area is pure coincidence.

HAVE YOU SEEN any college recruiting materials that stand out or fail in the marketing department? Why? Please share.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Moments spring issue publishes April 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:54 AM
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I’VE SEEN THE IMAGES so often they’re practically imprinted upon my brain. Ditto for the words. I’ve written, rewritten, edited, proofed and read them. I can nearly recite the stories.

Yet, when I see my photos and words in print rather than on my computer screen, I am still thrilled. Every time. Nothing compares to ink upon paper for me as a writer.

That said, check out the spring issue of Minnesota Moments, a magazine packed with my writing and photos.

I’ve written two major feature packages—one on places to view roses in Minnesota and another on two great southern Minnesota hamburger joints.

I’ve reviewed three Minnesota-authored books, on barns, aging in a small Minnesota town and nature.

I’ve pulled together stories about a WW I veteran and a recipe contest winner.

These are the kinds of stories that don’t make the headlines, but which I find the most interesting. They are the real, at the heart of Minnesota, stories.

In this issue you will read nearly 20 pages of my writing and see 23 of my photos.

Not to worry, there’s more to this issue than just my work. You’ll find six pages of stories and photos from entrants in the Pet Portrait Contest. I helped select the winning essay about a dog, Meeka, who saved her owner’s life. We can all appreciate a good animal tale and, thanks to our readers, there are plenty.

Several essays grace our “Moments in time” section, including one written by 89-year-old Ethelyn Pearson of Wadena. This octogenarian can write. Consider this description of her grandfather: “Wreathed in smiles, teetering on his toes, Grandpa would say around a wide smile…” Now, that’s writing. I’ve told my editor that Ethelyn would make a mighty fine feature story.

And because this is my blog and I can write whatever I wish, I will mention that my uncle and aunt, Merlin and Iylene Kletscher of rural New London are the subject of a short “Faces & Places” article. They have hiked through all of Minnesota’s 72 state parks. How many of us can say we’ve accomplished that? And, no, I did not write this piece.

But I did find the photographer, Harriet Traxler, whose cow photo highlights our “Picture this” page. I’ve reviewed her Barns of Sibley County in the book review section. I met Harriet this past weekend and she is every bit as down-to-earth and sister-friendly as I expected.

Down-to-earth. That best describes the content of Minnesota Moments, the Cold Spring-based magazine I’ve written for since 2004.

If you haven’t checked out the magazine, do. If you’re so inclined, subscribe. If you like what you read, consider sending Editor/Publisher Mike Nistler an e-mail at info@minnesotamoments.com. We always appreciate feedback. And, we appreciate (need) advertisers too.

 

Stop and smell the roses in a trio of stories I've written about places in Minnesota to view beautiful roses.

It's always fun to discover good down-home restaurants. Pick up a copy of the spring issue to see where you'll find the restaurant with this kitschy decor.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Serving up history and pie in Faribault April 12, 2011


I EXPECT YOU have no clue what you are viewing above. Perhaps you think this is a piece of art in a gallery exhibit.

You would be wrong. Way wrong.

Rather, this shows a portion of a Civil War battle flag that I’ve switched up with some photo editing tools to emphasize the stars and letters and numbers in the upper left corner.

Lighting conditions weren’t ideal for photographing this flag Saturday afternoon in the Guild House at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour in Faribault.

Honestly, I hadn’t even expected to photograph this flag sewn by a group of women in Fairmont and carried by Company C, 6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. The last time I asked to photograph the flag at the Rice County Museum of History, my request was denied by director Susan Garwood.

She didn’t know me from Adam, or Eve, although I gave her my business card and explained that I was a writer and blogger. That didn’t matter.

Thankfully, Garwood changed her mind and I got the go-ahead-and-shoot-but-without-flash OK.

Garwood has reason to be cautious. This battle flag is rare, among about a half dozen in Minnesota. Recent restoration cost nearly $7,300.

Here's how the flag really looks. Faded. The company which carried this flag was comprised of men primarily from Bridgewater Township in Rice County, Minnesota. On the back side of the flag 34 stars are sewn representing the number of states in 1862. You are seeing reflections here on the glass encasing the flag.

 

Just another, upside down, view of the flag and the reflections of visitors viewing it.

I don’t know the value of the restored flag. But it is valuable enough that a Faribault police officer was guarding the flag Saturday afternoon during “Recognition of the Fall of Fort Sumter–The Beginning of the Civil War” sponsored by the Rice County Historical Society and the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable.

Likewise a collector of Civil War era artifacts was standing guard over his tables full of treasures. He had, among Civil War uniform buttons and other items, an original Lincoln photo engraving (used on the $50 bill) and signature. I didn’t ask the values. Sometimes it’s better not to know these things.

 

A slightly out of focus photo that I took of an original Lincoln photo engraving for a $50 bill on display Saturday.

The last time I photographed parts of his collection at a 2009 Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting, he made me promise not to reveal his name. I agreed. I didn’t want to go missing and have my family looking for me under a stadium. That’s an exaggeration, but this collector was serious. My lips are sealed.

I did ask him, though, why he didn’t bring his slave bills, which were advertised as being at the event and one of the key reasons I attended. He simply said he didn’t know he was supposed to bring them. He gave the same answer 1 1/2 years ago at the Roundtable meeting. I had gone to the session then specifically to see the slave documents.

But on Saturday I perused a few other artifacts I hadn’t seen before like…

these old bullets

 

and two Civil War era muzzleloaders which I was allowed to pick up and which were heavy at 18 and 21 pounds.

I also saw…

these costumed reenactors pull up in a pick-up truck

and this unidentified reenactor, left, posing for photos with Sharon and Richard G. Krom of Rochester. Richard is the great grandson of a Civil War soldier and has written a book, The 1st MN Second to None.

Finally, I sat down with friends and family to enjoy…

a piece of delicious homemade pie made by Rice County Historical Society President Jason Reher. He baked 16 pies for the event. (Jason could be a professional baker; his pie is that good.)

Fortunately for me, Jason had baked my favorite pie and apparently a favorite of many as everyone sitting at my table chose blueberry pie over apple, pumpkin or pecan. Most of us wondered if the blueberries were wild, yet never bothered to walk over and ask the pie-maker.

Jason wondered why I was photographing his pie. I just handed him a business card and figured he’d figure it out.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

WARNING: Proposal would erode Minnesota’s Freedom to Breathe Act April 11, 2011

WARNING: Cigarettes are addictive.

WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.

WARNING: Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease.

WARNING: Cigarettes cause cancer.

WARNING: Cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease.

WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby.

WARNING: Smoking can kill you.

WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.

WARNING: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health.

 

I didn't need to search long or hard to find these cigarette butts. Two were tossed into one of my flowerbeds by a neighbor. I found the third in the street by my house.

Just as Minnesota legislators are considering proposed changes to the state’s Freedom to Breathe law, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is finalizing plans to modify warnings on cigarette packaging and advertising.

Following requirements of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the FDA has proposed that cigarette packaging and ads bear one of the above nine warnings along with a matching colorful graphic.

The shock value of the proposed graphics—like a toe-tagged corpse and a mother blowing smoke into her baby’s face—are an effort to make a powerful impact on the smoking public. Enough to make a smoker stop smoking.

The final graphics will be selected by June 22 and the warnings must be in place on all cigarette packages sold in the U.S. and in cigarette ads by October 2012.

As a nonsmoker, I’m all for this move to prevent, reduce or stop smoking.

However, I don’t support proposed legislation in Minnesota that would once again allow smoking in bars under specific conditions. Not that I frequent bars, but bars and restaurants are often interconnected, so this matters to me.

The plan basically would allow smoking in bars if a ventilation system is installed to remove the smoke. In bars connected to restaurants, the bar must be walled off with a door separating the bar and restaurant.

Come on. A door will not keep smoke from filtering into a restaurant. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t need smoke served with my meal.

I make no apologies for my strong stand against smoking and my intense dislike of cigarette smoke.

I’m also honest enough to admit that, in my youth, I tried tobacco products on several occasions, enough to realize smoking wasn’t for me.

My dad became addicted to cigarettes when he was in the military, serving on the front lines during the Korean Conflict. He preferred Camel cigarettes. Sometimes he also rolled his own.

My dad, a smoker for many years, first exposed me to cigarettes. Once he even let me puff on his Camel. Now before you start calling him an irresponsible parent, consider this.  He knew I’d cough and sputter and spit and never want to touch a cigarette again. He was right. Eventually he gave up smoking but never quit chewing snuff.

Although I never took up smoking, I was addicted to candy cigarettes as a kid. But candy cigarettes were as popular as Bazooka bubble gum back in the 1960s and no one thought anything of subtly encouraging kids to smoke via those chalky white sticks with the red tips.

As for the few Swisher cigars I smoked in my mid-20s, I offer no excuse except my ignorant, youthful stupidity. I bet many smokers who are now habitual tobacco users wish they’d never started.

If you’re a smoker and want to smoke in the privacy of your home, then go ahead. Just don’t invite me over because, physically, I can’t tolerate cigarette smoke.  I’ve had numerous bad experiences with cigarette smoke.

Back in the early 1980s, I worked for a southern Minnesota daily newspaper that allowed smoking in the office. I came home every night smelling like I’d been in a bar all day. My clothes reeked. My skin reeked. My hair reeked. I remember complaining, with several other nonsmokers in the office, about the smoking. Nothing changed, because the news editor smoked. She didn’t care. So what if the copy editor sat outside the conference room during the weekly staff meeting because he couldn’t tolerate the smoke? I wish I had joined him instead of breathing the toxic air. So what if the news editor should have been more considerate given the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act passed in 1975? None of that mattered.

My second worst experience with smoking occurred several years ago at a Winona hotel. The manager tried to pass off a smoking room as a nonsmoking room. The instant I walked into the room, I smelled cigarette smoke. The mobile air purifier that was running on high and the lack of a sign on the door stating that this was a nonsmoking room confirmed my suspicions. When I went to the front desk and demanded a nonsmoking room, the manager denied that he had given me a smoking room. I didn’t believe him. My nose and lungs don’t lie.

My other notable smoke experience also involves a hotel, this one at a southwestern Minnesota casino. I was there attending a cousin’s wedding reception. Although the hotel room my family booked was supposedly smoke-free, the odor of cigarette smoke filtered from the smoke-filled hotel lobby, halls and casino into our room. I barely slept that night because of the tightness in my chest caused by the smoke.

So, Minnesota legislators, listen up. Listen to representatives of The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and Clearway Minnesota, all of whom have been at the State Capitol opposing the proposed changes to Minnesota’s Freedom to Breathe Act.

Consider the 83.9 percent of adult Minnesotans (according to results of the 2010 Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey) who do not smoke. Please keep our Freedom to Breathe Act intact and smoke-free.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling