Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My Minnesota childhood memories of Harmon Killebrew May 18, 2011


His voice cracked like the whack of wood against leather as I stepped up to the plate, bat handle vise-gripped in my hands, feet planted in packed gravel next to the rusted, cast-off disk from the disk harrow.

As my oldest brother lobbed the ball toward me, I swung, and as was typical of me, missed. I was aiming to hit the ball toward the barn and milkhouse at the edge of the farm yard, our ball field.

Almost every evening, as the sun inched lower in the prairie sky toward the greening fields of early spring and then into the hot, humid days of tasseling corn, my siblings and I traded chore gloves for softball gloves. “Let’s play ball,” we’d yell in unison.

And then the arguing would begin. “I’m Harmon Killebrew,” my oldest brother hollered, the name flying off his tongue with the speed of a fast pitch.

No matter how loudly the rest of us protested his call, we struck out. He was the eldest. If he wanted to be Killebrew, then he would be Killebrew.

We assumed the roles of other 1960s Twins greats like Tony Oliva and Rod Carew.

But we all wanted to emulate Killebrew, to swing the bat, to watch the ball powerhouse toward the barn roof, maybe even sail as far as the silo room or the cow yard beyond, well out of reach of our siblings’ outstretched hands.

Such are my memories of the Twins’ home run slugger.

I’ve never been to a Twins game, never met Killebrew, don’t watch or listen to baseball.

Yet, upon learning of Killebrew’s death, a twinge of melancholy swept across me as I thought of those pick-up farm yard softball games, the baseball cards my brothers collected and the static of my eldest brother’s transistor radio broadcasting a Twins game in the 1960s.

For all the sibling bickering over who would pretend to be Killebrew or Carew or Oliva, those post chores games score among the home runs of my rural Minnesota childhood.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


4 Responses to “My Minnesota childhood memories of Harmon Killebrew”

  1. Bernie Says:

    What a nice memory. I had to laugh about your brother being oldest so he could be whoever he wanted.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Don’t big brothers always get their way?

      When my oldest brother and I worked in the barn scooping out feed for the cows, he would steal “my silage” while I was inside the silo throwing silage down for “my side” of the barn.

      I still love him anyway.

  2. Doug Koch Says:

    I remember 1965 like it was yesterday. I can recall every Twins starter that year. It was a magical season for the Twins. My Dad and I would go fishing every night at our cabin just north of Stillwater. We always took the transistor radio along to listen to the Twins. Then, my Dad and I went to game 1 of the World Series. The Twins were great that year, but Killebrew was the face of the team. I had a big hole in the pit of my stomach when the Twins lost game 7 that year. I lost my Dad in 1978, but I still connected to those days whenever I saw Harmon on TV. Now he is gone too. I know in my heart, however, that when he passed away and moved to that better place, his arrival was announced by Ray Scott, Herb Carneaal and Halsey Hall,

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Doug, thanks for sharing your Harmon Killebrew memories with me and Minnesota Prairie Roots readers. I had forgotten some of those names you mentioned. Thanks for the reminder.

      Boys and baseball and transistor radios…so much a part of the 1960s.

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