Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflections on harvest time in southern Minnesota September 27, 2011

Westbound on U.S. Highway 14 between Nicollet and Courtland in southern Minnesota Friday afternoon.

I LOVE THIS LAND, this rural southern Minnesota.

You can take your woods and your lakes and your boats or your big city freeways and skyscrapers and traffic jams.

I will take sky and a land that stretches flat into forever.

I like my space open, not hemmed in by trees packed tight in a forest. I want to see into forever and beyond, the horizon broken only by the occasional grove hugging a building site.

A farm site between Mankato and Nicollet, as seen from U.S. Highway 14.

A harvested corn field between Nicollet and Courtland.

I want corn and soybean fields ripening to the earthy hues of harvest. Not gray cement or dark woods.

Give me small-town grain elevators and red barns and tractors, and combines sweeping across the earth.

The elevator complex in Morgan in Redwood County.

A farm site along the twisting back county road between New Ulm and Morgan.

A John Deere combine spotted on the highway just outside of Morgan.

This is my land, the place of my heart.

Although I left the farm decades ago, I still yearn, during autumn, to return there—to immerse myself in the sights and smells and sounds of harvest. The scent of drying corn husks. The roar of combines and tractors. The walk across the farm yard on a crisp autumn night under a moon that casts ghost shadows. Wagons brimming with golden kernels of corn. Stubble and black earth, turned by the blades of a plow.

Today I only glimpse the harvest from afar, as a passerby. Remembering.

A farm site between Morgan and Redwood Falls in southwestern Minnesota.

Harvesting corn on Saturday just outside of Courtland.

Chopping corn into silage between New Ulm and Morgan.

ALL OF THESE IMAGES (except the elevator) were taken at highway speed from the passenger side of our family car while traveling through southern Minnesota on Friday and Saturday.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling