Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Halloween greetings from ghostly Annie Mary October 31, 2011

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YEAR AFTER YEAR she taunts me with the same message: “I MISS YOU! LOVE, ANNIE MARY.”

Awkward block letters printed in the hand of a six-year-old ghost child. Annie Mary Twente of Hanska. Annie Mary, buried alive in 1886 in Albin Township. Annie Mary, her body later exhumed to reveal scratch marks inside the lid of her wooden coffin. Supposedly a true story and one that once scared me enough to unwisely admit as much to my Aunt Marilyn.

Each Halloween Annie Mary purchases and signs a greeting card, addresses the envelope and drops it in the mail to me. Oh, lucky, lucky me.

But if she wouldn’t send a card, I’d be disappointed. Some Halloweens I forget about Annie Mary, until I pull an envelope from my mailbox to read “A.M.” printed in the upper left return address corner.

I smile and I think, “Oh, that Annie Mary, she always remembers me.”

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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October beauty along I-90 in southeastern Minnesota

Hillsides of colorful trees along I-90 in southeastern Minnesota Sunday morning.

I DID NOT EXPECT IT—leaves rusting under a gloomy, grey sky which gripped the second to last day of October like an iron fist.

Autumn seemed determined to hang on, to stand strong and sturdy against winter for one final weekend.

And it was a glorious one. Not glorious in the sense of sunny skies and warm weather.

But beautiful and wondrous and spectacular in the surreal scene of clouds and wisps of fog that pressed against the wooded Mississippi River bluffs along Interstate 90 in southeastern Minnesota Sunday.

As my husband and I traveled through the area between Nodine, Minnesota, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, and onto Tomah, I couldn’t take my eyes off the hillsides of trees shaded in muted hues of rust and moss green and the occasional spark of golden yellow.

I did not expect this so-late-in-October autumn beauty.

Despite the drive day of off-again, on-again rain and mist and pressing-down-upon-you iron grey skies, I felt myself appreciating the irrepressible beauty of the natural world around me.

Even on the dreariest of days, around each curve in the highway, a new scene unfolded and I couldn’t stop taking pictures between swipes of the windshield wiper blades.

Driving I-90 near Dresbach, heading toward La Crosse, fog shrouded the wooded bluffs.

Woods fade into sky into stone in this surreal setting Sunday morning near La Crosse.

And then, several hours later, we saw the same trees from a different perspective as we drove back from Tomah. Here we are driving into Minnesota from La Crosse.

I-90 hugs the bluffs on one side, the Mississippi River on the other along this picturesque stretch of winding roadway between the border and Dresbach.

Approaching Dresbach...

What most surprised me were all the leaves still clinging to branches. I expected most would have been blown off by fierce autumn winds. And the colors, oh, the rust of oaks, so beautiful.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling