Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Prairie prose & photos during the season of harvest October 29, 2012

Just west of Shieldsville, not far from our Faribault home in southeastern Minnesota, my husband and I began our 120-mile journey to southwestern Minnesota on a foggy Saturday morning.

I NEVER TIRE of the big sky and infinite land that stretch far before me as I travel back to my native southwestern Minnesota. I wonder sometimes how I ever could have left this place that brings such solace to my soul, such respite to my heart, such peace to my mind.

A farm site somewhere along the route which took us through or past Shieldsville, LeCenter, Cleveland, St. Peter, Nicollet, Courtland, New Ulm, Essig, Sleepy Eye, Cobden, Springfield and Sanborn corners, ending in rural Lamberton.

When I see this land, walk this land, the longing to be back here, permanently rooted again, tugs at my very core. I miss the prairie that much and the older I get, the more I appreciate this rural place from whence I came.

This image, among all those I took, emphasizes the expanse of sky and land which define the prairie.

It is that early-life connection, that growing up as a child of the prairie, that intimate familiarity with the land and the seasons and life cycles, the dirt under fingernails, the rocks lifted from fields, the cockleburs yanked from bean rows, the roar of the combine and the distinct putt-putt of the John Deere tractor, the calf shit clinging to buckle overshoes, the fireball of a sunset, the sights and sounds and smell and feel of this prairie place that shaped who I became as a person, a writer, a photographer.

These towering elevators and corn pile at Christensen Farms near Sleepy Eye break up the flat landscape.

In this season, as the earth shifts from growth to harvest to dormancy, I notice even more the details etched into the prairie. The sky seems bigger, the land wider and all of us, in comparison, but mere specks upon the earth.

MORE PHOTOS from that road trip to the prairie:

This is not a prairie scene because the prairie has no hills. Rather, I shot this near the beginning of our journey, west of Shieldsville.

Another scene from just west of Shieldsville. It is the muted colors of the landscape that I so appreciate in this photo.

Driving through Sleepy Eye, a strong agricultural community where I lived and worked briefly, decades ago, as a reporter and photographer for The Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch. Sleepy Eye is most definitely on the prairie.

Hills of corn at a grain complex east of Lamberton.

Fields are in all stages of harvest and tillage on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.

A grain truck parked at an elevator in Lamberton.

An important sign when trucks and tractors are lined up at the elevator in Lamberton.

I ended my Saturday by walking my middle brother’s acreage north of Lamberton as the sun set, my favorite time of day on my native southwestern Minnesota prairie. I grew up about 25 miles northwest of here near Vesta.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling