Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Touring Rothsay, the “Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota” May 17, 2013

DAILY, THOUSANDS OF TRAVELERS zip by Rothsay on Interstate 94, mostly oblivious to this rural Wilkin County community which claims notoriety as the “Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota.”

If not for the 18-foot high prairie chicken statue perched atop a hill overlooking the interstate, few would notice Rothsay. (Click here to view my previous prairie chicken post.)

Small

The local combination lumberyard and hardware store, a mainstay of small towns.

But this community of nearly 500 is worth a stop for anyone who appreciates small towns as I do. I delight in the businesses which define communities like this—the local co-op, hardware store and lumberyard. The bank. The home-grown eateries and one-of-a-kind shops. The efforts to preserve history.

Vehicles parked behind the body shop.

Vehicles parked behind the automotive body and repair shop.

Even the vehicles parked along the quiet streets, the unlocked bikes beside the school, tell a story.

On this stop in Rothsay, I had only time for a quick photographic perusal. That was enough to satisfy my desire to view this community, to feel its heartbeat.

Most rural communities are home to a cooperative.

Most rural communities are home to a famer’s cooperative.

I just had to appreciate the name of this ice cream shop in Rothsay, with a mosquito atop the roof.

I just had to appreciate the name of this ice cream shop in Rothsay, with a mosquito atop the roof.

A church turned thrift store.

A church turned thrift store.

Ole and Lena's Pizzeria serves pizza, pasta and sandwiches. No lutefisk listed on the outdoor sign.

Ole and Lena’s Pizzeria serves pizza, pasta and sandwiches. No lutefisk or lefse listed on the outdoor sign.

Typically the nicest building in town, the bank.

Typically the nicest building in town, the bank.

From what I observed, this is an historic blacksmith shop, not a working one. Note the bikes in the background parked outside the public school.

From what I observed, this is an historic blacksmith shop, not a working one. Note the unlocked bikes in the background parked outside the public school.

FYI: Click here to read my previous post about the Wilkin County Sheriff’s Department office in Rothsay.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

19 Responses to “Touring Rothsay, the “Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota””

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I love the unlocked bikes——a sign of a time gone by in most places, don’t you think? I never locked my bike up when we lived in North Fairfield which boasts a population of about 560 these days. The other place I lived when I was little and road a bike was Hannibal (Ohio) and it boasts about 418 population . 🙂 I know what you love about those small towns and perhaps some of the best features are the residents that live there. Usually a couple of colorful folks along with the down home next door neighbor types. 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, it is the people that make these small towns the special places that they are. I met only the elderly gentleman who redirected us around the grassfire and the lady running the thrift store. No time to mingle more.

      I really wanted to photograph the bikes at the school up close. But, now days one needs to be more careful about photographing around a school, for example.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        Very good point …..you do have to exercise caution when photographing certain things and goof for you for realizing it. I probably would come away in handcuffs!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I am especially careful about photographing children. If it’s a close-up shot I want, I ask the parents. If it’s a group shot of kids in, say a public event like a parade, I don’t seek permission. Permission is given simply by participation in a public event. That’s the basic guideline I follow.

  2. Loving your captures – Mosquito Landing and Ole & Lena’s – ha! There is just something about a small town that just draws you in. Part of it is they use what they have and not let it fall into disrepair if possible – repurpose it even. Thanks for sharing – Happy Weekend:)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, I agree for the most part. So wish I would have had time to poke around more in Rothsay.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    Lutefisk pizza……hmmmmm….nope!!!! There’s nothing like living in, or around, a small town/community….wouldn’t trade it for anything!!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      And you’ve lived in both–the city and small town area.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        I often think what my life would have been like had we remained in Mpls, or how our boys’ lives would have been different. I really can’t come up with pleasant outcomes more than what is….we ALL love rural/small town living! You always capture it so well…..I so love your posts!!! Hugs……

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        And I think you’ve said this before, that it’s good we don’t all like the same environments. Like you, it is the rural area which claims my heart. You know how much I love featuring our small towns and rural areas. Lots.

  4. Jackie Says:

    Love all the little treasures of a small town, I also noticed you chose to go black and white which always renders distinct lines and contrast. I especially like mosquito landing and the blacksmith shop 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, B & W just seemed appropriate for the subject matter. There’s something about the absence of color that sets a mood and, as you say, also defines lines.

  5. McGuffy Ann Says:

    This is an interesting post. I love places like this, and hope to retire in one. Thanks!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      The only negative about retiring to such small towns is often the lack of healthcare within the community. My mom, for instance, lives in a town of about 350 and must travel 20 miles to see a dentist, doctor, etc. When you’re in your eighties, like she is, that is not always easy, especially in the winter months.

  6. I like when old church buildings are “recycled” for new uses in that I like that a useful building is being used, but I have mixed feelings – it just always feels a little sad and wrong.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I understand exactly what you are saying. The old church I attended, very similar in style to the one photographed here, was converted into apartments when the congregation built a new sanctuary. Even all these decades later, I still feel melancholy about the loss of that church of my youth.

  7. sallyinwa Says:

    I visited Rothsay for the first time on Saturday, May 18th and took pics of the church and the prairie chicken. I was just out exploring the countryside. I like the shots you took of the town!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Fun little town, isn’t it? I was so glad we explored beyond that prairie chicken. Welcome to Minnesota Prairie Roots, BTW. Happy to have you here.


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