Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Bins, bars & beer December 4, 2013

THE LAST TIME I WAS in Cobden, I told my husband, I was photographing a burning building.

That was decades ago, when I worked as a newspaper reporter and photographer for The Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch. Thirty-plus years later, I can’t recall what burned, but I think a bar.

Apparently little has changed in Cobden since I raced, with camera and notebook, to this community of 36 residents just off U.S. Highway 14 between Sleepy Eye and Springfield. As I remember, I borrowed a pen (because mine ran out of ink and why didn’t I have a spare?) from a firefighter. Interesting how a detail like that sticks with me.

Downtown Cobden with Tubby's to the left and Ridin' High to the right and the grain bins a few blocks away.

Downtown Cobden with Tubby’s to the left and Ridin’ High to the right and the grain bins a few blocks away.

Today, two bars and grain bins define this community in southwestern Minnesota, which boasts some of our state’s best farmland.

A few months ago while en route to Lamberton, my husband turned our van north off the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway to circle through Cobden, past the grain bins and then between the two bars—Minnesota Tubby’s Bar & Grill and Ridin’ High Saloon—which comprise the downtown.

Tubby's, in the old bank building.

Tubby’s, in the old bank building.

There was no time to stop and explore, only a quick roll down of the van window to shoot the building exteriors under grey and drizzly skies. I wished we had time to park and peek inside Tubby’s, housed in the stately 1915 corner brick State Bank building. I wished I could yank away the sheets of brown metal siding that cover the windows. I wished I could see the old bank interior.

Bikers get a hearty welcome at Ridin' High Saloon.

Bikers get a hearty welcome at Ridin’ High Saloon.

Across the street, Ridin’ High Saloon, from the looks of the exterior signage, caters to bikers.

The Saloon connects to the Back Porch.

The Saloon connects to the Back Porch, right.

The outdoor Back Porch hang-out.

The outdoor Back Porch hang-out.

The machine shed style open air Back Porch gives that rough-and-tumble beer drinking impression, a great place to hang out with friends on a warm summer evening.

A close-up of Tubby's signage.

A close-up of Tubby’s signage.

Maybe next stop in Cobden will be the charm with no fire to cover, no schedule to keep. Just time for a beer.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling