Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Seeding the harvest in southern Minnesota May 30, 2014

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Between Morgan and New Ulm, Minnesota.

Between Morgan and New Ulm, Minnesota.

AS MOODY GREY SKIES—the kind that inspire a poet to pen poetry—loomed in southern Minnesota on Sunday afternoon, farmers hastened in the fields.

Near Mankato, Minnesota.

Near Mankato, Minnesota.

You could almost sense the urgency so late in the planting season.

Near Mankato.

Near Mankato.

It was as if time pressed above the earth, folded in the fabric of draping clouds.

Near Mankato.

Near Mankato.

Below, farmers stitched seeds into soil.

Near Delhi.

Near Delhi.

Hope of harvest in the prairie land.

Between Belview and Delhi.

Between Belview and Delhi.

The promise of spring fulfilled.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

So thankful to celebrate my mom’s birthday May 29, 2014

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THIS TIME IT was my turn to bake the cake, using the same recipe she used all those decades of baking birthday cakes for her six children.

While she crafted animal-shaped cakes for me, my three brothers and two sisters, I opted for the simple, pouring the batter for Crazy Cake into a 9 x 13-inch pan. Later, after the homemade chocolate cake cooled, I topped it with homemade chocolate frosting and a rainbow of sprinkles.

Saturday afternoon my husband and I carried the treat and two jugs of lemonade into Parkview Home in Belview to celebrate my Mom’s birthday.

Not wanting to set off the nursing home sprinkler system, Randy lit nine candles rather than 82.

My mom celebrates her birthday with family at Parkview Home in Belview, Minnesota.

My mom celebrates her birthday with family at Parkview Home in Belview, Minnesota.

And while a small group of us sang “Happy birthday” and Mom blew out her candles, I considered the blessings of having her with us another year. Here she sat, albeit in a nursing home, but much healthier and in less pain than a month prior. She is walking again (slowly and with a walker), rising from chairs without assistance, making the best of this unexpected change in her life.

But one thing remains constant. Mom continues, as she always has, to show us all that she is one strong woman. She handles whatever comes her way with grace. She sees the best in everyone and possesses the kindest of hearts.

Me with my mom in her Parkview Home room.

Me with my mom in her Parkview Home room.

When a Parkview staff member asked if I was Arlene’s daughter and told me I look like my mother, I accepted that as the highest of compliments. I can only hope that I also emulate Mom’s goodness, kindness, faith, strength and gentleness of spirit.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Planting season in southern Minnesota May 28, 2014

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IF THEY WEREN’T WORKING the land, farmers along a stretch between Mankato and west of New Ulm were preparing to plant on Saturday.

Field work, tractor on drive, west of New Ulm

Everywhere, these tenders of the earth steered tractors along roadways and through fields, hurrying to prep the soil and seed crops during this year’s delayed planting season.

Field work, truck w seed bags west of Mankato

Seed bags topped wagons and pick-up trucks.

Field work, John Deere on curve west of New Ulm

Mammoth tractors pulling equally mammoth implements crept along rural roadways.

Field work, John Deere in field west of New Ulm

Sky and land swallowed small scale tractors.

Field work, tractor hill, near Courtland

On a rare occasion dust flew in the field.

Field work, International on road west of New Ulm

And I took it all in, savoring this sweet time in the growing cycle as only one born and raised on a farm can.

Field work, bags on wagon, west of new Ulm

This place, this land, still claims my heart each spring, each summer, each fall, through the seasons of planting and growing and harvest.

Photos were taken along U.S. Highway 14 and along Brown County Road 29.
© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Observing Memorial Day at a rural Minnesota cemetery May 27, 2014

Folks begin arriving for the 2 p.m. Memorial Day program at the Cannon City Cemetery.

Folks begin arriving for the 2 p.m. Memorial Day program at the Cannon City Cemetery.

NEARLY 100 YEARS AGO, students paraded with lilac wreaths from their country school a short distance to the Cannon City Cemetery to honor the war dead.

The cemetery fence decorated for Memorial Day.

The cemetery fence decorated for Memorial Day.

Song sheets are distributed to those in attendance and then collected at the end of the program.

Song sheets are distributed to those in attendance and then collected at the end of the program.

Cannon City resident Bob Lewis, a veteran, arrives for the service. Later Bob will share info about the Rice County Drum and Bugle Corps.

Cannon City resident Bob Lewis, a veteran, arrives for the service. Later Bob, a former bugler, will share info about the Rice County Drum and Bugle Corps.

Today there is no “Death March” music, only patriotic songs. There is no school picnic like that after the long ago Memorial Day parade to this rural Rice County, Minnesota, cemetery on the edge of Cannon City some five miles northeast of Faribault.

Off to pick dandelions among tombstones.

Off to pick dandelions among tombstones.

But the children still come, some attentive to the ceremony led by Mel Sanborn, others darting, this Memorial Day, among tombstones to gather bouquets of dandelions. Later, they will toss dandelions into a flower bed ringing the American flag and carry other clutches home. It is a sweet moment to witness.

The program opens with singing of "The Star Spangled Banner." Steve Bonde is on the bugle.

The program opens with singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Steve Bonde is on the bugle.

Musicians' song sheets.

Musicians’ song sheets.

Jean Pederson listens after reciting "In Flanders Fields."

Jean Pederson listens after reciting “In Flanders Fields.”

I am here, an observer and a participant in this grassroots patriotic ceremony which, year after year, remains mostly the same—singing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee;” names of the war dead buried here read; recitation of “In Flanders Fields” and “The Pledge of Allegiance;” and reading of “The Gettysburg Address; and the bugler sounding “Taps.”

Kathleen Kanne reads Walt Whitman's poem, "Reconciliation."

Kathleen Kanne reads Walt Whitman’s poem, “Reconciliation.”

This year, the presentation of Walt Whitman’s “Reconciliation,” the reading of a patriotic-themed newspaper clipping, singing of “Fightin’ Side of Me,” a brief history given of Rice County’s Drum and Bugle Corps and the bugling of “Revelry” are added to the semi formal ceremony.

A soldier's grave, flagged for Memorial Day.

A soldier’s grave, flagged for Memorial Day.

Musician Don Chester leads the musical selections along with his wife, Judy.

Musician Don Chester leads the musical selections along with his wife, Judy.

Between the tombstones, below the flag...

Between the tombstones, below the flag…

Steve Bonde ends the program by playing "Revelry."

Steve Bonde ends the program by playing “Revelry.”

This all presented on the grassy space between aged tombstones in the shadow of the American flag audibly flapping in the breeze. The comparison is not lost on me as Jean Pederson tells of poppies gently swaying in the wind of Flanders Fields.

FYI: To read previous posts on Memorial Day observances at the Cannon City Cemetery, click here and then click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering on Memorial Day May 26, 2014

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Poppies on bulletin board

 

…that mark our place and in the sky, the larks still bravely singing fly, scarce heard amid the guns below…—  John McCrae, May 1915

Perhaps you will hear that poem read today.

Or perhaps you will remember, like me, that “honoring the war dead” poem recited decades ago on the stage in a small town community hall.

Or perhaps you will spot the opening lines of that poem on a bulletin board, like I did on Sunday at Parkview Home in Belview. My mother, a member of a nearby Legion Auxiliary and now living at this Minnesota nursing home, pointed out the mini poster she helped created.

She was proud. Not of what she had done. But that those who have served were being remembered on this, Memorial Day.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day May 24, 2014

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MEMORIAL DAY MEANS, for many, a time of transitioning into summer activities. Picnics. Opening of the lake cabin. Thoughts of family vacations. A trek around the lake or dropping a fishing line into the water.

But for me, Memorial Day has always been about poppies and parades, ceremonies and cemeteries, American flags and American soldiers, my thoughts focused on those who’ve served our country. Like my Dad. Like his buddy, Ray, who died on a Korean battlefield the day before he was slated to return to his wife and infant daughter in Nebraska.

The Color Guard leads the 2013 Memorial Day parade in Faribault, Minnesota.

The Color Guard leads the 2013 Memorial Day parade in Faribault, Minnesota.

Today my thoughts are on my brother-in-law, Neil, currently deployed to Afghanistan. He’s serving in a medical facility, a somewhat safe place, if any place can truly be safe in a war zone.

Boy Scouts march down Faribault's Central Avenue, giving away small American flags, during Monday's Memorial Day parade.

Boy Scouts march down Faribault’s Central Avenue, giving away small American flags, during the 2011 Memorial Day parade.

This Memorial Day weekend, please take time to attend a parade or a ceremony.

About 30 people gather at the Cannon City Cemetery for an afternoon Memorial Day observance.

About 30 people gather at the Cannon City Cemetery for an afternoon Memorial Day observance in 2011.

Visit a cemetery. Note the veterans’ graves. Pay homage. Remember the sacrifices.

All eyes are on the flag.

A flag flies high at Cannon City Cemetery. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Then, when you’re firing up the grill, sipping a cold one, enjoying a wonderful day in a country where you are free, thank God, and those soldiers, for freedom.

BONUS:

FOR TIPS ON TEACHING your kids about Memorial Day, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Black squirrels, oh, my May 23, 2014

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Squirrel number one scampers from the park across the street as soon as I approach with my camera. I don't have a telephoto lens, thus the distant view.

Squirrel number one scampers from the park across the street as soon as I approach. (I don’t have a telephoto lens.)

NO, THIS IS NOT one of those “Why did the chicken squirrel cross the road?” joke stories.

Rather, I am wondering, have you ever seen a black squirrel?

I manage to get a bit closer to squirrel number two.

I manage to get a bit closer to squirrel number two.

I hadn’t until last weekend while at City Park in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin.

My second daughter, who attended college in western Wisconsin and now lives on the eastern side of the state, couldn’t believe I’d never, in nearly 60 years of life, seen anything but grey or red squirrels.

My husband also had never spotted a black squirrel although he once saw an albino in the woods on his central Minnesota childhood farm home.

There are plenty of trees in Appleton's City Park, where I snapped one quick shot before the squirrel scooted out of camera range.

There are plenty of trees in Appleton’s City Park, where I snapped one quick shot before the squirrel scooted out of camera range.

I don’t recall any squirrels on my native southwestern Minnesota prairie farm while growing up. Maybe the shortage of trees had something to do with their absence.

In any case, I was intrigued by the two black squirrels in City Park. My daughter found my interest rather amusing. Sometimes it just doesn’t take much to entertain me.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling