Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A St. Patrick’s Day blessing March 17, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:01 AM
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The scene in my yard this St. Patrick's Day.

The scene in my yard this St. Patrick’s Day.

I CAN’T STOP SMILING even now, hours after I flung open my living room curtains to discover a crop of shamrocks growing in my front yard.

 

Shamrock, close-up

 

What a magical surprise on this St. Patrick’s Day, to see that my husband and I had been Sham “Rocked”ed.

 

Shamrock, trio of

 

We’re not even Irish. But who cares? We’re all Irish today, right? Plus, my favorite color is green.

And I love surprises. Don’t we all? What joy they bring into your day.

One little leprechaun signed his name.

One little leprechaun signed his name.

Immediately I suspected one of two young families for creating a memorable St. Patrick’s Day. Little Jack made sleuthing unnecessary. He printed the message, ‘YOU ARE SMART,” and signed his name. Thanks. No detective work necessary.

The leprechaun even shamrocked our van.

The leprechaun even shamrocked our van.

And Mrs. Leprechaun, aka my dear friend Tammy, whom I phoned to thank, revealed that her husband, Jesse, came up with the idea to “shamrock” us. This morning, before leaving for work in the Twin Cities metro, he crept into our yard and planted those lucky clovers on our lawn and on our vehicles.

 

Shamrock, super close-up

 

If I wasn’t so happy about this act of kindness, I think I would be crying. Crying at having friends who are dear and thoughtful and loving and kind and, above all, an incredible blessing in my life.

To Jesse, Tammy, Noah, Hannah, Jack, Amelia and baby Benjamin:

A Wish for a Friend

Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers—
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours—
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!

An Irish blessing, author unknown

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I was “this close” to Prince Farming’s hometown & more

MAPPING OUT A ROUTE from Mason City to Dubuque, Iowa, last summer, I routed our drive through Strawberry Point, which is 10 miles from Arlington. Remember that.

The world's largest strawberry sculpture is made of fiberglass, weighs 1,430 pounds, is 15 feet high, 12 feet wide and was constructed in 1967.

The world’s largest strawberry sculpture is made of fiberglass, weighs 1,430 pounds, is 15 feet high, 12 feet wide and was constructed in 1967.

Strawberry Point is home to the world’s largest strawberry. I delight in kitschy roadside art, thus the stop in this town of nearly 1,300.

I'm not sure this motel is open anymore.

There’s even a Strawberry Motel.

Homespun address signage in Strawberry Point.

Homespun address signage in Strawberry Point.

A sweet message.

A sweet message outside a cafe.

Additionally, I find the name, Strawberry Point, charming. Its name history traces to the soldiers, traders and railroad workers who savored the wild strawberries growing along the area’s trails and hillsides.

Driving into Strawberry Point.

Driving into Strawberry Point.

On the late August afternoon my husband and I drove into Strawberry Point, I was tired and crabby. Mostly due to the excessive heat and humidity. But also due to the endless travel through an Iowa countryside that seemed monotonous in fields and flatness. This is unusual for me to feel this way given my appreciation for rural prairie landscapes.

This impressive building anchors a corner in downtown Strawberry Point and houses a coffee shop/cafe and hotel.

This impressive building anchors a corner in downtown Strawberry Point and houses a coffee shop/cafe and hotel.

Had I not been in such a funky mood, I would have explored more. Looking now at my photos from downtown Strawberry Point, I see what I missed. That sprawling brick corner building labeled Coffee Shop/The Franklin Hotel calls for exploration. Just like other places in Iowa.

The strawberry sculpture sits in the heart of downtown Strawberry Point.

The strawberry sculpture sits in the heart of downtown Strawberry Point.

How many of you had heard of Arlington, Iowa, before this season’s reality TV show The Bachelor aired? The star, bachelor farmer Chris Soules, dubbed “Prince Farming”, is from Arlington.

Signage remained from  RAGBRAI, the bike ride across Iowa.

Signage remained from RAGBRAI, the bike ride across Iowa.

Last July Soules met with RAGBRAI bikers in Strawberry Point, greeting folks in a fire department fundraiser. I missed him by a month. Not that I had even heard of him then.

While I don’t agree with the premise of The Bachelor, trying to find true love by dating multiple women simultaneously, I do see the show’s current value to Iowa, specifically, Arlington. That community of less than 500 is using its moment in the spotlight to raise funds for a new community center via sales of “The Other Bachelors of Arlington, Iowa” calendars. Local farmer and community volunteer John Fedeler came up with the calendar idea featuring 12 Arlington bachelors. Brilliant.

From what I’ve read on the campaign’s Facebook page, it’s a tastefully done calendar that can be yours for $14.99 plus $2 for shipping.

For example, here’s the bio on Mr. September, Jordan:

Mr. September was born in Arlington and helps out on his family’s farm. When he is not farming with his father, Mr. September works to grow his computer consulting business and practices his piloting skill. Mr. September is more reserved about details of his love life, but joked that he will be a “bachelor till the rapture”. Mr. September would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it and is not afraid to reach out a helping hand.

A farm site somewhere in notheast Iowa between Nashua and Strawberry Point.

A farm site somewhere in notheast Iowa between Nashua and Strawberry Point.

He sounds like one wholesome Iowa farm boy to me.

Somewhere in northeastern Iowa.

Somewhere in northeastern Iowa.

And isn’t that the image we have of Iowa—a good, wholesome place of mostly farm fields and small towns? Pigs and corn. Fields of opportunities?

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling