Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Lindström/Lindstrom’s missing umlauts April 16, 2015

A section of LIndstrom's business district.

A section of  Lindstrom’s business district.

IT’S ALL A BIT AMUSING in a Minnesota sort of way.

Some folks in Lindström, “America’s Little Sweden” located about 40 miles north of the Twin Cities, noted the omission of the umlaut over the letter “o” on newly-erected official Minnesota Department of Transportation highway signage. They weren’t happy.

The town's 1908 water tower, converted to a Swedish coffee pot in 1992, sports umlauts.

The town’s 1908 water tower, converted to a Swedish coffee pot in 1992, sports umlauts.

Now if you’re of Swedish heritage and/or a stickler about absolutely proper linguistics, you can understand this discontent. I studied German in high school and college and am well aware of the importance of umlauts in correct pronunciation of a word. An umlaut denotes a specific sound.

A Swedish dala horse and  Yule goat posted on a business honor this community's Swedish heritage.

A dala horse and Yule goat posted on a business honor Lindstrom’s Swedish heritage.

I expect if I lived in Lindström, where the Swedish heritage is an integral part of the town’s identity and a tourism draw, I might be miffed, too, about that missing umlaut.

In MnDOT’s defense, it was simply following state law which allows only standard alphabet usage (no umlauts or such) on traffic control devices.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has since intervened, issuing an executive order on April 15 that approves addition of those two missing dots above the “o.”

In the meantime, The New York Times, the Associated Press and many other media outlets have picked up this, shall I call it, distinctly Minnesotan story.

I noticed in a television news story on the missing umlaut, that signage on the city’s center of government reads Lindstrom City Hall and Community Center rather than Lindström City Hall and Community Center. On the city’s website, the umlaut is sometimes there, sometimes not. I find that discrepancy interesting.

During my visit, I was more interested in what the bakery had to offer.

During my visit, I was more interested in what the bakery had to offer than an awareness of umlauts.

So I wondered about other signage in this community of 4,442 which my husband and I visited briefly last October, when I wasn’t noting the absence or presence of umlauts. I checked my few photos and here’s what I found:

Umlauts on the Swedish coffee pot, but none on the bakery sign.

Umlauts on the Swedish coffee pot, but none on the bakery sign.

No umlauts on the bakery bench signage either.

No umlauts on the bakery bench signage either.

Interesting, huh?

Apparently no umlauts in the word "julekaka" on this bakery signage.

Inside the bakery which specializes in Swedish treats.

Umlaut or not, Lindström has garnered national attention. And that can only benefit local tourism in Lindström/Lindstrom.


More bakery treats.

More bakery treats.

Many choices at this bakery.

Many choices at this bakery.

Nothing Swedish, as far as I know, about Deutschland Meats.

Nothing Swedish about Deutschland Meats. Love that kitschy brat art atop the business.

A must-visit antique shop in Lindstrom.

The must-visit Lindstrom Antique Mall, where you will find Swedish merchandise.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Note that the absence of umlauts in cutlines is not intentional, but due to my not knowing how to add them there, if that is even an option.


A photo documentary of Minnesota barns & thoughts on their demise

Barn, 7 se MN


BARNS ONCE SHELTERED cows, pigs, sheep, a farmer’s livelihood. Some still do. But most don’t.


Barn, 14 se MN


Today all too many barns stand empty of animals and are used instead for storage of recreational vehicles and other possessions. Others are simply slumping into heaps, like rotting carcasses with backbones exposed.


Barn, 10 se MN


I fear barns will soon become memories rather than strongholds, symbols, anchors of farm sites. Their demise has been steady, sure. I see it every time I drive through the Minnesota countryside. Empty barns. Weathered siding. Curling shingles. Boarded windows. Weeds overtaking former cow yards.


Barn, 15 se MN


I understand the financial burden of keeping up these massive structures. Sometimes it just is not in the budget to maintain a barn that provides zero income.


Barn, 11 se MN


Back in the day when I rolled a wheelbarrow brimming with ground feed down the barn aisle, forked straw onto cement for cow’s bedding, shoved manure into the gutter, dodged streams of hot cow pee, shoveled pungent silage before stanchions, the barn and associated source of revenue were more important than the house. Long before my childhood home had an indoor bathroom, the barn had a gutter cleaner.


Barn, 18 se MN


Times have changed. Many farmers no longer raise cattle or hogs or milk cows. They plant cash crops and work off the farm.


Barn, 19 se MN


And so days and weeks and months and years pass and the empty barns, without the humid warmth of animals, without the daily care of the farmer, without the heartbeat of life, begin to die.


Barn, 21 se MN


Except for those that are saved.


Barn, 9 se MN


FYI: All of these barns were photographed in southeastern Minnesota, mostly around Pine Island and Oronoco.

Click here to learn about Friends of Minnesota Barns, a non-profit dedicated to celebrating and preserving Minnesota’s rural heritage.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling