Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Abandoned in rural Minnesota January 12, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Why was this house abandoned? Did the owner fall ill or die? Or simply move to a better and more spacious home? Or did lack of finances factor into this abandonment? Or a personal crisis?

I wonder.

This scene in unincorporated Alma City in western Waseca County, rural Minnesota, is all too familiar. Houses that once sheltered families stand deserted, paint peeling, wood softening to a weathered grey.

What stories does this house hold? What memories were made here? Does anyone care that this house is no longer a home?

And what about that rusting truck? What routes did it travel? Back county roads, gravel roads, field drives? Perhaps to the hardware store, the grain elevator, a local cafe.

Who steered the wheel of this GMC? Perhaps a farmer or a retired farmer.

All these things I ask because my mind works that way. Inquisitive, ranging around thoughts, always wondering.

TELL ME: What short story would you write about this scene?

Note: This image was taken in October, well before winter arrived in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


30 Responses to “Abandoned in rural Minnesota”

  1. If old houses could talk, Ooooo, what would they reveal?
    When I first looked at this photo, Audrey, I thought it was beautiful, old, overflowing w/ character, & even lonely.
    If I wrote a short story, it would be more about the ” red truck,” which sort of stands out in all it’s glory….

    so much depends

    a red wheel

    glazed with rain

    beside the white

    —–William Carlos Williams


  2. Beth Ann Says:

    There are so many similar scenes like this in the country. As we have been driving through the South this past week I have seen a lot of beach properties with big orange markings on them from FEMA that means the house has been damaged badly by the last big storm, Matthew. I always wonder what happens to those houses as well. Do the owners rebuild after FEMA does their work or do they not risk it again? Each of them has a story just like your picture and the real thing is that there are people that are in that story somehow. Great shot.

  3. This always makes me think time has stopped and not restarted for some reason or another. It makes me wonder and ponder as well as curious and imaginative. If certain items could talk to tell their stories. I wonder what the inside looks like – lived it or empty? Thanks for a thinker today! Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Aaron Says:

    I love scenes like this also, I love abandoned places, it’s like time traveling. I’ve explored around here, it’s makes feel like Im being watched even though clearly no one cares anymore.

    I’d write ghost stories about the house, or time travel stories. Retell what it was like before everyone left.

  5. Colleen Gengler Says:

    Sometimes I think of how interesting it would be if a house had a book in which each family of inhabitants would be recorded. It would be the house’s history and would stay with the house. Then each succeeding family would know more, but perhaps not everyone would want that depending on who had lived there. Have you read The Big House by George Howe Colt? It takes place on the eastern coast with a house that’s been in the family for generations. The current families struggle with the upkeep and practicality of owning and using a vacation house; they eventually decide to sell it. The house itself is almost a character in the book with the family stories built around it. It’s easier to keep a record when it stays in the family, but I still like this idea of each house having its own history.

    • What a grand idea, for each owner to record the history of a house. I’ve glimpsed some history in a few items we’ve recovered while updating. And then there were the penciled markings on wainscoting recording children’s heights. I recently painted over those and wondered while I did so if I should have.

  6. Caryl Larson Says:

    When I see old abandon homes or acreages I always think that at one time this was someones new dream home.

  7. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I come up with more questions like what’s behind the covered windows and if that’s an addition that had been added on to the house? When? Why?

  8. Abandoned House, Abandoned Dreams!

    How many children
    in that yard played?
    How many families
    in that house prayed?
    Now, the roof is fair
    but the wood has grayed.
    How long before
    those memories fade?

    So now the grass grows tall
    in the front and back,
    since effort and caring
    have long gone slack.
    I think with sadness
    of lives off track
    or just plain old folk
    who slid through some crack.

    And while that pick-up truck
    peoples lives did share
    when it shined so bright
    like a young girl’s hair,
    will now tell us nothing
    nay, it can not share
    all the hope and dreams
    left abandoned there!

    ~Jack Downing~
    Jan.12, 2017

  9. Littlesundog Says:

    I see old vehicles and I think of parts… my brother is a mechanic who fixes up old trucks and cars. That old rusty truck probably has some valuable parts. We see a lot of abandoned houses and farmsteads. Probably costs too much to fix up and young people want new homes these days. It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?

  10. Gunny Says:

    Peter Hurd ( a Southwest painter of renown & fellow alumni) painted a dramatic landscape of a New Mexico sunset titled “The Little Red Truck” or is it “pickup Truck” . In any case, one has to look closely to see about the middle of the picture shown followed by a dust cloud, a little red pickup truck. Recently at a store that sold just about anything or everything, I have noticed old picture for sale. I am not talking about picture for wall hanging though they have those too. I am talking old family photos. Old homes and rusting vehicles bring melancholy emotions, but these old photos disturb me in that these seem to be the gift for future generations so that they could see Great Grandma in her youth riding a horse or Grandpa sitting on the fender of his new 1946 Dodge. They are like (to me) orphaned history that has lost their links to the present generations. On the happier side, I found a book from 1971 that was written about the Wild West (Southwest that is) but devoted page after page to the Sioux Uprising in western Minnesota. Hey, I am a history buff and this book is a treasure!

    • I’ve seen vintage photos for sale also and a certain sadness swept over me.

      The Dakota Uprising occurred in the region of Minnesota where I grew up. It’s always interested me, enough so that I wrote a term paper on the subject while in high school.

      • Gunny Says:

        Audrey, you might enjoy “History of the Norwegian Settlements” by Hjalmar Rued Holland published by Astri My Astri Publishing, ISBN 0-9760541-1-6. My Great (X?) Grandfathers older brother is mentioned and the book has many stories about the Uprising – even a section on the Sioux Uprising. Very sad (for both sides) but points out the absolute brutality of the events. Not for the faint of heart.

      • Thanks for the reference, Gunny.

  11. mycowtales Says:

    The farm truck. Trips to GLF, the farm co-op feed store with my dad. And later myself driving with nephews and nieces in tow. GLF had become Agway, “bag” feed was becoming the exception rather than the rule as farms grew larger and bag feed was replaced by bulk deliveries to the farm. Gradually, the stores began to close(consolidate is the term the office guys called it), and another piece of rural America died. This picture is fertile ground for memories. I have sheep to feed and apple trees to prune or I’d tell some

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