Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In the dark of the night along a rural Minnesota roadway… November 2, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A semi awaits the harvest. Photo used for illustration purposes only and not at the same location where this story takes place. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.


AHEAD OF US along the side of a county road between Faribault and Medford, hazard lights from a tractor trailer pulsated amber into the blackness of a late autumn evening.

A few miles away, combines spotlighted cornfields as farmers worked the night shift in an already late harvest season.

In the rural blackness, our 2003 Chevy Impala beamed headlights through the deep dark, our eyes scanning ditches for deer evicted from fields.

The setting was prime for drama, for threatening possibilities, for imaginations to race rampant.

And then it happened. As we edged even with the parked semi near the county line and our turn-off intersection, the driver stepped from the cab, hailing us. Randy stopped the car. I rolled down the window and the stranger approached. I never considered in that moment the possibility of danger. It was only afterward when friends questioned our decision that I evaluated our choice. But in this moment, this man needed assistance.

Randy pulled the car ahead to a safer spot. Then the stranger leaned toward me, handed me a slip of paper, cigarette breath hanging in the air. I pulled down the visor, flipped up the mirror cover to unleash light. He spoke in jerks of thickly-accented words. “No English. Ukraine, Poland…”

He pointed to the paper again. And we understood that this Ukrainian needed to find his delivery destination. Here, in this countryside where the wind whipped across fields in bone-chilling cold. Here, where dark prevailed. We pulled our smartphones out and Randy punched in the address. We were there, at the driver’s destination. But in the blackness, we perceived nothing except the faint outlines of grouped buildings.

I tried to explain that we would turn around, check out the location and return. But the driver didn’t understand and started walking, swallowed by the darkness. Randy followed. Except I didn’t know that he planned, too, to disappear into that roadway ribbon of blackness. As the minutes ticked by and I waited, my angst rose. Where was my husband? Had this stranger robbed him, assaulted him, pushed him into the road ditch…?

I picked up my phone, punched the green icon connecting to Randy’s phone. He answered. My fear lessened. “Where are you?” I asked.

“Walking back,” he assured. “There in a minute.” And he was, along with the truck driver.

Still, we hadn’t solved the problem. Randy thought the destination business had a second access. There was none, only a single gated road in and no room for a tractor trailer to park until the next morning. Our efforts to communicate in English with the driver failed. So I resorted to mimicking sleep, the rising sun and turn around and go back to town with my arms. Finally he understood and thanked us profusely.

We left the trucker there on the side of the county road, in the blackness of night. Hours later we retraced our route home to find the semi gone, presumably parked miles away at a truck stop for the night. And we wondered about the Ukrainian, how he had come to be a commercial truck driver lost on a rural southeastern Minnesota roadway in the season of harvest.


TELL ME: Would you have stopped if this trucker flagged you down along a remote rural roadway in the dark of night?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


15 Responses to “In the dark of the night along a rural Minnesota roadway…”

  1. Littlesundog Says:

    I think Forrest and I would have done the same as you and Randy did. Most of the time, we have only inner radar, instinct, to rely on in these situations. I question too, the oddity of the situation, but I also consider that every one of us has needed help in our lives at one time or another. Growing up I remember my dad was always one to help folks who were stranded on the roadside (being a mechanic). These days, I cannot help but wonder if he would be so willing to stop and lend a hand. The risks are much greater in these times.

    • I agree with your suggestion of trusting one’s instinct. When I trust my gut, my inner voice, it’s always been spot-on.

      Your dad is like Randy. Automotive machinist that he is, he has helped many a person with vehicle issues.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    That’s a great story—lots of emotions involved in it. If I was alone I might not have stopped but if I had been with the hubby I probably would have. I have been told I am too trusting and perhaps I am but I do try to be smart about things. Glad it all turned out okay and hopefully he got to the destination with his load.

  3. I really try to trust my instincts in these types of situations. I did not like the situation I encountered in the parking lot yesterday coming back to my vehicle after picking up a few groceries. I made the least amount of moves to get the groceries in, get in myself and lock the doors. Something told me to leave the cart in the store and I did. I knew why once I reached my vehicle. Trust your instincts and be aware is key in certain situations. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Valerie Says:

    Not if I was alone…but perhaps if I was with my husband. If we didn’t stop I would call the sheriff to go help them….

  5. Susan Ready Says:

    Yikes-sounded like a scary encounter that did put you at great risk I might have not gotten out of my car but called sheriff to get the person help. One is so vulnerable especially on a rural road in the dark of night,

  6. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Nope, you are both better people than I.

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