Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“Back home” in rural southwestern Minnesota November 22, 2019

Along U.S. Highway 14 west of Mankato. I grew up some 80 miles west of here.


ALTHOUGH I’VE LIVED IN TOWN longer than in the country, I still feel most at home in the familiar surroundings of endless land and vast sky. Southwestern Minnesota. It is the place of my roots, the place of my heart, the place where I feel overwhelmingly comfortable.


Farms edge U.S. Highway 14 in this region of Minnesota.


I expect most people connect to a geographic location. Do you?


Another farm along Highway 14 west of Mankato.


Every time I’m back home, because, yes, I still call this rural region back home, I sweep my eyes across the landscape, noticing always how small I feel in this setting. The sky and land overtake every aspect of this place, dwarfing farm sites and farm machinery and people. Only grain elevators seem to hold any sort of visual power.


An old-style machine shed in southwestern Minnesota.


As I travel through this farming region, I study building sites, pleased by sturdy, maintained barns, dismayed by those with roofs caving. Too many barns are vacant of animals, an almost certain start of their demise.


Grain bins define a farm site near Delhi, Minnesota, in my native Redwood County.


Like the farmer’s daughter I am, I notice the status of crops from spring planting to harvest. It’s in my DNA, this natural instinct to focus on corn and soybean fields, to assess the growing season, to care about the weather.


A farm site west of New Ulm, Minnesota.


Although I’ve left this land of my youth, I remain grateful for the earth, the sky, the wind, the communities, the schools, the churches and peoples of southwestern Minnesota. All influenced and shaped me. And still do.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to ““Back home” in rural southwestern Minnesota”

  1. You will always be part of this landscape and it will always be part of you.

  2. I have a few geographic locations I connect to. However, my true connection is wherever I am with Mr. Craves on this crazy adventure called life 🙂 I have roots (probably not deep enough) because I also have wings to explore, adventure and experience the world and what is has to offer, teach me, etc. Connection comes from history and stories, shared experiences with others, sense of belonging to a community and so much more. Great Post Today – Made Me Pause and Reflect on Happy Times. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  3. DeLores Johnson Says:

    Hi Audrey..Finally got a new computer and this is the first mail I am sending on it. So glad you get to come out to “Gods Country ” once in awhile. I love it here too. I was born and raised on a farm North of Echo. Our farm was on a bluff and we could see over the river valley. My brother lives there now, so I get to go out there and revive(when I am feeling down in the dumps). I will be glad to get your writings now. I hope when you are out in this area you will stop in.
    My kids want me to sell my house and move to Redwood Falls, but I do not want to do it. I want to stay in my home that I love. DeLores Johnson

    • DeLores, it’s so good to hear from you. I can just picture your beautiful home site overlooking the valley. That’s such a beautiful area north of Echo. I’m trying to remember the name of the church along the highway.

      I thought of you when we drove past your house on our last trip to visit Mom. Go back a few posts and you’ll find some photos of downtown Belview. I know your kids mean well. But I also recognize how difficult this discussion is for you. Take care, and Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you will enjoy some Grape Salad.

  4. Edward Brian Says:

    My Norwegian great grandparents moved onto the Spirit Lake reservation from Wisconsin when it was opened to homesteaders in 1905. My grandfather, who could read and speak the old language wouldn’t teach his daughters, my mom and her sisters, “because you’re American” he said. My grandparents moved off their farm in the late 1950’s before I was born in 60. It stood abandoned in a cow pasture until the only thing left is debris and a row of lilacs and rhubarb my grandmother planted. As a UPS driver I was blessed to be able to drive by many old farmsteads in western North Dakota including my wife’s paternal grandparents farm where her dad and later her two oldest sisters grew up. The only thing left of the old German farmstead is a well built large shed. After hearing all the farm stories from my in-laws and my wife’s sisters I could visualize them on the farm as I’d drive by the old farmstead on my route.

  5. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Nothing like the country and your roots. I dont think anything can take that away from you 🙂

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