Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On the road in southwestern Minnesota January 16, 2020

Almost to Morgan last Saturday morning.


BY THE TIME we drive into Morgan on the eastern edge of Redwood County, I just want to reach our destination, Belview in southwestern Minnesota.


Farm sites abound along back county roads between New Ulm and Morgan.


It’s not that we’ve been on the road an interminably long time—around two hours. But the drive seems to lengthen between New Ulm and Morgan, and especially between Morgan and Redwood Falls.


A farm east of Morgan photographed in December 2019.


This is farm country. Mostly flat. Stretching as far as the eye can see, broken only by farm sites embraced by windbreaks. Or countless power poles fading into infinity.


Morgan is a farming community defined visually by its grain elevator complex.


Or by the grain elevators and water tower in Morgan.


Near Morgan and photographed on January 11.


Randy and I talk as we travel, commenting on snow cover in the winter, crops in the other seasons. Oftentimes we reminisce about our farm upbringings, prompted by the rural landscape enveloping us. We are still farm kids at heart, in memory, in the essence of our beings.


A not uncommon scene in rural Minnesota, this one in Morgan.


Conversation passes the time as does photography. I feel compelled to photograph this place that is so much a part of me. Familiar. Comforting. Forever home.


I find myself repeatedly photographing this beautiful barn and farm site west of New Ulm.


But my photography isn’t only about me and my connection to this land. It’s also about my desire to document and share this place with those unfamiliar with southwestern Minnesota. I recognize that not everyone appreciates the prairie. Its spacious skies and wide expanse of land can feel unsettling to those who have always only known metro areas. Or trees. I get it. Plop me inside a city and I feel boxed in by tall buildings and uncomfortable on too much concrete among too much traffic.


Main Street Morgan photographed in late December 2019.


Still, despite the differences between rural and urban dwellers, we all still see the same sun, the same moon. And we are all journeying somewhere on the same planet.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “On the road in southwestern Minnesota”

  1. ourcrossings Says:

    What a beautiful barn, especially with the snowy landscape! I can easily see why you are drawn to it. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

  2. valeriebollinger Says:

    I do love the open skies…to see forever.

  3. Dawn Tietz Says:

    It’s my town! You can almost see my house in your photo too! Thanks for recognizing Morgan as you drove through! Next time stop and say Hi!

    • Hi, Cousin Dawn! I think of you every time we drive through Morgan. But every time we drive through, we are on a schedule to get somewhere, this trip to see Mom and then head back before the snow started. One of these drives, when time allows, we may just pop in.

  4. I can look at barns all day long!!! It’s been too long since I’ve been out myself to photograph the country landscape and buildings….maybe after the big this weekend 🙂

  5. Minnesota Prairie. Even pictures can’t capture the grandeur on the expansive plains.
    Why did the trip seem to slow as you got closer to your destination? Was it the expansive plains themselves? Or a situation you were going to face ? You kept me guessing.
    I always love that you bring these images of Minnesota to the world.
    For me I love reading and seeing them as they dull the homesick feeling I get from being away.
    You are right not everyone can relate to those plains. Being a forest gal of Minnesota I remember my family drives through the flat prairie land as taking forever to get to our destination in Iowa.

    • Those are good questions. The answer is multiple. I’ve traveled those roads so often that they no longer hold the excitement of driving through an area I haven’t previously seen. And the second is exactly what you say, wondering what I would face when I arrived at my destination, my mom’s care center. Thankfully Mom was having a “good day,” those words being relative for someone on hospice. I’m thankful for the additional time with the mom I love.

      I can only imagine how long those drives from Up North to Iowa. Wooded areas really used to bother me. But I’ve adjusted through the years as I’ve become more exposed to woods.

      • Audrey- was thinking of you today as we are also negotiating family issues. Hard with the end of life ones for sure. Blessed when there are good days and good memories to cherish.
        I understand the roads travelled frequently thing. When I am home there are a dozen backroads I take to get to the places I normally go just to break up the drive.

      • Thank you for your sweet thoughts, Paula. I hope that everything can be amicably negotiated in your family.

      • Well… there is always hope. Maybe, a miracle is needed, always when it seems like the universe can’t seem to be better it gives us a whole new angle to work. So, that means just maybe I will be using that quote a bit more in the coming months as me and the Hubby face our challenges. Just knowing we are not alone and others are struggling as well makes it seem trivial. Enjoy our moments as moments is all we have.

      • I intentionally focus on the word “hope” and remind myself of that via posting inspirational quotes and bible verses in my office, on the fridge and elsewhere.

  6. I do love to see barns and all of the out buildings on farms. Takes me back to my grandma and grandpa’s farm and all the fun I used to have there.

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