Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Embracing winter in Minnesota January 6, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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My two-year-old grandson with his new snow shovel.

WHEN YOU LIVE IN A NORTHERN state like Minnesota, where winter defines at least half the year, preparation for cold and snowy weather is a necessity, not an option.

It’s a lesson taught from early on. Snowsuit, waterproof mittens and snow boots for the kids. Check. Check. Check. Sled. Check. Snow shovel. Check.

No matter your age, dressing properly to protect from the elements and then having the right tools to deal with the snow are essentials. So we’ve equipped our grandchildren, Isabelle and Isaac, with snow shovels and sleds. Izzy got her mama’s childhood snow shovel and Lion King sled. Isaac got a new shovel purchased at the local hardware store. And we bought bright new sleds for both at a regional retailer.

Then it’s up to the parents, or the grandparents, to bundle the kids and get them outdoors. It’s a process. But important in teaching the little people that winter can be fun.

Our southwestern Minnesota farmyard is buried in snowdrifts in this March 1965 image. My mom is holding my youngest sister as she stands by the car parked next to the house. My other sister and two brothers and I race down the snowdrifts.

I loved winter as a child growing up on the wind-swept southwestern Minnesota prairie. There snow drifted into rock-hard mountains around the house and farm outbuildings. There Dad shoved snow with the John Deere tractor and loader into more mountains, where my siblings and I played for endless hours. We carved out snow caves and raced on a vintage runner sled. Such is the stuff of memories. And of winter in Minnesota.

This huge, hard-as-rock snowdrift blocked our farm driveway in this March 1965 photo, rural Vesta, Minnesota. My uncle drove over from a neighboring farm to help open the drive so the milk truck could reach the milkhouse.

While my grandchildren’s memories will be different—they live in a new housing development in the south metro—I hope they continue to embrace winter with joy and enthusiasm. Just as their mom (Dad grew up in warm and sunny California) and maternal grandparents did before them.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

24 Responses to “Embracing winter in Minnesota”

  1. Washe Koda Says:

    🙂 We used to use the paraffin wax from the duck plucking bucket to Shellac card bored boxes for sliding down hills before we could afford a ⤵️

  2. I loved my flexible flyer! I can remember losing control of my sled once, skidding on ice, and hitting a fence pole. My sled fell apart underneath me in perfect pieces. I picked everything up, walked home, and using my father’s tools, I put my sled back together. I headed back out to the hill in the park and enjoyed the rest of the day with my friends. Sleds these days are plastic and break easily. My son and I found that out a couple of weeks ago. Big disappointment.

    • That’s quite the story, Keith. I’m thankful it was just your sled that fell apart because hitting a fence pole seems possibly injury-inflicting. I’m sorry about the plastic sled breaking. The ones we purchased for Izzy and Isaac seems pretty heavy duty and will, hopefully, last. The Lion King sled, however, cracked after about 30+ years.

      • As apartment dwellers, it’s pretty difficult storing a sled. Just so much wall space, but I am thinking of getting Ethan a vintage sled. He needs to experience it. Plus, it would look better hanging on the wall than the plastic ones!

      • I love this idea, Keith. Yes, he should experience flying down a hill on a vintage sled. And, yes, it would look artsy against your apartment wall.

  3. Oh the sledding memories! I still remember the truck hood sled that we could fit about 10 child-size bodies on to sled down the hill on. We had sleds and made sleds as well as used inner tubes too. I was very fortunate to have my snowmobile permit at 13 along with a used snowmobile. We would head out and winter camp (loved the snowmobiling more than winter camping in a tent). Then there was the snow forts and snow ball fights. There was plenty of shoveling and moving of snow too as well as brushing off the vehicles and starting them to heat up. I enjoy seeing your snow pictures while I am in sunshine, blue skies and sand land 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

  4. Missy’s Crafty Mess Says:

    Love passing of the torch so to speak! Your vintage photos are great!

  5. Oh Audrey, I needed this very grounded post this morning. For me, it is a reminder that we all have learned lessons from our childhood that will help us move forward, like dressing for the cold weather or persevering in hard times when money is short. We sleded with cardboard boxes (because we didn’t have the money for a sled) they didn’t go fast or last long but it was a sense of freedom going down those huge snowbanks. How much faster those sleds the kids brought to school and were kind enough to loan during playtime to those of us who didn’t have one. Seeing how far we could ride til the sled slowly ended the ride. Simple times… when the world still made sense.

    • “When the world still made sense…”

      I thought of you several times yesterday, Paula, knowing how your heart was hurting. Like so many of us in America. Your story about the sharing of sleds uplifts me, shows kindness in a real way. It reminded me of the elementary school classmates who had rollerskates and shared a skate with me, so I could fly down the sidewalk during recess on one skate.

      Take care, dear Paula, and know that I am holding you close in thoughts, especially today. Thank you for all you’ve done for freedom, for democracy.

  6. Well, you know me… I have always loved winter, all it’s beauty and chill! We used to sled and toboggan in the huge pasture behind our childhood home, it was fun coming down but it took a while to walk back up. When we got to be teenagers as few of our friends had snowmobiles and would pull us back up the hill. Rick and I did a lot of sledding with our kids, and now they with theirs. Such a fun winter activity. I love all the photo’s, they make me smile. Still waiting for snow in Rochester and it’s already January. We have just enough to cover the grass, Come on winter, prove yourself.


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