Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflections after a country drive April 1, 2021

Farmland dominates the landscape east of Faribault near Minnesota State Highway 60.

EAST OF FARIBAULT, the land stretches long and flat. Wide open. Fields punctuated by farm sites.

We followed this narrow, and muddy, gravel road.

Gravel and asphalt roads divide farmland into grids. Orderly. As if a ruler was laid across the earth and straight lines inked thereon.

Building sites break the monotony of fields.

Sunday afternoon, after a hike at Falls Creek County Park, Randy and I took a country drive. We are farm-raised, decades removed from the farm, but with an enduring connection to the land.

An old hayrack, so familiar to me, parked in a field east of Faribault.

On the cusp of spring planting time in Minnesota, the draw back to the land, to the familiarity of fields, calls. For me, there’s this deep yearning, this need to lay my eyes on the bare earth or the residue of last year’s crops.

I feel connected to all of this via my rural upbringing in southwestern Minnesota.

At times my heart aches for missing the land. I want to smell the scent of soil, to touch the cold earth, to remember all those springs back on the farm. The steady rhythm of the tractor, the corn kernels pouring into the planter and then the faint hint of green lining the black fields.

An aged abandoned outbuilding on a former farm site just outside Nerstrand.

Much about farming has changed since my leaving of the land in the early 1970s. But the basics remain. The planting, the growing and harvesting.

Power poles along a gravel road are such a strong rural visual.

And even though I’ve lived in town far more decades than on a farm, my rural upbringing roots me to the land and takes me back each season. To honor my hardworking farmer dad. To equally appreciate my mom who gardened and fed and raised six children on the land. My hardworking parents instilled in me a love of the land, a connection to place and the innate need to follow gravel roads into the countryside.

Dad farmed, in the early years with a John Deere and Farmall and IH tractors and later with a Ford. (Photo by Lanae Kletscher Feser)
A photo of my dad, Elvern Kletscher, taken in 1980.

This post is dedicated in loving memory of my farmer father, Elvern Kletscher, who died on April 7, 2003. Thank you, Dad, for raising me to appreciate the land, for teaching me the value of hard work. for instilling in me a love of God and of family. I am grateful. And I miss you.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “Reflections after a country drive”

  1. Ruth Says:

    A lovely tribute to your father ❤️

  2. Roots and wings, right! Family ties that bond through thick and thin. Oh my goodness the value of hard work (do I know any other way – no). Very appreciative and grateful for the upbringing that has stuck with me into adulthood. Love your photos – the BEST ONE is of your dad 🙂 Happy Day – Happy April – Enjoy!

  3. Lovely post, Audrey. ❤

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    Such a wonderful tribute to your father.

  5. Norma Says:

    I love the picture of your dad, and the memories of your life on a farm. I wasn’t raised on a farm, but my dad was one of the best when it came to his gardens. We lived in a small town of approximately 1400 people, and everyone had their gardens. Daddy raised chickens, turkeys, and me. He grew walnuts, and tried to teach me how to pick them and prepare them to sell. Needless to say, he didn’t succeed in that endeavor. I was not born to be a farmer. My mother was unable to teach me how to crochet. I often wonder what I did learn, and then I remember that I learned to love, like they loved me.

    • Norma, your comment has moved me to tears. Specifically this sentence: “I often wonder what I did learn, and then I remember that I learned to love, like they loved me.” This is profoundly beautiful. There is perhaps no greater gift a parent can give to a child. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

  6. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    All things country…..Love it!

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