Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A bit like the Dust Bowl inside my house June 1, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:03 AM
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I’d encourage you to read this book about The Dust Bowl. It’s riveting and informative, filled with stories.

I AM A THROW the windows open, let fresh air flow into my house kind of person. I dislike stuffiness, feeling closed in by lack of air movement. Randy sometimes calls me “Ida.” He’s referencing my paternal grandmother, who slept with her bedroom window cracked, even in the winter. While I don’t do that, I’ve opened windows on cool-ish days. Hey, I gotta get some fresh air in the house.

Monday was one of those days when I should have kept the windows clamped shut. Why? Because of the wind. Fierce, strong, relentless winds blew all day, even blowing in destructive storms and tornadoes into parts of central Minnesota. And while we avoided that here in Faribault, our lawn is littered with maple leaves, small branches and twigs.

At one point Monday afternoon, Randy and I launched from our lawnchairs upon hearing a loud crack. We convened with our next door neighbor, attempting to determine what cracked and fell in the woods behind our homes. But we couldn’t determine the source in the denseness of greenery and felt thankful a tree or limb did not land on our houses and garages. The woods are littered with dead trees and broken branches from a 2018 tornado. That storm cut a destructive path through our neighborhood with trees falling on vehicles, roadways, houses, garages and, for us, the electrical wire and meter ripped off our house.

I digress. On Memorial Day, winds whipped all day. And our windows were open. Wide open. I should have known better. But, at the time, I was thinking only of keeping the house cool without switching on the air. I’m all about conserving energy and saving money because, you know, everything costs so darned much these days.

By evening meal prep, I realized just how dirty the house had gotten. Grit layered the kitchen counters, the table, the floors, the… I had no desire or energy to clean beyond swiping a rag across surfaces to reveal a line of dirt.

Heavy duty cleaning awaited me Tuesday morning. I spent hours washing surfaces and floors, spraying a layer of visible dirt from the bathtub, vacuuming. I could have prevented this, if only I’d kept the windows closed.

I should have, could have, learned from my Grandma Ida. Over the weekend, I was reading the Kletscher family history compiled by my Uncle Merlin. He included this story:

My family lived through the very dry years of the 30s commonly referred to as The Dust Bowl years. I recall my mother telling how she could wipe off the table in the morning after breakfast and by noon it would be covered with dirt and dust blown into the house by the dry winds. I always wondered why she had the habit of covering everything that was setting out on the table or counter with a dish towel. I also recall my father telling about gathering wind blown tumbleweed from the fence lines so they could have feed for the livestock. He felt sorry for the animals but that was all they could find for feed.

From my own childhood, I recall a Good Friday dust storm which layered our rural southwestern Minnesota farmhouse with dirt. Mom left the windows open a crack before we accompanied her on a shopping trip to nearby Marshall. A dust storm swept through while we were gone. We spent hours thereafter wiping, sweeping and vacuuming dirt from the house, just like I did on Tuesday.

I have not yet finished cleaning following the wild winds of Memorial Day 2022. I have the second level to vacuum and wipe down. But compared to those Minnesotans who lost homes, vehicles and more to tornadoes, a little (OK, a lot) of dirt seems like nothing.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


13 Responses to “A bit like the Dust Bowl inside my house”

  1. Valerie Says:

    I, too, love to open up the windows…even on a fairly warm day int he winter…to let the sneezes out, I say.
    But, thankfully we had the a/c on for the hot and humid days over the weekend, and saved ourselves from some cleaning it sounds like. 😉

  2. I am a door open kind of gal and we usually have our doors open. Windows–not so much in this house because of all the pollen and tree dirt like you are talking about. Hopefully your house will be sparkling soon.

  3. That was one heck of a storm!!! We saw damage all along I35 going North yesterday out of the cities. Hinckley got hit really bad and golf ball hail in Moose Lake was the news we had when we arrived. This time of the year for tornados in Minnesota is not normal and the large area of damage also not normal! I hope this will not be the new normal of climate change. I will get the book you recommended.

    • Your observations about storm damage are interesting as I’ve read/heard nothing about the damage along the I-35 corridor north. Like you, I hope this is not the “new normal” because this widespread stormy weather is definitely not “normal” for Minnesota.

      Enjoy your stay in Minnesota. You have ideal weather this week. It’s simply perfect.

      The Dust Bowl book is packed with some pretty impressive stories and photos.

  4. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I’m a windows-wide-open kind of girl too, EXCEPT in the heat and humidity of summer, then the AC comes on and I sit in the house. Unless of course I’m at the cabin where we always seem to have a cool breeze coming off the lake. Sorry you had to do all that cleaning…UGH


    I made note of the book you recommended. Thank you! Here’s one I read, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. It was so compelling that I then searched out county museums in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle area to visit. We did just that on a road trip a few years ago.

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