Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About those holiday lights on my tree December 14, 2021

This paper angel, saved from my childhood Sunday School class lesson, tops my Christmas tree. I treasure this nearly 60-year-old angel. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted, edited photo December 2021)

AS I WRITE, Christmas music plays on the radio. Snow falls.* And in my living room, an angel-topped tree graces a corner near the front picture window.

On a day like today,* when grey infiltrates the house, I typically plug in the holiday lights. But they remain unplugged, no lights brightening the room.

There’s a problem. One strand no longer works and, on the other, only half of the bulbs flash color. A brief search for Christmas lights locally proved futile. “You can’t find them anywhere in Faribault,” a cashier at a local chain store told me. The two stores I checked validated that. Sort of.

I didn’t necessarily believe that lights can’t be found anywhere locally. But then I heard the co-hosts of an Owatonna radio talk show say the same. No holiday lights to be found.

UPDATE: I found Christmas lights in Faribault. At ACE Hardware early Saturday afternoon. Shelves were adequately stocked with a variety of lights.

The challenge then was to replace the burned out strings. And, let me tell you, putting lights on a tree after it’s been decorated with ornaments and tinsel rates as frustrating and difficult. Eventually Randy finished the task after my pleas to, please, help me.

So…if you live in Faribault and need Christmas lights, stories of their lack of availability anywhere in town are greatly exaggerated.


* I wrote the beginning of this post on Friday, December 10.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


There’s something about a hardware store May 22, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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PICTURE A SMALL TOWN hardware store and what image comes to mind?

Mine: Narrow aisles, wood floors, loose bolts and nails tucked into cubbies along the wall, and rolls of coiled, perforated caps for cap guns.

That was the 1960s.

Today most hardware stores don’t sell in bulk. Everything’s pre-packaged. I doubt you’ll find caps for a cap gun or wood floors either.

Jerry's ACE Hardware in the small town of Kenyon, Minnesota.

Jerry’s ACE Hardware in the small town of Kenyon (not Faribault), Minnesota.

Yet, the hardware store remains a small town staple, the go-to place for plumbing supplies, mouse traps, paint, other basic essentials of home repair and more.

I live in a community of nearly 25,000, no small town by my definition. Faribault has two hardware stores, one of them, ACE, in the downtown area. The place is busy, always busy. It’s not because prices are low. Rather it’s because of the service.

From the moment you walk in the door, an employee is there to answer your questions, lead you to whatever it is you need. And that worker sticks around until he/she is certain you have what you need. These folks are, for the most part, knowledgeable.

You can’t beat great customer service.

And then there’s that help-yourself-to-a-bag-of-popcorn popcorn machine…

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling