Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Displaying the red, white & blue in small town America July 4, 2013

Flag buntings decorate an historic home in the beautiful river town of Decorah, Iowa.

Flag buntings decorate an historic home in the beautiful river town of Decorah, Iowa.

SIGNS OF U.S. PRIDE/patriotism/love of country are evident everywhere this week in small town Midwestern America.

Here are a few examples from a recent short trip into southeastern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa.

Enjoy.

And Happy Fourth of July, dear readers.

Chalk art at St. Feriole Island Gardens in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, along the Mississippi River.

Chalk art at St. Feriole Island Gardens in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, along the Mississippi River.

Snapped through the windshield of the van, this aged elevator and flag to the right, entering the Mississippi River town of Marquette, Iowa, from the north.

Snapped through the windshield of the van, this aged elevator and flag, to the right, entering the Mississippi River town of Marquette, Iowa, from the north.

A few miles to the south in McGregor, Iowa, I found this "God bless America" sticker and humorous welcome on the door of a bar.

A few miles to the south in McGregor, Iowa, I found this “God bless America” sticker and humorous welcome on the door of a bar.

I spotted plenty of American flags in the Mississippi River town of Lansing, Iowa.

I spotted plenty of American flags in the historic Mississippi River town of Lansing, Iowa.

Signs and a flag in Lansing, Iowa.

Signs and a flag in Lansing, Iowa.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Old Glory at the elevator in Castle Rock May 6, 2013

Farmers Mill and Elevator, Inc., Castle Rock, family-owned for 70 years by third generation.

Farmers Mill and Elevator, Inc., Castle Rock, family-owned for 70 years by third generation.

SMALL TOWN GRAIN elevators, like barns, beckon me to photograph them, for I fear that these skyscrapers of the prairie, as some have called them, will someday vanish.

Recently, on a pass through Castle Rock, an unincorporated village located about six miles north of Northfield in Dakota County, I spotted Farmers Mill and Elevator, Inc.

The grey of the elevator complex matched the grey skies in a landscape late in welcoming spring.

Despite that seasonal indifference over which we possess no control, I noticed the prevailing spirit of rural patriotism in an American flag stretching her stars and stripes in the brisk April afternoon wind.

Grey be gone. Red, white and blue flourishes, at least atop the grain elevator in Castle Rock.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reflections on Independence Day July 4, 2011

A flag and portrait of George Washington at the former District 20 Millersburg School, now a museum.

“I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

As a child, my school days began with that pledge. My classmates and I arose from our desks at Vesta Elementary School, turned toward the American flag in the corner, placed our hands across our hearts, fixed our eyes upon the stars and stripes, and recited the pledge in unison.

I doubt we ever thought too much about the rote words we spoke. They were simply part of our routine, something we did, although I do recall feeling a sense of pride in speaking those words daily.

So much has changed in the decades since then. The Pledge of Allegiance, in most cases, has been banned from public schools in the name of political correctness. We are no longer one nation under God. While the U.S. remains one country, we as individuals are certainly divided in our views of anything and everything. That’s as it should be in a democracy. Liberty and justice have managed to prevail.

As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, it would be wise for all Americans to reflect on the Pledge and the words of other documents and songs that focus on the flag and freedom.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776

Vietnam veteran Joel Kukacka's patriotic garage in the hamlet of Heidelberg, Minnesota.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
—The Star Spangled Banner

An American flag painted on a shed in Dundas in southeastern Minnesota.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.—The Bill of Rights, Amendment I

Weeks after a devastating Sept. 2010 flash flood in Hammond, in southeastern Minnesota, an American flag marked a ravaged business.

God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above;

From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.

Flags decorate a vintage tractor at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show near Dundas.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The patriotic traditions of Memorial Day in Minnesota May 31, 2011

Boy Scouts march down Faribault's Central Avenue, giving away small American flags, on Memorial Day.

A member of the Color Guard salutes at the Memorial Day program in Central Park.

YES, DEAR READERS, I have yet another Memorial Day post to share with you. But I cannot help myself. My parents reared me to respect this day as a time to honor our war dead.

Every year of my childhood, we attended the Memorial Day program in my hometown of Vesta on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. I continued that tradition with my children by taking them each year to the Memorial Day parade in Faribault.

It is a tradition my husband and I continue, minus the kids—two of whom are grown and gone and the third a teen that cannot be roused from bed for the 10 a.m. parade.

Now I smile at the young families who gather along the curb in downtown Faribault to watch the veterans and Boy Scouts, the old cars and horses, the Girl Scouts and the Shattuck-St. Mary’s crack squad, the police cars and fire truck and marching bands.

Little hands reach for American flags distributed by the walking, sometimes running, Boy Scouts.

Clutched fists wave American flags.

It’s all so patriotic.

After the parade, the crowd gathers at nearby Central Park for more patriotism and I am reminded of my dad, a Korean War vet, who marched so many times with his Color Guard in parades and programs.

In the park bandshell, the guests of honor sit, rise and tell us they have little to say before offering these words:

“Your wars aren’t all won on the battlefield. They’re also won at home.”

“If you know a veteran, just say, ‘thank you.’ It means so much to them—something Vietnam vets were short of.”

“I salute all veterans here.”

“God bless everybody.”

“God bless America.”

The Color Guard leads the way in the Faribault Memorial Day parade.

These Boy Scouts seem a bit indecisive, while other Boy Scouts race toward the crowd to hand out American flags.

Every year the Boy Scouts give away flags during the parade.

A veteran and others wait for the Memorial Day program to start at Central Park.

The Color Guard advances and the Memorial Day observance begins in Central Park.

The Color Guard soldiers salute. Emcee and radio announcer Gordy Kosfeld, on stage at the podium, will later tell us: "Memorial Day should be a time of reflection, not a holiday."

A strong wind blew the Color Guard flags set next to the bandshell stage at Central Park.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling