Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Up for auction: original Edward Curtis photogravures April 15, 2021

WHEN THE AUCTION BOOKLET arrived in the mail, I thumbed through page after page of photos showing Native American artifacts. Tools. Knives. Triangle points. And more. Made from bone, stones, quills…

In the auction booklet, Edward Curtis photogravures are featured along with Native American art and artifcats.

But when I reached the middle of the publication from Helbling Auctioneers* for a May 22 “Large South Dakota Artifact Collection” auction in Lakeville, Minnesota, I paused. Item #131 on the auction list features seven original 1907 photogravures by noted photographer Edward S. Curtis. He is well-known for documenting Native Americans living west of the Mississippi River via his incredible photography.

Among the prints of Edward Curtis photos exhibited at the Montgomery Arts and Heritage Center. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2020.

I was first introduced to Curtis while viewing 60 prints in his “The North American Indian” collection at the Montgomery (MN) Arts & Heritage Center in January 2020. It was a temporary installation funded by a $4,000 grant from the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation and an incredible gift to this community of some 3,000.

A photo of Edward Curtis with info about this noted American photographer was showcased in Montgomery, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2020.

Curtis has a connection to the Montgomery area, moving from Wisconsin to nearby Cordova as a child. As he grew, Curtis often traveled with his preacher father, sometimes canoeing with him on the Cannon River. That fostered his love of the outdoors. And apparently his interest in photography. By age 17, he was working at a photography studio in St. Paul. Then, in 1887, the family moved to Seattle.

An insightful and beautiful quote by Edward Curtis shown at the Montgomery exhibit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2020.

That’s the brief backstory on the man who would become famous for his historical photographic documentation of Native Americans. He lived with these peoples, observed them, understood them, respected them. And that shows in his portraits, his photographs of everyday scenes, of their lives.

From the auction preview book, the photogravures of Edward Curtis.

The seven original photogravures on the May auction block are a mix of portraits and everyday life. I expect they will draw the interest of historians, collectors and others. Certainly, they caught my eye as I paged through all those photos of artifacts.

Edward Curtis specializes in Native American portraits, like this one up for bid.

I appreciate the challenges long ago photographers like Curtis faced with equipment and the whole photographic process. They couldn’t fire off frame after frame to get the perfect image. Rather, they often had to get it right the first time. When I consider that, I am even more impressed by Curtis’ work. He was a master of craft, honed from his connection to the outdoors, his understanding of Native Americans and his desire to honor them with his photography.

FYI: The May 22 auction at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Lakeville begins at 10 a.m. and features primarily items from the Ernie & Barb Spaid Family Artifact Collection (from South Dakota). However, in the middle of the sale, a small collection from North and South Dakotas will be sold. That includes the seven original Edward Curtis 1907 photogravures. For more info about the auction, click here.

* Bob Helbling of Helbling Auctioneers of Kindred and Hankinson, N.D., is a distant cousin of my husband. I wrote this post because of my interest in the photography of Edward S. Curtis.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

“Sold, to bidder number…” February 27, 2014

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Turek's Auction Service, 303 Montgomery Ave. S.E. (Highway 21), Montgomery, has been "serving Minnesota since 1958." Daniel Turek, Sr., started the third-generation family business now operated by Dan, Jr. and Travis Turek. They sell everything from antique vases to real estate.

Turek’s Auction Service, 303 Montgomery Ave. S.E. (Highway 21), Montgomery, has been “serving Minnesota since 1958.” Daniel Turek, Sr., started the third-generation family business now operated by Dan, Jr. and Travis Turek. They sell everything from antique vases to real estate.

YEARS, MAYBE EVEN A DECADE or more, have passed since I attended an auction.

But once upon a time my husband and I frequented auctions, bidding mostly on furniture. Our prized dining room table came from a neighbor’s household and farm auction back in my hometown of Vesta. The matching chairs were from a sale near Morristown.

Auctions appeal to me for many reasons. There’s a certain camaraderie yet competitiveness, friendliness yet aloofness, thrill yet disappointment.

When you outbid someone or snare merchandise at a bargain price, it’s a heady feeling.

But it’s more than that. The rhythm of an auction, the mesmerizing cadence of the auctioneer’s voice, the slight nod of the head, the closeness of the crowd, the commonality of community, Styrofoam cups brimming with steaming coffee, all create an unforgettable experience.

Perhaps it’s time I attend an auction again.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faithful support of Christian education September 19, 2013

The crowd of bidders at the annual CVLHS auction.

The crowd of bidders at the annual Cannon Valley Lutheran High School auction. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT AN AUCTION. Sure, the cause may be to empty the house, settle an estate, raise monies for a charity or cause.

But the beauty of an auction lies in the bringing together of folks in a sense of community to achieve a defined goal.

Never have I felt a deeper bonding of souls than at the annual Cannon Valley Lutheran High School Auction Fundraiser, which I’ve attended for many of its past six years. I feel like I’m among family at this auction in the Morristown Community Center. We’re all there to support young people desiring a Christian education.

This Saturday, September 21, CVLHS holds its seventh annual auction event beginning at 4:30 p.m. with a silent auction (that closes at 6 p.m.) followed by the live auction at 7 p.m.

Auctioning of beautiful pieced quilt at the CVLHS live auction.

Auctioning of a beautiful pieced quilt at the CVLHS live auction. Volunteer Development Director Mike Young is pictured on the right. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Organizers—including my friend, volunteer Development Director Mike Young—work tirelessly to put this event together. Mike’s not going to like me singling him out. But sometimes that’s OK, to be publicly thanked for selfless dedication and hard work.

Embroidered dish towels were among silent auction offerings.

Embroidered dish towels were among silent auction offerings at a past auction. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Jars of pickled beets on display.

Jars of pickled beets and other fresh and canned produce and baked goods are available for purchase. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

You can't beat the food served during the CVLHS auction, like this pork sandwich, potato salad and homemade apple pie.

You can’t beat the food served during the CVLHS auction, like this pork sandwich, potato salad and homemade apple pie. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

So many individuals and businesses contribute to the success of this event with donations of handcrafted and new items, garden produce and baked goods, gift certificates and more, including their time.

They do it all for the students attending Cannon Valley, a grade 9 – 12 Christian high school located in Morristown.

Except this school year, classes have been temporarily suspended in order for CVLHS to repay debts, regroup and recruit more students. It’s not easy funding a private school—relying mostly on donations, gifts, congregational support, tuition and fundraisers to pay the bills. The plan is to reopen the school next fall.

"Breaking Bread," an original painting by well-known Faribault artist Rhody Yule, will be sold during the live auction.

“Breaking Bread,” an original painting by well-known Faribault artist Rhody Yule, will be sold during the live auction.

Now the fine folks at Cannon Valley and their supporters could have easily tossed in the proverbial towel and said, “That’s it. We’re done.” But they didn’t. They are choosing to move forward despite the financial challenges. That’s faith, dear readers. Faith.

FYI: To learn more about Cannon Valley Lutheran High School, click here.

To learn more about artist Rhody Yule, click here.

CVLHS supporter Kevin Becker repurposed this early 1900s headboard and bed frame in to a storage bench. The headboard was built by the grandfather of the Rev. Robert Snyder, a retired pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault.

CVLHS supporter Kevin Becker repurposed this early 1900s headboard and bed frame in to a storage bench. The headboard/footboard was built by the grandfather of the Rev. Robert Snyder, a retired pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault. Trinity congregation is a CVLHS association member/supporter. Photo courtesy of CVLHS.

Here are some of the items to be sold at the live auction beginning at 7 p.m.: farm fresh hamburger; a get-away for four to Branson, Missouri; tickets to the Minnesota Zoo and Chanhassen Dinner Theatre; a week’s stay at Lake Okoboji, Iowa; two half hogs; a Cedar Garden Arbor Electric organ; handcrafted Intarsia art; a Minnesota Twins print autographed by Tony Oliva; garden art; and more.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My blogging approach to covering a Minnesota flea market May 29, 2013

An overview of the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Flea Market Saturday morning near Dundas.

An overview of the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Flea Market Saturday morning near Dundas.

FLEA MARKETS OFFER an eclectic mix of merchandise and people, the two ingredients which make shopping and photographing these venues especially entertaining and enlightening.

Mr. Socko, the sock guy, vends socks from Fox River Mills, which originated in Appleton, Wisconsin (home to the Fox River), before moving to Iowa.

Mr. Socko, the sock guy,  right, vends socks from Fox River Mills, which originated in Appleton, Wisconsin (home to the Fox River), before moving to Iowa.

For example, I met Mr. Socko of St. Paul peddling American made socks this past weekend at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Flea Market in rural Dundas. Ben Suckow’s (his real name) been selling socks for seven years, driving down to Fox River Mills in Osage, Iowa, to pick up these quality socks to vend at flea markets.

Pigs crafts by Gerald Skluzacek.

Pigs crafts by Gerald Skluzacek.

At the same event, I spotted whimsical flying pigs (and other) garden art created by Northfielder Gerald Skluzacek, retired owner of a sandblasting company. He also makes jewelry.

Linda Stadler arrived with her mittens to sell in Gerald Skluzacek's vendor trailer.

Linda Stadler arrived with her mittens to sell in Gerald Skluzacek’s vendor trailer.

On this cold Saturday, his and wife Jane’s friend, Linda Stadler, arrives with mittens she crafted from recycled sweaters. And, yes, the weather was cold enough to warrant mittens. Linda would be minding the Garden Space while Gerald attended a party.

As a bonus, Linda asked if I was “that blogger,” yes, the one who writes about her ventures into small towns. That would be me. Always nice to meet a reader who appreciates your blogging.

Photogenic Albert Remme.

Photogenic and personable Albert Remme.

I also had the honor of meeting and chatting with Albert Remme of Dennison, who was bundled in a warm coat, an ear flapper cap and gloves on this windy 50-something degree day as he waited on bleachers for his nephew.

After seeking permission to photograph him, I asked Albert if he was a retired farmer. He was a farmer and a soldier. Drafted between Korea and Vietnam, Albert was sent to Hawaii and thanks God he never saw combat. “I don’t know how you could kill anyone who’s done nothing to you,” he said.

Then I told him about my dad, a Korean War vet who fought on the front lines. “It was kill or be killed,” I shared. Not easy. And Albert just kind of nodded his head in silent agreement.

And that’s how these photo shoots go—I spot an interesting person or object or scene and I either shoot a few quick frames or I shoot, then pause to learn more.

Shopping the flea market...

Shopping the flea market…

Every time I attend this flea market, I look for a weird piece of merchandise. This year it would be these horns.

Every time I attend this flea market, I look for a weird piece of merchandise. This year it would be these horns. Why, I ask, would anyone save these? Would you buy these horns or try to sell them?

Signs tell a story, too, like this on an auction wagon there for the live auction.

Signs tell a story, too, like this on an auction wagon there for the live auction.

The auctioneer solicits bids from his movable auction wagon.

The auctioneer solicits bids from his movable auction wagon.

I set my camera on the grass to shoot this image of barbed wire that had been auctioned off.

I set my camera on the grass to shoot this image of barbed wire that had been auctioned off as the auction continues.

FYI: Click here and here to read two previous posts from the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Flea Market. Check back for one final post in which I will show you my purchases.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hey, all you foodies and fun-loving folks… September 28, 2012

IT’S GOING TO BE ONE of those glorious fall weekends in Minnesota. Trees flaming with color. Crisp cobalt blue skies. A certain awareness that these sunny, warm days of autumn will soon morph into the gray weeks of winter.

But let’s not go there.

Instead, hop in the car and take a fall drive this weekend. Follow a meandering gravel road. Banish “hurry” from your vocabulary. Slow down. Park your vehicle and walk.

Then dine at a local community-centered activity like Cannon Valley Lutheran High School’s annual auction at the Morristown Community Center beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Wait a minute, you say. What does that have to do with food?

Well, the CVLHS event includes a bake sale. I know the woman organizing the bake sale and, based on that, you can be assured of an excellent selection of home-baked goods.

You can’t beat the food served during the CVLHS auction, like this pork sandwich, potato salad and homemade apple pie.

Not only that, you can eat a little lunch at the CVLHS auction. Hot pork, beef and cheesy turkey sandwiches. Salads. Pies from the Trinity Pie Makers (of Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault, my church) and assorted desserts. The food alone is well worth attending this event. Take that from someone—me—who has sampled this delicious food several times. (Click here to read a previous post about the CVLHS auction.)

One dozen of Kathy Hallanger’s fall-themed cookies sold for $40 at a previous auction.

Check out the silent auction items (auction runs from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.) and then stay for the live auction of items (beginning at 7 p.m.) like a week at an Iowa resort, theatre tickets, framed artwork, homemade cookies, a garden bench, 11 yards of clean gravel, a 2000 wheelchair accessible van and, ta-da, this just in from my friend Mike Young, volunteer development director at CVLHS:

Just to let you know…another example of how great people are…as I am standing in the office at CVLHS this morning…looking straight at the window…in pulls a pickup and trailer with an “M” 1944 Farmall Tractor for the auction!

So there, need a vintage tractor? Or how about a goat? Mike told me earlier this week about a game involving a real goat. Seems someone may be “stuck” with a goat, although you apparently can buy “goat insurance” to insure yourself from owning said goat.

The Ray Sands Band played at the 2011 Germanfest.

Then, on Sunday, head east of Faribault to St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, for the congregation’s annual Germanfest which includes a 10 a.m. worship service, a 3 p.m. polka praise service and a German buffet served from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and then again from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Deutsche food served in 2011: German potato salad, red cabbage, sauerbraten, rinderwurst, a brat, sauerkraut, beets and green beans on my plate.

And, yes, I ‘ve attended and can vouch for the deliciousness of the German meal and the enjoyment of the polka service. Additionally, you’ll find a bake shop (there’s that food thing again), Christmas store, quilt show, petting zoo, root beer stand, bingo and farmer’s market. (Click here to read a post I published last September about Germanfest.)

Will you be attending a community event this weekend? If so, feel free to share in a comment. Or are you organizing or participating in any such event this weekend in Minnesota? Here’s your chance to spread the word. Submit a brief comment with info. It’s all about community here on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The anatomy of an Allis-Chalmers auction on a Minnesota farm August 6, 2010

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THEY CAME…

the young

and the older

to Allis-Chalmers collector Carl Krueger’s farm

where he sold his beloved truck

and his cherished Allis-Chalmers tractors

to the highest bidders.

The collectible Allis-Chalmers tractors

even the Wallis

and the Allis-Chalmers tractor manual sold.

But the neighbor’s rare 1964 Schafer failed to get a high enough bid.

Auction attendees fueled up on bars from the Lutherans

clasped steering wheels

at the auction on a Minnesota farm field on an August afternoon.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

(See my August 2 post for additional photos from Carl Krueger’s Allis-Chalmers auction.)

 

Guys and their tractors, at an Allis-Chalmers auction August 2, 2010

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Bidding proceeds on the 50-plus Allis-Chalmers tractors at the auction.

WHEN MY HUSBAND SUGGESTED Saturday morning that we take in a large Allis-Chalmers auction at North Morristown, I balked.

Why would I want to stand in the middle of a field on a hot and humid summer day and watch an auctioneer sell old tractors and other farm equipment?

“It’s blog material,” Randy said.

He got me there and he knew it, so Saturday afternoon I relented and tagged along, camera bag in tow.

Maring Auction Company ran the auction on Carl Krueger's farm.

The auction had already been going 4 ½ hours when we arrived at collector Carl Krueger’s farm next to Trinity Lutheran Church and School, which is North Morristown. Randy parked our car among the rows and rows of pick-up trucks that stretched across the trampled alfalfa field. Up and over, on the other side of the hill, people swarmed like ants around the auctioneer’s truck and around the orange tractors and other farm equipment spread out in orderly rows.

This steel wheeled tractor immediately grabbed my attention upon arrival at the auction

A close-up of that steel wheeled tractor in a long line of tractors.

Immediately, I saw the potential and soon parted ways with Randy, who was primarily interested in the tractors while I was primarily interested in the crowd. I had already spotted several photogenic characters. Not that I ignored the pumpkin orange tractors; they, too, offered ample photo ops.

But the bidders, the curious, intrigued me the most, mostly because many sported bright orange attire. If I had been on a highway, I would have thought we were in a construction zone.

I quickly determined that these Allis-Chalmers folks are pretty devoted to their brand. Otherwise, why would you willingly choose to dress like this? I’m no fashionista, but even I would need to think twice before donning bib overalls, a bright orange shirt and an equally bright cap. I saw plenty of all three at the auction.

The dress code of the day: Allis-Chalmers orange.

"The Allis-Chalmers Kid," Carl Krueger, left, watched as his tractors were sold at Saturday's auction.

Clearly, these folks love and respect old tractors, and I appreciate that. As I watched, men (the crowd was overwhelmingly male) settled onto the seats of Allis tractors, clasped their hands upon the steering wheels and drove away in their imaginations. Palms caressed tractor metal. Butts connected with tractor tires, offering a temporary resting place in the heat of the afternoon.

Three men rest on three tires on three Allis-Chalmers around 3 o'clock.

Many a potential buyer, or simply an Allis-Chalmers devotee, settled onto a tractor seat.

Leaning on, touching, climbing--all were important in evaluating Allis-Chalmers tractors at the auction.

Randy was right. I had found sufficient blog material here on this hillside farm field on an August afternoon. But after 1 ½ hours of pursuing photos, I needed a break.

“Is my face all red?” I asked, knowing the answer before the words even tipped my tongue. When I get overheated, my face turns beet red. I sought out the shade of a pole shed, where volunteers from Trinity school were selling beverages, sandwiches, bars and other food. I dipped my hand into a beverage-cooling cattle tank and swiped refreshing water across my flushed skin. Since I didn’t have any money with me for bottled water or pop, I was tempted to slurp a handful of water too. But I figured that wouldn’t be appropriate although no one probably would have cared. I talked to a few people, snapped several images and aimed back toward the field to find my misplaced husband. He was still ogling the tractors.

A long orange line of Allis-Chalmers tractors awaited bidders.

“My dad had one like that,” he said, pointing to the 1950s Allis Chalmers WD, just one in the long orange line. Oops, that’s John Deere’s tag—the line, the long green line. I met a guy who dared to wear his John Deere t-shirt here in this oasis of orange. His girlfriend has an Allis-Chalmers, he explained, as if justifying his attire, even his presence.

I wanted to tell him: “I don’t think it really matters. I’m here. I’m not wearing orange and, uh, we don’t own a pick-up truck.”

Pick-up trucks lined the alfalfa field at the auction site.

WATCH FOR ADDITIONAL auction photos later this week on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling