Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Establishing my voice: Writing rooted in rural Minnesota May 7, 2014

I ARRIVED HOME on a recent Saturday afternoon to the answering machine blinking.

When I reached Sharon Harris of the northern Minnesota based Jackpine Writers’ Bloc a few moments later, I was pleased to hear her news. I’d placed second, she said, in the poetry division of The Talking Stick 23 competition with my poem, “Sunday Afternoon at the Auction Barn.”

Such news could not have come at a better time. Just the day prior, my mother had entered a nursing home. I needed to hear something positive.

TS 19 in which my poem, "Hit-and-Run," received honorable mention.

TS 19 in which my poem, “Hit-and-Run,” received honorable mention.

Getting work accepted into this well-respected literary journal is always an honor. This marks my fifth year in the book in six years of submitting. Twice I’ve earned honorable mentions, for my poem “Hit-and-Run” and for my short story, “The Final Chapter.”

And now this year, I bumped up a spot to get that second place award. Another poem, “The Promised Land,” and a short story, “Eggs and Bread,” will also publish in volume 23.

The Talking Stick editorial team read and considered more than 300 submissions (of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction) before forwarding their top picks in each of the three divisions to selected “celebrity” judges. Poet Margaret Hasse judged this year’s poetry.

Finishing second, I not only receive a $100 cash prize, but also Hasse’s comments on “Sunday Afternoon at the Auction Barn.” She writes:

I loved how you turned a humdrum occasion of bidding on antiques in an old barn into a closely observed and luminous occasion. The writer John Ciiardi once wrote that close and careful observation can “leak a ghost.” The surprise of your poem was the elevation of a commercial or material enterprise into a spiritual gathering—with a fellowship, liturgy, reverent respect, and people who commune. The ending—visual and concrete—was just right. The poet Franklin Brainerd wrote a poem something to the effect, “in a world of crystal goblets, I come with my paper cup.” There’s something both unpretentious and appealing about “sipping steaming black coffee from Styrofoam cups.”

Hasse gets it. She totally understands my poem, how each well-crafted line defines, as she says, a “spiritual gathering” in a small town auction barn.

If I could share my auction poem with you today, I would. But I’ve signed a contract not to do so for a year.

Suffice to say, this poem, like nearly every other poem I’ve written and/or had published, is rooted in my rural memories, my connection to the land and/or my appreciation for rural Minnesota.

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.

Specifically, a photograph I took this past winter of a Montgomery, Minnesota, auction barn prompted the idea for this winning poem. I also drew on my experiences attending auctions, albeit not in recent years, to pen the 12 lines of verse.

Likewise, “Lilacs,” a poem I will read this coming Saturday evening, May 10, during the Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII reception at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota, was inspired by my rural rooted memories. (Click here to learn more about that poet-artist collab.)

When I consider my poetry, I clearly hear the rural voice in my words. There’s nothing pretentious about me. I remain, as I always have been, rooted to the land in my writing.

FYI: The Talking Stick 23 publishes late this summer with a book release party set for Saturday, September 13, in the Park Rapids area. To purchase past volumes of the anthology, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Faribault area auctions offer historic Native American artifacts & western memorabilia May 2, 2012

Dakota beaded moccasins exhibited at the Rice County Historical Society Museum in Faribault, shown here only as an example of a Native American artifact and not on the auction here Saturday.

TWO HISTORIC COLLECTIONS will go on the auction block in the Faribault area this weekend during back-to-back sales that likely have collectors of High Plains Indian artifacts and western memorabilia pretty excited.

Starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at the Elks Lodge, 131 Lyndale Avenue North, Faribault, a large collection of Native American artifacts from a private collector will be sold. The sale bill reads in part:

This sale consists of a complete lifetime collection of High Plains artifacts from two states and covers all time periods from Paleo to historic and everything in between. There will be more than 3,000 artifacts in frames sold by choice and complete frame, including many boxes of artifacts sold as a lot. Found on private land in North Dakota and Minnesota from 1940 to 1965, the artifacts are from the following cultures and time periods: Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, Copper Culture, Fur trade era, Civil War era, and Indian War era.

Now, before I continue, I must tell you that Helbling Auctioneers LLC of Hankinson and Kindred, North Dakota, is the auctioneer. Although my husband is a Helbling originally from the Mandan/Bismarck area of North Dakota, he is unaware of any family relationship to auctioneer Bob Helbling.

However, it was the Helbling name on an auction ad published last week in The Redwood Falls Gazette which initially attracted the attention of my mother who phoned me about the auction.  Redwood Falls is located between the Upper and Lower Sioux Indian Reservations and within the geographical area where, 150 years ago, the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862 erupted. I expect residents of that region, including New Ulm, will be especially interested in the Native American artifacts from Minnesota.

But what about Faribault area residents, museum curators, and local and state historians?

Faribault’s connection to the fur trade and Native Americans stretches back to its founding by fur trader Alexander Faribault, the son of a French-Canadian fur trader and a Dakota woman. Faribault traded with Native Americans in the area. Later he would be involved in negotiating land treaties between the government and the Dakota.

Indian artifacts found on-site and displayed at Indian Island Winery near Janesville. This photo is published here for illustration purposes only. These items are not on the weekend auctions.

So I would think, and I’m no historian, that the trade beads, arrowheads, stone tools, copper spears, knives and much more being auctioned Saturday would be of great interest to Minnesota historians. I don’t consider it a coincidence that this auction is occurring during the 150th anniversary year of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862 when interest in that event, and Native American artifacts, is particularly high.

If it works into my schedule, I’m going to check out the auction—to see all that history, how much these artifacts sell for and who those buyers will be.

On Sunday, May 6, another auction, this one beginning at 11 a.m. at 10230 40th Street West, Webster, which is to the northwest of Faribault nearer to New Prague, features a collection of western memorabilia and antiques offered by Tom Doroff, aka “Tom Horn” – “Buffalo Bill Cody,” according to the Winter Auction Service bill. Those nicknames alone are enough to attract my attention to this auction.

Among the more interesting items (in my opinion) up for sale: 20-foot Teepee poles with Teepee liner, Thunderbird Hotel Indian artifacts, handmade Old West grave markers, wooden saddle rack, helmet with horse hair tail and steer horns, very old cactus skeleton and the upper half of a bison skull (8,000 BC) verified by the University of Minnesota/Bell Museum of Natural History.

So there you go. If you’re interested in Native American artifacts, western memorabilia, antiques/collectibles and/or history, you may want to head over to Faribault on Saturday and then over to Webster on Sunday for these two particularly unique auctions.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW the listing for the Native American artifact auction by Helbling Auctioneers on Saturday in Faribault.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW the listing for the western memorabilia and antique auction on Sunday by Winter Auction Service in Webster.

The Loyal Indian Monument at Birch Coulee Monument near Morton honors Native Americans and features strong words like humanity, patriotism, fidelity and courage.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling