Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Pigs and poetry May 14, 2011

This pig greets diners at Piggy Blue's Bar-B-Que in Austin, Minnesota. This image is posted here for pig illustration purposes only, not because it's specifically related to the following story.

IN A WEEK, my sister-in-law is moving from Minot, North Dakota, to Missouri. In August, my brother-in-law, an Air Force man, will join her and their young son.

She’s leaving early to seed the garden, plant the orchard and ponder the purchase of pigs. This has always been Jamie’s dream, to own a country acreage where she can grow fruits and vegetables and raise an Old McDonald variety of animals.

Chickens, rabbits, goats and a pig or two comprise her animal acquisition list.

But about those pigs…I overheard a man advising her last Saturday to “hold off” on the pigs for awhile. He didn’t give a reason, only suggested she wait.

Her husband, Neil, although supportive of his wife’s plan, also has reservations about the swine. If Jamie wants a pig, Neil says he can shoot one. He would be right. The Missouri Department of Conservation advises residents to “shoot ’em on sight” in an online article about the problem of feral pigs running rampant.

Thankfully we do not have a wild pig problem in Minnesota. Our problem would be an overabundance of deer.

But we do have a book of pig poetry featuring 133 pig poems penned by 103 poets like Robert Bly, Louise Erdrich and Bill Holm. Red Dragonfly Press, a solely poetry not-for-profit literary organization based in Red Wing, published Low Down and Coming On: A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems About Pigs. James P. Lenfestey edited the 232-page anthology printed last October.

Tomorrow (May 15) several of the pig penning poets, including Lenfestey, will read from the book at a “Pig Gig” slated for 2 p.m. at the Litchfield Opera House in Litchfield.

Now if my sister-in-law wasn’t preoccupied with packing for Missouri, I’d propose she check out this pig gig for pig pointers prior to purchasing pigs.

© Text and Piggy Blue’s photo copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

For the love of reading April 20, 2011

I’VE ALWAYS LOVED to read.

And I’ve passed that love of reading on to my three children, two of whom are now adults and one who is 17. They are all readers.

Even before my girls started school, I read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to them.

Every summer, the folks of Walnut Grove, Minnesota, produce an outdoor pageant based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. Many pageant attendees arrive at the show site dressed in period attire and then climb aboard a covered wagon prop there.

Then I read the Betsy-Tacy book series by Maud Hart Lovelace to my girls. I even nicknamed my second daughter Tib, after the curly-haired, fun-loving Tib in Lovelace’s books. To this day, our family occasionally, fondly, calls her Tib.

A snippet of a mural by artist Marian Anderson in the Maud Hart Lovelace Children's Wing at the Blue Earth County Library in Mankato, Minnesota. The painting depicts the main characters in Lovelace's books, from left, friends Tib, Tacy and Betsy.

Now that I think back on those days of snuggling on the couch with my two girls and later with my son, I am impressed that these preschoolers would sit still for long chapter books. But they did. Of course, I also read picture books and easy-reader books to them.

Long after my trio stopped sitting on my lap or leaning into my shoulders, listening to the stories I read, they continued reading.

Even my boy, my teen. This surprises me. At 17, he still pops out the leg rest on the reclining couch, stretches out his lanky body, grabs a book and reads. For hours. He also reads in bed when he should be sleeping.

There was a time, during his elementary and middle school years, when I checked under his bed for a flashlight and books. He got smart to that and simply hid them elsewhere. So I stopped searching, not wanting to squelch his love of reading even if it meant he wasn’t getting enough sleep.

Today he still reads when he should be sleeping. While I encourage him not to read into the wee hours of the morning, I can’t exactly stop him.

Right now he has two dozen science fiction books stacked in the middle of his bedroom floor: I, Robot and Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov, The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Ringworld by Larry Niven, 1984 by George Orwell, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein…

Science fiction books stacked on my teen's bedroom floor.

Some of the books have copyrights nearly as old as me.

My son found these books at a used book sale sponsored by the local branch of the American Association of University Women. The AAUW holds the sale annually to raise funds for local reading projects. It’s a worthy cause.

Well, Saturday, we “donated” $25 to the cause, dropping that amount for a box full of two dozen science fiction books, a Star Wars video, two Bach CDs, a nonfiction book about Iowa and a vintage elementary school textbook. The last two items on that list were my selections. I seldom buy books for myself, preferring to check them out from the library because I’ll read a book only once. My teen will read a volume multiple times.

I picked up a 1951 edition of this children's textbook at the used book sale. One of the women working the sale said she used it in her classroom and really liked the book. So did I. But I purchased it for the beautiful vintage art.

I found this brand new book for my niece, who will graduate from high school in about a month. She will attend an Iowa university. I thought she might enjoy this children's nonfiction book that will introduce her to her new home state. Either that or she'll think her aunt (me) is crazy for giving her such an unusual gift. If anyone else wants an Iowa book, you'll find a box full at the sale.

Typically I would not pay $25 for nearly 30 used books, some of them well-used. But how could I deny these books to my teen, who said he can’t even find some of the older books in the library system? Yes, he has a well-used library card.

The older women working the book sale seemed impressed with my gangly teen who managed to fill an entire cardboard box with books. They even offered him a several-dollar discount when I told him he would need to pay half the cost of the books. I only thought it fair. I’ve never been the type of mom to buy my kids something simply because they want it. The son didn’t argue.

I had to restrain myself from buying an armful of children’s picture books. For years I bought used books for the library at the Christian day school my children attended. After I stopped volunteering a dozen years later, breaking that buying habit took a bit of resolve.

Since I passed on the many fabulous children’s books, I did the next best thing. I e-mailed two friends with young children and encouraged them to shop at the sale.

HOW ABOUT YOU, do you buy books at used book sales, garage or rummage sales or elsewhere? Have you always loved to read? And, if you have children, do they also love being read to or reading on their own?

FOR ANYONE WHO lives in the Faribault area, today, April 20, is the final day of the book sale, which runs from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. in the old Hallmark store at the Faribo West Mall. I’m pretty certain you’ll find plenty of deals on books as the AAUW will just want “to get rid of” their remaining inventory.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling