Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Humorous honesty from the granddaughter January 24, 2023

When my grandchildren say the darndest things, I think of Art Linkletter’s “House Party” and his “Kids Say the Darndest Things” segment. Their answers to his questions proved honest, humorous and entertaining.

KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS. I can vouch for that. I raised three kids, cared for many others and am now the grandmother of two, one going on seven, the other just turned four.

Recently the grandkids, Isabelle and her little brother, Isaac, stayed overnight. During that short stay, Izzy elicited laughter with her honest observations and her leadership skills.

An outhouse repurposed as a garden shed at my brother and sister-in-law’s rural southwestern Minnesota acreage. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

First the honesty. I don’t recall how we got on the topic, but at some point I shared that I grew up in a house without a bathroom. Taking a bath meant my dad hauling a tin tub from the porch into the kitchen every Saturday evening and then Mom filling it with water. Our bathroom, I explained to Izzy, was a little building outside with two holes cut in a bench. And in the winter, we used a covered pot set inside the unheated porch.

I don’t know that Izzy understood all of this. But, as she sat there listening to Grandma spin tales of the olden days, she assessed. “It sounds like a different world to me!” I laughed at her observation. She was right. Growing up in rural Minnesota in the 1950s and 1960s was, most assuredly, a different world from hers. My granddaughter lives in a sprawling suburban house with four bathrooms. In 1967, my family of birth moved into a new farmhouse with a single bathroom. And a bathtub. Today I feel thankful to live in a house with one bathroom. I wouldn’t want to clean four.

I took this award-winning photo of BINGO callers at the North Morristown July Fourth celebration in 2013. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2013)

Then there’s BINGO, which we play nearly every time we’re together with Isabelle and Isaac. They were introduced to the game at the Helbling Family Reunion and have loved it since. The kids take turns not only playing, but also calling numbers.

Isabelle has advanced greatly in her BINGO-calling skills. This time, in addressing us, she called us “folks.” I don’t know where Izzy heard that term, but it’s certainly more rural than suburban lingo. I suggested she might be ready to call BINGO next summer at North Morristown’s annual Fourth of July celebration. Unincorporated North Morristown is a Lutheran church and school and a few farm places clustered in the middle of nowhere west of Faribault. Izzy seems well-prepared to call BINGO numbers to the folks there.

I should have shared with my granddaughter that, when I was growing up, we covered our BINGO cards with corn kernels during Vesta’s (my hometown) annual BINGO Night. I expect she would have responded as a child 60 years younger than me: “It sounds like a different world to me!” And I would have agreed.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

No BINGO for Grandma August 22, 2022

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A BINGO cage at a church fundraiser. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

SHORTLY AFTER SCRAMBLING out of her sleeping bag, before she got dressed for the day and wolfed down two slices of toast smothered in peanut butter and strawberry jelly, my 6-year-old granddaughter was already asking, “Grandma, when can we play BINGO?” It was only 7:15 a.m. and her brother was still sleeping. I was in my PJs, hadn’t had coffee or breakfast yet and needed to toss clothes in the wash.

But Isabelle was singularly focused. Her love for BINGO was sparked by playing the game at the annual Helbling family reunion six days prior. Young and old alike gathered in the shelter at Palmer Park in central Minnesota to try their luck at this time-honored game of chance. The prizes ranged from kitchen gadgets for the adults to ring pops, play dough and more for the kids. Nothing costly. Just simple prizes. But, more importantly, time together making memories.

Placing BINGO balls in the caller’s board during a church festival. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

With that backstory, Izzy was delighted to find BINGO balls, a cage, cards and tokens inside a box at Grandpa and Grandma’s house when she and Isaac, 3, arrived for an overnight visit. That first evening we played plenty of BINGO with Izzy as the caller, then Grandpa, then grandfather and grandson. I was content to play. The kids were happy to win small coinage.

Given her enthusiasm, Izzy asked to play BINGO again the next day. I promised, but did not expect game time to commence at her requested 7:15 a.m.

Finally, by 9 a.m., we gathered around the dining room table for our first round of BINGO. Except the start was delayed again…because I got up to do something and on the way back to my chair, while skirting around Randy, stubbed my little toe on the peninsula baseboard. Not just the type of stub that stings for maybe a minute, but rather a serious “insert a bad word I thought but couldn’t say” type of pain. Randy remarked that he heard a snap. Not good.

This is a photo of an x-ray showing the implant in my wrist, held in place by 10 screws. I shattered my wrist in June 2018 after slipping on rain-slicked wooden steps while wearing flip flops. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018)

I assessed that I’d likely broken my little toe based on the #10 level of pain—enough to make me cry—I was experiencing. I am not inexperienced in the pain of a broken bone having broken my right shoulder and shattered my left wrist in recent years.

“Better call Amber to come and get the kids,” I advised Randy as I moved to the sofa so I could elevate my foot. Already I was feeling bad about BINGO and ruining everyone’s day. While we waited for our eldest to arrive from the south metro, the trio played BINGO, enough for the kids to win quarters. Randy also hung laundry on the line and I sneaked in a few comforting hugs from Izzy and Isaac.

By that time the siblings realized their stay with Grandma and Grandpa was ending prematurely. The 3-year-old plopped himself on the living room floor and emphatically declared, “I don’t want to go home! I want to stay!” Finally, I called Isaac over to look at my smartphone calendar to see when we might plan his next overnight visit. That, thankfully, placated him.

Once the grandkids were packed and on their way home with their mom, we focused on getting me to the clinic. I knew not much can be done for a broken toe. But I didn’t want a misaligned toe and future problems if I didn’t get it checked. Randy made calls and was advised I needed to be seen in urgent care since the clinic had no open appointments. Alright then. It was Friday and I expected a long wait awaited me.

But that wasn’t the worst. Randy dropped me off at the door and I hobbled inside…only to learn that urgent care didn’t open until noon. And it was only 10:45. The check-in staff apologized profusely for the failure of the metro-based call center to tell Randy of the noon opening. Their frustration was clear as they advised me to return around 11:45 to register and then wait.

So I limped back out, trying to walk in a way that minimized my pain. I uttered a few words that I wouldn’t want my grandkids to hear.

Since I can’t comfortably wear a shoe, I am now wearing this supportive and protective walking boot/shoe while my sprained little toe and foot heal. Nope, I’m not showing you my awful looking foot. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

When we returned to the clinic, I queued number nine, eventually made my way to x-ray and then got the diagnosis. Much to my surprise, my little toe was not broken, but rather badly sprained. I felt thankful for that mercy. I left with a walking boot and instructions to ice and elevate. Over-the-counter meds manage the pain, which is minimal now. However, my little toe and the adjoining toe plus half of my foot are swollen and bruised.

So that’s my BINGO story. Not one of luck, but rather of unintended bad luck and a whole lot of guilt about sending Isabelle and Isaac home too early. Way too early for this grandma.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sorry folks, no BINGO tonight January 29, 2019

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

MOST MINNESOTA SCHOOLS remain closed through Wednesday due to extreme cold. Air temps in the minus 30-degree range combined with 30 mph winds could bring windchills of 60 degrees below zero. That’s dangerously cold. Too cold for kids to wait at bus stops or walk to school. Too cold, really, for anyone to be outdoors. Exposed skin can freeze in minutes.

We expect schools to close. But how does weather affect the rest of our day-to-day activities here in the Bold North?

I poked around and found the cancellation of a community staple. BINGO. Here’s a sampling of BINGO cancellations as posted on various online sources:

  • Afternoon and evening sessions of Bingo at Jackpot Junction is canceled.
  • Senior Citizens Bingo at Hardees in Granite Falls cancelled for Tuesday
  • Gibbon Lions Bingo @ D’s Pit Stop canceled
  • Bingo at Meyer’s Bar in Sleepy Eye canceled
  • VFW Post 1215 – Rochester: Hall Bingo for tonight, Jan 28th, is cancelled.

And one more thing, if you live in Morton: Residents of Valley Drive and Quarry Drive in Morton should leave water dripping in faucets to avoid frozen pipes. Yup, just one more concern besides frostbite. And no BINGO.

BONUS: Click here to read my published poem, Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How I won at bingo without playing the game April 13, 2015

The bingo callers. My first place winning photo.

John and Lavonne call bingo at the North Morristown, MN., Fourth of July celebration. This photo won first place in the People Category of the National Mutual Benefit annual photo contest. This image also helped inspire my winning bingo poem. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

BINGO! We have a winner!

Here’s my winning poem, “Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion,” recently published in 2015 Poetic Strokes & Word Flow, A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota, Volume 9:

Wednesday Night Bingo at The Legion

Wooden balls rattle in the cage,
orbs of numbers and letters tumbling
in the comforting rhythm of a rural rite
that transcends time and generations.

All eyes focus on the officiant, The Bingo Caller,
a slight elderly man with wisps of fly-away hair.
He grasps the selected ball between forefinger and thumb,
pulls mic to mouth and purses his chapped lips.

Silence presides in that sacred moment
when daubers poise above cards,
when hearts beat fast with anticipation,
when nothing seems as blessed as the hope of a win.

“O-62,” he pronounces with faithful clarity of conviction
to the congregants seated on worn folding chairs,
ice clinking against glass in the dim light of The Legion
where service to country rates reverent respect.

From the back corner her voice erupts. “Bingo!”
A collective sigh heaves disappointment
as The Bingo Caller pauses, confirms, then declares
The Blessed Benediction: “We have a winner!”

#

YOU, TOO, CAN BE A WINNER. Check back on Wednesday for a give-away.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Poem reprinted with permission from SELCO (Southeastern Libraries Cooperating), Rochester, MN.