Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Cruisin’ in red, Part II from Faribault Car Cruise Night June 24, 2020

A 1957 Chevrolet.


WHEN I PHOTOGRAPH car shows, I find myself drawn to red vehicles.


A hot rod.


For one, the color red pops in photos.



But, I’m also wondering if red cars are more common? Is that why, when I scroll through frames from the June 19 Faribault Car Cruise Night, that I notice lots of red vehicles in my photos.


Ford Fairlane.


Red cars.

Mid-60s Chevy pick-up truck.


Red trucks.



Even red Harley Davidson motorcycles. Bikes ended the parade.


Ford Mustang.


When I think of a red vehicle, I think of speed. And being a bit show-offy.



Mid 1960s Ford Mustang.



I think of youth. Although that’s not necessarily accurate. How many guys have purchased red cars during the stereotypical mid-life crisis? Maybe you don’t want to answer that question. Red, I suppose, looks good on anyone, no matter their age.


Camaro Super Sport.


Red seems an attention-grabbing hue. A good color choice for on-the-road visibility.



Whether a vehicle is fire-engine red or a shade muting more to maroon, the undertones will always catch my eye. There’s just something about red…


1962 Chevrolet.


TELL ME: Have you ever owned, or do you own, a red vehicle or shade thereof? What’s your color preference in a vehicle? And why?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Color my winter world January 8, 2020

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The nearly colorless landscape of southwestern Minnesota in late December.


MY EYES, MY SPIRIT, my very being craves color this time of year.

I need pops of color to break the white monotony of a Minnesota winter landscape. Without color, the bleakness of setting presses down the spirit. Not that winter can’t be beautiful. It’s just that I prefer a world beyond black and white.

So when I’m out and about, I find myself drawn to hues that flash. Like red, especially red. Set against a backdrop of white, red appears even bolder, stronger.


Parked in a Morristown, Minnesota, driveway.


A red pick-up truck.


Red barns, like this one in southwestern Minnesota, really stand out in a winterscape.


A red barn, tractor, outbuildings.


Right next to the I-90 in the Wisconsin Dells, a colorful waterslide breaks the grey of a foggy late December morning.


Even, while driving through the Wisconsin Dells recently, red spiraling on an outdoor waterslide.


Taillights are welcome along a foggy I-90 in Wisconsin.


And, on that same trip, the welcome red of taillights beaconing through thick fog pressed upon Interstate 90.

During a Midwest winter, red equals the visual equivalent of happiness.

TELL ME: Do you involuntarily gravitate toward color this time of year? If yes, I’d like to hear more.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Color my world with flowers May 24, 2012

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Tables packed with colorful flowers fill the Faribault Garden Center.

HOT PINK, royal purple, bold orange, golden yellow, pale peach…seemingly every imaginable hue blankets the greenhouse in a riotous patchwork quilt of blossoms.

I stand there. Blissful. Smiling. Taking it all in.

How can I possibly choose where to aim my camera first, which blossom to dip my nose into, which plant to admire?

Hot pink geraniums initially catch my eye.

It is impossible not to be happy in a place like this, to want to swoop up the old standby geraniums and petunias, to grab packets of dainty, sweet-smelling alyssum, to corral containers of impatiens onto a cart, to choose the crimson bloodroot plant, to want it all, to fill my yard with color and beauty.

A row of hanging baskets filled with begonias stretches across the greenhouse.

A Minnesota winter, albeit a mild one this year, does this to me. Not even the vibrant and bold polyester patchwork quilt that warms me from November to April is enough to satisfy my visual need for color. By May, my soul, my eyes, my very being yearns for nature to color my world.

A colorful King Kong coleus.

A snippet of the vibrant polyester patchwork quilt my paternal grandmother stitched for me so many seasons ago.

More vivid blooms…

The non-descript Faribault Garden Center, where I photographed all of these flowers.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Cruisin’ on Central on a Friday night in Faribault May 22, 2012

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Looking south on Central Avenue during the Faribault Car Cruise Night on Friday.

BY THE TIME my husband and I arrived at the first Faribault Car Cruise Night of the season around 9 p.m. Friday, the last remnants of daylight were morphing into a beautiful inky blue sky of darkness.

Illuminated business signs and lighted storefront windows and the flickering motion of a big screen television in a second floor apartment and the spotlight of streetlights provided enough light to view the few remaining vehicles and to snap a few photos.

Music rocked the 400 and 500 blocks of Central Avenue, and beyond, as we wandered.

Hanging out along Central Avenue during Faribault Car Cruise Night.

Love the colors: the green against blue.

While we’d missed most of the cars and most of the crowd and the poker walk, I didn’t particularly care. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate events like this and checking out all the classic cars and trucks. But on this night, my focus was on the deep, rich shades of that inky blue sky.

The dreamsicle car, Peachy, a 1955 Chevy.

Seriously, do you not love that peachy pastel Chevy contrasting with the blue sky?

The contrast of light and dark, of vivid lime green and creamy dreamsicle orange against that bold blue spoke to the artist in me.

Then, as I shot my final photos, headlights shone like beacons and red taillights blurred as, one by one, the last of the vintage antique and collectible cars slipped into the dark of a balmy and windy evening that felt more like summer than spring in Minnesota.

In a blur of taillights, a vintage car exits Central Avenue.

FYI: Faribault Car Cruise Night is held from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. on the third Friday of the month, May – September, in the 400 and 500 blocks of Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault. I’d advise arriving well before 9 p.m. if you’re more interested in the vehicles than in the darkening sky.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Lovin’ Minnesota green May 18, 2012

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After a recent hail storm, maple leaves littered my patio. The contrast of green against gray, nature against man-made, struck me. I increased the hue saturation in the green to show the details in the leaf and to create a more artsy image. BTW, as a teen, my bedroom was painted lime green, like this leaf.

GIVE ME GREEN. Not money, although I would accept that. But color.

Vibrant, 1970s hippy lime green.

Dark green as deep as the shadowed forest.

The earthy green of unfurling corn leaves poking through soil.

Mixed shades of green massed in a hillside of trees set against the brooding skies of a moody May evening in rural Minnesota.

I couldn’t take my eyes off this scene northeast of Medford on a recent Monday evening. The lines of light and dark broken by that mass of trees appealed to me visually. And the lighting, oh, the lighting. Perfect. This was shot while my husband and I were traveling along a county road.

Grass green slicing across a field.

The soft sage of dried herbs.

Any green will do.

TELL ME, WHAT hue holds your heart?

Along the same county road near Medford, this near-barren field, sliced by that line of green grass, caught my eye as did the foreboding sky and the light, oh, the luscious light of early evening.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Dreaming of sunrises, tangerines and carrot stix February 26, 2011

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I WAS LOOKING at paint swatches today while my husband was searching for a toilet bowl gasket at the hardware store.

It seemed like the right thing to do. Crap or color. (I can’t believe I wrote that.) Give me the color.

For some reason, I’ve had bright orange on the brain. I’ve been contemplating adding a jolt of color to my bathroom. Orange towels would do the trick.

I've been fixated with orange lately, like the orange in this poppy I photographed in my neighbor's yard, long, long ago, during the summertime, long, long ago in Minnesota.

But there’s one teeny, tiny problem. My husband, the one who was looking in the, well you know, section of the hardware store while I was ogling the paint, says the towels are just fine.

I suppose they are. They are not threadbare. But I am ready for a change. I need an infusion of brilliant color in my bathroom. Yellow. Orange. Anything but the sage and green that have hung on the towel racks for too many years.

However, because we’ve spent (and are still spending) a lot of money on a major home improvement project, I’ll appease him and hold off on the towel purchase.

But a girl can dream in the meantime. While he searched for that toilet bowl gasket, I admired the sunrise, tangerines and the carrot stix. And then I asked the paint expert at the hardware store if anyone ever buys orange paint.

Orange. Orange. Orange. I can't stop thinking about orange.

“For a kid’s room” she said.

Then I explained my recent fixation with orange, my desire to brighten my bathroom.

She figured this might have something to do with the long, cold and snowy Minnesota winter.

I didn’t disagree.

TODAY MY HUSBAND and I repainted our bathroom in “Popular Gray” by Sherwin Williams. I figure my orange towels will really pop against that gray.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling