Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A fitting quote as we heal from the baseball field shootings June 15, 2017

This plaque marks a baseball player sculpture at Memorial Park in Dundas, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

THREE YEARS AGO I photographed a plaque at Memorial Park Baseball Field in Dundas. It marks a woodcarving of a Dundas Dukes baseball player.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Today, the day after the shooting of House Republican leader Steve Scalise, four others and a gunman on a baseball field near our nation’s capitol, these words by John Thorn seem especially fitting. Thorn is the official historian for major league baseball.

 

My great niece Kiera painted this stone, which sits on my office desk as a constant reminder to hold onto hope. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Now, more than ever, as attacks and tragedies like this continue in the U.S. and throughout the world, we need our spirits replenished, our hope restored, our losses repaired, our journeys blessed.

 

Batter up for the Faribault Lakers. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

We must continue to play ball. Violence can change us. But it cannot steal away the freedom we hold dear.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

From car to military shows & more, there’s plenty to do in Rice County this weekend May 18, 2017

A scene from the July 2016 Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

INTERESTED IN VINTAGE CARS, flea markets, running for charity, gardening, military history, or comedy? If you are, check out activities in Rice County this weekend.

 

The U’s solar car at the August Car Cruise Night last summer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Kicking off the weekend is Faribault Car Cruise Night slated for 6 pm. – 9 p.m. Friday along Central Avenue in the heart of historic downtown Faribault. The University of Minnesota solar vehicle is a special draw to this first of the summer cruise event. The car shows are held on the third Friday of the month from May through August.

 

An absolutely beautiful work of hood ornament art, in my opinion. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

I’m a Car Cruise Night enthusiast. It’s a perfect time to mill around the downtown—appreciating the vehicles, the historic architecture and the people who attend. With camera in hand, I always find something new to photograph. Often, I view the artistic angle of the vintage vehicles. That interests me way more than what’s under the hood.

 

A Minnesota souvenir, an example of what you might find at a flea market. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

Saturday morning brings the Rice County Historical Society spring flea market from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the RCHS, 1814 N.W. Second Avenue in Faribault. One of my favorite activities is poking through treasures. As a bonus, the county museum will be open at no charge.

 

The Drag-On’s Car Club graphics, photographed through the window of a vintage car. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Right next door, at the Rice County Fairgrounds, the Faribo Drag-On’s Car Club hosts its annual Car/Truck Show and Automotive Swap Meet from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday. The show includes pedal car races for the kids.

 

Edited image from Color Dash.

 

Also along Second Avenue Northwest, but at Alexander Park, Rice County Habitat for Humanity will benefit from a Color Dash 5K  sponsored by the Faribault Future’s class. On-site packet pick-up is at 9 a.m. followed by the race at 10 a.m.

 

Hosta will be among the plants sold at the GROWS plant sale. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

If you’re a gardener, you’ll want to shop the Faribault GROWS Garden Club perennial plant sale from 8 a.m. – noon in the Faribault Senior Center parking lot along Division Street. Sale proceeds will go toward purchase of trees for city parks and flowers for Central Park.

 

This piece of military equipment was exhibited last September when the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall came to Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Military history is the focus of the 8th annual Armed Forces Day—Military Timeline Weekend gathering at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines grounds just south of Dundas/Northfield on Minnesota State Highway 3. I’ve never been to this event, which recently moved to the Rice County location. For military history buffs, this presents a unique opportunity to learn and to view living history as re-enactors role play noted military battles and more. The event opens at 10 a.m., closing at 5 p.m. on Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

 

The Looney Lutherans. Photo credit, The Looney Lutherans website, media section.

 

Wrapping up the weekend is “The Looney Lutherans” music and comedy show at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North in downtown Faribault. I expect this trio of actresses will work their magic on even the most stoic among us. I could use some laughter.

Before or after the show, check out the gallery exhibits, including one by 13-year-old Mohamed Abdi, a young artist already exhibiting a passion and strong talent in art.

There you go. All of this is happening right here. Not in the Twin Cities. But here, in greater Minnesota. Let’s embrace the opportunities in our backyard. Right here in Rice County. And, if you don’t live within county lines, we’d love to have you here exploring our part of Minnesota.

FYI: If you plan to attend any of the above events, please check Facebook pages and websites for any possible changes due to the rainy weather and also for detailed info. With the Paradise show, check on ticket availability in advance.

For more events happening in Rice County, visit the Faribault and Northfield tourism websites.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Connecting to the past at a Minnesota barn dance, Part III September 30, 2015

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The sun sets behind John and Debbie Becker's rural Dundas, Minnesota, barn.

The sun sets behind John and Debbie Becker’s rural Dundas, Minnesota, barn on the evening of their September 26 barn dance.

THRICE NOW I’VE DOCUMENTED dances in the Becker Farms barn. And what an honor it has been to photograph these 2011, 2012 and now 2015 celebrations in such a bucolic rural setting in southeastern Minnesota. I delight in photos, which combined with words, write family and personal histories.

After guests ate, several tables would be removed for dancing.

After guests ate, several tables were removed for dancing.

I probably will never visit our nation’s capitol or see the Pacific Ocean or tour the Rockefeller Estate or attend a Broadway play or study a Van Gogh painting. But that’s OK. I have danced in a barn, something few Baby Boomers likely have done. I can write “Danced in a Barn” in my life’s story.

Peering out a hayloft door, I shot this scene of a neighboring farm place.

Peering out a hayloft door, I shot this scene of a pond and neighboring farm place.

Dining in the barn.

Dining in the barn.

Playing with the rural version of Jenga blocks.

Playing with the rural version of Jenga blocks.

I appreciate the simple things in life. Sun setting. Great conversation and good music. Satisfying food that’s tasty and uncomplicated. Joy that comes from watching children at play, realizing too many years have passed since I was a kid free-ranging on the farm.

Visiting outside the barn.

Visiting outside the barn.

To my friends John and Debbie Becker, I am grateful for the chances to dance in their 100-year-old barn, to witness the coming together of family and friends in a hayloft.

Guests gathered inside and out on a lovely September evening.

Guests gathered inside and out on a lovely September evening.

There’s something about a barn dance that roots to the rural past in a way that no museum can. As I danced, I could imagine the dances of yesteryear, hayloft empty of loose hay, eager young men and anxious young women eyeing each other from opposite sides of the loft. I could imagine food spread across planks, the scent of animals below mingling with the smell of fried chicken.

Parking vehicles was a major job considering the hundreds of invited guests.

Parking vehicles was a major job considering the hundreds of invited guests.

And outside, horses tethered rather than vehicles parked.

Even this Dekalb sign inside the barn generated memories of Dekalb corn growing in my dad's fields and me detasseling corn for this seed company.

Even this Dekalb sign inside the barn generated memories of Dekalb corn growing in my dad’s fields and me detasseling corn for this seed company.

Grandparents build memories with grandchildren at the barn dance.

Grandparents build memories with grandchildren at the barn dance.

I'm sure the four judges will always remember the difficulty of choosing winners in the homemade pie judging contest.

I’m sure the four judges will always remember the difficulty of choosing winners in the homemade pie baking contest.

Red wagons hold timeless universal appeal to kids.

Red wagons hold timeless universal appeal to kids.

This girl's cowgirl hat reminded me of the straw hats I wore while playing make-believe as a child.

This girl’s cowgirl hat reminds me of the straw hats I wore while playing make-believe as a child.

As this boy pulled a wagon up the incline toward the hayloft, I wondered if he would climb aboard for a wild ride down. Instead, he released the wagon. I would have rode down, gripping the handle.

As this boy pulled a wagon up the incline toward the hayloft, I wondered if he would climb aboard for a wild ride down. Instead, he released the wagon. I would have careened down, gripping the handle.

Whether my imagination matches historic reality, I am unsure. But I am certain of one thing. A barn dance connects folks to the past in a profound way.

I am always comfortably at home on a farm like the Beckers' farm site.

I am always comfortably at home on a farm like the Beckers’ farm site.

For me, a woman from the land, dancing in a hayloft fits me better than gliding across the smoothest of floors in an elegant ballroom. I am comfortably at home in a barn, in a way that’s sweetly familiar. Connected to my rural Minnesota prairie roots.

FYI: Click here and here to read my previous posts on the September 26 barn dance in rural Rice County, Minnesota.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Commemorating a Minnesota barn’s 100th birthday, Part II September 29, 2015

 

A welcoming scene staged next to the barn and attached milkhouse.

An inviting scene staged next to the barn and attached milkhouse.

FROM THE MINUTE I received a verbal invitation to the barn dance, I noted the event on the September 26 square of my kitchen calendar. Not only would I be celebrating the 100th birthday of the Becker family barn. But I would also be celebrating my birthday. How sweet is that?

Posted inside the barn...

Posted inside the barn…

With my deep rural Minnesota roots and appreciation for aged barns restored and maintained, this party suited me. Hosts John and Debbie Becker, Rice County crop farmers, are dear friends, a salt-of-the earth couple who cherish faith, family and farming.

Guests pulled up to tables and dined on hot beef and pork sandwiches, salads and more.

Guests pulled up to tables and dined on hot beef and pork sandwiches, salads and more.

And they know how to throw one heck of a party in their 100-year-old barn, in the Becker family since 1948.

Garden goods provided for great fall decorating.

Garden goods provided for great fall decorating.

One of numerous parking attendants waits for vehicles to arrive.

One of numerous parking attendants waits for vehicles to arrive.

The kitchen crew, and Debbie, prepare for guests to arrive.

The kitchen crew, and Debbie, prepare for guests to arrive.

Posted on the pie table.

Posted on the pie table.

Debbie, the eldest in a family of I’ve lost count how many siblings, could be a professional party planner. She’s that good at food planning, decorating and remembering every single detail of creating a memorable and fun event. John is right there beside her, assuring, too, that everything comes together. They complement one another. And even though they pulled in family and friends—for decorating, parking, kitchen duty, bartending, pie judging and more—ultimately they are the ones who managed to plan for and welcome 300-plus guests to their farm.

The kids all wanted rides on the golf cart.

The kids all wanted rides on the golf cart.

This little guy wouldn't even set down his toy John Deere tractor to stack over-sized Jenga blocks.

This little guy wouldn’t even set down his toy John Deere tractor to stack over-sized Jenga blocks.

The pie table drew lots of kids because...

This farm-themed pie drew lots of kids to look and some to play.

By far the most creatively-staged pie.

By far the most creatively-staged pie.

Lots of visiting inside and outside the barn.

Lots of visiting inside and outside the barn.

One family member flew in from England. And I overheard, mid-evening, young boys protesting their family’s early departure. I watched kids scramble onto a golf cart for rides with the guy giving lifts from parking areas to barn. A smile curved my mouth at the sight of young boys clutching John Deere tractors, a wee sweet girl in pink cowgirl boots peering at pies, and circles of folks visiting in the barn.

The opportunities for sweet portraits in the golden hour of photography were endless.

The opportunities for sweet portraits in the golden hour of photography were endless.

My dear friend Mandy arrives with her pear-gingersnap pie still warm from the oven. It was absolutely delicious as I sampled it after the pie judging.

My dear friend Mandy arrives with her pear-gingersnap pie still warm from the oven. It was absolutely delicious as I sampled it after the pie judging.

My husband tried on this abandoned cowboy hat. But it was several sizes too small.

My husband tried on this abandoned cowboy hat. But it was several sizes too small.

The scenes unfolding before me appeared down-home rural Americana—girls swaying in a weathered porch swing, a guest bearing pie for the pie-baking contest, a straw cowboy hat resting on a picnic table.

I photographed darling Ava at the last barn dance and her mom asked me to photograph her again. Daylight was fading. Yet I managed to snap a cute portrait.

I photographed darling Ava at the last barn dance and her mom asked me to photograph her again. Daylight was fading. Yet I managed to snap a cute portrait.

A grandma and her grandkids dressed in western attire for the barn dance.

A grandma and her grandkids dressed in western attire for the barn dance.

Many a farmer, including my dad, carried a hankie/bandanna in his pocket.

Many a farmer once carried a hankie/bandanna in his pocket.

Although costumes were not required, vintage or western attire was encouraged. I tied a red bandanna around my neck and called it good. But the kids, oh, the kids. So cute in their cowgirl/cowboy hats and garb. And even some adults dressed western style in flannel shirts and hats, in bibs or with red hankie in pocket. Many sported western boots.

While two girls sway on a swing, another builds blocks.

While two girls sway on a swing, another stacks blocks.

Debbie and John, loving aunt and uncle that they are, assured the kids had plenty to do, passing along to the next generation memories connected to family and the old barn.

 

Barn dance, 108 wheel in front of barn

 

FYI: Click here to read my first post about the barn dance. And check back tomorrow for one final post.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One definition of rural art September 3, 2014

WHEN YOU THINK ART, you likely think of a studio artist creating a work of art via paint or ink or some other media.

 

Dan and Pam Larson of Rice, Minnesota, craft these gigantic crayons from poplar wood. For the past six years, the couple has traveled to flea markets around the country peddling their popular crayons. They make 20,000 - 25,000 of these crayons annually.

Dan and Pam Larson of Rice, Minnesota, (their home in the warm months) craft these gigantic crayons from poplar wood and three crayons per crayon. For the past six years, the couple has traveled to flea markets around the country peddling their popular crayons. Last weekend they were at a flea market in rural Dundas. They make 20,000 – 25,000 of these crayons annually. I consider their rustic crayons to be works of art as much as tools of art.

 

But I think beyond the expected.

 

Art, Massey F emblem

 

I also see art in other places, like on the front end of a tractor. Emblems, while identifying a tractor brand, are also art. Rural art.

Here’s some rural art I photographed at the recent Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show in rural Dundas, Minnesota:

 

Art, cupola

 

Art, John Deere emblem

 

Art, IH emblem and grill

 

Art, NFO sign

 

Art, IH

 

Art, Minneapolis Moline

 

Art, Ferguson

 

Art, Farmall homemade sign

 

Art, John Deere pick-up

 

 

Art, overall flea market finds

 

 

Art, milk shake sign

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Farming of yesteryear remembered & celebrated at show August 30, 2014

IT’S MOSTLY ABOUT THE MEMORIES, I’ve decided.

A snippet of the tractors displayed at the show.

A snippet of the tractors and more displayed at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

Past memories.

Spotted at the flea market...

Spotted at the flea market…

And building memories.

A sign along Highway 3 welcomes visitors.

A sign along Highway 3 welcomes visitors.

The Rice County Steam & Gas Engines, Inc., annual Labor Day weekend show, which continues through Sunday, brought back many memories for me as I wandered among tractors and flea market merchandise and more for nearly four hours Saturday.

The young and the older guide a John Deere toward the parade route.

The young and the older guide a John Deere toward the parade route.

Curve of a Surge milking machine. Putt-putt-putt of a John Deere tractor chugging along the tractor parade route.

Al and Marllene Sutherland of Country Junction, Tripoli, Iowa, pose with the replica small scale farm buildings Al constructs from memory. The corn crib in the foreground includes 400 pieces and sells for $200.

Al and Marlene Sutherland of Country Junction, Tripoli, Iowa, pose with the replica small scale farm buildings Al constructs. He taps into his memory to design and build the buildings. The corn crib in the foreground includes 400 pieces and sells for $200.

The agrarian lines of a corn crib.

Vintage oil cans grabbed my attention at the flea market.

Vintage oil cans grabbed my attention at the flea market.

A Midland oil can. An NFO sign. All so familiar.

Rows and rows of tractors, including these John Deeres, line the grounds.

Rows and rows of tractors, including these John Deeres, line the grounds.

As I paused to admire an aged, rusty John Deere, an elderly woman said the green machine brought tears to her eyes. It was exactly like the one her father drove.

Brothers William and Jacob climb atop a Farmall.

Brothers William and Jacob climb atop a Farmall.

Nearby, grandparents smiled as their two great grandsons climbed onto a Farmall. Building memories.

Several steam engines are part of the exhibition.

Several steam engines are part of the exhibition.

If you’re into farming of yesteryear and flea markets, then consider attending this event. Gates open at 7 a.m. Sunday and close at 5:30 p.m. A tractor pull is slated for 9 a.m. Admission is $8 with 12 and under free.

Ford tractors, including this one from Westbrook Ag Power (where my oldest brother is co-owner)

Fords, including this one from Westbrook Ag Power (where my oldest brother is part owner) were the featured tractor at this year’s show. This Ford is owned by a rural Northfield man.

The show grounds is located three miles south of Northfield on Minnesota State Highway 3. For more information, click here.

BONUS PHOTOS:

You can buy a chance to win a Golden Jubilee 1950s Ford being raffled by the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines, Inc.

You can buy a chance to win a Golden Jubilee 1953 Ford tractor being raffled by Rice County Steam & Gas Engines, Inc.

Checking out the Minneapolis Molines.

Checking out the Minneapolis Molines.

My favorite t-shirt of the day. The show presents a rural fashion statement.

My favorite t-shirt of the day. The show always offers photo-worthy rural fashion shots.

Every time I attend this show, I order a BBQ shredded pork sandwich from the Rice and Dakota County Pork Producers.

Every time I attend this show, I order a BBQ shredded pork sandwich from the Rice and Dakota County Pork Producers.

PLEASE CHECK BACK for more photos from the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Saturday morning in small town Minnesota July 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I DIDN’T BUY ANYTHING at this recent garage sale in Dundas. But I got this photo:

 

Garage sale in Dundas 2

 

I can’t quite put my finger on why I like this scene, this image.

It’s not because I’m some old car enthusiast, although I admire this shiny 1957 Chevy.

Rather it’s the serenity, I think, of a Saturday morning in a small town. This car collector had driven to Dundas for a car show, which was cancelled presumably because of the predicted rainfall. This scene speaks to me of small town living and contentment and simpler days when life was less hurried.

And I like, too, how the hue of the car is mimicked in the color of the garage sale sign. Not quite the same shade, but noticeable to my eye.

This photo could write a story. That’s my conclusion.

How does this scene speak to you?

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling