Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When watching high school football is about more than just the game November 2, 2015

The St. Croix Valley Crusaders and the Jackson County Central Huskies line up before the game starts Saturday afternoon.

The St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders and the Jackson County Central Huskies line up on the football field before the game starts Saturday afternoon.

I DRESSED IN MY BUFFALO PLAID red and black on Saturday. Not because I wanted to portray Mrs. Paul Bunyan on Halloween. Rather, I was showing my support for the St. Croix Lutheran High School football team which Saturday afternoon competed against Jackson County Central in state play-offs. My nephew, Stephen (number 87), plays tight end for the red-attired Crusaders.

 

Football, 120 scoreboard

 

Sometimes the action looked like nothing but a pile of players to me.

Sometimes the action looked like nothing but a pile of players to me.

While the St. Paul based school pushed hard to win, they couldn’t defeat the Huskies, a husky and formidable team from southwestern Minnesota. The final score: 44 – 26.

Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter hosted the game.

Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter hosted the game.

The Halloween themed sign held by the JCC cheerleaders.

The back of the Halloween themed sign held by the JCC cheerleaders.

JCC players run through the sign and onto the field for the start of the second half.

JCC players run through the sign and onto the field for the start of the second half.

Certainly, seeing my nephew’s team win on the football field at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter would have been a Halloween treat. But, JCC dominated, proving the truth in the words the players busted through before starting the second half:

Trick or treat, smell our cleats. The Huskies can’t be beat.

JCC cheerleaders fire up the crowd.

JCC cheerleaders fire up the crowd.

Crusaders fans, including Winnie the Pooh. Some students dressed in Halloween costumes.

Crusaders fans, including Winnie the Pooh. Some students dressed in Halloween costumes.

My brother, right, and friends watch the game.

My brother, right, and friends watch the game.

The Crusaders pep band infused school spirit.

The Crusaders pep band infused school spirit.

The spirit of JCC fans, led by enthusiastic cheerleaders, impressed me. Not that Crusaders fans weren’t supportive. We were. I can vouch for my sister-in-law’s continual encouraging screams. My youngest brother stood behind us, several bleacher rows away in an aisle, chewing gum super fast and focusing his eyes on the field the entire game. St. Croix Lutheran came with a pep band. But no cheerleaders. Students seemed subdued for a play-off game.

Occasionally, the clouds parted and sunshine shone upon the football field.

Occasionally, the clouds parted and sunshine shone upon the football field.

Ready for action...that's my nephew, Stephen, #87 in the front.

Ready for action…that’s my nephew, Stephen, #87 in the front.

Crusaders fans cheer on their team.

Crusaders fans cheer on their team.

I’m a quiet fan, too. I was here on this Saturday to support my nephew. Not in a super vocal way. Simply by my presence. If his team won, good. If they didn’t, they didn’t.

The Crusaders huddle.

The Crusaders huddle on the sidelines.

A ref makes a call.

A ref makes a call.

I found myself studying the varying footwear and leggings.

I found myself studying the varying footwear and leggings.

Repeatedly during breaks in the action, the announcer emphasized respect as highly-important in competition. I value respect; both teams showed respect for each other. But, bottom line, these teams play to win. That’s why they’re on the field.

A sign proclaims Husky Power.

A sign proclaims Husky Power.

It is easy, when you are as far behind as the Crusaders were during the game, when plays just aren’t working, when the other team repeatedly scores, to give up. I felt that in a sense Saturday. JCC was the stronger team. Even I, someone who does not watch football much, could see the Huskies’ dominating power.

Stephen, #87, tackles the JCC player carrying the football.

Stephen, #87, tackles the JCC player carrying the football.

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St. Croix Lutheran and Jackson County Central in action.

A JCC player prepares to throw the football, left.

A JCC player prepares to throw the football, left.

This is the first football game I’ve attended in probably 40 years. I don’t know many of the nuances of the game. But that’s OK. I understand the basics.

Several Crusaders players left the field with injuries.

Several Crusaders players left the field with injuries. Here teammates support one another.

And I understand the value in being with family—on this Saturday four of my five siblings and their spouses—to support Crusaders number 87. This is what families do. They support and encourage one another. In good times and difficult times.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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A Halloween treat: Perry the corpse flower blooms at Gustavus Adolphus College October 31, 2013

THE TIMING COULDN’T BE BETTER.

Visitors came with cameras in hand to photograph the rare blooming of Perry, which lasted until Sunday.

Visitors came with cameras in hand to photograph Perry in July 2010.

At 2 a.m. today, Perry the corpse flower began blooming in a third floor greenhouse in the Alfred Nobel Hall of Science on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

What better day than Halloween for the rare blossoming of this rare tropical plant emitting the stench of death or rotting meat, depending on your nose and opinion.

A sign at Gustavus Adolphus College directs visitors to the Nobel Hall of Science where "the corpse flower" grows in a third floor greenhouse.

A sign at Gustavus Adolphus College directs visitors to the Alfred Nobel Hall of Science where “the corpse flower” is blooming in a third floor greenhouse. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

You can view, and smell, this mammoth Amorphophallus titanum, nicknamed Perry, from 2 p.m. – 9 p.m. today (Halloween) or from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, November 1.

As of noon Friday, most visitors who signed Perry's guestbook came from the St. Peter-Mankato area. However, as word of the blooming spread, visitors were expected from all over--some had already come from Paris and Sweden (they were already visiting in the area).

The Petty guestbook signed by visitors in 2010. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I saw Perry when the plant bloomed in 2010.  (You can view photos from that visit by clicking here.)

A close-up of Perry's unfolding spathe, an outer purple vase-like sheath.

A close-up of Perry’s unfolding spathe, an outer purple vase-like sheath. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

If you plan to see Perry in person, make haste. If you can’t get to St. Peter, then click here to watch Perry via web cam.

Happy Halloween!

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In St. Peter: Waiting for the corpse flower to bloom October 29, 2013

PERRY MANIA is invading Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

A shot through a window into the viewing area shows Perry beginning to open.

A shot through a window into the viewing area shows Perry beginning to open in late July 2010.

OK, that may be a bit of a stretch. You decide, But interest in the predicted early November blooming of Perry, otherwise known as the “corpse flower,” is strong.

Think web cams, “featured news” on the college website, headlines in the St. Peter Herald, a Perry blog and even Perry themed t-shirts, cap, mugs, tote bag, bumper sticker and other merchandise available for purchase.

A close-up of Perry's unfolding spathe, an outer purple vase-like sheath.

A close-up of Perry’s unfolding spathe, an outer purple vase-like sheath. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

And all of this because the rare tropical plant, a native of Sumatra in Indonesia and with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, is about to blossom.

This mammoth plant, which can reach heights of eight to 10 feet and a life span of 40 years, is noted for its distinct rotting flesh/rotting meat odor.

A shot through the window into the viewing area of the titan arum.

A shot through the window into the viewing area of the titan arum shows the high level of interest in the corpse flower. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

Three years ago, my husband, son and I were among the 5,000 plus curious who flocked to the third floor greenhouse in the Nobel Hall of Science to view, and smell, the Amorphophallus titanum, aka Titan Arum. Gustavus named its plant, seeded in 1993, after the Titan Hyperion, associated with intellectual curiosity. That would be Perry, for short.

I don’t recall the precise smell of Perry only 12 hours after the plant began blooming in late July 2010. But I do remember thinking the odor was not nearly as bad as I had imagined and that I’ve smelled worse (like a slurry pit being emptied) while traveling through rural Minnesota.

One of the Yang boys wards off the offending odor with a perfumed bandanna.

The odor was too much for this boy, who covered his face with a perfumed bandanna when visiting Perry in 2010. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

But others, such as elementary-aged kids from Edina, pressed perfumed bandannas to their noses.

A diagram explained the life cycle of "the corpse plant."

A diagram explains the life cycle of “the corpse plant.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

To see, and smell, a corpse flower in bloom is a rare opportunity, one limited to only a few days. This marks Perry’s third blooming. And there isn’t exactly an abundance of these plants in the world, one of the reasons Gustavus botanists are invested in conservation of the Titan Arum. Gustavus received 20 Titan Arum seeds from a San Francisco physician  in 1993 and Perry is the result.

Visitors came with cameras in hand to photograph the rare blooming of Perry, which lasted until Sunday.

Visitors came with cameras in hand to photograph the rare blooming of Perry in July 2010. Perry has previously bloomed in 2007 and 2010. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

Is Perry worth seeing, worth smelling, worth photographing? Definitely.

If you’re hypersensitive to odors, though, pack your perfumed bandanna.

FYI: As early November nears, be sure to check the Gustavus Adolphus website (click here) often for updates on Perry and the precise date when blooming is expected. Some Facebook fans are predicting blossoming on Halloween or even earlier.

 

Inside the pearly gates of St. Peter, visitors view the notorious “corpse flower” July 26, 2010

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A sign at Gustavus Adolphus College directs visitors to the Nobel Hall of Science where "the corpse flower" grows.

FOR SOME, PERRY’S flesh-rotting odor proved too repugnant.

But they came prepared—they being the four Edina kids who traveled to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter Friday morning to view the flowering of Gustavus’ Amorphophallus titanium, otherwise known as “Hyperion” and nicknamed “Perry.”

With perfumed bandannas in hand, the three Yang siblings and a friend trooped past Perry, the native Indonesian plant that last bloomed in this southern Minnesota college greenhouse in 2007. The large plant (this one is about six feet tall) produces an offending odor that, based on the comments I heard Friday morning, ranges from smelling like barf to fish at an Asian market to “my son’s bedroom.”

I watched with amusement through a greenhouse viewing window as the Yang kids and their friend passed by Perry, handkerchiefs clasped firmly to their faces for much of the brief encounter.

One of the Yang boys wards off the offending odor with a bandanna.

Filtering the offending odor with a bandanna.

Admittedly, Perry does stink, producing an offending odor designed to attract pollinators. This past weekend, Perry also attracted plenty of attention from the media, scientists and just plain curious visitors like my husband, son and I who stopped en route to a family reunion in southwestern Minnesota around noon Friday. About 12 hours earlier, at 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Hyperion opened.

I didn’t know quite what to expect when we reached the greenhouse on the third floor of the Nobel Hall of Science at Gustavus. Surprisingly, I was pleasantly surprised. With camera in hand—no bandanna for me—I entered the viewing area fully prepared to find a decaying smell so overpowering that I would snap a few pictures and flee.

Instead, I discovered an odor that, in all honesty, I found more tolerable than stench that sometimes wafts across the countryside from animal manure at large-scale farming operations.

Perhaps if I had returned Sunday, when Perry was at full bloom, my opinion would have changed. The odor would just get worse as the flowering progressed, we were told Friday.

Maybe then I, too, would have pressed a perfumed bandanna to my nose, filtering the odorous smell of Perry, “the corpse flower.”

I shot this image through a window in the viewing area of the the greenhouse where the curious gathered to see Perry.

A close-up of Perry's unfolding spathe, an outer purple vase-like sheath.

Visitors came with cameras in hand to photograph the rare blooming of Perry, which lasted until Sunday.

A close-up of the sheath that protects the inner tube-like structure called the spadix. The hundreds of small flowers are on the spadix.

A diagram explains the life cycle of "the corpse plant."

A shot through the window into the viewing area of the titan arum.

As of noon Friday, most visitors who signed Perry's guestbook came from the St. Peter-Mankato area. However, as word of the blooming spread, visitors were expected from all over--some had already come from Paris and Sweden (they were already visiting in the area). My husband added our names to the guestbook.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling