Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A long day for the Easter Bunny April 17, 2017

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The Easter Bunny at 11 a.m.

 

 

The Easter Bunny at 4 p.m.

 

FYI: Photographed in a front yard while driving by on U.S. Highway 14 in Courtland on Easter.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How to write an obit 101 from Jim’s family March 1, 2017

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THE OLDER I GET, the more I find myself reading the obituaries published in the Faribault Daily News. And, yes, I’m old school. I still subscribe to a print paper.

I also have education and work experience in journalism, including writing obituaries. It’s one of the first skills I learned in the journalism program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. If you can’t write an obit—and make damn sure the name is spelled correctly—then you best choose another career.

But much has changed since I graduated from MSU in 1978. Newspaper staffers no longer write obits that once published for free. Today obits are paid-for pieces written by survivors of the deceased or penned in advance before death. That allows for creative obits reflecting personalities rather than the straight-forward factual death notices I once composed.

Source: Faribault Daily News

Source: Faribault Daily News

On Tuesday I opened the Faribault paper to find probably the longest obituary I’ve ever seen published. It runs 38 column inches, which takes you from the top of the “Matters of Record” page to the bottom, spanning two columns.

I figured, given the length, that I would find stories and humor therein. I did. I always appreciate humor in an obit. We all need moments of laughter in the midst of grief.

So here, for your entertainment, are some stories from the obit of Faribault resident James Dale Kittlesen, 87, who died on Sunday, February 19:

While at Gustavus, he met his future wife (Karen), of 59 years, although there is confusion as to how this happened…Others blame Karen’s brother Morrie who gave his fellow geology student a bag of brownies and told Jim that his sister Karen had made them especially for him. It became obvious to Jim that Karen knew nothing about the brownies while he was thanking her in the library.

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In 1991, after 16 years, Jim retired from his position as Director of Business Affairs of the Faribault School District having been hung in effigy only once.

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In recent years he became a fan of the Minnesota Windchill… After sitting in the bleachers for an entire game he discovered he could barely stand as his back hurt too much. When people would ask about his sore back he would explain it was a “sports injury.”

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At Trinity he worked with the pie makers where he learned “mad chopping skills.”

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Recently, while Jim was sitting in his comfy chair, Karen asked, “Is there anything on your bucket list you would have liked to have done?” He replied, “No, not really. I think I’ve done everything I wanted to do.”

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I never knew Jim. But I feel like I do now after reading his life highlights, stories and quotes.

There’s one more thing Jim’s family wants mourners to know regarding his funeral: Jim will not be wearing a tie so feel free to follow suit.

TELL ME: How do you want your obituary written? Straight forward journalism style? Or a mix of straight facts and stories? How do you want to be remembered?

FYI: Click here to read Jim Kittlesen’s complete obituary published on the Boldt Funeral Home website.

 

At the Faribault library: When a knock-knock joke is more than just a knock-knock joke February 7, 2017

What did one plate say to the other?
Lunch is on me.

What do you give a sick pig?
Oinkment.

How do you count cows?
With a cowculator.

NOW YOU MIGHT EXPECT a third grader shared those knock-knock jokes with me or perhaps I read them in a joke book?

 

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But you would be wrong. I read them on new furniture placed several days ago in Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault. You read that right. The jokes are printed on easy chairs and loveseats. But this isn’t just any furniture. Minnesota prisoners crafted this furniture.

So what’s the story with the construction and the upholstery design? For the answers, I turned to Library Director Delane James.

 

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In the market for the first new furniture since a library remodeling project in 1996, James looked to the state vendor approved MINNCOR Industries, a Minnesota Department of Corrections prison industry. Inmate labor is utilized for manufacturing products and for services. She likes the idea, James says, of prisoners learning marketable skills that may prevent recidivism.

 

library-loveseat

 

James also knew that the quality, durable furniture will last. For the past 21 years, MINNCOR furniture endured in her library that today sees 500-700 daily users.

With specific goals, the library director started poking around on the MINNCOR website for fabric options. “I wanted something that was attention-getting and to promote literacy,” she says. “I wanted the unexpected, to get them (library users) to read.”

 

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She found that in the Funnybone Collection, in a print labeled KNOCK KNOCK in a color tagged Class Clown.

Already, James has seen the positive results of her fabric choice. She observed two high school students reading knock-knock jokes to one another during a library Homework Help session.

 

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Among jokes printed on the fabric is this one:

How do prisoners make phone calls?
With cell phones.

That joke is the favorite of prisoners and is the talk of the prison, James learned when $40,000 in lounge chairs, loveseats, computer chairs and 90 stackable chairs were delivered to the library late last week. Only the loveseats and three of the easy chairs are imprinted with jokes.

 

library-exterior-copy

 

The KNOCK KNOCK design chosen by James is also putting Buckham Library in the spotlight. A MINNCOR marketing staffer photographed the furniture in the Faribault library on Friday to promote usage in other libraries. Perhaps more Minnesota library directors will take a cue from James and select prison-built Funnybone furniture that grabs attentions, promotes literacy and prompts conversation.

TELL ME: Have you seen this or similar inspiring furniture in a public place? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

You know you’re in rural Minnesota when… November 3, 2016

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rural-mn-52-no-horses-or-ponies-sign

 

…you discover a sign like this at a city park.

I photographed this at Earl B. Himle Memorial Park in Hayfield, Minnesota, population around 1,300. Credit goes to my husband for spotting the sign.

Check back as I bring you a three-part series of posts from Hayfield.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A prompt to lighten up & have some fun November 2, 2016

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LIKE A SCENE from The Wizard of Oz, the witch riding a bicycle drew me in for a closer look.

And that’s when I focused on the sign:

 

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I don’t condone wicked behavior in the sense of something evil or criminal. But wicked behavior defined as fun and of no harmful consequence to anyone, that I can support.

How about you? What wicked fun behavior have you participated in?

FYI: The witch photographed here is located next to the scarecrow display at the 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale in Kenyon. I posted about the scarecrows yesterday. If you haven’t read that piece, click here.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Voting for a scarecrow November 1, 2016

 

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WITCH (sic) ONE SHOULD I choose?

 

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Is this one It? Looks like a shady character hiding behind that signature hair style.

 

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This scarecrow stands out in the field. Just look at that perfect, practiced smile and that perfectly pressed plaid.

 

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The artistry here is certainly something to crow about.

 

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I’m struggling to wrap my head around the choices.

 

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Is this unique scarecrow raking in the votes? If only there were exit polls.

 

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I like this scarecrow entourage. But those signs bother me. BEWARE. Of what? And No crows. What’s wrong with crows? Yeah, I know they’re not robins…

 

scarecrow-contest-267-vote-for-me-sign

 

On the surface, I thought, how clever to post a campaign sign. But then I reread the words. Turning Green with Envy Needs Money popped out at me. You can’t sway my vote with sympathy, excess advertising, confusing rhetoric or via deflection.

 

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I hope the candidates will accept the outcome, respecting the democratic process that veils our votes in secrecy. No rigged polls here.

 

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There are so many choices. But really, these are just scarecrows. I shouldn’t take this election so seriously. There’s a more important election on November 8.

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FYI: These scarecrows are part of a Scarecrow Contest at the 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale. That sale, located at 45986 Highway 56 just off Minnesota Highway 60 in Kenyon, continues from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. November 3 -6 and November 10 -13. All items are handcrafted.

Disclaimer: There’s nothing political about the craft sale. It’s just that–a craft sale.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

His humor March 15, 2016

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MY HUSBAND POSSESSES a distinct sense of humor. It’s not an I am funny, ha, ha, listen to me type of joke-telling humor. Rather, it’s understated, punching into conversation when least expected. Humor is one of the qualities I really appreciate in him.

Randy makes me laugh when I need laughter. He makes me smile when I need a smile. His humor balances my serious personality.

He reads the comics. I don’t. Sometimes he clips a comic from the paper and sticks it on the fridge, just for me. He doesn’t tell me. He waits for me to notice. And when I do, I laugh at the appropriateness of the joke. And then I smile because he was thoughtful enough to think of me while reading the funnies.

You gotta love a guy like this.

When it comes to greeting cards, he likes funny. I like poetic and romantic and serious. He chooses cards for the guys in the family. You know, cards about beer and growing old with a humorous twist. Sometimes I nix his choices or add a personal note, Randy chose this card.

When he was tasked to design a onesie for our soon-to-be-born granddaughter, he presented an idea. I had to reject it given our daughter would never put the shirt on her daughter. But then he came up with another idea and set to work stenciling an owl and printing accompanying words. His design is a perfect example of his humor:

 

Nocturnal creature onesie, 3

 

Fitting for a newborn, wouldn’t you say?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling