Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Oddities at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show, Part III September 8, 2017

Rows and rows of vintage tractors are a main attraction at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

 

WHEN I’M OUT and about with my camera whether at an event or simply exploring a small town or other setting, I often seek out the off-the-wall, the unusual, the humorous. The Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show in rural Dundas offers all three. I appreciate the creativity and humor displayed there. In these troubling and difficult times, we need diversions. We need laughter.

So I targeted seven scenes that grabbed my photographic attention in the categories of odd, funny, weird and, most certainly, creative. Take a look.

 

 

At the flea market, I noticed a fake bloody hand positioned next to vintage saws. Randy suggested we buy the appendage to gift to my sister at her annual Halloween-themed autumn soup party. The hand, the vendor said, was not for sale. His sister staged it next to the saws as a marketing gimmick. I’d like to meet his sister and introduce her to mine.

 

 

 

 

Then there’s Mike, who brought his 1930 Model A to the show. Typically one expects shiny restored cars showcased by proud owners. The Northfield man’s vintage Ford, though, is riddled with bullet holes. On purpose. After paying $800 for the car, Mike was advised that the decrepit Ford was not worth the $30K he would spend to properly refurbish it. Not to be discouraged, Mike and a friend shot up the Model A then created a story about Jesse James III killing two bank tellers while robbing a southern Missouri bank in 1932. The car was his get-away vehicle. Now the bullet-riddled Ford and the accompanying legend garner more interest than if Mike had spent all that money restoring his car.

 

 

Parked next to the Model A was yet another original—a customized Ford Courier pick-up transformed into a double-headed car by the crafty Andy’s Auto Body of Webster. That turned a few heads, including mine. And made me laugh.

 

 

Not everyone was laughing at the toy John Deere tractor George Pinc placed inside a jar atop his Farmall tractor. He got a less than courteous comment from a show attendee. George didn’t care. He’s not a loyal-to-one-brand type of guy. But he assuredly is a man with a sense of humor.

 

 

I don’t know the story behind the horns clamped to the top of another tractor. But the add-on caused me to smile.

 

 

And then, as I walked between rows of tractors, I noticed a boy (I think Mike’s son) on a banana seat bike towing a cooler. Again, I just had to smile at the ingenuity. Got a problem? Solve it.

 

 

Finally, there’s the water bottle. By itself, tucked in the crook of a tree, it means nothing. But there’s a story. I watched a guy stretch and place the bottle in the vee. Before he entered a porta potty. How smart is that? Got a problem? Solve it.

Sometimes in life you have to think and act beyond the expected and laugh. Just laugh.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Picnic perfect January 16, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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WINTERS TEND TO GROW long here in Minnesota. Double-digit below zero temps, windchills, snow, ice and too much darkness wear on even the heartiest of native Minnesotans. Like me.

So I force myself sometimes to embrace this season. This weekend, which yielded balmy temps in the 30s and sunny skies, brought a smile and lifted my spirits. As did this photo, shot Sunday afternoon while hiking snow-packed paths at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault:

 

picnic-table-on-snow-at-river-bend-nature-center-135

 

I am struck by this scene—by the contrast of seasons (thoughts of summer in the reality of winter), by the lone picnic table set upon snow on the prairie’s edge. I expect the table placement was intentional, for a purpose. But the creative side of me likes to imagine otherwise—that perhaps an artist or a comedian staged the table here to make a point/prompt conversation/elicit laughter.

I am applauding. Because I am laughing. And in a Minnesota winter, laughter is good.

TELL ME: What’s your response to this “picnic perfect” scene?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sometimes I see humor in the oddest places February 5, 2016

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Motorhome in Owatonna in January

 

WHEN I NOTICED THIS SCENE in a residential neighborhood along a busy street in Owatonna, I laughed. I can’t pinpoint the precise reason. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of winter (the snow-covered yard) and summer (the motorhome and thoughts of camping).

Or perhaps I laughed because the camper covering reminds me of a Paul Bunyan-sized sleeping bag.

When laughter erupts unexpectedly, I accept it. Laughter is a gift.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

At Trinity Family Game Night: Thou shalt laugh January 13, 2013

“TRICK OR TREAT,” I blurted upon my turn, realizing in the very moment I shouted those words that I had erred big time, as in a major brain fart moment.

My teammates’ mouths dropped. Their laughter chastised, mocked me. I could hear their question—“What were you thinking, Audrey?”—even though they dared not speak it aloud in the church fellowship hall setting. They exercised that bit of restrained Christian charity.

But I deserved the laughter. Who would respond “trick or treat” to a Family Feud question about a popular holiday greeting? Me.

First, the specific Family Feud game version we were playing focused on Christmas, a theme I failed to remember. Second, Halloween may be a holiday for kids, but not officially.

Thus went the annual Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, Family Game Night Christmas Party on Saturday, an event that always brings laughter. Lyda, who attended with her husband, Sean, and daughters, Rosemary and Anne, summarized the get together quite well in an email thank you to party planner Billie Jo. “We haven’t laughed this much in a long time,” Lyda wrote. Me either.

Laughter is good for the soul, even if the laughter is sometimes because of you.

Mandy, left, and Billie Jo vie to open a gift wrapped in multiple layers of boxes and wrapping paper and secured with layers of duct and packaging tape.

Mandy, left, and Billie Jo vie to open a gift wrapped in multiple layers of boxes and wrapping paper and secured with layers of duct and packaging tape. Rules called for contestants to dress in scarves, hats and mittens before attempting to open the gift.

From the exchange of white elephant gifts (more on that shortly) to the drawing of a Christmas scene upon a paper plate placed atop our heads, to tearing snowmen from paper tucked behind our backs to the pushing/near-wrestling/grabbing involved in the competitive unwrapping of a single gift secured in layers of paper and rolls of duct and packaging tapes to parceling M & Ms into bowls, the evening’s activities showcased comedic competitiveness.

Racing to sort M & Ms by color is not as easy as it looks.

Racing to sort M & Ms by color is not as easy as it looks.

Honestly, you would not expect grown-ups to behave like this, especially in church. But, and this is just my thought, I think sometimes we all need to act like kids, to let loose and freewheel our way through life, if but for a few moments.

We competed for prize packages like this snowman poop.

We competed for prize packages like this snowman poop.

Now if you’re thinking my Family Feud Halloween stupidity rates as the evening’s most memorable moment, you would be wrong. It ties with Jeff’s unwrapping of a white elephant gift which has become a Family Game Night Christmas Party tradition. For years, a gaudy holiday photo frame has circulated into the gift exchange. And, at some point, photos were added. Unbeknownst to Jeff, he grabbed the wrapped photo frame.

I knew, just knew, that my friend Jesse (who is a doctor, but not a medical doctor—so says his son Noah) would wrack his brilliant librarian brain until he came up with an incredibly creative photo to insert into the frame. Little did I know that my husband and I would be the subjects of Jesse’s creative efforts.

Jesse totally outdid himself. We party-goers erupted into thunderous laughter upon seeing his version of artist Grant Wood’s American Gothic.

The modern day version of Grant Wood's American Gothic painting was created by artist Jesse and features my husband and me. Outstanding, isn't it?

This modern day version of Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting was created by artist Jesse and features my husband and me. Outstanding, isn’t it? The garish frame will be regifted next year with a new photo inserted.

The only disappointment was that Jesse could not witness our reaction; he was home with his two youngest children who were ill. However, I asked Jesse’s wife, Tammy, to tell him I would be seeking revenge, to which there was some response about revenge belonging to the Lord. OK then, get back at/get even.

And I can get even, because that hideous photo frame is now in my possession. Yes, I actually stole the frame from Jeff at one point during the game because I really did not need a silverware tray from a dishwasher or two can coolers. My husband later stole this from Jeff—apparently for the can coolers.

I expect we broke many of the 10 Commandments Saturday evening what with stealing, infliction of bodily harm, mocking, maybe even coveting of some gifts, over-indulgence (ahem, consumption of too much chocolate)…

But we redeemed ourselves with laughter and with love.

Another of the wonderful prizes awarded to game winners.

Another of the coveted prizes awarded to game winners.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Laugh away holiday stress at FHS one-act plays December 15, 2011

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NEED A BREAK from the stress of preparing for the holidays?

Well, Faribault area residents, I’d recommend taking in Faribault High School’s student-directed one-act plays Friday or Saturday night.

For only $3 and about an hour of your time, you can escape your holiday busyness, relax and laugh. That’s a dollar for each benefit you reap. A bargain, I’d say.

And you will laugh, or maybe snort like the girl sitting behind me, at the humor in “Bad Auditions By Bad Actors,” directed by FHS student Lorelei Tinaglia, and “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” directed by Jeremiah Kuehne.

The content of the first play is self-explanatory by the title. The second play is about relationships.

These teens can entertain. They’re confident, poised, talented and funny. But, more importantly, they’re having fun. You can see that.

Eke out an hour of your time to support these theater students who will gift you with laughter.

Be there. Black Box Theatre. At 7 p.m. Friday or Saturday. Faribault High School.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Three dumb moments December 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:30 AM
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HAVE YOU EVER SAID, done or believed something that ranks as stupid/dumb/unbelievable, etc., and shortly thereafter realized your mistake/stupidity/gullibility?

Of course you have, and so have I, plenty of times.

In recent days, I’ve had too many of those moments. Can I blame it on holiday stress, lack of sleep or maybe, more truthfully, myself?

We’ll start with Sunday morning church. As the offering plate is passed down my pew, I hand it along to my husband, who typically pulls our offering envelope from his dress shirt pocket and drops it into the plate.

But he’s not doing that. He’s sitting there holding the collection plate, looking at me with one of those looks that only a spouse can give his/her spouse. We’ve been married long enough that I knew exactly what I hadn’t done.

I unzipped my purse, reached inside and grabbed what I thought was the offering envelope and nearly dropped it into the plate before realizing I was offering God $10 off on a $25 purchase at J.C. Penney.

Later Sunday, apparently still in that dumb mode and while dining with my extended family at a soup lunch I hosted, I was convinced by two brothers-in-law that another brother-in-law had scooped the beets for the borscht from the highway. That would be as in sugar beets that had fallen from an overloaded truck.

Why I believed the pair is beyond me. You would think that after nearly 30 years of knowing these two guys I would realize they are sometimes full of…, well, you know. So I asked the brother-in-law who made the beet-laced borscht (soup) if this was true. Of course it wasn’t and a dozen guests had a good laugh at my expense.

Perhaps my recent dumbest moment occurred a few days ago when I was talking with my second-born, who recently moved to Wisconsin. I asked if, when she was Christmas shopping, she could look for a Minnesota Twins long-sleeved shirt for her sister. I couldn’t find any in Faribault and did not want to run all over the area shopping for one given I detest shopping.

“Um, Mom,” she replied. “I don’t think I’m going to find a Twins shirt in Wisconsin. Maybe a Green Bay Packers shirt.”

Honestly, these stories are all true. Really, could I make up anything as stupid/dumb/unbelievable?

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED in publicly sharing any of your similar memorable moments, submit a comment. With the stress of the holidays, we could all use a few more laughs.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling