Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Cruisn’ to church, but not for a sermon July 27, 2016



FOR ST. JOHN’S UNITED CHURCH of Christ, Wheeling Township, a weekend Cruise-In Car Show offers an opportunity to bring the community together.

There’s no ulterior motive. This isn’t a fundraiser. The church isn’t trying to get folks to join.

Rather, says Steve Wille of the St. John’s Revitalization Group, the Car Show is strictly a social event aimed at bringing folks together in a neighborly sort of way. I like that. Visiting with your neighbors, he says, seems to be a lost art.

The parking lot at St. John's United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation's annual performance of The Last Supper Drama.

St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

St. John’s, a country church located east of Faribault near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, is good at reaching out to the community. The congregation hosts annual events like the Big Woods Run, The Last Supper Drama, German Fest, an ice cream social and more. I’ve been there many times, often enough that congregants know me. These folks are country friendly and welcoming. And they’re fantastic cooks and bakers.

No St. John’s event is complete without food. Pork sandwiches and snacks will be available at the 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturday, July 30, Cruise-In Car Show.

Car Show is a bit of a misnomer, though. Trucks and tractors are also welcome with first place trophies awarded to each of the top three.

If you enjoy cruise-ins, country churches, a rural setting and visiting, consider attending (or participating in) St. John’s first-ever Cruise-In Car Show.

FYI: St. John’s is located 10 miles northeast of Faribault. Take Minnesota State Highway 60 east for eight miles and then turn north onto Rice County 24. Drive two miles to 19086 Jacobs Avenue.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Snow removal in my Minnesota neighborhood February 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:54 AM
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Shoveling the driveway, take one.

About to begin shoveling the driveway.

“HOW MUCH SNOW did we get?” I asked my husband upon arising Friday morning. I had no desire to bundle up and head outdoors to shovel the sidewalk and driveway. Again.

He guessed about five inches.

“I don’t feel like shoveling.”

“You don’t have to. I’ll blow it out when I get home.”

And so I felt a tinge of guilt, making the mail carrier and the few pedestrians in my neighborhood plow through the snow. But at least school wasn’t in session and kids wouldn’t be trudging through the snow, too, packing it down.

Shoveling the driveway, take two.

The first scoop of snow.

But then, around 2 p.m., the next door neighbor barreled down the sidewalk with his snowblower blazing a trail past our house and then back a second time to clear an even wider path. That Ken did this simply out of the goodness of his heart pleases me.

Up the street, a kindly soul opened the driveway and sidewalks of another neighbor whose property my husband typically clears of snow.

Shoveling the driveway, take three.

Moving right along…

Across the street, the neighbor boy attempted to clear the driveway, a seemingly insurmountable job for the little guy. He was giving it his all, for awhile, clearing only a small section before abandoning the task.

Perhaps someday he’ll blaze a trail through the snow with a snowblower.

Or maybe he’ll just give up and move to Florida.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Farm Rescue: Like neighbors helping neighbors November 7, 2011

NO ONE EVER expects to need help. But then an accident happens or sickness befalls us or tragedy strikes. And we suddenly realize how much we need each other.

Back in October of 1967, neighbors rallied after a corn chopper sliced off the fingers on my father-in-law’s left hand. Not just the tips, but so much that amputation was required between the wrist and the elbow.

An Allis Chalmers corn chopper like this one exhibited at the 2010 Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show, claimed my father-in-law's left hand and much of his arm in a 1967 accident. That's my husband, Randy, who saved his dad's life by running for help.

In the week after the accident, neighboring farmers came with plows to work the fields of my father-in-law’s Morrison County farm.  Others arrived with tractors and manure spreaders to haul away a manure pile. A week or two later, the neighbors were back to pour a slab of cement at the end of the barn.

Several farmers and a high school student continued to assist the family with twice daily milkings and other farm chores while Tom recovered and adapted to farming with his prosthetic hook hand.

Neighbors helping neighbors in need.

This fall, farmers gathered south of Lucan in Redwood County to harvest corn and soybeans on the farm of their friend and neighbor, Steve, my sister-in-law’s father who was found dead at the scene of a single-vehicle accident on September 20.

Neighbors helping a grieving family in their time of need.

Stories like this are not uncommon in rural Minnesota.

Harvesting corn this fall in southern Minnesota.

But it wasn’t until this past week that I learned about Farm Rescue, “a nonprofit organization that plants and harvests crops free of charge for family farmers who have suffered a major illness, injury or natural disaster.”

Founded in 2005 by a former North Dakota farm boy, this Jamestown, North Dakota-based nonprofit has assisted 155 farm families, mostly in the Dakotas, but also in western Minnesota and eastern Montana, the states within the organization’s coverage area.

In early October, Farm Rescue harvested beans for Renville area farmer Kurt Kramin who is recovering from serious burns sustained while he burned debris following a July 1 severe storm that passed through southwestern Minnesota. (Read a story published in the Morris Sun Tribune about the Farm Rescue assistance provided to Kramin by clicking here.) 

All of this I learned from Paul Oster, a Farm Rescue videographer. Oster read my July blog posts about the tornadic and strong wind storms that swept through southwestern Minnesota and contacted me last week about using several photos in a video he was preparing about Kramin.

Before agreeing to his request, I first checked out Farm Rescue. I wanted to assure that the storm photos my brother, uncle and I had taken would be shared with a respected organization.

My photo of the July 1 storm damage at Meadowland Farmers Co-op in Vesta which Paul Oster included in his video of Kurt Kramin. Renville, where Kramin lives, is north of Vesta.

No problem there. Farm Rescue accepts applicants from farmers in need, reviews the applications and then, if approved, coordinates volunteers to plant or harvest crops. It’s like neighbors helping neighbors.

Click here to read all about Farm Rescue and how this nonprofit truly shines at neighbors helping neighbors in need.

Then, click here to see the videos about farm families aided by Farm Rescue in 2011.

If you want to contribute in any way to this worthy organization, do. Because you never know when you, too, may need your neighbors’ help.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


“The neighbor’s house is on fire!” September 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:55 PM
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TED FROM OWATONNA, you are our Willow Street neighborhood hero. This afternoon you saved my neighbor’s house from what could have been a devastating fire. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

You were in a hurry to leave after you put out the fire on Kristin and Kevin’s deck with a garden hose around 4 p.m. today. You didn’t give me your last name—I was the one with the camera, the across-the-street-neighbor.

I am forever grateful to you for noticing the flames (as you drove by with your family), stopping, grabbing a garden hose, banging on the house and yelling for my neighbors to “Get out!”

This is a view from my yard looking directly across the street at Kevin and Kristin's house on the corner of Tower Place and Willow Street. The fire was extinguished before firefighters arrived.

I did not get many actual fire photos as I was more focused on making sure my neighbors were out of the house than in photographing the scene. But here you see wood chips burning under the deck.

Ted from Owatonna uses water from a garden hose to put out the deck fire.

That's my neighbor Kristin on the right, with Ted still working to assure the fire is out.

You deserve an award, Ted. Faribault firefighter Joel Hansen says the fire department gives awards for efforts like yours. I expect you wouldn’t want one. But you need to be recognized and publicly thanked.

If not for your quick action, I am convinced the fire would have caused severe damage to Kristin and Kevin’s home.

By the time my 17-year-old son noticed the flames (which was almost immediately) and hollered, “The neighbor’s house is on fire!” you were already there grabbing the hose.

Flames were shooting from under and around the deck in the mere seconds it took for my husband and me to race across Tower Place. I didn’t even slip on shoes, just grabbed my camera and ran.

All I could think of was that my neighbors were in their house; their car was in the driveway. I screamed, “Kevin, Kristin, get out of the house!” Several times.

My eyes focused on those flames blocking the front door. The flames that kept shooting up until Ted extinguished them with water from that garden hose.

Then Kristin and her daughter, Kaylee, rounded the corner from the garage, having safely exited through a back door.

Kristin told me she heard the banging, but, because some neighborhood kids have been banging on her house recently, didn’t think much of it. But then she got up to check, saw the fire and got out. Her husband and son were not home.

I am relieved, thankful, grateful that the fire was contained to the deck area, that it did not happen at night, that my neighbors got safely out. The deck and siding are damaged. That is minor compared to what could have been.

The fire damaged the deck and siding.

Faribault firefighter Joel Hansen continued spraying down the area after Ted left.

It could have been worse, much worse, if not for the quick actions of Ted from Owatonna.

If anyone knows the identity of Ted, please submit a comment and I will pass this information along to the Faribault Fire Department. My husband also got Ted’s license plate number, so we are confident that officials can track him down that way. We want Ted to get the public recognition he deserves.

Today, Ted, let me give you your first public, “Thank you!”

Readers, if you would also like to comment on Ted’s actions, I welcome you to do so.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling