Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How about a diesel sandwich while you watch fireworks? June 30, 2014

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When I learned to read, I read about Dick, Jane and Sally and their dog, Spot. Plus their cat, Puff, and Sally’s teddy bear, Tim. And let’s not forget Mother and Father.

See Dick run. See Jane run. See Sally run. Did they ever walk?

Such were the exciting words printed upon the pages of my classroom primers.

So when I spot a “See Spot Run” sign along Wisconsin State Highway 21 near Omro, I think of learning to read, not canine services.


Wisconsin signs, Spot


But it’s a clever connection, isn’t it? Would you understand this stand-alone sign or would you, like me, have to Google “See Spot Run” to understand?


Wisconsin signs, diesel sandwich


Then there’s the most amusing of all signs further along the highway. It advertises diesel sandwiches at JB Sales with locations in Arkdale and Necedah. I’m certain the sign maker didn’t intend for the message to be read as “diesel sandwiches.” But that’s how my brain reads the words.


Wisconsin signs, steak


I’m still puzzling over another sign, this for Silvercryst, a fine dining establishment along Silver Lake near Wautoma that boasts GR8 steaks. Why wouldn’t you just spell out “great?” Because the sign is supposed to resemble a license plate apparently.


Wisconsin signs, cheese in Omro


There are lots of cheese sellers in Wisconsin vying for local and tourism dollars. So you have to make yourself stand out. And one cheese sign in particular, in Omro, catches my eye. Because of the cows.


Wisconsin signs, fireworks


Finally, you can’t travel Wisconsin without noticing an abundance of fireworks signs. There’s nothing too special about this Highway 21 sign, except the advertising of Demo Night on June 20. Is this demo deal common for fireworks places in Wisconsin? Tell me. I’m from Minnesota.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Fish Fry Fridays March 28, 2014

GROWING UP LUTHERAN, I knew Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. They ate fish. I never understood that because I consider fish to be meat.

But, still Lutheran today, I respect the Catholic Friday Fish Fry tradition.

Photographed in Omro, Wisconsin, eight miles west of Oshkosh along the Fox River.

Photographed in Omro, Wisconsin, eight miles west of Oshkosh along the Fox River.

This time of year, you’ll see advertisements and signs galore calling the faithful to feast on fish on Fridays.

These weekly Lenten fish fries should also remind believers of their calling to be, like Jesus’ disciples, fishers of men (and women and children). If I remember my bible facts correctly, Andrew, Peter, James and John were fishermen by profession and fishermen by discipleship.

Throughout scripture, you will find numerous references to fish, beginning with the beginning. In Genesis 1:26, God says:

“Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

What a great responsibility.

Then there’s the story of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish. I remember as a child reading Sunday School bible lessons and how impressed I was by this. To think that the prophet Jonah would be swallowed by a whale, remain in the whale’s belly for three days and then be spit out alive seemed pretty miraculous to me.

And that’s exactly as it should have seemed. The apostle Matthew writes in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 12:40:

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jonah’s experience connects to Christ’s resurrection from the dead after the third day, as explained by Matthew.

At VFW Post 2778 in Appleton, Wisconsin, they apparently attempt to feed the masses as the Friday Fish Fry runs from 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

At VFW Post 2778 in Appleton, WI., they apparently attempt to feed the masses as the Friday Fish Fry runs from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Finally, the other significant mention of fish imprinted upon my memory comes in the feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000 plus. On both occasions, Jesus multiplied miniscule portions of bread and fish to feed the masses:

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14: 19-21)

I think Jesus would have appreciated a Friday Fish Fry.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Sweeping the steps on a Monday morning August 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:08 AM
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WHILE ON A FOUR-DAY vacation in Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota earlier this week, I took nearly 500 photos.

Posed pictures. Landscapes. Carefully framed frames. And then photo after photo after photo that I shot from the passenger side of the car as my husband, son and I traveled along interstates, state highways and winding, narrow back country roads.

Taking photos from a car traveling at highway speeds can be difficult. But I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture a good, even great, image while on the move. Let’s just say I’m never bored because I’m constantly seeking photo ops.

That means looking ahead, anticipating and clicking the shutter button at just the right moment. Too soon and I miss the shot. Too late and I miss the shot. I can’t even begin to tell you how many pictures I’ve failed to get because I’ve had the camera switched to OFF or I’m not quick enough.

But the more I practice this method of photography, the better I become. I’ve managed to snap some of my favorite photos through the windows of a car. Yes, I keep the windows closed unless the car is traveling at 30 mph or less. I don’t want to risk dirt/dust flying into my camera and landing on the sensor.

And it goes unsaid that clean windows are a must, but not always possible. I don’t let dirty glass stop me from taking photographs.

All that said, here’s my favorite car-shot image from this trip.

My favorite image from this road trip: "Sweeping the steps on a Monday morning at a Mexican restaurant in Omro, Wisconsin."

Let me tell you a little about the subject. On our way to Appleton, Wisconsin, on Saturday, we drove through Omro, a small town just west of Oshkosh on State Highway 21. I saw this vivid orange Mexican restaurant, but wasn’t in a position to photograph it.

However, on the return trip through Omro on Monday morning, I had my camera ready and, when I saw the man sweeping the front steps of the restaurant, I fired off two quick frames and got what I consider a pretty darned good photo.

The vivid colors and composition make this, in my opinion, a good photo.

But the image excels to excellent when you consider the subject—a man sweeping the steps. Ordinary becomes extraordinary for the everyday story told. As a photographer, I strive to photograph regular, everyday life. When I manage to photograph a scene like this one, I am pleased, mighty pleased.

Even in black-and-white, the image remains a strong photo.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling