Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Shut-down fall-out ripples through southern Minnesota families January 16, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The art of Roosevelt Elementary School student Anzal Abdi displayed during a 2018 Faribault area student art show at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2018, Used here for illustration only. I prefer peace over conflict, resolution over discord.

 

I’M NOT ONE TO CREATE discord and division. I really don’t like conflict. So it’s not often I write on current political topics. Hot topics seem to bring out the worst in people, especially in online comments. So be forewarned. I moderate comments. I’m OK with disagreement. But only if it’s civil.

Here goes, the current day topic that has me shaking my head in disbelief:

This whole border wall funding-federal government shut-down makes zero sense. Why? Because federal employees and ordinary citizens who have nothing at all to do with the border wall are being hurt. Financially. Emotionally. I am surprised this situation has continued for this long. But then I’m not surprised. And, no, I won’t expand on that. You can read between the lines.

Only in recent days have I heard the stories of southern Minnesotans feeling the effects. My nephew for one. He is an air traffic controller. Currently unpaid. He and his young family of five are OK for now. They have enough money saved to cover expenses for the next several months. But they are expecting a baby in April and that’s a concern.

Another young couple is also expecting a baby soon. And they are in the process of buying a home. But with the partial federal government shut-down, the home loan process is stalled. Talk about stress.

The third family is also expecting a baby. The expectant father works for the federal prison system. For now, the family is OK. They still have their health insurance coverage, a major worry with that baby coming.

I can only imagine how many more individuals and families are feeling the financial fall-out of no paycheck. How many folks are awaiting loans and more, all delayed now because of the impasse? How many people on vacation now find they can’t visit federal sites they planned to see or are caught in long lines at airports? One can only hope a resolution is reached soon as effects of the shut-down ripple through our economy, our country.

TELL ME: Are you personally affected by the shut-down or do you know of someone who is affected?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Enough August 24, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I EXPECTED IT. As soon as I read that the suspect in the murder of small town Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts is an alleged illegal immigrant, I knew this would become a political issue. I knew, too, that the venom of hatred in this country would strike like a coiled snake.

From the President to too many politicians (including right here in Minnesota) to everyday Americans, the poison is spreading. A young woman is dead and that seems to have been lost in the spewing of anger and hatred and pushing an agenda for immigration reform.

Enough.

Beyond that, the family which operates Yarrabee Farms, where the suspect was employed, is receiving death threats, threats to burn down their buildings, even threats to kill their dog.

Enough.

What has happened to common decency in this country? What has happened to respect for a grieving family? What has happened to the ability to see crime as crime and not something linked to an individual’s skin color or residency status?

I know there are those who will disagree with me, who will jump all over this post and argue. But, because this is my personal blog, I will not give hatred a platform. I choose to honor Mollie.

In the words of Yarrabee Farms co-owner Craig Lang, also a Republican candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture this summer: “…now is not the time to discuss immigration.”

Now is the time to respect a family and community which are grieving. They, and Mollie, deserve more than the politicization of her death.

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NOTE: I moderate all comments. I decide what publishes here.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Voting for a scarecrow November 1, 2016

 

scarecrow-contest-253-pumpkin-head

 

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.

 

scarecrow-contest-264-mummy

 

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

 

scarecrow-contest-265-rake-scarecrow

 

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

 

 

 

When a small town Minnesota newspaper implements a “pay for” letter policy August 11, 2016

SHOULD A NEWSPAPER charge for publishing a letter to the editor?

My Minnesota State University, Mankato, journalism professor Robert Shipman would likely turn over in his grave if he read that question. He impressed upon me that the editorial page is the heart of a newspaper. A staunch supporter of community journalism, he would not advocate paying for letters to the editor. Neither do I.

I have great respect for this newspaper man who nearly 40 years ago taught me the basics of journalism—instilling in me a strong sense of fairness in writing balanced news stories. Opinion, he emphasized, should be reserved for the editorial page.

 

Gaylord Hub election letters policy - Copy

 

This brings me back to charging a fee for letters to the editor. Interestingly enough, my concern is prompted by a notice published in The Gaylord Hub, a third-generation family newspaper where I accepted a reporting job right out of college.

Decades after I left my two-year stint at this small southern Minnesota weekly, I still get The Gaylord Hub. Unlike most community newspapers, The Hub does not have a strong editorial page. Rare are the editorials. However, locals often voice their opinions in letters to the editor. There’s been significant controversy in Gaylord related to school issues.

But now the publisher/editor has established a new policy for election-themed letters. Policies for letters to the editor are the norm at newspapers. Many publications restrict length; monitor for libelous and offensive content and personal attacks, etc.; and don’t publish election-related letters in the final issue before an election. But, in a quick perusal of the internet, checking out several major dailies across the country and several Minnesota daily and weeklies, I found none with a “pay for” publication fee.

The Little Falls based The Morrison County Record, for example, states that “Letter writers are encouraged to stick to the issues and the positions on issues and qualifications of the candidates.” Letters that lean toward advertising aren’t published.

In Gaylord, though, under the new policy, if you want to write a letter supporting or opposing a candidate or a political party, you’ll have to pay for it. Thirty dollars for up to 300 words for a Paid Election Letter.

I get where the newspaper is coming from with this policy. Some people will abuse the system by viewing the editorial page as a free advertising opportunity. But to blanket apply that to all election-focused letters seems a suppression of opinions. The policies established by The Morrison County Record seem more appropriate, more balanced in curbing potential abuse while maintaining freedom of expression.

That said, there was a time when newspapers printed obituaries and engagement, wedding and birth announcements at no cost to readers. No more, at least in most publications. Would my college professor opine that change. He likely would. Robert Shipman was Old School community journalism. He was all about integrity, unbiased reporting, getting facts right and, above all, always always spelling names correctly. He taught me well. He taught me that the opinion page is the heart of a newspaper.

Thoughts?

Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The new letters to the editor policy published in the August 4 edition of The Gaylord Hub.

 

When the political campaigners call March 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I photographed this American flag recently in downtown Owatonna.

I photographed this American flag recently in downtown Owatonna.

THE PHONE RANG at 8 a.m. Not a good time to call. Early morning calls like that launch my heart into my throat. Nothing much good ever comes of a call made that early in the day.

The call came from a woman claiming to be with a cancer research group. I didn’t listen long enough to hear more. Her opening line caused me to slam the receiver into its base. She had no business phoning me; I’m on the do not call list. Plus, the timing of the call unsettled me.

Many times this past weekend I found myself hanging up without listening to an entire lengthy spiel. Not from some supposed charity. But from individuals representing Presidential candidates. Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump. Ted Cruz.

I tried to wedge my way into the scripted calls without sounding mean. It is not my nature to treat an unwelcome political caller with rudeness. Or at least I used to be that way. Now days I find bluntness almost a necessity to handle these unsolicited intrusions.

And so, when I could, I told the campaigner I’d watched the debates, at least some of them; am following the races; and am fairly well informed. And then I hung up.

Will today, Super Tuesday, bring a deluge of political calls? I hope not.

But I suppose I should consider the positive. At least I live in a country where I can get such calls, where opinions can be expressed, where I have a voice and where I have the option of hanging up.

Thoughts? I’m especially interested in hearing any creative ways you handle political phone calls.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Driving home a political point along a Minnesota interstate November 4, 2012

IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, you are fed up with all the political literature, billboards and advertisements.

If you’re like me, you don’t even read the campaign material that arrives in your mailbox.

If you’re like me, you don’t even want to answer the phone or door any more to listen to another pollster or campaign volunteer or candidate.

But then along comes a political statement like this, posted along Interstate 94 about 15 miles east of Alexandria (between mile markers 117 and 118 near the West Union exit):

Driving east on I-94, you’ll see the car ramp first, then the limo driven into the ground and then the message.

Creative freedom of speech

I don’t care what your political persuasion or whether you vote red or blue, support Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. You just have to admire the creativity and hard work of whomever planted this limo in the ground along a busy Minnesota interstate to drive home a political point.

Spotting this political billboard of sorts this past weekend truly caused me to pause and consider how very fortunate I am to live in a free country like the United States of America.

Here we are free to express our opinions, to let our voices be heard, to speak out, to tell others what we think, to vote. And, yes, I pretty much duplicated myself with all of those phrases.

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cannon Falls pulls out the flags for President’s visit August 15, 2011

Amy Savvy cleans the windows at Amy's Savvy Seconds, next to the Cannon Falls Chamber of Commerce, on Sunday afternoon in preparation for President Barack Obama's visit.

IN A FEW HOURS, President Barack Obama arrives in small-town Minnesota for the first stop on a Midwest bus tour that will also take him into rural parts of Iowa and Illinois.

The folks in Cannon Falls, a town of some 3,795 in southeastern Minnesota, have rolled out the flags in a patriotic welcome to our nation’s leader.

Throughout the downtown Sunday afternoon, most businesses were displaying American flags in storefront windows. Flags were also posted along the downtown streets. Some homeowners displayed flags in their yards and mini-flags lined at least a block of the roadway leading to Hannah’s Bend Park, site of the President’s visit.

Along the road to Hannah's Bend Park, at least one homeowner had decorated with mini American flags.

An American flag hangs outside Schaffer's Antiques.

A street-side flag in downtown Cannon Falls.

Vintage building signage provides the backdrop for an American flag in this historic river town.

Whether Obama will ever see the many flags in the downtown remains unknown as his route into and out of Cannon Falls remained unofficially unknown to the locals I visited with on Sunday. At least one business owner speculated he would travel U.S. Highway 52 into town, which seems the most likely route.

Warren Schaffer of Schaffer’s Antiques recalled a shutdown along that highway when President Ronald Reagan passed by Cannon Falls.

The last visit by a U.S. President to this Goodhue County town occurred in 1928, when Calvin Coolidge attended the dedication of a statue honoring Col. William Colvill, a Civil War veteran who led the First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment during the battle at Gettysburg.

Most Cannon Falls residents likely feel as antique shop owner Schaffer does about Obama’s visit. “He’s the President. This is a little town. This is a big deal.”

A Spanish American flag hangs on a wall inside Schaffer's Antiques. The flag, which shop owner Warren Schaffer thinks likely was a coffin flag, is not for sale. It makes a nice wall decoration, Schaffer says.

A flag in the window of the Cannon River Winery, a busy place on a Sunday.

A shot of Cannon Falls' main drag and a flag in the window of an insurance company.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling