Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A tractor so deere featured at historic ag show, Part II September 7, 2017

A snippet of the many vintage tractors displayed at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show in rural Dundas, Minnesota.


DRIVING AWAY FROM THE RICE COUNTY Steam & Gas Engines Show, Randy and I reminisced about a long ago popular farming event in our respective rural Minnesota hometown areas. That would be John Deere Days, an annual implement dealership open house. At the ones I attended in Redwood Falls, families enjoyed a free meal of BBQs, baked beans and individual servings of ice cream eaten with mini wooden spoons from plastic cups. Funny how one recalls such details five decades later.


There were plenty of John Deere tractors on the grounds.


A vintage John Deere combine.


I found the vintage hay loader especially interesting.


I remember, too, going to the local theater afterward to watch movies about John Deere tractors and other farming equipment. To a farm girl who viewed less than a handful of big screen movies during her entire childhood, these yearly John Deere promo flicks rated as a big deal.


Not every tractor emblem at the show has been restored. I like the ones that bear the marks of hard use on the farm.


But before the film reel rolled, several lucky attendees won door prizes. Like silver dollars. Randy won a bag of seed corn. His dad, who planted the silage seed corn on his Morrison County farm, was likely more thrilled than his son about that prize.


John Deere tractors and related equipment got front row display space.


So what prompted our memories of John Deere Days after attending the recent historic ag show in rural Dundas? It was this year’s selection of the John Deere as the honored tractor line. I hold a fondness for The Long Green Line that traces back to my dad’s John Deere. There’s a certain comfort in the auditory memories of putt-putt-putt. Anything that specifically reminds me of my nearly 18 years on a southwestern Minnesota dairy and crop farm—and that would be John Deeres—yields sweet thoughts.


Identifying words on the side of a John Deere tractor at the Dundas show.


I really should tour the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum in Waterloo, Iowa.


My dad owned a later model Ford, unlike these earlier Ford tractors.


Unlike my great nephew Landon who, at age four, is loyal solely to John Deere, I am not. My dad also owned Farmalls, Internationals and Fords. He, however, only ever allowed me to drive the B Farmall.


A leaping deer has long been John Deere’s iconic symbol.


Nothing runs like a Deere. That catchy coined phrase endures still as do the signature green and yellow and leaping deer symbols of this implement company. I appreciate those long-lasting recognizable tags that trace to my rural roots and remind me of my youth on a Minnesota farm.


Do you, like me, have sweet memories of a John Deere tractor?


TELL ME: Do you have memories of events like John Deere Days? Or do you hold a fondness for a particular tractor line? I’d love to hear.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A photo essay: The wheels go round and round September 5, 2013

THE SONG REPEATS in my head. The wheels on the bus, except I’ve substituted tractor, go round and round. Round and round.

Everywhere I turned, wheels/tires/circles fell in to my line of vision at the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines Show.

The wheels on the tractors go round and round. Round and round…

The tractor parade on Sunday afternoon. This year's feature tractor was the Massey-Harris.

The tractor parade on Sunday afternoon.

Among the oldest of wheels.

Among the oldest of wheels.

An old steering wheel.

An aged steering wheel.

Oh, to overhear this conversation between the wheels of a John Deere tractor.

Oh, to overhear this conversation between the wheels of a John Deere tractor.

Rims at the flea market.

Rims at the flea market.

Adding 100-pound wheel weights for the tractor pull.

Adding 100-pound wheel weights for the tractor pull.

The wheels on the tractor go round and round at the tractor pull.

The wheels on the tractor go round and round at the tractor pull. I had to walk away as the noise was deafening and I am already deaf in one ear.

More my type of wheel, at the flea market.

More my type of wheel on a Unique “Dependable” Typewriter for sale at the flea market.

The merry-go-round wheel goes round and round.

The merry-go-round wheel goes round and round.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Warning: I am about to ride in a parade September 6, 2012

MY HUSBAND WOULD HAVE jumped on the invitation without hesitation.

But I held back, reluctant to accept Harold Martin’s offer to ride in the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines Show parade. You see, I’ve never ridden in a parade and I feel more comfortable on the audience side where I can blend into the crowd, hidden behind my camera.

So, initially, Randy and I declined and told Harold we’d catch up with him if we changed our minds.

Harold Martin of rural Northfield with his 1948 Dodge truck outfitted with a 1960 Civil Defense siren.

“I don’t want to do it,” I reiterated after Harold and his friend, Gabe, drove off in Harold’s 1948 Dodge truck with a 1960 Civil Defense siren mounted on the back and a rescued-from-the-side-of-the-road sofa planted behind the cab.

That would be our parade spot, on that cream-colored, canopied couch.

I just couldn’t picture myself up there, acting like I was the queen of something or other.

But then Randy said, “Let’s do it.”

And just like that I caved to peer pressure and we headed down the dusty gravel road behind and between tractors, pulled the swimming pool ladder from the back of Harold’s truck, scampered up (well, not quite scampered) and began our tour along the parade route.

My sofa seat view of the parade route as the Civil Defense siren swings my way. I covered my left ear (I’m deaf in my right) every time the siren passed by my face. These warning sirens were used from 1952-1970, Harold tells me.

And you know what. Except for the rotating and screaming air raid siren swinging uncomfortably close to us on the couch, the whole experience was simply a hoot. I shot photos and watched the faces of audience members who mostly smiled, finding the humor in Harold’s quirky, movable warning system.

About that Harold. He calls himself an opportunist, not only scooping up the freebie couch, but also saving the outdated and scrapped 1960 Civil Defense siren. His nephew was about to toss it.

“Somebody should keep one of these,” he remembers thinking before doing just that, then repairing the siren and mounting it on the back of his vintage Dodge. He showed me a photo from 1952 of a siren, like his, attached to a truck. The portable warning system was used in Seattle and had a range of eight miles.

Harold’s siren, obviously, doesn’t have that range or volume.

The U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center replica is housed in the box, right. And there’s the pool ladder Randy and I used to climb onto the back of the truck.

He does have, though, a missile warning system in place. Or, more accurately, he has a U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center, purchased on e-Bay for $50, attached to the rear of the flatbed. The 1963 Marx toy set shows a guarded scene of U.S. missiles ready to launch against the Soviet Union.

Remember the Cold War school drills of hiding under your desk and covering your head with your hands? Pretty silly, huh?

But then so is settling onto a recycled couch and riding on a make-shift Civil Defense truck in a rural Minnesota parade. Who cares, though? Apparently not me.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling