Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Rural signage: Steer me to Pumpkinland October 24, 2013

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WHEN TRAVELING THROUGH RURAL MINNESOTA, and anywhere for that matter, my husband and I rely on good old paper maps and atlases to navigate in unfamiliar territory. Yes, we are old-fashioned that way, without GPS or smart phones.

We also count on signage to get us to specific destinations. Rural areas offer creative home-spun signs so I’m always scouting for eye-catching signage worthy of photographing.

En route to extreme southwestern Minnesota this past summer, I spotted signage for two businesses in the Vernon Center area, along Highway 169 south of Mankato.

First, the Vernon Center Market:

Photographed a month ago near Vernon Center.

Photographed this summer near Vernon Center.

There are several reasons I like this sign. Right off, the steer graphic catches my eye and tells me, without reading a single word, that this advertises a meat market. Second, the arrow tells me exactly where I’ll find the Vernon Center Market. Across from the Ball Park. Perfect. So small-townish. I also appreciate that business hours are listed, although I doubt a motorist would catch that while driving by.

And then there’s Pumpkinland, also near Vernon Center:

Pumpkinland near Vernon Center.

Pumpkinland near Vernon Center.

You can’t miss the sprawling sign, painted in a readable font. And the graphics are limited to pumpkins. Simple. Clutter-free. Quick to get the necessary business information out there.

And great for a passing photographer to photograph from the passenger side of a moving van.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Forever rooted to rural Minnesota September 13, 2013

Rural, barn and bins

RURAL MINNESOTA LONG AGO claimed my heart. It is the place where I grew up, the land I love, the connection to earth and sky and elements that, despite more than three decades of living in town, has never vanished.

Rural, roof collapsing

I’m rooted to the land and I find myself often longing to turn onto the gravel driveway, to swing open the creaky barn door, to follow the corn rows.

Rural, barn with windmill

I ache for the days when I lived on the farm. Sunset and sunrise unbroken by buildings. Wind rustling. The heady scent of freshly-mown alfalfa. The rich earthy smell of the land at planting time and harvest. Wagons brimming with corn. Quiet. Stars studding the blackness.

Rural, barn quilt

Today I still claim rural Minnesota—in my memory, through the lens of my camera, in the words I write. And that is my solace, the road I follow back home.

FYI: These edited photos were taken earlier this summer in the Vernon Center/Amboy/Truman area of southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling