Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Welcome to Wisconsin February 18, 2020

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An ice fisherman photographed at the La Crosse, Wisconsin, rest stop.

 

I OFTEN WONDER, what do outsiders think? And, by outsiders, I mean those of you unfamiliar with a Midwest winter, specifically with the sport of ice fishing.

I mean, let’s say you’re from Miami or LA or Dallas and you’ve never seen a village of fish houses atop a frozen lake let alone vehicles driving onto and across the ice. For Minnesotans and Wisconsinites, scenes like this are simply part of our winters.

Or let’s say you pull off the interstate, like we did on Saturday along I-90 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and you spot two guys loading fishing equipment onto a sled in a rest area parking lot. Randy and I saw exactly that.

The scene seemed so Midwest Norman Rockwell-like. Bucket and fishing gear atop a simple pull-behind sled. Fisherman layered in warm outdoor outerwear topping a red-and-black buffalo plaid flannel shirt. Paul Bunyan fashion at its finest.

As we exited the parking lot, I managed a photo. Iconic. A guy on his way to ice fish in the backwaters of the Mississippi River on a Saturday morning in mid-February. Love it.

TELL ME: Have you ever been ice fishing, or even observed an angler ice fishing? And, yes, I’ve fished through a hole in the ice on a frozen lake. Just not in recent years.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating winter, Minnesota style with vintage snowmobiles December 10, 2019

Snowmobiles parked along Central Avenue during the Faribo Sno-Go Club Vintage Snowmobile Show.

 

DECADES AGO, MY COUSIN Kevin roared across the field on his snowmobile with me seated behind, the cold rush of wind stinging my cheeks. About the same time period, my oldest brother also offered me a snowmobile ride, then abandoned me in the gravel pit on our farm. Not the nicest thing to do. But brothers, when they are teens, aren’t always kind to sisters.

 

Mrs. Minnesota United States Courtney Maxwell-Shey of St. Peter (and originally from Faribault, she said) poses next to a trail groomer.

 

Those are my limited snowmobile memories. I’ve never felt the urge since to ask for a snowmobile ride, not that I know anyone with a snow-traversing machine. But plenty of Minnesotans still snowmobile, often in groups, traveling along groomed trails and road ditches and across frozen lakes.

 

Chatting and checking out the snowmobiles.

 

I expect there’s a certain exhilaration in defying winter weather by embracing it. There’s a certain exhilaration, too, in racing across the snow, the power of a machine roaring beneath you. With the high-tech clothing on the market today, the experience is certainly much warmer than 40-plus years ago.

 

Warming up around the fire in low 30-degree temps and a brisk wind, next to the food and beverage tent.

 

This past Saturday, the Faribo Sno-Go Club, established in 1967, hosted a Vintage Snowmobile Show as part of Faribault’s Winterfest. Randy and I arrived well into the event to find only a minimal number of machines displayed, a bit of a disappointment. Still, we appreciated the effort. And I appreciated the trip back down memory lane.

 

Christmas ornaments add a dash of holiday flair to a snowmobile trail groomer.

 

TELL ME: Have you ever ridden on a snowmobile? If yes, I’d like to hear your memorable story.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling