The Kletsch bus: Barnesville family has been a mainstay of the football community

Barnesville, Minn.The rusted 1946 Chevy bus sits at the Kletsch family home in Barnesville, Minn., awaiting game day. For the last five years, with flags flying and the horn honking, the bus with "Trojans" written on the side has been the first t...
Jonah, Jacob, Jimmy and Jonny Kletsch have all made an impact with the Barnesville High football team. David Samson / The Forum
Jonah, Jacob, Jimmy and Jonny Kletsch have all made an impact with the Barnesville High football team. David Samson / The Forum

Barnesville, Minn.

The rusted 1946 Chevy bus sits at the Kletsch family home in Barnesville, Minn., awaiting game day. For the last five years, with flags flying and the horn honking, the bus with "Trojans" written on the side has been the first to arrive at Barnesville High School for football games and the last to leave.

Getting it to game day is not always easy.

"We're working on that stupid thing right now," Jacob Kletsch, the oldest of the four Kletsch boys, said. "Jonah is over there cussing and swearing at it right now."

On Tuesday, Aug. 29, Jacob and his younger brother Jonah were working on the starter, laughing about how their dad's eyes would light up when they drove by it when it was for sale.

Jonah talked about the bus with the cliches of a coach discussing an injured player, as the two prepped the bus for Friday's home and season opener against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.

"We just take it one week at a time," Jonah said. "We just need to get it to the field each home game."

They make fun of it, but the bus symbolizes the Kletsch family. Just like it, some way, somehow the Kletsch family will make it to the field for Barnesville.

Jacob and Jonah's younger brother Jimmy played through a broken wrist his senior year, resulting in nearly a year of casts and surgeries after he was done playing. No one knew because he never complained. The youngest brother, Jonny, broke his ankle last season in the section championship game against Hawley. He had to be told he could not play two weeks later in the state semifinals.

As Jacob says, the four Kletsch brothers are "alike in some way, but different by a little bit."

Jacob is the talker, while Jonah has a smirk that does most of his talking for him. Both Jacob and Jonah played mostly on the offensive and defensive lines for four years with Jacob graduating in 2012 and Jonah in 2014. Jimmy is the smallest and the quietest of the four, playing linebacker and fullback until he graduated in 2016.

Consensus is Jimmy is the brains of the bunch. Jonny is the baby of the family, though the size of him says different. His brothers believe he will turn out to be the biggest, strongest and fastest, though there are a few arguments in regards to the latter. Jonny is moving to guard this season and will play linebacker.

The one thing the brothers share is all four have been captains for Barnesville, with Jonny finishing off the tradition in this his senior season.

"It's family," Jacob said. "The pride in this town for football I don't know how to describe it, and what (Barnesville coach Bryan Strand) has done with this football program it's really been fun to watch. I was kind of in the start of things. It's hard to describe. The feeling when you run out on that field there's nothing like it. I told all my brothers there's nothing like when I was running on the field. I'd give anything to get back on the football field."

It's not just the four boys, as their parents, Jodi and Joel, are driving the bus in more ways than one. The two moved to Barnesville in 1994 when Jacob was little. Outside of getting the bus to games, the two make sandwiches for road games for the team and host a breakfast before first-round playoff games. The first breakfast was 42 players. Last year there were 103 players and parents.

"It's just kind of grown," Jodi said. "All the parents jump in and help. It's not just a Kletsch family thing. We clean up the shop and set up tables and chairs, but everybody helps.

"(Barnesville football) has meant a lot. It's our social, our interaction with other parents and kids. It's just fun. We look forward to it every year."

Heading into Jonny's final season, the 10th straight football season for the Kletsch boys, Barnesville is 84-17 with a Kletsch on the varsity roster, including three section titles. Strand is 94-35 in his career as Barnesville football coach, with the Kletsch boys being part of a majority.

"They are both always smiling and such great people. I honestly can't say it enough or with enough sincerity," Strand said about Jodi and Joel. "They are friends of everyone and so willing to give their time, and the work ethic that they have instilled in their four boys is unmatched by any other family I have been around. They have raised their boys with a work ethic, a set of values that they follow, a love of community and church. They truly are the all-American family."

Jacob and Jonah are both precision machinists at ComDel Innovation in Wahpeton, N.D. Jimmy is studying to be a machinist at Alexandria Technical and Community College. After 10 seasons, even with Jonny being the last one left, the family doesn't see this being their last with Barnesville football.

"Wherever life takes us I don't think our family is going to be apart, and if we are we'll still be coming back to visit," Jonah said. "I think me and Jacob are kind of content around the area. I don't know what Jimmy or Jonny have planned. Barnesville is home. I feel like that's what it's always going to be no matter where I am."

Jonny certainly doesn't plan on being done with the Trojans.

"This is it, but I know my parents will never stop coming to games, and we probably will never either," Jonny said. "All my brothers come back for every single game. It could just because I'm playing, but I know I'll definitely be coming back for games over the years."

Just like with the bus, which heavily relies on the emergency brake, it's been an interesting ride for the Kletsch family.

"I just can't imagine life any other way," Jodi said. "It's been a wild, crazy and wonderful ride. Not saying that there hasn't been a little bit of wildness along the way, but it really has been pretty amazing with these kids. Not always great kids and good kids, but amazing."