Up to foot of snow drops on county

Schools were closed all over Wright County last Monday, Nov. 10, the day up to a foot of snow suddenly dropped.  Depending on your location in the county, the snow total was anywhere from about six inches to a foot.  School was back in session on Tuesday, Nov. 11.  The snow removal photo shows a school sidewalk being cleared outside the Discovery Center in Buffalo.  Law enforcement officers were busy responding to traffic incidents all over the county.  So far, there have not been any reports of serious injuries.  Buffalo Police Chief Pat Budke said his officers responded to several fender benders.  One person was injured but fortunately did not need treatment.  As with every first snowfall of a new winter season, many drivers were relearning their winter driving skills.  Conditions last Monday were extremely slippery due to the moisture content of the snow and ice and slush hampering traction.  Despite the conditions, Budke said Monday was a fairly average day in regard to call volume.  He added that the volume increased during the evening rush hour as people attempted to drive home from work.  The snowstorm arrived a little more than a week after Halloween.  The expression on the face of the jack-o'-lantern pictured here perhaps shows the bewilderment that many of us experienced as fall suddenly transformed into winter.  (Photos by Ed DuBois)



Corn harvest cut short by snow

At the time, snow was not in the forecast, but it is always a possibility this time of year.  Norman Varner of rural Buffalo was doing his best last week to get as much harvesting finished before alerts about a snowstorm were issued.  The snow arrived last Monday, Nov. 10, and Varner was happy to report he had all of his harvesting work done.  (Photo by Ed DuBois)


By Ed DuBois

Combines were showing up in the cornfields of Wright County recently, but all corn harvesting suddenly ended as a major snowfall arrived on Monday, Nov. 10.

The ground was soon covered with anywhere from about six inches to a foot of snow, depending on the location in Wright County.

Norman Varner's combine was working in a field just northwest of Buffalo last week.  He said the corn yield was better than he expected.  He estimated his yield averaged 140-150 bushels per acre.

"There were a few drowned out spots.  The moisture was around 19-20 percent, and there were very few ears on the ground," Varner reported.

An abundance of rain last spring delayed planting.  Nonetheless, the harvest was looking fairly good.

"It was good except where the raccoons got into the corn," Varner said with a chuckle.

He added that the ears looked a little smaller than usual.

Varner was able to get all of his harvesting finished before the snow arrived.  Some plowing will need to wait until springtime.  He saw a neighbor working well into Sunday night to get as much corn harvested as possible before the winter storm.

Varner said the soybean harvest was not as good as the corn harvest.  He estimated his soybean yield was around 35 bushels per acre.  Because of the late planting due to all the rain last spring, the soybean plants ended up shorter than usual this year.

Peggy Read at the Farm Services Agency in Buffalo said there is still corn in many fields this week.  She said the yields have varied anywhere from 100 bushels per acre to 170.

Soybean yields have ranged from 30-50 bushels per acre.

"Just a handful of fields were left (un-harvested when the snow arrived)," she said about the soybeans.

Some fields were never planted because of too much rain last spring, she added.

In regard to corn, farmers say it is possible to combine with snow on the ground, but you risk clogging up the machine with ice and snow.  Because of that, combining with snow on the ground usually takes place only when a small amount of snow is on the ground.

Varner said the snow can build up inside the combine and then clog it.

Dave Neske of rural Buffalo said he still has some corn to harvest and is hoping for some melting down.  He mentioned the head of the combine cannot be lowered as close to the ground when it has snow on it.  Waiting to harvest corn in the springtime can involve some loss due to stalks falling over and ears falling to the ground.



Albertville man arrested after recent shooting

An Albertville resident, Kelly Neal Anderson, 28, has been arrested in connection with a shooting incident at an Eden Prairie grocery store.

The incident reportedly occurred during the night of Friday, Nov. 7.  The victim is a 58-year-old River Falls, Wis. man.

According to an Eden Prairie Police Department news release, the department received a 911 call at approximately 5:09 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 8 requesting a welfare check on an individual in the parking lot at Jerry's Foods, 9625 Anderson Lakes Parkway.  Responding officers discovered the individual next to a parked semi-truck, suffering from severe head trauma and a gunshot wound to the head.  The victim, a 58-year-old male from River Falls, Wis., was conscious and transported to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he remains hospitalized.

While investigating the incident, Eden Prairie Police were notified about an adult male who had been encountered by the Minnesota State Patrol while walking along Highway 169 N. and was being interviewed by the Bloomington Police Department.

After it was determined the individual may have been involved with the shooting, Eden Prairie Police arrested 28-year-old Kelly Neal Anderson of Albertville under probable cause for attempted second degree murder, first degree aggravated robbery and first degree assault.

Investigators later recovered a handgun believed to be involved in the shooting, near the area where the victim was found.  The Eden Prairie Police say evidence indicates Anderson and the victim were unknown to one another, and the injuries sustained by the victim were the result of an attempted robbery.

Anderson is currently in custody at the Hennepin County Jail and the case has been referred to the Hennepin County Attorney for a charging decision.



Two BHS divers qualify for state

Buffalo junior Rachel Bertram (left) qualified for her first state tournament berth with a first-place score of 467.90 in the 1-meter, 11-dive event at the Section 8AA championships Saturday, Nov. 8 at Elk River.  Buffalo freshman Alex Zeiss (right) qualified for her first state tournament berth with a third-place score of 414.70 in the 1-meter, 11-dive event at the Section 8AA championships.  See more in Sports. (Photos by Rob LaPlante)



Family grateful for first responders following birth in garage

Newborn Daniel Griffieth "wears" a Montrose Fire Department hat after being born in his family's garage in Montrose in August. Although the Fire Department has assisted in a couple of births in the past, this was the first time Montrose firefighters completed a birth before ambulance assistance arrived. (Submitted photo)


By Doug Voerding

Although he won't remember anything about it, Daniel Griffieth will have quite a story to tell when he gets older.  Daniel was born in his family's garage in Montrose.

On Aug. 27 at 4:10 in the morning, the Montrose Fire Department, Wright County Sheriff's Office and Ridgeview Ambulance responded to the David and Kristin Griffieth home in Montrose on a report of a woman in labor.  Shortly after arrival on the scene, a woman was found actively in labor.

Firefighters of Montrose and deputies from the Wright County Sheriff's Office assisted with the delivery of a baby boy.  Shortly after the delivery of the baby, Ridgeview Ambulance arrived on scene and later transported mother and baby to a local hospital.  Baby Daniel Donald Griffieth was born approximately six weeks early and weighed 4 lbs., 8.7 oz.

Earlier this week, Kristin Griffieth said that Daniel is doing well and is now about eight pounds.

At a recent meeting of the Montrose Fire Department, the Griffieths thanked the department with photos of Daniel and his new Montrose Fire and Rescue hat and the Griffieth family.

"Thank you so much for your quick response to our 911 call on the day that Daniel was born!  Your timely arrival and assistance was a great encouragement to us in the chaotic moments during Daniel's birth in our garage.  Thank you, especially to Mike (Marketon) for his quick responses in helping with the birthing process!  We are so grateful for the service you provide to our community.  Keep up the great work!  Love, the Griffieths."

Said Marketon at a Montrose City Council meeting, "I was so glad when that little boy started to cry."

Although the Montrose Fire Department has assisted in a couple of births in the past, this was the first time Montrose firefighters completed a birth before ambulance assistance arrived.



Riding the Rails historical presentation Nov. 14

A Riding the Rails historical presentation about railroads is taking place on Friday, Nov. 14, 10:30 a.m., at the Buffalo Community Center.

"Join us for a historical presentation on Riding the Rails, from coal engines to steam engines.  The old iron horse holds a fascination for many," a spokesperson said.  "What other mode of transportation has such a colorful and adventurous past?"

Riding the Rails is a ticket to the past when trains were the mighty transporters from whistle stop to whistle stop.

The program is being presented by Full Bloom, a Twin Cities organization set up to enhance quality of life for older adults through diverse and innovative programs.

Admission is free, and everyone is welcome.



Congratulations to free turkey drawing winners

As Thanksgiving approaches, the Wright County Journal-Press and The Drummer conduct an annual drawing to give away six free turkeys.  This year, 631 entries were received.

The prize drawing was held this week, and here are the names of the lucky turkey winners for Thanksgiving 2014.  Congratulations to each winner, along with our thanks to everyone who entered the drawing.

The 2014 free turkey winners are: Guy Peterson, Barb Mutterer and Kelly Anderson, all of Buffalo, as well as Audrey Wick of Rogers, Earl Vetsch of St. Michael, and Steven Smith of Monticello.

We wish a very happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

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Sent to Iraq hot spots

Army veteran Robert Salls now back home serving as deputy with Wright County Sheriff's Office

By Ed DuBois

When Robert Salls' National Guard unit was deployed to Iraq in 2003, he headed into combat hot spots all over the war-torn country.  The 151st ETAB (Battery E, Target Acquisition Battery) from Anoka, Minn. operated a firefinder radar unit, which was very helpful in areas where insurgents were ramping up their efforts.

"We were much in demand," Salls said.  "We were sent wherever there was an increase in attacks."

The firefinder radar unit could track both incoming and outgoing rounds, even small arms fire.  Salls remembers his unit being sent from Kuwait to places all over Iraq, "from hot spot to hot spot."

One of his unit's longest stays was a couple of months in a far northern city, Mosul, but there were many other destinations and areas where the unit served.

The longest stay was four or five months in Kirkuk, located in the northeastern part of Iraq.  That's where his deployment ended.  Altogether, he was in Iraq just over a year.

He said much of Iraq "looks like Mars," with its red terrain and sand storms.


They just wanted to survive

His combat experiences included an IED (improvised explosive device) detonation in Mosul.  Fortunately, no one was killed, he said.

Vehicles being used by his unit had "Mad Max" armor, which consisted of "metal plates wherever we could stick them."

"This was before up armored vehicles, such as Humvees with extra plating and MRAPs (Mine Resistant Armor Protection)," Salls said.

Asked about the duration of the incident, he said, "It was seconds."

"We were driving through a dense part of Mosul.  I saw a mechanic shop on the right, and I noticed all the people were ducking down," he recalled.  "It was typical combat over there; they would shoot at us, and we would never see them.  All of a sudden it's gone, hit and run."

There were dozens of incidents like that in the hot spots his unit visited.

Salls does not have hard feelings for the people who were ducking down.

"They were just trying to stay out of the way and survive.  I would say 90 percent of the people over there just wanted jobs and a better future for their kids," Salls commented.

He said it was likely the IED was detonated from a distance with a cell phone or a car fob.  The IED had been left along an inside median.


RPGs fired at guard tower

Salls remembered an incident that took place at a tiny post where 17 soldiers were killed.  It happened south of Baghdad at a forward operating base (FOB) called Kalsu.

"At the time, that was largest number of soldiers killed in one attack," Salls commented.

The longest attack he remembers happened in Mosul along a main supply route (MSR).  RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) were being fired by insurgents at an Iraqi guard tower.  Apparently, the insurgents were less concerned about running when attacking Iraqis rather than Americans, Salls suggested.


Back to law enforcement

He was glad to get back home after the deployment was complete.  He returned to service as a deputy with the Wright County Sheriff's Office.

A second deployment took place in 2009.  Fortunately, no travel was required that time around.  He was among "fobits," people who stayed on base.  The initial drawdown in Iraq was being planned, and the 151st ETAB spent the entire 2009-10 deployment at Al-Kut, located on the eastern side of the country.

He remembers an area about an hour south of Al-Kut was attacked weekly, and sometimes daily.


Support at home

When he returned home, his wife, Christi (who he had married after the first Iraq deployment), "had to put up with me."  She supported him throughout his adjustment back to life in the States, he said.

He was having trouble getting more than two or three hours of sleep at night, and he was dealing with "mixed emotions," he said.

Part of his difficulty could have involved his feelings about the war in Iraq.  He did not believe in the war, he said, but he was a soldier, "so I did my job to the best of my ability."

Fireworks made him "hit the ceiling" due to a state of "hypervigilance."

"While in Iraq, I didn't worry about it (the danger); it was so common," he mentioned.  "You reach a point where you just tell yourself you are not going to worry about it."

"But a lot came back with me," he added.

Regular checkups and visits with other veterans at the St. Cloud VA have helped.  He attends clinics, takes part in couples counseling and goes to retreats.  Some veterans have very severe problems, Salls mentioned.  He likes the way veterans support each other and understand each other.

"We're in the same boat together," he said.


Grew up near Duluth

A native of the Duluth area, Salls is a 1989 graduate from Cloquet High School.  He entered the military with the Army National Guard in 1993 and served in maintenance with the 94th Armor in Duluth.

In his civilian life, he began his law enforcement career as a corrections officer with St. Louis County.

His very first military deployment was to Kosovo in 1999.  By then he was with the 151st ETAB.  He spent about seven months at Camp Monteith in the City of Genijalan.

It was his first time outside the USA, and the experience was eye opening because of an entirely different way of life in Kosovo.  Getting to know the people, he learned about several different ethnicities in a relatively small area.  He was amazed how the people could immediately recognize other ethnic group just by looking at them.  The reason he and other NATO soldiers were there was to help prevent fighting between the various groups.


Respect for Kosovo people

Salls gained much respect for the people, who had very little wealth.

"They did a lot more with what they had.  They were creative and intelligent," he said.  "It was fascinating what they did to survive."

Kosovo Harleys are a good example.  These are makeshift vehicles that combine a tilling machine with a farm wagon to create a means for transportation.  (Google "Kosovo Harley" to see photos.)

"The people have a lot of pride, and they carry themselves well," Salls said.

He added that they are proud of their homes and put much effort into quality construction and improvements, such as large gates.

"Some are pretty elaborate," Salls commented.

His time in Kosovo was relatively tame, he said, but he heard about anti-NATO encounters to the north.  He added that Greece was his unit's way in and out of Kosovo, and there were strong anti-NATO views expressed in Greece.  For that reason, the soldiers were told not to wear their uniforms when traveling through Greece.

"I was happy to go there (Kosovo).  I was happy with the job we did.  I hope for a better future for the people," Salls said.


Wright County in 2001

Back in the States, Salls furthered his law enforcement career by applying for deputy positions, and he was hired by Wright County in 2001.  He liked coming here, and one reason was that he has family connections in Wright County.

Today, the hot spots he was sent to in Iraq are far away and far removed from immediate recall.  He is now retired from the military after serving 20 years and is now focused on serving as a sheriff's deputy.

Talking about combat, he said, "You go through so much, it changes you.  It becomes who you are.  It is part of your identity."

Although he is no longer a soldier, he is still connected to his unit and has close ties with those he served alongside.

"It's like we have not missed a step when I see them," he said.  "So much of my social life is now wrapped up around those people."

Salls is still much in demand.  But the reason is far different now.  The hot spots have been replaced with law enforcement patrol duties, life at home with Christi and occasional visits with other veterans in St. Cloud.