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April 16, 2015 issue

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Pletcher still dropping trees at age 80

Mankato awards bid for water line replacement along Hwy 36

Lovewell plans events for free park entry day

Sirens sound for tornado warning in Jewell County

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The Superior Express & Jewell County News 16 April 2015


Photo Archive


Pletcher still dropping trees at age 80

A tree being trimmed or cut down and Norman Pletcher and his older winch truck have been a sight in Mankato for years. Norman, who now lives in Lebanon, was a resident of Mankato from 1962 until 1995. At the age of 80 he is still cutting and removing trees.
"I have slowed down some. I don't cut trees every day like I use to. If I have something I want to go do or need to do, like going to the doctor, I don't cut trees that day," said Norman.
Norman started cutting trees when he returned from the Army in 1957.
"I started cutting trees to pay my light bill," said Norman, who at the time lived one and a quarter miles south of the Lebanon and Highway 36 junction. The lifelong career started out with a bow saw that was two feet long. He mainly trimmed trees away from houses and buildings and cut small trees down for farmers.
Later on he purchased his first saw, a Homelite gasoline-powered chain saw, light weight, probably about 15 pounds.
While the Glen Elder dam was being built, Norman cleared all the trees on the North Solomon Creek. By this time Norman used 2 XL500 770 gear box 30 or 32 inch bar. It was slow cutting but powerful, he said.
At this time Norman used strictly Homelite saws. Is Homelite the best? "Not necessarily," he said. "At the time parts were readily available and easy to get. It was whatever you got used to using. I almost became a dealer for Homelite saws at one time."
His wife, Charlotte, used to go with Norman to cut trees. She was his main saw mechanic.
"Norm showed me one time how to work on the chain saws. I would overhaul the blocks, pistons and replace the seals in them," said Charlotte.
Norman's equipment is not new. As time went on and he could afford it he purchased what he could afford and today you will see him still using his 1942 dump truck. He also has a 1942 wrecker.
"I built my 1942 wrecker, the one that I have now. I dreamed every night about it, how I was going to build it, until I figured out what I was going to do. I went to Kramps Auto Salvage in Bostwick and purchased a Model 58 six-cylinder motor, a 261, and overhauled everything," said Norman.
His cherry picker is a 1960 model, has a 261 engine with a 40 foot boom. It was purchased in Beatrice and rebuilt by Norman. The newest piece of equipment Norman has is a stump grinder which he purchased in 1995.
As time went on Norman switched from Homelite saws to the Stihl brand.
"They are quieter and the commercial saws are lighter," said Norman. A 28 inch saw is the biggest one that Norman has. "The 441 Stihl is light weight, about 10 pounds, it is compact, gives me no trouble, very low maintenance." Now, in Norman's opinion, the Stihl saw will outlast the Homelite saws four or five to one.
His first job working for someone else was welding for Merle Blew which he did for two years. Next two years he worked for the REA as a tree trimmer around the high voltage lines. He left REA for a contract job trimming the trees away from the power lines for the City of Mankato.
"Delbert Bird, John Truitt and Dewayne Kattenberg helped me cut down the trees around Mankato," said Norman. This job was done with two dump trucks, no cherry picker was used, so the trees were manually climbed to trim or the men used a ladder. The whole town was finished in 30 days.
Then there was a two year time period when the tree business really slowed down. During this time Norman went to work for Dubuque Packing and probably worked there about two years before going to work for Kansas Minerals, where he was a full time welder.
"The tree cutting business was used to fill in and stay alive," said Norman. "Most of the jobs, working for other people, I've held throughout my lifetime have all been a learning experience for me. I took a job to learn something. I looked at a job as having something different to learn and to have training for a second job." Of all the jobs Norman has held he liked the REA tree trimming the best, followed closely by welding at Kansas Minerals.
While working for Dubuque, Norman started making spacers and a few pallets for Lincoln Cold Storage in York, yet again something new and another income when the tree cutting business was at a stand still.
Norman and Charlotte owned and operated a saw mill on the west side of Mankato. The six or seven acres of land where the saw mill sat was purchased from Florence Blecha. Norman purchased a Model D Bell saw and edger to get started. Cement was poured and the saw and edger were set there. In 1995 the area was sold to Midway Co-op and that is where they now have their tanks.
"I bought the big saw from a farmer southwest of Guide Rock, restored it in my shop and built the frame for it out of steel. Most of the time we ran the saw mill for two weeks and then cut trees for two weeks.
Yet another trade Norman has accomplished in his lifetime of different jobs and learning is making cement blocks. At one time the Pletcher family was making 300 cement blocks a day.
"The block business started by purchasing a scrapped block making machine in Belleville. I bought it and rebuilt it. It would make a block a minute. Every morning I took my dump truck and drove to Scandia and got one load of sand, about 400 yards and it would make 300 blocks. It was a rough life. The whole family was involved and we made 50 to 75 cents a block. We did this for two years," said Norman.
Elm trees and cottonwood trees are the main types of trees that Norman has been asked to remove.
"Probably one-fourth to one-third of the trees that have to be removed are volunteer trees. The cottonwoods are removed to keep the cotton out of the air conditioners," said Norman.
There have been very few problems that Norman has encountered during the removal of the different native trees in Jewell County.
"Probably one thing that most people don't know is that walnut dust has a poison in it that can cause problems for humans, most will cough mucus. I have had walnut dust affect me some probably because I never wore a mask, just goggles to protect my eyes," said Norman.
The tallest tree Norman has removed was a cottonwood that was taken out in Lebanon.
"It was 60 to 70 feet tall and with the help from folks here in Lebanon we got it down with no damage to anything else, including the asphalt on the street. This was the hardest tree I have ever had to cut in my life. It took three days to take it down," said Norman.
As far as injuries caused while cutting trees, knock on wood, Norman has not had any accidents.
"Oh, I've nicked a finger here and there but never anything serious enough to have stitches," said Norman.
He has had a broken leg and cracked his collarbone but those things did not happen while cutting trees.
Norman contributes his lack of accidents to several factors. One of them being he thinks before he cuts. Another is if three people give advice as to how to cut down the tree if two out of the three people agree that is what he does. And the last thing on his list is "slow down."
"I always look at a tree and think and then take a second look from a different side before cutting," said Norman.
Three for four years ago Norman had shoulder replacement.
"I overworked my shoulder the first time I had surgery and so they had to replace it the second time," said Norman. He still has infection in the shoulder, sometimes it will still drain but says he is in no pain.
"This winter until March I haven't done much becaused of my shoulder. Then three months ago I sprained a muscle in my right arm but it is pretty well healed now. I'm slowing down and I'm not craving any big contract job," stated Norman.
Norman and Charlotte have lived in Lebanon since 1995. They have four children. Cheryl Jensen and husband Dave, Mankato; Colleen Girard and husband Bob, Ohio; Lester Pletcher, Dwight; Betty Corona and husband, Jose, Texas.
April is an important month to Norman. April 17 Norman and Charlotte will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. April 21, Norman will celebrate his 81st birthday.

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Mankato awards bid for water line replacement along Hwy 36
The Mankato City Council met in regular session last Tuesday. Present were Don Koester, mayor; council members Mac McCammon, Sam Becker, Lyle Dauner, Dave Warne and Jim Ross; and Darrell Miller, city attorney.
Carol Torkelson, North Central Regional Planning Commission, was present and requested a budget amendment to the CDBG housing grant. The amendment would reallocate budgeted funds to allow for additional housing demolition projects in Mankato. Discussion was held. The council approved the request.
Rick Diamond, on behalf of Jewell County Transportation, submitted a request for 2016 budget consideration. Discussion was held. The city administrator was instructed to gather necessary financial information for the 2016 budget.
Wayne Scritchfield from Kirkham-Michaels presented bid results for water line replacement in conjunction with the Highway 36 project. The council accepted the bid from Norwalk Construction in the amount of $240,535.05 contingent on approval from KDOT and a recommendation letter from Kirkham-Michaels.
The council also approved engaging Kirkham-Michaels to perform construction related engineering services in the amount of $46,245 for water line replacement associated with the KDOT pavement reconstruction project on US-36 through Mankato.
James Berry addressed the council concerning the proposed Dollar General Store in Mankato. Travis Keir addressed the council concerning community involvement of the Kiers Store in Mankato.
Bids for the hay lease in Johnson addition were considered. The council awarded the contract to Chase Warne for $800 for the 2015 season, with Dave Warne abstaining on the voting.
The council approved to rent the space at 205 N. Commercial to Teri File for $60 per month, on a month to month basis provided the rental proceeds are greater than the tax liabilities, if any.
Engagement letters from ACT Accounting to perform the 2104 Audit for the city and library were considered. The council approved to engage ACT Accounting for the 2014 audit for the city in the amount of $5,500 and the library in the amount of $1,000.
The council considered disposition of the general obligation bonds for Mankato. The council voted to call in the bonds at the earliest possible time.
The council reviewed applications for swimming pool manager. A motion to hire Tyler Shattuck as manager was approved unanimously.
The council considered a building permit application for Steve Christy to erect a pole shed on Lots 7-12, Block 9, Original Townsite of Mankato. The council approved the application.
The council considered a building permit for the Jewell County Historical Society to erect a metal building on Block 8, Chapman's Addition. The permit was approved with the provision that the Jewell County Historical Society be informed that only the main building is being permitted and does not guarantee that any attachments to the building would be approved in the future.
The council considered a building permit for Colby Series 1, LLC, to construct a retail store at the corner of LeBow and Highway 36. The permit was approved.
The council considered hosting a strategic planning meeting. A special meeting of the Mankato City Council was called for May 21 at 7 p.m. in the community center with the public encouraged to attend.
The council discussed water line replacement and the general condition of the system. No action was taken.
The council approved joining the Highway 36 Association.
Council members held an executive session to discuss non-elected personnel. Afterward, council member Becker made a motion to remove Richard Rightmeier from the payroll. Council member McCammon seconded the motion. The motion passed 5-0.

Lovewell plans events for free park entry day

State park vehicle permits are not required to visit your favorite state park (or parks) next Saturday.
The Lovewell State Park office will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Lovewell State Park open house, also next Saturday, will have several activities for visitors.
From 8 a.m. to noon will be an Earth Day clean-up event, sponsored by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Volunteers will receive a T-shirt and breakfast provided by Westar Energy. Community service groups and individuals are invited to participate. Registration is required and can be completed online at
From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. will be the first Adopt a Flower Program. Bring in any annual or perennial flowering plant to the state park office. Flowers will be planted at your choice of designated locations throughout the park.

Sirens sound for tornado warning in Jewell County

At 6:55 p.m. Sunday evening the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for northwest Jewell County that was to expire at 7:30 p.m. The storm, which was moving eastward at 30 to 35 miles per hour was predicted to produce hail and be accompanied by high winds and rain. It was moving into the Jewell County area from the Franklin and Phillipsburg. Predicitions were that it would reach central Jewell County by 8:30 p.m.
According to the policy followed by the Jewell County Sheriff's Office when the National Weather Service issues such warnings the sirens are to be blown. The sirens do not mean that a tornado has been spotted or reported by local weather observers.
Sunday's storm and the amounts of rain and hail it left were spotty to say the least. North of Esbon it was reported there was marble size hail and .60 of rain. About 1 one-half mile south of there was a half-inch of rain but in the town of Esbon only .05 was received. Jewell had only sprinkles. Randall area at best had any sprinkles but probably the residents just got to watch the clouds. Mankato had .20 to .35 of rain and golf ball size hail. Formoso measured .40 to .50 of rain and 1 1/4 inch size hail which was among the largest reported any place in the multi-county area served by the weather service's Hastings office. Webber had around .75 of rain and a small amount of hail while south of Hardy there was around one-half inch of rain.

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