Monday, June 23, 2014

Open on holiday weekends...

Local WWII soldiers featured 
in Cannon Falls Military History Museum

Cannon Falls area WWII soldiers are featured along with $3000 worth of new posters, etc. in Vince Cockriel’s Cannon Falls Military History Museum at 33504 Warsaw Trail to be open to the public on July 4, 5 and 6 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) from 10 a. m. to 2 p. m. Admission is free.

Local memorabilia including uniforms, etc. of local soldiers were donated by their families. Twenty-five new mannequins include 14 local soldiers along with touching memories triggered by photos or in the case of William (Bill) Daniels of Stanton -his discharge papers dated October 12, 1945. He was with the 19th Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division.

Daniels drove “both light and medium tanks in combat in Central European theater. Drove convoy, blackout and battle formation... made repairs to tank motor, track and final drive.”
“Received the Purple Heart, American Defense Medal, European African Middle East Campaign with two Bronze Stars and Good Conduct Medal.”
Was innoculated with Smallpox, Typhoid, Tetanus.

Edgar “Ole” Olson was in the US Coast Guard-Merchant Marines and the U. S. Army. His son Wyatt explained: “He never really talked about any of it to me. He did tell me that when he told his father he was going to join the Merchant Marines, his father was very disappointed, upset, and tried to talk him out of it. His father was a WWI vet, who had been injured by mustard gas, so he didn’t see much ‘glory’ in being in the military. My dad saw the MM as a way of getting into the ‘action’ before the war would end.”

His daughter Cammy added: “He was on the Frances Y Slanger hospital ship. I see his discharge date is the day after VJ (Victory Over Japan) day.”

“Ole” also joined the Army for the Korean action. Wyatt wrote: “I’m not sure what his thinking was when he joined the Army. But I remember him telling me something to the effect that he didn’t want to stay in it because it was digging holes so you could turn around and fill them up again!”

Daughter Deanna remembered Ole saying this too and that he was in the Army Corp of Engineers where they fought floods by filling sandbags.

Cammy wrote: “The only thing he ever said to me about his army time was how much he wanted to go to Korea.....but
later, after reading about the hell it was, he was very glad he was never sent.”

Local soldiers featured in the museum are Bill Daniels, John Burch, Melvin Eckstrom, Donald Richardson, Robert Anderson, Randall Hughes, Edgar Olson, Loren Steenblock, Dorothy Daniels, Richard Dierke, Arthur G. Malon, Robert Midness, Arnold Sibbers and John G. Pasch.

The museum will also be open Labor Day (Sat-Sun-Mon), Veterans Day (Sat-Sun-Mon) or by appointment 507-263-3698 or 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

He tests his products, like his snowmobiles - himself.

                      Faith... not fear

It’s not about money, explained Ray Schoenfelder, local entreprenuer of several businesses, like Cannon Power Sports and Black Diamond Xtreme off Highway 52 south of town.   “It’s about fulfilling a need for someone, providing jobs and making enough to keep on  going.”
         That’s why at age 60, Ray is still working 14-18 hours a day... and by the enthusiasm he shows, he still loves it.  Ray explained, You have to prioritize where you’re going to spend your time.  We’re all busy.

Ray spends some of his time “seeing” the answer to a problem. “I can see what I’m going to make before I make it... it’s envisioned in my mind.”
Then he goes to his computer to sketch it out.
One time he woke up from a dream at 3 a.m. with the answer he had been searching for.  By 7 a.m. he was presenting it at a meeting... it was approved.

   Don Kader, Ray Schoenfelder and Dwight Hughes 
checking out their approach to modify the chassis of a UTV.

Ray also competes with world markets.  He recalled that in the past even though a piece could be built cheaper elsewhere, the quality control was bad.  And then shipping costs went up.  Now by making his products at home they went from 85% “out-sourced” down to 5%.  

  Ray also encourages prospective businessmen to “Live by faith not by fear.”   Overcoming setbacks is part of his strategy.  Ray explained, you have setbacks every day... a machine breaks down, etc.  “I can’t change what happened but I can make a better situation as a result.  It makes me stronger.”

Perhaps like the avalanche that buried him upside down in the Rocky Mountains!  But let’s hold that story for a bit.

Here’s Ray...
Ray was born in Ladysmith, Wisconsin but the family moved to Minnesota and Ray graduated from Wanamingo High School.  His Dad was a mechanic and that seemed to rub off on Ray too.  He entered the Air Force - spent time in England - got two years of schooling in electronics, then four years at the Vo Tech in drafting and machines.

He came back to Minnesota because of family.  And he married Cheryl Simonson who grew up in Wanamingo. 

Ray and Cheryl with one of their seven grandchildren.

After getting out of the Air Force in 1975, Ray started a business with the idea to put four wheel drives under mini trucks.  They lived in a farm house near Bombay, MN.  He didn’t have a shop so he worked outside - even in 20° below zero weather! 

In the following years he expanded in the Hader store, started Zumbrota Bearing and Gear, Total Gear, Midwest Transmission, Black Diamond X-treme Engineering and Cannon Power Sports.   

Son Jeff at Black Diamond X-treme Engineering

Daughter Leah and son Dan who bought Midwest Transmission.

An avalanche!
So how does an avalanche on the Continental Divide on the Idaho-Montana border in the Rockies affect snowmobilers around the world?  
  Although it had started snowing on their last run of the day, Ray had seen his buddy go up the mountain and figured he would go too.  His other buddies were already down at the bottom.
But then his sled got stuck.  As he pulled at it, he felt his foot break through the snow.  In “miliseconds” he watched a crack form and the snow came streaming on top of him.  The “slide” was about 400 yards across and 200 yards vertical.
He was propelled down the mountain at about 100 miles per hour.
He ended upside down under the snow slide. 
In the tumbling he had “zero control” and hit a tree.  Part of his stomach burst open and the acids were eating up his organs.
When stopped he realized he couldn’t see anything but figured he was upside down because he could feel the blood running to his head.  Ray explained, It felt like you were packed in cement. There was so much pressure on him that he didn’t know he wasn’t breathing.
But, he added, God had his attention!  He remembered thinking, “Well Lord, I’d really like to go home and see my wife but I’m ready to meet you!”
Then he heard a voice calling, “Ray?”  Then a second time, “Ray”?
A dark object in the snow...
His friends had noticed a dark object in the snow.  By the time they got to him, he had wiggled his ankle - the only thing he could move - and that might have dislodged some snow so they noticed the toe of his boot sticking out.
Ray thought he was in a bad dream.  It was really painful.
His buddy - who had training in rescue techniques - had dug down  and was trying to clear the snow away from his face so he could breathe.  He had seen how Ray’s helmet was twisted and thought his neck was broken. 
Ray didn’t appear to be breathing.  But his buddy kept “chipping” away at the snow and then saw Ray take a breath.

But they weren’t safe yet.
Because snow was falling heavily, they couldn’t get a chopper to rescue him.  They got Ray to a sled and he grimmaced with the memory.  The rescue team had covered him up but stopped every half hour or so to check on him.  He figured they were just seeing if he was still alive.
The pain was so excruciating that morphine didn’t even touch it.

Hours went by.
Finally they got to the ambulance but had to go over a pass - then a second ambulance on another pass and so on. 
Ray couldn’t feel his legs... his body was shutting down... they could only find a pulse on his neck.
Finally on a helicopter he heard the doctor commanding him to “Stay with us!”

But then things started looking better.
That night at the hospital they had the number one internal specialist on duty!  Just by “chance”!
  But they were considering amputating his left leg.  The blood circulation had been blocked and it could poison his whole system.

During the many hours taken for the rescue, Ray’s wife, Cheryl, had flown out.  She would have to decide if his leg would be removed.  
But then an unknown doctor that they strangely never saw again came by and said, “Don’t take the leg.”
And Cheryl relied on her friends for prayer.
And in the morning, his leg was warm and the blood was circulating.

As Ray recalls the avalanche experience he explained, “It’s not what I did but what God did.  All the little details.”
And he felt absolutely no fear, anytime.
Ray explained that he doesn’t use the idea of being “safe” as a gauge for his life. He does something - in sports or business - when he feels he should do it.  He relies on his faith in God to guide him.

And while recuperating in the hospital Ray worked on another idea for a new transmission design to improve snowmobiles!


Some of Ray’s ventures  

1980 the Schoenfelders bought the Fox Store near Hader.  Ray worked in the basement.
1985 Ray bought the Hader store across the street to expand in.  He worked on transmissions.

1988 Ray started Zumbrota Bearing and Gear and in 1993 he moved it to Zumbrota.
1994 Ray built up another company near Hastings - Total Gear”. 
1996 Ray’s son Dan and daughter Leah, an accounting school graduate working for another company, were asked to join the business.
Dan had been working with his Dad at Midwest Transmission in Hader.  The company developed new transmission assemblies, testing, design and application analysis. Today it has 22 employees.  Midwest Transmission has been sold to Dan, Leah and Scott Schleck.

1998 Ray’s son Jeff decided to join the family’s enterprises after taking two years of schooling in “machine school technology”.  Now he runs Black Diamond X-treme Engineering business in Cannon Falls which does precision milling and lathe work, design and engineering, etc.
Jeff lives in Cannon Falls and Dan in Zumbrota.  Leah lives in Bloomington.

2000 Black Diamond began and expanded into Black Diamond Xtreme Engineering in 2005.  It moved to Cannon Falls in July 2013.
Ray explained that it’s “a manufacturing and product development company.”  They sell to dealers and distributors of after market products, putting out 7,500 units per year.  

In 2009 Ray bought Clutch and U Joint in Maple Grove.  It’s a division of Midwest Transmission.

Their more public oriented business, Cannon Power Sports, sells Polaris, Yamaha and Arctic Cat products.  It was sold from 2004 until 2011 when Ray took it over again. Here they take a “stock snowmobile” and modify it to the desires of the customer.
They build 50 “souped up” snowmobiles a year.  They can also sell the components so the customer could make their own sled.  But Ray explained, his company can build it for less.