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Derby puts it in park after 40 years on the road

For over 40 years, Bob Derby's been traveling the roads throughout Wadena and Verndale pushing snow, leveling gravel roads and making sure your travels in the county are a little smoother.

On Dec. 28, Derby retires from his job in highway maintenance to a life where it might not bother him much if his road gets plowed right away or not.

A party was thrown for the long-time highwayman Monday, Dec. 17 at the Wadena County Highway Department. It was there he spoke about his time on the road. When he started out there were no radios in the trucks. While many talk about how much deeper the snow was back in their day, Derby said one difference in road maintenance was the improvements to their plows. The horsepower has increased immensely, he said. While the plows of old did little more than push the snow aside, making for big piles along the side of the road, the new models allow speeds around 35 miles per hour, throwing snow up to 40 feet from the side of the road.

"You can really wing it out there," he said.

That change allows snow to spread out over a larger area and keeps it from blowing back unto the road so quickly. It looks as if there is less snow even if there is more.

Wadena County Highway maintenance foreman Jason Miller said Derby was always a dependable worker and a good guy to boot.

Derby said staying in the job for 40 years was made easier due to the variety of the job.

"It isn't the same everyday," Derby said. "Everyday could be a change in weather."

Weather had a major impact on what he was doing from day to day. A culvert might wash out, the snow might drift over the roads or it might be a perfectly calm day.

If you live on or travel a county road in Wadena County, there's a good chance Derby cleared the way for you at some point. In 2019, he'll only be responsible for keeping his own driveway in check.

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