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MN grave-diggers use jackhammers to get through frozen ground

CNN
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POSTED: Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 1:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 1:04pm

The bitter cold winter this year is taking a toll on cemetery workers in Minnesota.

They’re having a tough time digging graves through layers of frost.

As Henning, Minnesota prepares to say goodbye to a much-loved World War II veteran,

Matt and his brother Andrew Goeden are busy at work.

“We’re hoping about two feet today. We do about a foot of frost an hour with the jack-hammer, but the more frost there is, the longer it takes. Four feet doesn't take four hours, it takes more like six hours. You just go until you get through it,” Matt Goeden explained.

They are grave-diggers and lately, jackhammers, not just shovels, are necessary as they take on frost that is running three to four feet deep in some places.

“If the frost is really bad, you got one hammer next to the other hammer just going until you go,” said Matt.

“As soon as you set the hammer on the ground, it just bounces off in chunks like the size of a cell phone. You know from the start that it's going to be a long day,” Andrew Goeden said.

But there are times when the boys have to turn to some old school methods in order to get the grave dug.

“Light a couple bags of Kingsford charcoal, put a couple pieces of plywood over the top and come back the next day. Make a little oven out of it and that'll knock the rest of the frost out of it. So there's options out there, just how much time you want to take,” Matt said.

And lately around Otter Tail County, frost has been so running deep, it's challenging the grave digging brothers.

“After a couple hours of jackhammering, you can definitely feel it crawling all the way up your arm,” Matt Goeden told CNN.

From two to four feet, the boys have turned to power tools and power digging to get the job done.

“Even in the cemetery that you're in right now, you have more frost in that section in the cemetery, than this section of the cemetery, based on snow, based on the northwest wind; based on the elements that are exposed to the ground there. And the stones, the monuments themselves, draw the frost, too,” Matt explained.

In two days a family will bury a loved one here.

The Goeden brothers take their job of grave digging seriously, and know that, despite the extra efforts this winter, what they do is appreciated.

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