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Woodbury man has flood volunteers' backs

Craig Ferguson demonstrates how to fill a sandbag with his Sand Shark invention. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

STILLWATER - Craig Ferguson remembers watching a newscast two years ago about flooding in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

More specifically, he recalled the images of people filling sandbags - and couldn't help but empathize with the back-breaking labor.

"There should be an easier, more efficient way," he remembered thinking. "It's hard work."

Ferguson, a Woodbury resident, now thinks he's found a solution to the problem. He calls it the Sand Shark.

The steel contraption is fashioned similar to a two-wheel dolly with a custom scoop mounted to its front end. Clips on the scoop allow the user to quickly attach a sandbag, which fills as sand pours through a funnel on the scoop's back end.

Ferguson invented the device last year and has since rolled out his first prototype, which he put to use for the first time Wednesday in Stillwater as part of volunteer sandbagging efforts to fortify against expected St. Croix River flooding.

He and his wife Mary Kay Ferguson pointed out the labor-intensive process on display by other volunteers: one person shoveled scoops of sand into a funnel system manned by another volunteer who steadied the bag until it was full.

"When he sees people working this hard ... he says, 'I can make something that can make this effortless," Mary Kay said, gesturing at the other volunteers.

Meanwhile, Craig leaned into his Sand Shark and went to work.

He demonstrated his process: After attaching an empty sandbag, he wheeled the device into a sand pile and tipped the Sand Shark back. After repeating the process two more times, he had a full 40-pound sandbag.

Total time: about 30 seconds. Craig figures the Sand Shark fills at least 40 sandbags every half hour.

And, Mary Kay noted, "It's easy on the back."

Craig is in the early stages of marketing the Sand Shark, but said he definitely sees a demand for the device - especially in flood-prone areas like Fargo. He's not sure whether the public or private sector would be more likely to bite, but said he's hopeful his patent-pending idea can save a few volunteers' backs.

"I'm thinking it's now or never," Craig said.

The Sand Shark is just the latest in a lifetime of inventions Craig has created.

"My garage is full of stuff," he said with a laugh.

Mary Kay chimed in with a knowing chuckle.

"And so is the basement," she added.

But not all of his creations are collecting dust. Craig said that every fall he still uses his first invention: a device for putting leaves in bags.

He scratched his head and acknowledged that he seems to have a knack for inventing things that fill bags.

"Now if I could just figure out how to get groceries in a bag," he laughed.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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