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My Grandpa

Elmer Olson


Benjamin Ruud


6th Grade 1994, Tri-County School, Karlstad,MN


1st Place

Kittson County Historical Society GenealogyEssay Contest


My grandpa, Elmer Olson, was born on September 2, 1930,in the days of the depression. His mother was Mary Benhaug Olson, and KnuteOlson was his father. Mary was born in 1907 and Knute was born in 1898. They both came from Salol, Minnesota. Mary came from a family of elevenchildren and Knute from a family of 12 children. Mary's parents were Peterand Eldri Brenhaug who immigrated from Norway. Elmer spoke two languages,Norwegian and English. He has one brother and four sisters.

His father, Knute, was a wrestler in his younger days. He mowed the road with horses for the state highway and for the railroad.

Knute and Mary also farmed. As a boy, Elmer helped onthe farm. He picked rock, picked mustard and also drove the horses behindthe machinery.

Elmer went to a country one room school house. It wasDistrict 109, two miles from their farm house. He walked two miles to getto school every day. In his school, all of the grades were in one room. Grandpa went to school for six years. He passed second and third gradeat one time and seventh and eighth grade at one time. He finished eighthgrade at age twelve and didn't go back to school. His best subject wasarithmetic. For fun, he hunted as a boy. He also had a trap line and sometimeson the way to school he made his sister, Mae, help him check the traps. As a boy, Elmer went to church, Sunday School, and Bible School.

He ran away from home when he was fourteen because hisdad was going to give him a whipping. His cousin Morrel Olson went withhim. They were going to North Dakota and ended up in California. Whenhe ran away, he stayed with the hobos. They would feed him. One wouldcome with a chicken, the other would come with a cabbage and they wouldmake stew. They they would eat like kings. Elmer said, "They wereall decent guys." They hitchhiked all the way to California. If theygot stuck at one spot, they would hop a freight car for a few miles. Then,if they got tired of that, they jumped off and hitchhiked again. They atewhatever they could work for along the way. People at ranches often letthem work for food. Three guys tried to lock my grandfather and his cousinin a freezer car but they got out. They never got caught hitchhiking onthe box cars.

He first worked at Yellowstone National Park doing oddsand ends in Wyoming. He got there by hitchhiking. He lied about his ageto get the job. My grandpa bought his first car when he was sixteen yearsold. It was a 1934 Ford with suicide doors. They were doors that openedbackwards.

He joined the army in January 17, 1951. In the army hewas a jumpmaster platoon sergeant in the Eleventh Airborne Division. Hewas a paratrooper and made about one hundred jumps out of planes. He likethe army very much. Elmer was in the army during the Korean conflict. Part of his job was to train recruits to go to Korea. It took six weeksto train a recruit to go to war. He boxed for two years in the army andwon the regimental title in the middleweight division. He knocked out manyopponents. When Elmer was in the paratroopers, he was part of a five-manexhibition jumping team that traveled the country and jumped in shows. He was a barber in the army to make extra money. Once he cut General MarkClark's hair. He was a famous General. By the time my grandpa was honorablydischarged, he was a Sergeant First Class. My Grandpa was discharged onJanuary 17, 1954, exactly three years after he enlisted.

He worked on threshing fields, driving taxi, and workingcombine. He returned to Roseau and owned can milk trucks and worked forthe Farmer's Co-op Creamery. He would go to the farms around Roseau andpick up milk in metal cans and then haul them back to the creamery.

He got married in 1955 to my grandmother, Beverly Olson. She was a nurse at the Budd Hospital. My grandpa and grandma have twochildren. They are Monica Dostal, my aunt. She is a registered nurse atthe Roseau Area Hospital. Their other daughter is my mom, Elwyn Ruud. She is a third grade teacher at the Roseau School.

Grandpa drove truck for over forty years. He sold thecan trucks and went to work for Land O'Lakes hauling milk in a semi-truckto Fosston, Minnesota. Often, he would make a "double-run" whichmeant hauling milk to Fosstom two times in one day. He worked for LandO'Lakes as a truck driver, butter maker, and around the creamery. He droveabout four hundred miles a day. My grandpa drove over two million milesfor Land O'Lakes.

Sometimes in the winter my Grandpa took a break from drivingtruck and worked in the woods. He would work with his brother, Orvel. He cut eight foot logs, piled them, and skidded them with horses on whatthey call drays. Drays are what you haul logs on. They had to drive overLake of the Woods to get to the logging spot at Northwest Angle. One day,his uncle, brother, grandpa, and a german shepherd fell through the ice. The whole car went under the water. When the car was half full of water,they could open the doors. They floated to the top and walked to a cabinwhere they found candles and matches. They stayed there for the night anddried out. In the morning, they caught a ride into Warroad and found aride with the boss back to the logging spot. They made a winch and liftedthe car out, and when it dried out, it ran again. All they had to do waschange the oil and gas.

My grandpa has done taxidermy, leather craft, hunting,and trapping. He has worked on all kinds of machinery, including caterpillars,trucks, tractors, and combines. He has done lots of trapping. He has trappedtimber wolf, raccoon, mink, fox, weasel, skunk, and woodchuck. When hewas a taxidermist, he was also working for Land O'Lakes and hauling gravel. Taxidermy is when you mount an animal on a board like a deer, bird, ora fish. He likes to hunt deer and has shot lots of them.

In 1990, he built a sawmill. He cuts the logs and haulsthem home from the woods. He takes the logs and saws them into lumber. He still does this today.

My grandpa is now retired from Land O'Lakes but he is busywith many of the things he did as a boy and as a young adult. My grandpacuts sometimes as much as two hundred cords of wood in the winter. He sawsit into lumber for people to build with. He has a farm with a barn, a pond,a machinery shed and a stream. Grandpa hauls gravel with his truck andstill hunts and fishes. He even combines for a local farmer. My grandpaloves to buy and sell things. He is always buying old machinery and fixingit up. He paints them so they look like the originals.

My grandpa and grandma live in Roseau, not many miles fromwhere they were born. My grandpa always has time to spend with me. Welike to haul gravel together. He buys three and four wheelers for me toride. He builds things with me. Grandpa taught me how to shoot the twenty-two. My grandpa does all the things he loves to do and he shares them with me.

I got my information from Elmer Olson.

s all the things he loves to do and he shares them with me.

I got my information from Elmer Olson.