Jim Olson (”Dick” to family and many friends) and I (Ellie) met when he was a medical student at UND and I was enrolled in secondary education with an English major. Jim’s sister, Claudea, was my friend and classmate who insisted that I call her brother to invite him to the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance. I was not accustomed to call a guy for a date, but after much prodding, I consented. Three years later we were married. Jim frequently asks his sister what she had against him!
We moved to Chicago where Jim completed his residency in ophthalmology and I located a teaching position at Glenview, a Chicago suburb. Three years later we returned to Grand Forks where Jim took a position as an ophthalmologist at the (then) Grand Forks Clinic. In the mid 70’s Jim was one of the original twelve who started Altru where he stayed until 1999 when he retired.
I completed my Master of Education degree at UND while working as a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Education and was the assistant editor of The Graduate Record, a publication of the Graduate School. I accepted a position in the Grand Forks Public Schools where I was assigned to teach at Schroeder Junior High School. I retired from there after 27 years.
My horse love began while I was growing up on a farm near Emerado, ND. We lived on the wide open prairie where I watched my sister gallop across that prairie on her paint gelding, Nickel. I was never as brave as she around horses. But I did run up the road to meet my dad hauling a load of hay with a team of horses. My dad hoisted me way up on Prince, an elderly, kind, huge draft horse. Then I owned the world and was as proud as a queen!
Jim’s early association with horses began when he mucked stalls for a veterinarian in his home town, Crookston, MN. in exchange for a ride on any horse available. He says he hasn’t progressed very far because he’s still mucking stalls. Jim did a bit of showing when we accumulated our appaloosas and has a Register of Merit in the amateur/owner category when he showed our halter mare, Skip’s Sugar Time. He also did some pleasure riding as well. In addition Jim served on the board of the Red River Valley Horse Breeders during the 1970’s.
Because my sister Sylvia loved the appaloosa breed, I chose that breed as well. Jim also decided that appaloosas would be a fun breed to pursue. In 1968 Jim surprised me with Bonny Jo of AA, a lovely 14-hand red roan appaloosa mare. From then on, appaloosas “reined” supreme!
Some of our other early appaloosas were Sunday Speck, Spade’s Shadow and Miss Toma of Little Man’s Creek. We were proud of their show records and valued them as good trail mounts and friends.
Later we added Mighty Superior (“Supie”) who excelled in halter, western pleasure, reining and roping. He even won the English pleasure class at the Minnesota State Fair as a surprise for me by handler Joey Jorgenson who had been pestered to ride Supie in that class for a long time!
We purchased Little Dimmer, an Apache II broodmare from Ward Fenton, a well known breeder, trainer, exhibitor and judge from Hysham, Montana. This was a lucky purchase for us as Dimmer was in foal to a Bold Ruler son and foaled Bold Decision for us who won a jackpot in western riding in Canada. He is still with us at 30+ years. Another offspring from Dimmer and Supie resulted in Dial Superior who was a Regional, National and Canadian pleasure driving champion two years in a row. In addition, he placed in the top 10 pleasure driving horse at the ApHC World.
In more recent years Skip’s Sugar Time, a mare that was located in an Alabama pasture in a neglected condition, was rescued by Connie Caines who steered Joey Jorgenson to check her over. Joey saw Sugar’s potential and convinced us to purchase her. Sugar won and Granded in nearly every class she was shown, here and in Canada. Sugar was in the top 10 appaloosa halter mares, nationwide, for two years in a row, won numerous register of Merit awards, and achieved the 100 point Superior Halter Horse from the Appaloosa Horse Club. Sugar produced two foals for us by Always’s Dignified. Her first foal, Skip the Dignity (“Dudley”) won the Canadian National Reserve Championship in halter and the Register of Merit after very limited showing. He promised to be an outstanding riding mount as well. Unfortunately, Dudley died a sudden, untimely death. Sugar’s second foal, O Sweet Dignity (“Daffy”) is currently being shown and accumulating halter points.
We both value the many lifelong friendships which our horses have given us and the many wonderful people that they have enabled us to know and love. Without the support and expert help of Vickie Dennison Anderson we would have lost our lovely Molly, a black solid appaloosa mare who sustained a bad foot injury and was not expected to ever walk again. With Vickie’s persistence and care, Molly walked and galloped into her late 20’s! Besides, without our dear friend Vickie’s chore help we may never have taken a trip!
Then there is my former “student” Holly Beaton who has made me proud as she has developed into a competent knowledgeable horsewoman and beloved friend. A long time ago, I accompanied Holly and her late grandmother Louise Van Camp to look for Holly’s first horse! And now we get to watch little Ellie Jo following in her mother’s footsteps.
Finally, our trophy shelves would be pretty sparse without the training and handling skills of Joey Jorgenson who trained and handled our horses for nearly 40 years. His late parents, Raymond and Mary Jorgenson accepted us as part of their extended family and blessed us with so many wonderful memories.
Now we forge ahead with our newer version of the horses, Nora and Sophia, Norwegian Fjord mares who both ride and drive singly or as a team. They arrived from Wisconsin to pull our buckboard and sleigh in the winter.