M.G. Merrill OlsonM.G. (Merrill) Olson passed away Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Marian Manor Healthcare Center, Glen Ullin.
M.G. (Merrill) Olson passed away Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Marian Manor Healthcare Center, Glen Ullin.
We received a gift from God when we were able to spend a wonderful afternoon with M.G. the day before. He had many visitors that afternoon.
That evening he asked the nurses where all the people with cowboy hats and boots went. Saying goodbye to a cousin he jokingly said, “Glad you got to see me.”
A memorial service for M.G. is 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, at the United Methodist Church, Dickinson, with Rev. Dan Freed officiating. Inurnment will take place at a later date at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan. Military honors will be provided by the Dickinson Honors Team following the service.
Visitation is Thursday from noon to 8 p.m., with the family present from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Ladbury Funeral Service, Dickinson, and will continue one hour prior to services at the church on Friday.
M.G. was born in a blizzard on Oct. 22, 1932; the youngest of four children born to B.T. (Bernard Tobias) and Huldah (Monson) Olson in the Curlew Section House in Morton County. He was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith at Almont; attended country school through the eighth grade, Almont High School until 1947 and graduated from Glen Ullin High School in 1950.
He attended Dickinson State College 1950-52 and graduated from Montana State University in 1955 with a degree in agriculture, major in animal industry.
He had been invited to transfer to MSU to be a member of the Rodeo Team where he competed in calf roping and steer wrestling.
After graduation, he was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs at Fort Yates until drafted in 1958. He went through basic training at Ft. Ord, Calif., and stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash. He was attached to the veterinary corps and assigned as a meat inspector, buying all the meat for the Army and Air Force bases on the west coast.
He was discharged in 1960 and returned to cattle ranching, which had been a sideline with Pete Mitchell at Ft. Yates before being drafted. In 1966, he purchased land adjoining his parents land enlarging his operation, raising black white-faced calves and started a quarter horse breeding program.
He was married to Sylvia Leno on Dec. 31, 1966, in the First Presbyterian Church in Bismarck. On June 17, 1968, a son, Clay Ben, was born in the Bismarck Hospital.
In the spring of 1968, M.G. went into partnership with his cousin, Warren Hoovestol, in the Arrow Cattle Company. They leased Andy Willman’s Ranch on the Heart River south of Almont and pastured 900 yearlings. In addition, he continued to run cows and breed horses. It was considered quite the occasion to participate in trailing the yearlings to the weigh stations at Almont, led by their corriente steer “Old Blue.”
M.G. experimented with raising Beefalo. In 1975, he participated in a trade mission to Egypt and Jordan led by Gov. Art Link. A couple of the other participants were Dick Bond and Buzz Fredericks.
The “cowboys” proved to be very popular, especially when M.G. performed rope tricks in front of the pyramids. The uncle of the King of Jordan wanted them to travel with him and wanted to have pictures taken with the cowboys.
While they were offered free land by the king’s uncle, they didn’t want to move to the middle east. This mission, however, led to the sale of the pure-bred beefalo to a coal mine owner in West Virginia, along with our three paint saddle horses and a red heeler puppy. Shortly after, we sold all our cows and went full-time into horse breeding, conducting Pitchfork Ranch horse sales until 1992.
M.G. also enjoyed his trips to the Heritage Sale in Oklahoma City, and the company of those that rode along. Entering retirement, M.G. sold the entire last two colt crops and his last stallion, Texas High Dasher, to the Roth Family and liquidated all his mares.
Shortly thereafter, M.G. went once again to the Heritage Sale and purchased a few new mares. Family friend Dean Meyer said to him, “You done real good, you lasted two weeks!” He purchased several sons of Dash For Cash, which stood at stud at Bob Hansen’s until 2007.
M.G.’s life was horses. He owned his first horse at age 12, a sickly orphan he was given and nursed back to health. He lived and traveled with his uncle, Red Olson, a well-known horseman who made the rodeo circuit participating in relay races. He was an early member of the Rodeo Cowboys Association, participating in steer wrestling, calf roping, later team roping and wild horse racing when available.
He was impressed with the horses ridden by cowboys from the south (usually race bred) and made it his life’s goal to bring those type horses to the North. He spent countless hours studying horse breeding and what mares crossed well with particular stallions. He could often tell people the breeding of their horse just by the conformation.
After he quit participating in rodeo, he still attended every rodeo he could get to, supporting college and high school rodeo, attending them all, making several trips to the National High School Rodeo Finals.
One of his greatest thrills was when someone won on a horse he bred and raised, including watching Dane Hanna win the National High School Steer Wrestling title on a horse M.G. raised, raced and gifted to Alfred Hansen because he wanted Bob Hansen to be the trainer. M.G. gave away more than 50 horses in his life — he wanted people to ride good speed-bred horses.
His last venture was racing horses. Through the years he ran horses in Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota. He owned several award-winning horses. His favorites were ones he raised himself, but especially favored the Corona Cartels.
M.G. was a people person and made friends where ever he went. Through rodeo, horse sales and horse racing he had friends all over the country. He was often asked if he knew everybody in the United States because no matter where people went, quite often when somebody found out they were from North Dakota, they were asked if they knew M.G. Olson.
Most people don’t know M.G. was a great piano player. While at Ft. Yates, he was a member of the McLaughlin family band. Because he played by ear, he could play along with anybody. Whenever he visited in Williston, he and Audrey or his niece Teri had to sit down and play duets. This continued after Teri moved to Almont.
M.G. is survived by his wife, Sylvia, Dickinson; his son, Clay, Culbertson, Mont.; and his grandchildren, Faith, Cherish, Grace and Chance Olson, Hebron; five sisters-in-law and one brother-in-law, Carley Olson, Minot; Audrey Olson, Williston; Joan Leno Onstad, Bismarck; Carol Leno and Dick Althaus, Kalispel-Mont.; Arta Leno, Bismarck; 16 nieces and nephews and many great nieces and nephews whose visits he enjoyed.
He loved kids of all ages, of course, his grandchildren were the best!
He was preceded in death by this parents, Bernard and Huldah Olson, and Sylvia’s parents, Arthur & Clara Leno, Bismarck; sister, Lois Burgess, Bismarck; brothers Gordon Olson, Minot; Leon Olson, Williston; nieces, Corliss Olson Clark and Linda Olson Bittay; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Bonnie Leno Chase and Jack Chase.
We want to express our gratitude to the employees of the Marion Manor Healthcare Center. They were so kind, caring and patient while seeing to M.G.’s needs. He enjoyed their company and making them laugh.
Although M.G. admired flowers in nature and in yards, he did not care for flowers inside. Therefore, in lieu of flowers we suggest his favorite charity, Home on the Range, Sentinel Butte, or the Dickinson United Methodist Church Building Fund.
Arrangements are with Ladbury Funeral Service, Dickinson.
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