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David Samson, Published February 26 2012

Portraits: Ed Olsen

With his trusty coffee mug by his side, Ed Olsen throws another log on the fire in the warming house at Woodland Park in Hillsboro, N.D. Olsen, 81, spends his winters running the ice skating rink. “We built this rink 30-some years ago. We didn’t have this house, though; we had it hauled in. I knew a guy who was gonna burn it, Gale Boeddeker. I told him to give me a day or two to figure something out.” The cabin was hauled out to the park, the two story was lowered, and it has been a toasty refuge for skaters for the past 25 years. Olsen has been a fixture in the community since 1969, when he bought the local hardware store. He’s always had a soft spot for kids. “We have a heck of a group of good kids around here, and we have skates that were donated and others were bought from Gerrell’s in Grand Forks. I built a table and I can sit and read or play cards when the kids are out skating.” One thing he doesn’t look forward to is the annual spring cleaning of the house. “Every spring we have to take everything out when the flood comes because it gets to be a holy mess, but I think this time we’ll get by without water,” Olsen says with a wry smile.