For most, working seven days a week would be a nightmare, but for Ole Olson, owner of Olson's Towing, it's been an enjoyable way of life for nearly 40 years.
"Everybody thinks I'm nuts, but I like what I do. I'm a doer," Olson said. "I like the towing business because I never like doing the same thing and the mechanical stuff has always interested me, building and painting tow trucks."
Since the Minot native started his towing and recovery business in the early 1970s, Olson and his crew have responded to thousands of calls each year, from car accidents and semi rollovers involving hazardous materials spills to stuck oilfield and farm equipment even recovering automobiles out of lakes and rivers.
Submitted Photo •
Righting overturned semis like this one from Dacotah Paper is a routine job for employees of Olson’s Towing. Owner Ole Olson said his company is the largest and longest running towing and recovery business in the state.
Submitted Photo •
In September, Ole Olson, owner of Olson’s Towing, was inducted into the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame. He has been in the business for nearly 40 years.
Submitted Photo •
In addition to their land-based activities, Olson’s Towing also does ice recovery operations like this one pictured in 2007. With help from Adventure Divers, employees from Olson’s Towing pull a black Hummer out from ice-covered Akaline Lake near Napoleon.
"We've pulled out 115,000-pound oilfield machinery, we've pulled out semis in 10 feet of snow and we've pulled out bulldozers stuck deep in the mud," he said. "I've never found anything that we couldn't pull out. It's all about geometry and mathematics. If you supply enough rigging, it's going to come out."
In recognition of his four decades of service to the industry, Olson was inducted into the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame in Chattanooga, Tenn., along with eight other tow truck drivers from across the country in September.
Created in 1986, the towing hall of fame recognizes industry professionals who have made a difference in the profession. To honor the inductees, the Friends of Towing dedicate an entire wall section of the Towing and Recovery Museum, founded in Chattonooga in 1995, for portraits and stories of those honored.
Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I got a registered letter last winter but we were so busy that I barely had time to sleep let alone do anything else. I don't think I opened it for two months," he said. "The winter was so drastic, we could only do about one-third of the work. We had to turn away two out of three calls. I've seen storms in spots that were worse, but I've never seen it continuous snow for five months before."
Although it was a grueling year, the winter mayhem and the oil activity of 2008 paid off Olson said it was the company's biggest year.
"The last two years have been big years for us, but 2009 is going to be a record-setter even if we don't turn another wheel," he said, attributing the strong demand to his company's work with the oil industry, the community and the work with the city.
Reflecting on his decades-long involvement in the towing industry, Olson said many things have changed.
"The equipment is getting huge. There are trucks now that are $1 million and are a cross between a crane and tow truck they can pull out anything," he said. "The biggest change, though, has been the wheel lift. Cars have so much more plastic now that they can get damaged easier, so you couldn't really use a tow sling anymore."
Aside from the industry changes, Olson's own business has seen changes over the years.
In addition to updating and expanding their tow truck inventory he declines to say how many Olson's Towing also recently purchased several snowplows that will be used to help clear away snow during a towing or recovery job.
One thing that hasn't changed is the man in charge of it all.
"I don't ever plan on retiring. I like what I do and I've worked my whole life to get things how I want them," he said. "Working all the time has been hard on my family, but they've gotten involved in it too."
Working with his dad since age 4, Olson said his son Wyatt has shown interest in taking over the business if he does eventually retire.
"I've seen a lot and we've been through a lot with the two or three oil booms and busts up here, the economic recession in the '80s and the economy now, but we're just going to keep pushing forward and do what we do," Olson said.