My name is Olaf Danielson. I am sometimes a writer, considered a businessman, frequently a traveler, occasionally a collector, and even occasionally at times a philosopher. I have studied wildlife ecology, health sciences, history, physics, and I am one college credit from a minor in women’s studies. Since this is my pen name, ala Mark Twain, I might also say that I strive, like the man in the Dos Equis beer commercial, to be the “most interesting man in the world.” I, however, have never had a pride of lions give me a meal in my honor, nor do sheep ever count me to fall asleep. But like the man in the commercial I don’t give high fives, only high sixes and I try to be fashionably late even when I arrive an hour early. But maybe in second thought I am probably woefully lacking in that regard and am not all that interesting.
What I do offer though is observations as it seems things happen to me and I seem to see things that nobody else sees. Some of this is due to the fact that I travel a great deal, twenty three airports last year and over forty thousand highway miles. It seems I spent 2% of 2011 in a plane and nearly 8% in a car. South Dakota, it seems for me is a way station between adventures. For anybody out there, the first step to a good story is to start writing. The same is true about adventures—the first step to any adventure is to go out the door.
I have been rescued in the Belizean Jungle by employees of Francis Ford Copula. We have explored ancient ruins, found hidden messages in Templar enigmas, found ancient burial crypts, and climbed the largest earthen pyramid in North America. I’ve fished in the largest whirlpool in Norway and went to where the witches are banished in the Swedish Easter tradition. I have even climbed mountains and have been attacked by bears, well not exactly, the bear in question was a yearling cub and it was a black bear, but it could have been a Grizzly and it could have attacked rather than ran away. Oh well, sometimes a little embellishment helps.
I even once got lost in the Arizona desert and found myself inadvertently in the middle of the Oryx (a large Middle Eastern antelope) exhibit in the Phoenix zoo where I ‘discovered’ drinking water to cure my thirst. I wondered why they had such exotic animals in Arizona, but I claimed desert delirium and they let me go. The lion exhibit was next door and I was lucky that I had not been invited by the local pride for dinner, but then again I am not the Most Interesting Man in the World. The one thing in all of these events is that I left home, and generally have been the better for it.
You see I can never be a native South Dakotan, and I am not even sure I can even say yet that I am from South Dakota. We have owned a place on Enemy Swim Lake since 1997 and bought another house in Milbank since in 2003 and I think it takes somewhere between fifty and one hundred and fifty years to claim that. I grew up on our family sawmill in northwestern Wisconsin where my best friend was a pine tree that grandpa cut down in 1989 after I had went to college, well not exactly but we did live a bit isolated and the tree was cut down in 1989. My grandfather taught me how to live off the land and be a self-sufficient man, more or less except that I failed basic carpentry and many of the other self-sufficiency arts even gardening, although I can grow some luscious blades of grass and I can fish and track game, so I wasn’t a total failure. I find it easier to write about something than to actually do it, someday, I think I could make a fortune in self-help and how-to books, but that would be a retirement project.
It is the goal of this column to share some of my life experiences and observations both as a creative expression and to also maybe enlighten those in Northeast South Dakota that can’t leave or maybe cause of few of you to think (maybe even about leaving?). I learned long ago that everyone else was normal and I was abnormal, so at least I find myself honest. I am a novelist of fiction but I find history almost more interesting as truth is stranger than fiction as they say. My wife has figured out that most of my fictional writing is not based on her and/or us, or at least I hope she has. She also confirms that I’m not that interesting. She has heard most of what I write or experienced the situations herself. Hopefully in my writing here, I won’t embarrass her any more than I have in the past, although my wife thinks my memory is so good that I do not have to remember. Maybe that is just something she heard in a Dos Equis commercial?
Stay thirsty my friends,