Featuring Barber Wil Dort. Local Hero - Patriot Assistance Dogs, Having a Beer with the founders of Drekker Brewing Company, Mr. Full-Time Dad and more in Fargo Moorhead's only men's magazine.













Wil Dort

From Haiti to Haircuts




We just wrapped up a three-day party for Macklin’s third

birthday. About 20 people invaded our home, ate our food

and left all of their garbage behind. We had a bounce house

in the backyard, beautiful weather throughout, all of Mack’s

favorite people… even the Blue Angels came to town to

celebrate. It was a wild success.

As expected, Mack raked in a pile of awesome gifts sure

to hold his attention until the end of this sentence — fresh

cans of Play-Doh, new bubbles, his first pair of rollerblades,

some water toys, the obligatory new outfit from Grandma

and a pedal-powered go-kart complete with roll cage and

emergency brake. As I watched him climb in and take off

down the sidewalk, I couldn’t help but envy him.

If it wasn’t Mack’s birthday weekend, I would struggle to

answer the Monday morning question “What’d you do this

weekend?” So, asking me what I was doing when I was 3

years old would be like asking my current 3-year-old to fix

my currently broken water softener. Try as we might, it just

isn’t going to happen.

What I can confidently say is I wasn’t driving around in my

own go-kart at 3. I also don’t recall ever having my own

private backyard carnival with the Blue Angels screaming

overhead. No, I remember birthdays at McDonald’s (which

was awesome… I still have my special birthday McDonald’s

mug) and dreaming about go-karts.

Pondering my son’s charmed life as I snuck an extra-large

piece of cake while safely out of view, a thought bubbled

up in my mind… 3 is the new 23. At 23, I was just about

a year into my first full-time job after graduating from

college, which meant I finally had the means to indulge my

own childhood fantasies. I didn’t buy myself a go-kart, but I

definitely walked out of Best Buy with a new 42-inch plasma

screen and signed up for the HD package with DVR as soon

as that first paycheck cleared.

My son has never known life in standard def. He drives a gokart

to the park. His favorite toy is also my favorite toy — an

$800 iPad. You see, 3 is the new 23. After finishing my cake,

I came up with a few more examples…

Baby Foodie

Had it not been for my cousin, who now takes me elk

hunting against his better judgement, the only red meat I

would have known growing up would’ve been beef. Macklin,


on the other hand, has been developing a discerning palette

since the day his first teeth started coming in. He already

knows what venison tastes like, along with elk, shrimp,

salmon, walleye, crab, scallops, antelope, pheasant, etc. I

was in my mid-20s before I even knew what a scallop was,

let alone how gross they are.

Junior Outdoorsman

Mack was barely two months old when he experienced

his first legitimate road trip (and still hadn’t celebrated a

birthday before he spent his first night sleeping in a tent).

Now, by age 3, he’s an accomplished camper who loves to

fish, hike, swim in the lake and touch everything he can

reach without hint of fear. Come winter, it’ll be season two

of riding his very own snowmobile across the frozen lake

at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Before the end of this summer,

we’re heading to the mountains of Colorado to not only see

the Rockies, but also to bring Mack to his first live concert…

yep, at Red Rocks. What a time to be a 3-year-old.

Fitness Bro

Mack’s latest favorite breakfast is a children’s protein

shake. It’s true. The body shaming starts early nowadays.

Reading the ingredients, his shake is not that different

than the ones I occasionally mix up after the gym. He’s not

working on bulking up or optimizing his metabolism. He

just likes doing whatever I do... and I’m guessing he likes

the chocolate flavor and the fact that he gets to drink a

“shake” for breakfast. After a rousing hour of Jazzercise in

the basement on Saturday mornings, my mom would mix

up a shake of some sort, but I don’t remember ever getting

a taste. Mack has his own Blender Bottle.


If I were to die tomorrow, whoever gets stuck writing my

eulogy won’t be reminiscing about my great wardrobe and

natural style. Mack, on the other hand, rocks a hot pink

speedo like some sort of tiny French fashionista confidently

strutting down the Riviera. When he was 2, he had flowing

curls long enough to put into a ponytail. He had a man

bun before he was potty trained. Honestly, I think he

currently owns more pairs of shoes than I do.

Sure, Mack has things like global warming, that new

tax form and the potential of living through WWIII to

worry about, too, but it’s hard not to be envious of the

opportunities provided to him... as well as his natural

instincts that must come from his mother’s side. • / THE GOOD LIFE / 3




































Urban Toad Media LLP


Darren Losee


Dawn Siewert


Meghan Feir

Alexandra Floersch

Brittney Goodman

Ben Hanson

Katie Jenison

Krissy Ness

Danielle Teigen


MJoy Photography


Beth Reich /





The Good Life Men’s Magazine is distributed six times

a year by Urban Toad Media LLP. Material may not be

reproduced without permission. The Good Life Men’s

Magazine accepts no liability for reader dissatisfaction

arising from content in this publication. The opinions

expressed, or advice given, are the views of individual

writers or advertisers and do not necessarily represent

the views or policies of The Good Life Men’s Magazine. / THE GOOD LIFE / 5


When riding

these paths you can

see the enjoyment on

people's faces,

and it is definitely

a workout.



Since late 2009 members of the Fargo-

Moorhead Trailbuilders have been

successfully creating and maintaining

mountain bike trails in the FM area. It became

a nonprofit in early 2014 and is made up of

avid bikers who volunteer their time to ensure

safe and accessible trails. “There’s probably

close to 10 people who are really active with the

organization and at least another dozen to two

dozen helping out and pitching in,” said Tom

Heilman, Vice President of FM Trailbuilders.

After graduating college at NDSU and moving

to Denver for his first job, Heilman picked up

mountain biking and fell in love with it. After

some time he moved back to Fargo and quickly

realized there wasn’t a lot of access to riding.

“Through meeting some people in the community...

we started coming up with some random ideas

and one of the first spots was in North Moorhead,

MB Johnson Park,” said Heilman. “It was a pretty

rough trail and we went through and wacked some

weeds and created a real hodgepodge trail, it was

pretty self-serving and it just gave four or five of us

access to go ride in a loop.”

After they found some success with this trail, it was

decided that they should clear it with the city to be

on the up and up and also with the community. “It

was a growing sport. It still is. It is something people

want to have access to,” said Heilman. “So, we got

a little more serious formed a little organization and

came up with a name, Fargo-Moorhead Trailbuilders,

and came up with a logo through a friend who did

some of that stuff. Then met with the director of park

and recreation of Moorhead at the time and they were

right on board with us from the get-go. They have been

outstanding to work with.”

Since building a trail in MB Johnson they have added

trails in Gooseberry Park and Horn Park in Moorhead,

and on the Fargo side, there are formal trails at Iwen

Park, totaling over 11 miles. / THE GOOD LIFE / 7

It is just

a great way to get out

into nature and get

some exercise at a

faster pace than

hiking or jogging.

If you hop over to their website, www., you will be able to do a

multitude of things, from checking the trail

conditions to donating money or time to help

maintain the trails. They partner with Trailforks

to give a detailed layout of every trail and the

condition it is in on any given day. It also shows

experience levels of each trail, which can be

helpful, especially on days when the kids are with.

There is no age limit when it comes to riding these

trails, but please remember to travel at your own

speed and experience level. Also, making sure your

bike is in working order and always wear a helmet.

When biking on these trails pay attention to the

markers so you are aware of what direction you

should be traveling, most of these trails are designed

to be ridden counter-clockwise.

These trails are also seasonal, as long as you have

the proper tires – Fat Tires, which are four to fiveinch

tires made especially for winter biking. Through

generous donation and donated times there is also a

groomer that goes out and packs the trails down in the

winter so these trails can be used all year.

Along with casual mountain biking, these trails also

host events and races, though they are not directly

connected to the FM Trailbuilders. This year 13 high

school students have signed up to participate in a

league, which is a great addition to activities that are

being held in Fargo-Moorhead.

“FM Trailbuilders isn’t about racing, it is about building

and developing trails, the racing and events are just

things to get people out to have fun and celebrate the

fact that we have some trails,” said Heilman. “It’s grown

tremendously, we’ve got the right people in place; the

right volunteers. This last three years it has been really

impressive to see the number of people who have reached


out, not only to help, but the faces we are seeing out on the

trails are almost always new.”

When riding these paths you can see the enjoyment

on people’s faces, and it is definitely a workout. I would

recommend this to any and all of my friends who are active

in the community, it is just a great way to get out into

nature and get some exercise at a faster pace than hiking

or jogging.

“When this was all just beginning and it was a group of

three or four guys and some sticks and a shovel, it was all

people we knew, and now it is to the point where when I

go out onto a trail it’s the other way around,” said Heilman.

How exciting it is to see something start so small and

develop into a sport that so many people in Fargo were

clearly looking for.

“The organization’s volunteers, board, and user base come

from all types of backgrounds. Financial, legal, medical,

engineering, construction, you name it. I think we have it

represented, which is also a great indication that it’s not

an exclusive activity. In fact, I think it’s probably the most

open group of people in any sport I’ve ever been associated

with,” said Heilman.

Everyone involved with FM Trailbuilders is a volunteer;

no one is being paid, which shows the dedication to this

sport and organization. If you enjoy the trails or want to

donate your time to help maintain the trails hop over to

their Facebook page or website and get signed up, every

little bit helps.

“It is an activity people can do their whole life and it can

be just for fun, it doesn’t have to be racing,” said Heilman. • / THE GOOD LIFE / 9






What goes into a bottle (or a can)

of beer? For the founding fathers of

Drekker Brewing Company, all the

risks and hard work has been worth

it when they see the community they

love come together over a brew.

These lifelong friends — Mark

Bjornstad, Jesse Feigum, Mason

Montplaisir and Darin Montplaisir —

eventually shared the same affinity

for beer making. After brewing out

of Bjornstad’s garage for a few years,

their hobby soon transformed into

something greater. Friends of friends

became fans of their craft, and their

desire to start a business grew along

with their following.

Since October of 2014, Drekker has

had a presence in downtown Fargo,

but for our interview, we sat in the

bones of their latest endeavor: a

beautiful monstrosity of a building

just off 1st Avenue in Fargo that

hasn’t been occupied since the ‘60s.

We talked about the friends’ history

and even dug up some tidbits they

didn’t know about each other, a feat

none of them thought was possible.

Read on to discover more about some

of Fargo’s most beloved hometown


DREKKER = a combination of Old Norse words:

drekka - to drink / drykkr - a draft drink / drakkar - a Viking dragon ship



Hometown: Fargo

Day job: Anesthetist at Sanford

Position at Drekker: Captain of the Drekker Ship and Scientist

Behind the Beer

Good Life: Why Drekker? Where does the name come from?

Mark Bjornstad: We love this area, the Norse culture and

Scandinavian heritage, so we wanted something that would echo

that and tie into the fabric of this community, like the Hjemkomst

ship. It’s a drakkar — a Viking dragon ship. It’s what they took

into battle. A year after we opened we had a group come in from

Iceland and they loved the brewery. They kept saying how cool the

name was, and we were like, “Yeah, it’s the Viking ship and means

‘to drink.’” They were like, “No, it’s the Icelandic slang term to go

out and share a pint and go out with your friends.” That’s really

kind of kismet because we say our mission is that beer is our

craft, but Drekker is a lot more than the contents of the glass. It’s

about those glasses getting raised together.

GL: What is something even your Drekker family doesn’t know

about you?

MB: One summer, when I was a kid, I made bolo ties and sold


GL: That was so much better of an answer than what I was


MB: My grandpa bought one.

GL: If you ever start that as a side business again, I will buy one

for my boyfriend.


Hometown: Barnesville

Position at Drekker: Head of Nerdery (manages anything that

beeps and boops), Logo Enlargement Specialist

GL: How did you know you wanted to start Drekker and what was

the process like?

JF: We kind of all got into brewing and became obsessed with that

around the same time. It just seemed like the natural progression

of things. We felt like if we didn’t do this, we’d kick ourselves for

the rest of our lives.

GL: What is the secret to having a good beard?

JF: Don’t shave, no matter what others tell you.

GL: How about being a man?

JF: It helps, but it’s not entirely necessary. Don’t shave. Use

conditioner — lots of it.

GL: Does the humidity affect it?

JF: Probably. Having a wife that likes it helps a lot. If you spend

too much time worrying about your beard you’re going to overdo

it. And go to a barber and get it trimmed every once in awhile.

GL: What is one thing your Drekker family doesn’t even know

about you?

JF: I did not make bolo ties. When I was in second grade I wanted

to start a business making rubber band guns. I made like 50 of

them. They probably got thrown away. It was a short phase, but

for about a week there, my plan to take over the world involved

rubber band guns. / THE GOOD LIFE / 11



Hometown: Moorhead

Position at Drekker: Head Brewer, Yeast Wrangler and Master of

Janitorial Arts

Cousin: Mason

GL: What’s the best combination of food and beer?

DM: A perfectly done steak with an IPA — but then again, the

child in the back of my head is thinking of a chocolate ice cream

paired with a stout at the end. That’s really all I’m looking for. Any

of our chocolate-flavored beers paired with a dessert is the finale

at the end and my favorite.

GL: What is your favorite kind of beer, though.

DM: Stop it.

GL: Sorry.

DM: I think the darker, wintrier beers. They can go in so many

directions. They can be really thick, they can be big and chocolaty,

and you can take the same beer and barrel age it and it turns into

something completely different. I think I like those the best, the

dessert-style beers.

GL: Was it freaky to break away from your old job and start this

new venture?

DM: It still is. Every day is a wonderful combination of excitement

and tons of fear. It’s this confused feeling. I walked away from

something I was very confident in and good at into something

I had to figure out on the fly. Every time we feel like we’re just

getting comfortable, something else happens, like building this

place. I have not felt comfortable for even a second, but I think

that’s a good thing.


Hometown: Moorhead

Position at Drekker: Schmengineer, Chief of Hipster Relations

Cousin: Darin

GL: What’s a schmengineer?

MM: I graduated with an engineering degree and I was an

engineer before this. Now I’m just a schmengineer. Jesse kept

making it as a password for me and I could never spell it.

GL: Why do you like beer so much?

MM: It’s so versatile. You can do so many different things and

reach so many people with beer. You can find a beer for anybody.

There are thousands of recipes, and you can add anything you

can think of to beer. There will never be one beer that’s the same.


GL: Do you have any unusual hobbies, like making beer-scented


MM: We don’t have time for hobbies. I used to juggle really well. I

honestly like to dance.

GL: What kind of dancing?

MM: Swing dance. Schwing dance. Schmengineering schwing


GL: Other than schwing dancing, what other dances do you like?

MM: Is the worm a dance because I like to do the worm.

GL: It is. Any schalsa?

MM: The schwaltz.

What does living

the good life

mean to you?

• • •

It’s going out and

being able to share

your crafts and being

proud of what you do.

The best part of this for

me is sharing what I

love to do with people.

– Mason Montplaisir / THE GOOD LIFE / 13


Veteran, Musician, Advocate: Tom Hill



Tom Hill, Director of Community Impact for United Way

of Cass-Clay (UWCC) is a military veteran and musician

who is living his calling of helping others and improving

our community.

Hill grew up in Bismarck, where his parents still reside in

his childhood home.

After high school, in 2000, Hill joined the Army, with

basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri: “I joined

the Army because I wanted to be a part of something

bigger than me. I wanted adventure, travel and to have

experiences I would otherwise not be able to have. I also

liked the idea of duty and service.”

Hill served as a combat engineer and his first duty

station was at Camp Howze, a couple of miles south

of the demilitarized zone in South Korea.

Hill joined the North Dakota National Guard

in early 2003. As part of a humanitarian

peacekeeping mission in Bosnia from July

2003 – April 2004, he monitored the clearing

of minefields to ensure the application of

humanitarian standards so that the cleared

areas would be safe for civilian use.

“One of the coolest experiences in my life

was with the Bosnian minefields. This

minefield was as large as a football field,

taped off into lanes. The people clearing

it used a yardstick and went centimeter

by centimeter to test for mines. We

stood with them. After one minefield

was cleared, I witnessed a farmer

bringing his sheep onto the cleared,

former minefield. Something that

was created in hate and anger and

now, a decade later, it is a farm. It

was like the minefield was never

there. The farmer had an occupation

again.” He added, “Being able to see

that and know I was a part of doing

something good gave me a sense

of pride.”



studying abroad and

the military gave me

an understanding

of the differences in

people, and what

unites us. Being able to

make a difference and

form partnerships is


– Tom Hill / THE GOOD LIFE / 15

"Our community is not too

big, not too small. It is the

right size. It is becoming more

and more of a progressive

community. I like seeing that

and being a part of that."

– Tom Hill

After the military, Hill attended

Minnesota State University Moorhead

(MSUM) on the GI Bill, earning his

bachelor’s in Communication Studies

and Spanish in 2008. While at MSUM,

he studied abroad in Mexico: “I love

Latin American history and Pre-

Columbian civilization. Mayan and

Aztec history and their astronomy,

engineering, and architecture

fascinates me.”

Post-graduation, Hill volunteered for

a study abroad 4-month experience to

Peru. He taught English to children

from 5 to 17 years of age. The poverty

he witnessed touched and galvanized

him to do more than teach English.

The lesson plan “went out the

window” and Hill focused on being

a caring and positive influence. They

played soccer, went to the zoo and

made and ate food together.

After Peru, he knew he wanted to work

to help people. His new position at

United Way of Cass-Clay in 2008 was

a perfect fit. Starting out managing

the School Supply Drive and Day of


Caring for senior citizens, Hill worked

his way to the Director of Community

Impact where he now manages

external investment strategies: “the

process of strategically investing

the money we raise back in the


Life experience prepared him to be

effective in his work: “Volunteering,

studying abroad and the military

gave me an understanding of the

differences in people, and what unites

us. Being able to make a difference

and form partnerships is important.”

At UWCC, Hill said, “we work to

understand the greatest needs in our

community. We examine local data

and national trends in areas of need

such as child care, homelessness,

workforce development, mental

health. etc. How do these trends apply

here? Then we mobilize individuals –

we get the right people at the table –

to form a strategy to reach a solution

to the problem. Then we measure to

see if what we are doing is working,

and invest resources to do more.”

Improving early childhood education

is one passion: “There is a ton of

research about the importance of

early childhood education and quality

child care. When someone thinks

investing in children now won’t show

an impact for twenty years, they are

wrong. It makes a difference. Children

from third grade on need to read

in order to learn. What we invest in

early childhood will make them better

prepared socially, emotionally and

academically. Studies show young

children who receive quality education

and child care are less involved with

juvenile justice and incarcerations.

Child care is a fundamental thing that

we all should care about.”

Hill used this metaphor for bettering

young children: “When is the best time

to plant a tree? 15 years ago. We need

to plant the trees now.”

Hill is devoted to his wife Linny; their

four-month-old son, Shepherd; and

their dog, cats, chickens and soon,

ducks. He loves Fargo-Moorhead:

“Our community is not too big, not too

small. It is the right size. It is becoming more and

more of a progressive community. I like seeing that

and being a part of that.”

Hill also enjoys playing drums in the band, Go

Murphy: “Some people play golf, I play in a band,”

finding it “an honest way of conveying emotions.”

“The good life” means this to Hill: “It is my wife, my

son, my pets, my band and my work. I love what I do

and where I am at. I sometimes think I don’t deserve

what I have. It is staying grounded – realizing what

I have, being humble and using my talents to help

others. I’m a lucky person with a lot of great people

in my life. I’ve had love and support and if I can give

some of that back, great.” • / THE GOOD LIFE / 17



Wil Dort

From Haiti to Haircuts



It’s the story of a childhood right out of a TV commercial,

pleading “Feed the children,” “Donate just 63 cents a day”

or “You can shine bright in the toughest places to be a child.”

No electricity. A hilly, exhausting walk to school. And each

day came without a guarantee of his next meal.

Wil Dort, 33, was born into this life in Haiti.

Now the co-owner of Skill Cutz in Fargo, Dort recalls

his early years without the amenities of modern,

American living. He and his siblings grew up living

with his grandma in the countryside, because his

mother moved to the city to start a business in

hopes of supporting the family.

“My life, it was very different than what you see

here,” Dort recalled.

At just 4 or 5 years old, he would wake up at 6

a.m. to check on and feed the chickens, cows and

pigs and make himself a little breakfast – whatever

he could find – all before going to school.

“If you’re blessed enough where they serve lunch that

day, you’ll get a lunch,” he explained. “(Lunch) wasn’t

every day. It could be breakfast to dinner. You’d be blessed

to get a snack in between.”

Typically, the schools were funded through missionaries,

but now and then the pantry would get robbed.

“Times get hard and people look for a way out,” Dort said.

“We got a small allowance – maybe 50 cents or $1 for the

week at the most. I could never budget so I’d use that to eat

Monday and Tuesday, then it was gone.”

Living a 45-minute walk away from the closest river, just

getting drinking water came with its challenges.

“The same place the animals were drinking – that’s where

we had to drink, too,” Dort said. His trek to school looked

similar – two hours each way.

“It wasn’t flat. You have to cross like two rivers and climb

a mountain. It was quite the journey,” he recalled, able to

chuckle about it now. “We were considered better off and

more fortunate than most. As a kid, you’d never experienced

anything different. That was the norm.”

A Step Below Heaven

Early on, Dort recognized the common goal shared by all


“There’s 10 million people over there and everyone’s hoping

and dreaming to make it to America. Heaven is here,” he

said, setting the bar with his hand. “And America is here –

right below heaven.”

For Dort and his family, that dream would eventually

become a reality.

His father made the trek in 1994. He couldn’t read or write,

but he learned how to sign his name on the way to America.

Working for $5 to $6 an hour at Federal Beef in Fargo, little

by little he’d send money home.

“Unfortunately, he got us here on November 5, 1997 and

then he passed away the fall of 2000,” Dort said. “That

really took a toll on all of us. If he didn’t make the sacrifice,

we would have never made it here.”

Ex-Con Turns Life Around

to Open Skill Cutz Barbershop / THE GOOD LIFE / 19


"The home i grew up in.

Family of six - makes me

realize how blessed i am

today." - Wil Dort


Finding His Wings

After his father died, Dort began testing his boundaries. He

attended Fargo North but flunked his senior year.

“I was rebelling against my mom who was trying to raise

me as a man,” he said. “The things she was saying – I know

now were good for me – I didn’t follow.”

At 18, he moved out and was introduced to temptations he

couldn’t resist. What started with marijuana and alcohol

eventually escalated.

“It was a crazy, out-of-control spin in my life – just using,

abusing and selling drugs,” he said. “It wasn’t long after that

I found myself on the streets. I was evicted and didn’t have

a place to sleep.”

From 2004 to the winter of 2005, Dort lived on his buddy’s

trailer floor until an informant eventually busted him for

selling methamphetamine. In the middle of the chaos,

something told him to go to New York where his stepbrother

lived. He shoved his clothes into a black, plastic bag,

left his apartment and car to a buddy and told his girlfriend

he was moving.

After successfully quitting drugs cold

turkey in New York, Dort bounced

back to his old ways when he

returned to North Dakota in 2006.

With the chill of winter came a

shocking phone call from his

brother, asking "What are you

doing in Fargo's Most Wanted?”




As it turns out, two years prior his roommate had

taken his sister’s car, gotten drunk, crashed

it and left the scene of the crime. Law

enforcement traced it back to Dort’s

mother’s house and caught his

friend red-handed. Because of

his previous record, the friend

gave Dort’s name as his own.

For whatever reason, Dort allowed it,

paid the fees, performed community service and went to

alcohol evaluation. Just when he thought he had paid his

(friend’s) dues, he was pulled over on his 20th birthday and

arrested on a warrant for a hit and run – dating back to the

original incident.

"I spent three to four days in jail,” Dort said. “Where was

the friend who was supposed to bail me out? Nowhere to

be found.”

Thankfully, his girlfriend at the time, Mb (short for Mbang),

came to the rescue. His future bride knew he was struggling

and living on the street, but she never knew the full extent

of his story.

“I ended up telling her everything. I feel like God was

preparing me by clearing the air of everything I did," he said.

"I think it helped me keep her. Because she didn't know the

person that was about to come out.”

Pedaling Toward Success

Even in Haiti, Dort started cutting hair at just 8 or 9 years

old, so when he was looking for change, Mb helped him

take the next step.

"Man, she's an angel,” he said. “She got me into barber


Throughout school, he was still attending court for his

charges. One day, he left school and didn’t return.

Unbenounced to him, Dort’s lawyer showed up late to court

to inform him of the plea deal he had accepted without

Dort’s knowledge on his behalf. He was sentenced to nine

months in jail and was booked that day.

Worse yet? As a convicted felon, his financial aid would be

cut off. / THE GOOD LIFE / 21


Thankfully, during his sentence, Dort was introduced to a program called the Jail

Chaplains Association. In Haiti, his dad was a voodoo priest and Dort attended church

stubbornly in Fargo as a kid, but never really found his faith.

"I knew I wanted to change. I felt like (Mb) was an angel and I was a demon,” he said.

"I believe God put us together. The things that I put her through – to stick with me – I

believe only in Christ you find that kind of love.”

By the grace of God, a man looking to open a barber shop asked Dort to work for him.

However, without his license, Dort wouldn’t have been qualified… that is, until the man

offered to pay for his education.

"When you start doing the right things, the right things start to happen,” Dort

said. “I had to put my faith into action and my life started changing.”

Thankfully, he was granted school release and able to continue his

studies. But with no other means of transportation, Dort was forced

to ride his cellmate’s daughter’s purple bike from Cass County Jail to

Moler Barber College in downtown Fargo. Sidewalks full of snow, it

wasn’t an easy ride.

"I kept telling myself, 'I'm riding toward success,’” Dort recalled.

And little by little, his dreams grew larger. "I remember

telling my cellies, ‘I'm going to open a barbershop.'


One guy said, 'Yeah, everybody in here has a plan to do

something with their life when they get out,'" he said.

Released in July 2007, Dort graduated from barber school

as the “First Black Barber in North Dakota.”

Chasing One More Dream

After a few years working for someone else, Dort and a

friend decided to chase their dream and finally open a shop

of their own. But with nothing in the bank, Dort didn’t know

where to start. By another near miracle, his high school

teacher offers to loan him the money to get started.

Starting with just a $2,500 investment, Dort and his crew

have since grown and expanded Skill Cutz, opening Skill

Cutz Barber College in September 2017.

Now, Dort and two other licensed instructors teach eight

students from their mid-20s to mid-40s, having just

celebrated the business’s 10th anniversary in August. Today,

he and AJ co-own the barber shop and their older brother,

Louima, has just enrolled in their barber college.

"When you find your purpose in what you love to do, it makes

(working) easier," he said. "Talking to and encouraging

people, I find it fulfilling because you're changing a life –

you're saving a life."

Rising Through the Smoke

Looking back at his trials and tribulations, Dort is thankful

for the struggles.

"It's not impossible to get out,” he explained. “The room is

like a smoke room. Where people are bouncing off the wall,

there's a door. You gotta look for that door, and I believe my

door is Christ. If you're looking for other things to get you

out – drugs and all that stuff – it's only for a moment.”

For those who find themselves drowning

in similar situations, Dort offers this

advice: "Don't make hard impossible…

it's hard. That's the story that's painted

on a lot of ghetto streets or even in tough

Haitian neighborhoods,” he said. "The world

might make you do five push-ups. The world

might make me do 10. But if I continue to do

my 10 while the other person does their five, I'll

be stronger.”

For Dort, the good life means “a Christcentered

life with happiness and joy,"

he said. "No matter what the world

says about you, where you've been or

how you start, it's all about where you go.

It's about finding purpose and direction for

your life." • / THE GOOD LIFE / 23


“I made my first wood

sculpture when I was 15.

I thought I could make a

German Shepherd out of

this log. I did it, although it

probably looked more like

a gargoyle, and I thought

I had invented chainsaw



The Good Life caught up with the lively, creative Dave Belling,

“Chainsaw Dave,” to hear about his chainsaw wood and ice

sculptures, his military service and philosophy of life.

This Fargo and Erie, ND native, has created many ice and

wood sculptures around the region. And, yes, he literally

creates them using his chainsaw.

A man with many stories, Belling’s trajectory moves from

a North Dakota childhood to Marine Corps service in

Afghanistan, to directing public works departments, and

now, creating sculpture on his own terms.

Belling said, “I made my first wood sculpture when I

was 15. I thought I could make a German shepherd out

of this log. I did it, although it probably looked more

like a gargoyle, and I thought I had invented chainsaw


Belling’s mother and father split when he was four

years old: “I grew up between YMCA and The Ridge.”

He dropped out of high school when he was 16 and

worked for his family’s tree service business.

Belling went into Marine Corps boot camp at San

Diego, CA on August 27, 2007. Belling’s military

service was in Afghanistan as a Corporal: “For the

first six months, I was in a fire cell – fire support

coordination center – where we would target

individuals. The second six months we took the

heartland from the Taliban.”

He received a Navy/Marine Corps medal for building a

compound by himself. He also appeared in the Marine

Corps magazine.

Belling then was a combat marksmanship

coach at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot

at Parris Island SC, teaching young recruits

how to shoot effectively: “It was one of the

best things that I have ever done. I guarantee

that I decreased combat fatalities from

training those kids. I would also tell them that

with power comes great responsibility.”

After returning from Afghanistan, he and his wife

divorced: “I tore down my house and converted

my garage into something like a camp.” Like many

war veterans, he went into the woods for a “sense of

security.” He continued, “I worked hard, and simply,

then and sent all of my money to my ex-wife and

daughter.” / THE GOOD LIFE / 25

Belling now wants to use his influence “in a more

positive way.” Belling sees much potential in our

children: “Our current system is alarmingly failing

our children. As adults, it is each and every one of

our obligation to make a positive impact on our youth.

They are our future. ”

Belling wants to start a Chainsaw Dave’s Youth

Camp to “put our energy into helping kids become

good people: to let kids know they can be small

business owners, they can be rock stars! Let me be

your paradigm of hope. You do not have to follow

the traditional path.” He envisions it as a 2-week

boot camp and is looking for community partners or

grants to help.

Belling also worked in two different North Dakota

towns in Public Works for three years. As head of

the public works department in Stanley, Belling said

he quit due to a “good old boys network.” But after

leaving: “I knew it was time to pursue my art.”

Before he left the position in Stanley, Belling had

“promoted the eradication of Dutch Elm Disease

by writing and receiving two $20,000 ‘America the

Beautiful’ grants.” He described the second grant was

“to replant flowering trees.” He added, “Sometime in

the next ten years, I am going to go with daughter,

Evelyn, on my chopper” and they will see the flowering

trees that resulted from that planning.

Of chainsaw art: “I had this undeniable magnetic pull

to do it. But somehow, between my work, marriage

and military, I always had to put it on the back burner.”

He added, “Chainsaw art has been my vent to help me

through PTSD and suicidal thoughts which a lot of

veterans experience.”

One of his favorite ice sculptures is one he created on the

Veterans Memorial Bridge linking Fargo and Moorhead:

“On one side there is a Marine struggling against a

wall. And on the other side is a wife/mother and a child

putting up a wall.” It reflected his personal experience.

He added, “I want people to know that although I fought

in the war, I am an ambassador for peace.”

Another favorite was a guerrilla piece he did in front

of Dempsey’s next to the painted bison. His friend,

Brandon Yellowbird, modeled for an ice sculpture as a

“proud Native American man two hundred years ago.”

Belling froze an ice arrow to the bison.

Belling is excited about his future. He and his partner

are expecting twin boys this month – planning to name

them Davidson Young Belling and Haakon Taylor

Belling. Their nickname is already “The Beastie Boys”:

“The future of the free world lies in Evelyn, Davidson

and Haakon’s hands.”

As a next step, Belling wants to do a podcast “Confessions

of a Chainsaw Artist: Chainsaw Dave Worldwide.”


Belling is open for commissions of ice and wood

sculpture, including weddings and any other special

occasions. He especially wants to tackle larger


What does “The Good Life” mean to Belling? He

unabashedly answered, “I did my fair share of trying

to conform in school, the military, and more… trying

to do things the way I

was told. While I am

thankful for those

experiences, I know

now that you need

to follow your heart.

There is a compass

inside of you. I feel

like a cowboy. When

I travel, I camp in

people’s backyards and

create sculptures.

There is much

beauty in this

life. Then I get

to come back

home to my

‘Beastie Boys’

sons and my

daughter. I now

listen to my

heart.” • / THE GOOD LIFE / 27



Prepare for Winter

with These 5 Fall

Lawn Care Tips


Summer is coming to a close and soon sunny days at the lake will be replaced with

cozy nights by the fire. Fall jackets will be pulled from storage, leaves will shift

from green to vibrant shades of red and orange, and pumpkin spice everything

will take over. Before you know it, it will be time to dust off your trusty shovel

in anticipation of the first snowfall. Until then, it’s time to take advantage of

the cool weather and get a head start on ensuring your lawn is healthy for the

coming spring.

Taking care of your lawn doesn’t have to be a lengthy or stressful process. By

implementing these five simple tips, your lawn will be in excellent condition

when the weather turns warm again. •


keep mowing

As the weather cools and the grass stops its rapid growth,

it might be tempting to put away the lawn mower for good.

It may be surprising, but experts suggest continuing to

mow throughout the fall. As fall draws to a close, drop the

mower blade to its lowest setting for the final two mows.

This will allow more sunlight to penetrate the crown of

the grass and reduce the amount of grass that turns



weed control

Fall is when plants go into energy absorption mode,

which makes it the perfect time to take a whack at

weed control. By using weed killer in the mid-tolate

fall, you can prevent weeds from returning

in the spring. Most weed killers suggest using

them while the temperature is still above 60

degrees Fahrenheit, so be sure to check the

directions when selecting a weed killer.



Fall is also a wonderful time to fill any

bare spots that may have accumulated

over the summer. Most home and

garden stores sell premixed bags


of grass seed, fertilizer, and mulch which takes the

guesswork out of the process. Simply loosen the soil

in the bare patch and spread an even layer of the mix

on top. Lightly compact the soil to keep it from blowing

away and give it a healthy amount of water. Keep watering

every other day for two weeks to allow the grass seed to

lay down roots.



Fertilizing the lawn goes hand in hand with treating weeds in

the fall. While the grass blades grow slower, the roots continue

to grow rapidly, making the fall the optimal time to fertilize!

Applying a dry fertilizer in the mid-to-late fall allows the nutrients

to penetrate more deeply and will give your lawn a healthy head

start come spring.

rake the leaves


Raking leaves can seem like an endless task each fall but taking the time

to clean them up is going to benefit your lawn in the long run. Leaving

a blanket of leaves on the ground causes them to become heavy and wet

due to rain and morning dew. Not only does this make it harder to clean

them up later, it can also suffocate the grass and cause fungal diseases that

are detrimental to your lawn. To make the task easier rake leaves as they fall

rather than waiting for a large pile to accumulate. • / THE GOOD LIFE / 29





HHad it not been for

her daughter’s idea for

a 4H project, Linda

Wiedewitsch may

never have ended up

in the profession of

training dogs to serve others.

Twenty years ago, her daughter Laura

wanted to raise a puppy to become a

service dog for the blind. Soon after,

her other daughter Jess decided to

raise a service dog as well, and just

like that, Wiedewitsch was “hopelessly

hooked”, and the seeds for Patriot

Assistance Dogs were planted.

But she didn’t start right away.

Wiedewitsch, who’s originally from

Detroit Lakes, spent 31 years in law

enforcement in Minnesota. After

retiring in 2006, she decided to turn

a hobby into a retirement job and

opened Lucky Dog Boarding and

Training Center.


“I just love dogs, and I enjoy helping

people learn about their dogs and how

to handle their dogs,” she said.

After opening the kennel, she received

a request to assist with training

a seizure alert dog. Then another

request. Then another. One request

involved training a service dog to assist

a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

(PTSD) patient. She’s also assisted in

training dogs for hearing, for children

on the autism spectrum, mobility.



“This organization is about

rescuing dogs, training

dogs and letting the dogs

>rescue the veterans.”

Then, requests came in for dogs trained to

assist veterans.

And Wiedewitsch realized that despite all the

great agencies she’d built relationships with

over the years, she had no contacts for that


“I knew of no one to refer them to, but

veterans certainly deserve our help,” she said.

“They fought for us and helped guarantee

our freedom.”

After doing some research, Wiedewitsch

realized she was perfectly suited for the role. / THE GOOD LIFE / 31


“I already knew the public access

portion and the training,” she said. “It’s

just a matter of teaching the dogs and

giving them permission to respond to

things they are already sensing.”

In 2011, Patriot Assistance Dogs

placed its first two dogs in December,

with them earning their official service

dog certification by the spring of 2012.

PAD officially earned its 501(c)3 status

in 2013. Since then, Patriot Assistance

Dogs has trained 154 certified teams,

which include the dog and its handler.

A second chance

Wiedewitsch explained that the PAD

program offers dogs a second chance

at a better life. Her kennel rents space

to The Marshmallow Foundation

which has pound contracts with several

local cities. Cassi Ohman, the pound

manager in Detroit Lakes, screens

unclaimed animals to ascertain if

they’d be a good fit for PAD. “She’s

very good at scouting dogs for us,” she


Another contact in Nebraska with

Second Chance Pups keeps an eye

out for ideal dogs for PAD. “We’ve

had a dozen or more dogs from that

(Nebraska) program,” she says.

In addition, she works with the

Marshmallow Foundation for the

same reason - well behaved dogs that

could live a better life.

“That’s part of the magic of Patriot

Assistance Dogs -- between 70 and 80

percent of dogs we use as service dogs

come from city pounds, reservation

roundups, and surrenders.”

Wiedewitsch says the remaining dogs

come from reputable breeders.

Training and temperament

Wiedewitsch said the ideal dog for

the program is about a year old –

puppies take too long to mature.

Dogs older than four or five years

can be set in some bad habits and

won’t be able to serve quite as long.

Once a dog is a program prospect, a

complete medical workup evaluates

the animal’s overall health. More

important than its medical history is

the dog’s temperament.

“Many of the dogs that come through

a rescue organization realize this is

my chance at a better life; they don’t

like scavenging or sleeping outside,”

she explained. “We look for dogs that

would rather be with people than




“I just love dogs, and I enjoy

helping people learn about their

dogs and how to handle their

dogs.” – Linda Wiedewitsch,

Patriot Assistance Dogs trainer

>other dogs. When we look for those characteristics,

things have turned out well.”

In addition, the dog has to learn to be obedient in

public and be tolerant of all the chaos associated with

it. Wiedewitsch says part of the program involves

training the dogs with firefighters, EMS personnel,

ambulances, bus trips, and community events; it’s all

part of understanding how the dog will behave when

serving its human.

Once the dog passes the medical and temperament

test, the animal trains 6 to 9 months before meeting a

veteran. / THE GOOD LIFE / 33


A practical process

For veterans seeking a service dog, the

process starts with a basic application

and an inquiry about the top three

things a dog would need to do or help

the person with. In order to comply

with the American Disabilities Act,

Wiedewitsch says the dog must be able

to perform specific tasks to mitigate

symptoms. For example, a dog can

be trained to wake a veteran who

experiences anxious dreams, she says.

The dog is then trained to respond

to its natural sensing of heart rate or

respiration changes. Dogs can even

sense adrenaline and blood pressure


“They sense these changes before

we as people are even aware they are

happening,” Wiedewitsch says. They

can calm the veteran before a panic or

anxiety attack actually occurs.

Prior to acceptance, veterans have to

provide information regarding their

branch of service, dates of service

and the terms of their separation from

service, plus proof of treatment for

mental health.

“A dog is not the silver bullet,” she

says. “A dog won’t cure everything.”

That’s why the veteran has to supply


information about mental health

treatment, and the provider needs to

detail the diagnosis and how a service

dog would be a good component of the


Veterans also need to supply

information about a veterinarian

that would treat the dog. “We’re very

particular about the care of dogs,”

she says. “We require that the dog be

maintained at a healthy weight, be

checked regularly, vaccinated properly.

This is the dog’s second shot at a good

life for them, and it’s our responsibility

to make sure the veteran will provide


Finally, the veteran provides a sponsor,

a friend or relative who will check

in regularly on the person and the

animal. A sponsor agrees to keep PAD

informed if unusual circumstances


Once in, a veteran undergoes a weeklong

training class to determine which

dog is the best fit. Trainers may think

they know which dog is right for a

veteran, but often the dog identifies its

own veteran.

“We as trainers have to sit back because

the dogs don’t get it wrong,” she says.

Down to business

Training dogs to serve humans is a

serious business, and every dog has

to pass the Canine Good Citizen test,

the final check in a 10-step program

developed by the American Kennel


The dog also has to demonstrate its

ability to perform the three tasks that

will help mitigate the symptoms the

veteran experience. Both evaluations

are conducted by someone outside of


Once the team has trained, the veteran

and dog return home and spend a

minimum of six weeks and a maximum

of six months living together and

acclimating to the new life.

“Basically, we’re looking for whether

the dog does at home what we have

trained it to do,” she says.

If the dog does, the team returns to

perform a public access and skills test

conducted by a master dog trainer

PAD hires to certify the dog. After that,

the team is on a two-year probation to

make sure the dog remains healthy, a

check possible due to the veterinarian

submitting records of annual

checkups. Only after those two years

and no infractions does the veteran

take full ownership of the dog.

A life spent serving

PAD wants to serve veterans, and

the demand for trained service dogs

is high. When the organization was

first founded, it accepted veterans

nationwide. Soon after, PAD shrunk

its service footprint to make sure it

could adequately serve the teams it

was matching and training.

Applications roll in consistently, and if

the wait for an available class exceeds

12 months, the organization will

suspend processing applications to

make sure veterans don’t have to wait

too long to receive a service dog.

PAD is a lean organization, with no

full-time employees and only four part-

time employees who train, manage administrative tasks

and track finances. The board of directors serves as a

source of expertise and manpower, as the individuals

often serve the organization during various training

classes and events. Around 15 to 20 individuals regularly

volunteer for PAD.

When it comes to needs, like any nonprofit, PAD tries to

maximize its budget as best as it can to continue serving

veterans who need help from a trained animal. A qualified,

experienced grant writer is needed, Wiedewitsch says, to

seek other sources of funding for the organization.

“This organization is about rescuing dogs, training dogs

and letting the dogs rescue the veterans,” Wiedewitsch

says. “It’s not about making money; it’s about rescuing

dogs and rescuing veterans.”

That’s what the good life is to Wiedewitsch - it’s giving

a dog a new life, so it can, in return, give life back to a


“We take these dogs who want to work and make sure

they are medically sound and give them to veterans who

came back to a society they protected and that they want

to be a part of.”

In addition to the daughters who initially inspired

Wiedewitsch’s love of service dogs, she also cites her

husband, Archie, as a major source of support and love.

“I couldn’t do it without him,” she says. • / THE GOOD LIFE / 35

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