HAVING A BEER WITH
THE FOUNDERS OF
HEART AND ART OF
FALL LAWN CARE
PREPARE FOR WINTER
WITH THESE 5 TIPS
PATRIOT ASSISTANCE DOGS
From Haiti to Haircuts
FREE TO A GOOD HOME
FATHERS | MR. FULL-TIME DAD
WRITTEN BY: BEN HANSON • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
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…
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,
2 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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.
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.
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. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 3
VOLUME 6 • ISSUE 2
FATHERS / MR. FULL-TIME DAD
3 IS THE NEW 23
GETTING BACK INTO NATURE
HAVING A BEER WITH
THE FOUNDERS OF DREKKER
UNITING THE COMMUNITY
VETERAN, MUSICIAN, ADVOCATE: TOM HILL
ON THE COVER: WIL DORT
FROM HAITI TO HAIRCUTS
EX-CON TURNS LIFE AROUND TO OPEN
SKILL CUTZ BARBERSHOP
THE UNTAMED HEART AND ART OF
FALL LAWN CARE
PREPARE FOR WINTER WITH THESE
5 FALL LAWN CARE TIPS
PATRIOT ASSISTANCE DOGS
OFFERS HOPE AND HELP FOR DOGS
4 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 5
6 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
these paths you can
see the enjoyment on
and it is definitely
WRITTEN BY: KRISSY NESS
PHOTOS BY: MJOY PHOTOGRAPHY
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.
urbantoadmedia.com / 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.
fmtrailbuilders.org, 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
8 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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
“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. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 9
HAVING A BEER WITH | DREKKER BREWING
WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
HAVING A BEER WITH THE FOUNDERS OF
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
10 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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
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.
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
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.
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 11
HAVING A BEER WITH | DREKKER BREWING
Position at Drekker: Head Brewer, Yeast Wrangler and Master of
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.
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
GL: Was it freaky to break away from your old job and start this
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.
Position at Drekker: Schmengineer, Chief of Hipster Relations
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.
12 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 13
UNITING THE COMMUNITY
Veteran, Musician, Advocate: Tom Hill
WRITTEN BY: BRITTNEY GOODMAN
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
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
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
14 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
studying abroad and
the military gave me
of the differences in
people, and what
unites us. Being able to
make a difference and
form partnerships is
– Tom Hill
urbantoadmedia.com / 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
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
16 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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.” •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 17
ON THE COVER | WIL DORT
18 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
From Haiti to Haircuts
WRITTEN BY: ALEXANDRA FLOERSCH
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
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
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 19
ON THE COVER | WIL DORT
"The home i grew up in.
Family of six - makes me
realize how blessed i am
today." - Wil Dort
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: 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
“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?”
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: WIL DORT
WIL AND HIS WIFE MBANG
20 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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
"I spent three to four days in jail,” Dort said. “Where was
the friend who was supposed to bail me out? Nowhere to
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
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 21
ON THE COVER | WIL DORT
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.'
22 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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
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." •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 23
WRITTEN BY: BRITTNEY GOODMAN • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
“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
24 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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
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.” urbantoadmedia.com / 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
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.”
26 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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
There is much
beauty in this
life. Then I get
to come back
home to my
sons and my
daughter. I now
listen to my
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 27
LAWN CARE TIPS
Prepare for Winter
with These 5 Fall
Lawn Care Tips
WRITTEN BY: KATIE JENISON
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
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. •
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
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
28 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 29
LOCAL HERO | PATRIOT ASSISTANCE DOGS
A LIFE OF SERVICE
PATRIOT ASSISTANCE DOGS OFFERS HOPE AND HELP
FOR DOGS AND VETS
HHad it not been for
her daughter’s idea for
a 4H project, Linda
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
“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.
WRITTEN BY: DANIELLE TEIGEN • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
30 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
“This organization is about
rescuing dogs, training
dogs and letting the dogs
>rescue the veterans.”
Then, requests came in for dogs trained to
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
After doing some research, Wiedewitsch
realized she was perfectly suited for the role.
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 31
LOCAL HERO | PATRIOT ASSISTANCE DOGS
“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
32 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
“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
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 33
LOCAL HERO | PATRIOT ASSISTANCE DOGS
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
“A dog is not the silver bullet,” she
says. “A dog won’t cure everything.”
That’s why the veteran has to supply
34 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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
“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. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 35