Those are the three words I often choose to describe what life is like in western North Dakota’s oil patch. Grease and invert stick to clothes and men’s faces like flies on cattle on a scorching August afternoon. On gravel roads, tankers on their way to oil wells kick up blizzard-like plumes of dust. Drilling wells groan and grind as drill bits dig deep into the earth. Massive trucks carrying trailers, pipes, hay bales, giant barrels — pretty much everything — rumble and screech on narrow two-lane highways.
What happens when a mud pump falls on a roughneck? In the case of Richard Karpe, they took him to the hospital and doctors tried to amputate his arm. Not so fast, said Richard’s mother: “You wake him up and tell him because I don’t think he’s gonna let you cut his arm off.”
How long will the boom endure? Two years? Five years? 20 years? No one really knows for sure. But when the day comes, you better have some money in the bank or kiss the Harley-Davidson, the boat, the house and maybe even, the wife and kids, goodbye.
North Dakota’s oil boom has forced many families to make tough decisions. Shannon Atwell is living proof. Shannon recently moved her four young boys from their farm in Missouri to a cramped trailer near Williston, North Dakota. The boys’ father moved there two years ago to work in the oil fields and the family finally decided join him. This is Shannon’s story. Click to listen.
Boomtowns bring with them appetites. Restaurants catering to oil workers in western North Dakota try to meet diners’ demands. But waits are long, and so are lines for drive-thrus. One solution is the food truck. In Williston, one food truck is putting an authentic twist on Mexican takeaway.
Not too long ago, reporter Diane Richard and photographer Todd Melby rode a school bus to Alexander, N.D. with a state trooper, a driver and lots of children. We shared that audio story with you in an earlier post. Now we’re sharing the photos. Click and watch full screen.