Bombing Through the Bakken

On July 7, 2012, I departed Bismarck for western North Dakota to take in another sample and slice of the industrial labor boom that comes with being the #2 oil producer in the United States. I left Bismarck, traveled down I-94 to Dickinson, turned north onto Highway 22, looped around through Watford City, up through Alexander and then into Williston. A sample of that is in the video below, the intersection of Highway 22 and the Green River just north of Dickinson, North Dakota.

This was taken on a Saturday (presumably a more toned down day of labor than a weekday?). From the cab of a ’93 S-10, semis whipping by give the impression of this. And that is tempered by the realities of real life stories, this one by Scott Grote when he confronted a truck dumping salt water on a road (presumably around Tioga, yes?):

“I found a truck dumping salt water on the road. Just open the valve and they drive down the road. I followed him into location to have a little talk with him. He was going to have a talk with me with his hammer. And I had my .45. That’s how I got away from that one. It’s not much fun. Wherever you go, you got one eye open looking for what’s coming.”
[The full story is linked here, and I came across this through Mike Frohlich.]
North Dakota has hit the big time whether we like it or not. While some of us enjoy Mad Max movies and labor industrial environs, there are many who understandably want a slice of the way things used to be (and this phrase, “the way things used to be,” is forever changing, since what’s different today will tomorrow be the way things used to be — once again, historians love tracking change throughout time).

A July 7, 2012 photo of Gramma Sharon’s in Williston, North Dakota. Note the oil truck at left, and the wood frame construction in the back-drop. As for the BLT when you get here.

When I arrived in Williston, I arguably had a bit of normalcy, at least in the form of one of the best BLTs I’ve had in the last 5 years, this at Gramma Sharon’s — even in the Mad Max series there are segments of normalcy. For a BLT, some potato chips, a couple pickles and about a gallon of icy cold ice tea, I was charged $6.97 (If you prefer unsweetened tea, it might be worthwhile to say, “Do you have unsweetened tea?” I do this since the southern migration into the northern Plains will invariably bring sweet tea

This is how they log complaints at Gramma Sharon’s in Williston, North Dakota.

along with it). They are also into self-empowerment at Gramma Sharon’s, and they communicate this in a way typical to North Dakota. If you have a complaint for management, you’re free to fill out an application to become a solution instead of contributing to the problem.

Of course, the pendulum swings back the other way, since everything is not a sustained normalcy. (Note: “sustained normalcy” is a fallacy in any time and age of human history; it’s probably a good idea to think what we mean by “sustainability” when we say it.) After lunch, I had a conversation with a white collar worker, and she said her lodging had to be subsidized since there was no way her salary could accommodate how the oil boom has inflated monthly apartment rates. This even came on the heels of some kind of 10% raise to her said salary. Ouch.
How to manage all of this change is a huge topic of conversation. And it’s nothing to be addressed in full in any singular blog posting. But this is just another contribution.

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