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North Dakota Railroad Commission

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The North Dakota Board of Railroad Commissioners was a North Dakota constitutional agency that was the precedent of the North Dakota Public Service Commission. The Commission consisted of three elected Railroad Commissioners, and was created in 1889. In 1940, in response to the commission's expanding duties beyond the railroad industry, it was renamed the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Faces of the Oil Patch
  • Mother Nature in Charge: Devils Lake The Dilemma
  • Fracking Boom In North Dakota Causes Tap Water To Ignite


There's a derrick off to the south just being drilled. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. If you go up on the ridge, there's 16, 17, right, I can see from here, and those are all new Bakken wells. But in another 5 years, there'll probably be, you know, if there's 17 wells here now, there'll probably be 47; it wouldn't surprise me, the way they're talkin'. (woman) This program is funded by-- the North Dakota Humanities Council, a nonprofit independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities; the North Dakota Council on the Arts, and by the members of Prairie Public. [woman speaks on the intercom] [man speaks on the intercom] (male officer) I'll be 10-8. I've been with the sheriff's office since December so it'll be almost a year. I used to work for the Williston Police Department. I left and went to the oil field for 6 months. I missed this too much and came back. Typical day would just be patrolling and making sure everything's alright in the county, running traffic. You know, everybody used to be excited for a Friday night 'cause that's when the action would happen. It doesn't matter if it's Friday anymore. It could be Monday, it could be Sunday and just crazy. I patrol Williams County, and we're running quite thin. There's a bar in town and Friday, Saturday nights, it's pretty much expected to go to that bar at 1:00 AM for a bar fight. The weapons calls have increased drastically. You know, there's prostitution, of course, you know. The traffic has gotten horrible. Before you could make it across town in 5 minutes, if that. Now it takes 20. This is the RV park. You'll be driving by one day, nothing'll be here, you'll drive by the next day and boom, it's here. We've gotten calls frequently, just because there's so many people movin' in. The people we have here now are not like the people, you know, we still deal with our locals, of course, you know, the frequent fliers, if you will, but there are people here now who, they don't care if you're a cop or not. They don't care if you're telling 'em to do something. It doesn't matter to them. It is very stressful, and it's very concerning. At 3:00 in the morning on a Monday night, you wouldn't see a car downtown Williston, on the highways, at all. Now it's just all night, steady, cars, people walking-- steady. (man) It was in April of '51 that they hit oil. Anwar Petroleum at that time were leasing land and they come around and leased to my dad anyhow. and I'm sure when he leased it, he just thought wasting your time coming up here to North Dakota to drill for oil. And it was really exciting when they started, you know, we'd never seen anything like that before. They come down with truck after truck of oil well parts, and then they finally got it all put together and then they started drilling and people in North Dakota weren't used to seeing anything like that. They come up Sundays just to see what was going on, and it was quite a bit of traffic and people were pretty excited about the first oil rig in North Dakota. Every time you'd go to town, everybody'd ask ya, "Did they hit oil yet? Did they hit oil yet?" "No, no, no, no," and then they were hoping it would develop into something that's profitable. They knew they had oil there, but they didn't know how much. At that time oil was only $3.00 a barrel, so folks didn't make too much money off their oil. Now it's a lot different. They come up and wanted mineral rights. they'd probably get $50 an acre if you'd get that much and now they get a tremendous amount of money for an acre. A lot of times I'll drive past the farm and go turn around and come on in and look at it and remember exactly it was back in them old days. Well I'm Pudge, and we come to Williston to work in the oil fields. Pretty busy every day; come out in the morning and get all the trucks running and get the drivers in 'em and get 'em sent out to haul gravel. I guess the biggest challenge is getting truck parts and tires and that kind of thing. It's getting a lot better because more companies are moving in. We worked in another oil boom in Colorado. That's where we were before this one, and after that shut down, we were hauling equipment up here to Williston for the construction companies that build the locations and stuff, and then we just got connected with some of the companies and come up to haul gravel for 'em. I think we've ruined their little town here. It was a nice town and now it's just crazy, like a big city. (woman) Our lands are checkerboard, meaning some parcels are fee and some are trust. So the companies came and drilled where they could drill quicker, which is, of course, on the fee land, which is off the reservation, and then on the fee land within the reservation. A lot of the lands here were leased, perhaps for farming or grazing, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs takes care of those leases on behalf of tribal members. We're one of the few tribes where we can actually own land. There are tribes where all land is tribal. Because it's trust land, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has a lot of say over how those lands will be managed. And as an allottee, is what they call those of us who have a share of land, the Bureau has a lot of say on what takes place on our individual lands. And as a result of the, of course, the unique relationship with the government, we have forced dependency on them. I feel fortunate to get to be an allottee, a landowner. At the same time, I am not like a Jane Doe out there, who, when they come on her land and want to drill, it's a matter of weeks they can get a drilling permit. For my land, being that it's in trust status, it's comparable to a national park. The Bureau, the government, with that dependency that I have to have with them because of their control, you could say, over us, they're supposed to watch out for my lands and there are 46 steps that had to be taken in order for us to get to the point where we can have the company drill, and that's down to the drilling permit. (man) Many of us went broke in the mid '80's, and I'm included-- flat broke. We all made some money back in the '70's and we parlayed it and leveraged it and we didn't, quite frankly, we didn't have enough money to even leave town. And if we'd left town, I'd probably be looking on the outside saying geez, I wish I'd have stayed there. Those of us that chose to work with the banks that survived, are all doing fairly well right now. Those of us that declared war with the bank, the bank won. And most of those folks are gone. We're 24/7, that's why I've just been on one job this morning, now I'm headed to another job. I'll probably be up at least 28 hours. I've been up 64 hours before-- straight. it's changed a lot; there were 46 rigs when I first came up here, there's over 200 now. I've been up here 6 months straight, so that's quite a long time. I'm supposed to be on a 28 and 14 rotation, but that doesn't always happen. It's hard; it really is, it's hard. The elements are brutal and then on top of that, it's a mental thing 'cause they're away from their families. But thank god that we have a place in the United States that's really, it is, it's rolling, it's providing a lot of income for a lot of people all over the United States. (man) It's kind of heartbreaking to go out there in the wie open spaces that you'd known as a kid and rode through and chased cattle all your life, is changing with roads and oil development and that's the hard thing for me to look at, knowing that it'll never be the same or my grandkids will never remember it like I do. We run cattle out here since in the '50s, and this is kind of the impact you see on the grassland. A lot of roads and lots of flares; There's too much wellhead pressure, so the pipeline can't take all the gas, so they have to burn the excess. If you can hear, that flare just kicked on. It comes bubbles of gas once in a while and it really, there it went back down again, it just comes a burst every once in a while of the gas. It sure doesn't bother the cows any there. Everywhere you look there's wells. They kind of paint 'em to look natural to the surroundings. Years ago my other grandfather on my mom's side he ran into some tough luck and he traded a lot of his minerals to help buy a new tractor or new car. The local dealer, he took those in on trade. And that's the way it was with a lot of our neighbors too, that during the depression and the tough times, in order to keep the farm and ranch going, they sold off some of their minerals to pay some bills. If you were fortunate enough to have got some land 30, 40 years ago, and maybe some of the mineral rights came along with the surface, you're pretty lucky. But if you've bought anything in the last, well, since the last boom, none of the mineral rights went along with the surface, hardly any of it. The countryside is what really gets me, I guess, is the way the landscape is going to change, the amount of wells here and there, and sounds like they're going to be here for quite a while. Good for the State of North Dakota. There's some hardships that come with it. It's probably good in the end and we'll learn to live with it like we did before; we'll adjust. (man) It don't matter to me; I'll haul whatever they need hauled. It's all about trying to make as much money as you can while you're up here. I've been told I'm allowed 14 hours a day, and two of 'em, as long as 2 of 'em are resting or waiting in line, kind of relaxing. But you can run 7 days a week. Some people can't; they get out here and try it and don't stick with it; they don't like it. I heard winter's going to be real fun. I've heard a lot of people have wrecked trucks for not being experienced or it almost always seems they're going too fast for the conditions. So it's just a matter of not getting stupid. [acoustic guitar plays in bright rhythm] Well, we used to just haul bulk fuels to the farmers, then we set up this card troll outfit out here 6 years ago and didn't see any way it was going to ever pay out. Then the oil field came to town and we've been a little busy since then, added on the towing business, moved to this new location. It used to be, once the drills were parked, the sprayers were done in June, I'd take a 10-day vacation ride my motorcycle, but that hasn't happened for 2 years now. [laughs] We're putting in light poles and actually something other than mud to park in. I have this waiting list that wants to get in on this and I don't know how many we can get in there. We've got 250 feet of space. I've had guys that have been here for 3 years. They pay me 150 a month. In the winter they plug in; there are a lot more trucks than there is acres to park. I guess I haven't seen a Hawaii license plate on a truck yet, but everywhere else, Alaska on down. The jobs are here, but finding a place to live is harder. People living in their trucks yet. Well, the last city council meeting I went to, they had 30 building permits that day, and they weren't just single housing, they were multiple housing. In the beginning, the city was pretty cautious about allowing anything to happen. They didn't want to get infrastructured out and have years to pay and nothing to draw back on, you know? And I think that's pretty much Western North Dakota is set up that way in their heads. It'll go away some day, that's kinda how I got here the last time when it, I was in the oil field when it bellied up in 30 days. People don't believe it does it that fast, but it does. When it rolls up and leaves town, it's gone-- boom! [beeping of the truck's back up warning] I do this part time, I work in the oil field during thweek, I work here on Saturdays. It's a very busy place, but truck sales are the big thing. We have a lot of companies buying trucks. 60 to 75 trucks and vehicles a month is usual. That's a lot of vehicles in a smaller dealership in a small town like this. We're one of the top Ford dealers in the nation for moving vehicles right now, for this size dealership, and that's because everybody needs a vehicle up here, which is good for us, and I imagine Chevrolet, and Dodge, and everybody else are doing just as well in this area. Every place you go, there is workers wanted or help wanted signs, anywhere in Williston. You went by McDonald's, you see it's closed at 7:00 because they have no employees. So a lot of the restaurants are that way in this town. There's oil field workers; everybody wants to come to work in the the oil field, but they can't bring their families, so there's nobody to work in any of the other jobs. The town is a nice town; it's got a lot of growing pains it's going to go through for a while. I don't know how they did it in the old days, but this one's having a tough one. You could tell the difference between the people that are from North Dakota and the people that are from somewhere else. Suddenly our stores are filled up with these people that just look different. When they speak, you can tell their accents are different and such; they're city drivers. When I came back, I would be driving down the road, and the car coming in front of me would be saying and I'd say, "Who was that?" I'd always try to figure out who it was in the beginning, then after a while I thought, oh that's just North Dakota. But that's changing, [laughs] we're getting different types of hand signals. These city drivers, they don't wave "hi," they give you another form of dress or something on the road, if you're going too slow or something. They let you know in no uncertain terms that they're not pleased with you. So you could tell from that, they're generally not from these small communities. The city has 2 major issues, one being employeesbecause just like the other retailers and the other people that are in the City of Williston that aren't in the oil field, it's hard to compete with oil field wages. We're constantly running short of policemen, people to pick up the garbage, fix the streets. Our building department, what did they say, that there was going to be $300 million worth of building done in the City of Williston this year, and with that, you have to permit 'em all, you have to inspect 'em all. Our fire chief is just running ragged by going to inspect the sprinkler systems and all these things. And the other challenge is with our infrastructure. Our sanitation plant, our sewage plant, we can't handle what's coming at us right now. Didn't realize that the changes were going to be so dramatic so fast. The oil companies, once they start wrapping up, they just bring in truckloads of materials and truckloads of people and they just start building. Where we have to go through a planning process and try to make some kind of order out of this thing, they just decide, well, we're going to build here, you get us sewer and water, here it is. Williston was maybe 13,000; now we've got 9,700 man camp units alone in Williams County, plus all the other people that are living in basements and in hotels and stuff. I'm guessing there might be 30,000 that are living around here now. We've gone from a nice North Dakota-size town to a big booming town, and it's not all that good. (woman) Not a man-camp. We personally prefer the tem "lodge," just due to the fact that yes, there has been some controversy over this subject. Several of the people in the community have a negative outlook on a man-camp, because I think they were afraid that everyone would build these camps and then when all this is over, everyone would just leave. With Capital, we don't have that issue. We prefer to be considered more of a lodging facility, due to the fact that we do try to achieve the home-away-from-home atmosphere here. And when everything is done, this facility can actually remain as its own subdivision. All of these units can be converted to single family housing then the dome can actually be used as a recreation center. We have 560 rooms; we have 2 phases. Each phase has 40 units with 7 rooms per unit. Each room has 2 beds, separate bathroom, and it even has a somewhat walk-in closet. Every unit has a kitchenette area, where you have your refrigerator that is open to everyone in the unit. We do not put stoves in the units due to fire hazards. Also, our units have their own washers and dryers. It is $165 for a single per night, and then it is $110 for our doubles per bed per night. Here at Capital we are a gated community. We do have a 24-hour security. When you enter the dome, you will be greeted at the receptionist desk by our management company Sodexo. That is where you get checked in, they explain everything to you, all of our rules and regulations here at Capital. We are pretty self-sufficient here. We offer all of our tenants 3 meals a day. We offer 2 hot meals, then we offer a grab-and-go lunch. We have a very large dining facility. Breakfast is served from 4:30 to 8:00. Dinner is served is from 4:30 to 8:00. For lunch, we typically do sandwiches for them to take out to their sites with them. We always have fruit on hand, chips, cookies, and then always bottles of water. They have everything that they need here. Most of the people that are living at the lodge here are going to be your oil workers. We have employees that are from all over. We have some that work with me at Capital that are from the south. We have some from the neighboring states, then, of course, the tenants here are from all over as well. Most of the women that are housed in my unit, either work for Sodexo, which is the management company that provides Capital with laundry, kitchen, any of those facilities. We have an all-women's unit in place here and 5 out of the 7 rooms are occupied. So as you can see, the supply of women here is... [laughs] Our typical customer is an oil company, and they would secure a number of rooms for their employees. We are actually a very upscale executive crew lodge. (man) When I moved to Shell Creek, and that was about 10, 11 years ago, the road was paved, and it was nice, no dust. And we had a very nice living environment. Since that time they've milled the road, it's become a gravel road, and when a truck goes by, the dust settles on the house. We were sitting on the back porch the other day and all of a sudden it seemed like it got really cloudy, but it was actually a truck going by and a dust cloud coming over the house. Right where I live, they fracked two wells that increased truck traffic significantly and deteriorated the roads immensely. And in just this past week, they're fracking two more well sites and truck traffic has increased again. Last week, when I was coming home on Friday, I passed 57 trucks going to my house. Years past, I maybe passed 1, 2, 5 cars at the most, and this Friday I passed 57 trucks. We've been just overwhelmed with truck traffic on Route 6. The road gets so destroyed that ruts are almost 2 feet deep. You get so much mud on the underside of the vehicle that it vibrates the engine, then mud caught in the wheel wells, I had to buy a pressure washer to clean the Jeep off so we can drive it actually. You know, we're not looking for financial assistance. All we're looking for is some assistance to maintain the roads so we can make it to town safely. Right now I've seen people slide into ditches, I get complaints from all of our neighbors who are battling the roads just the same as we are. They're being impacted the same way, replacing shocks, springs, the whole 9 yards. Actually, lights have rattled out of their cases on vehicles where they just shimmy down the road and such. All we're asking is for safe roads. A few years ago in Tioga they were trying everythig they could before I got involved on the commission, to get people to come to Tioga. Now all of a sudden, the people just came. I wish we could find somewhere where we could have a level off point. This oil industry is running 250 mile an hour, and all the towns around us are running about 25. You just can't keep up with them. We have a lot of RVs coming into Tioga. We've kind of had to get a handle on it. People were just putting them in their backyards, running city services to 'em. We've had two RV parks now that have started up, there's a third one on the way. As soon as we got all them people in there, our sewer system couldn't take it and our lift station. We had to replace our lift station out there. There's been a lot of greed that has come with the goodness, especially you're talking on the housing situation. Some of it's just out of line. In our low-income housing in Tioga, we have 38 units. They were sold out about 8 years ago to a gentleman, and he kept 'em, the HUD housing. And in the last year, he decided that he was going to drop his HUD housing. And so he's increased it to market base. One of my coworkers lives there, and she's a single mother and it's to the point, she can't afford it anymore. She just works a service job in Tioga and her monthly rent is pushing $1,000, and it's a lot of money for these people that aren't in the oil field. In the works now, we have a 110-bed hotel coming to town. Lutheran Social Services is coming into Tioga, building a 24-unit, income-based apartment building. Any open land that's in Tioga is being built on. (man) Watch your step comin' up. This is a drilling rig 4 we call it, platform, it's where all the work takes place, where all the iron comes together in a nice little 9-inch hole rotary table. See this through traveling assembly, you have the traveling block through the top then obviously, the hook right here. This little component right here is called the swivel. What this does is allow the lower assembly to swivel without winding your cables up in all that stuff up above, and you can pump the fluid through and the Kelly is actually the driving tool. You screw that into the top of the pipe, set it down on the rotary, and that's what actually turns the octagon pipe there. On the back side over here, you got a safety zone there and that's when the tongs are put on the pipe. When you're actually making the connection and breaking connections, you have a crush point on the back side, so at any time both sets of tongs, which are the wrenches, the big pipe wrench that do the work, making and breaking the pipe, you have to stay off the back side of that in case you get crushed in-between the back side of the tongs. So you can see we have a red outline noting danger area. You can't be near the rotating equipment with loose clothing. The iron has a rhythm and that's what I train the guys. It has a rhythm; to get that piece of iron to there, you don't work it there, you let the iron go and you just control it. You get into rhythm with the iron, you can get into rhythm with a dance move. It's the same rhythm, but if you don't get into the iron, you're going to overwork yourself. So it's not so much physical; it's just understanding the design of how things are hanging, the way it assists itself in and get in with the rhythm of it. That whole demands that we have to do our job the right way and the safest way. It's rugged, but at the same, it's professional as well. We got dress codes, I mean we have to shave, we have our safety geathat we have to have every day. So there is a dress code; there is a professionalism involved, and what we focus on is just the safety aspect of how to work this iron, not that that wrench is any different than a pipe wrench, but it's just a different shape and bigger. You're going to put it on that piece of pipe, the same as you would a 16-inch or 8-inch pipe wrench. It's just different look, different operation, and we try to marry the 2 concepts together. But this process is a tryout. If you can make it through the school, then you have a job placement. So it's like a training, but if you find out that you're not fit for the oil field, then it's either your choice, or we see that it's something out of your control, something that you can't grasp. And a lot of people realize it isn't an easy job and there is inherent dangers involved with it, and I think we try to weed that out, why they come through here. So they acknowledge that and they can make the better decision whether it's a job that they can handle or not. Anybody can work it; it's just, it's the mindset, whether or not this is the lifestyle you want. Because the lifestyle's rougher than the job. It takes a lot of strength on the part of the wife, because you have to do things that you never thought you'd have to do before. Our husbands aren't always able to take out the trash, and when our tire is flat, he's sometimes hours away and you have to deal with it on your own. And I think that having to be a much stronger woman than a lot of people would think. But it's a good life, and the guys that I know who work in the oil field love their families and take great care of their families and are doing this for their families. So there's good things with it, but it is tough. I mean, you have to be strong. This is my second oil patch. Some of the girls have been in lots more than that. A lot of the families that are coming here are coming here because their husband has lost a job in another industry. So this is their first experience in oil patch. It was something that I kind of had vision for when we were in Wyoming. When we transferred up here, it kind of just more naturally happened where there was a few of us that kind of met and then we started going to the park and meeting more people, and last fall, we decided we needed to do something that would make it more accessible to people who weren't already part of our group. So we put our Facebook page up and then that has allowed people who didn't just happen to run into us someplace to be able to make contact with us. We do about 3 or 4 community things throughout the year to support the community and raise funds for things that are of concern within the community. You know, it's widened my circle of friends. I didn't really know anybody; I don't have family here, so they're kind of like an extended family I guess. It's just good to have support and friends, so yeah, it's helped a lot. I think for most of the girls it's been really helpful. They don't have family here; their husbands work really long hours, and it's tough days with little ones and trying to keep up with everything. and not having anybody to call if you get sick and need to go to the hospital and those kinds of things. Childcare is very hard to find. There's a lot of providers in this town, but they're all full. You're very lucky to find a provider that has any openings, much less an infant opening. I worked for probably 6 months looking for daycare before he was born. Grocery shopping, getting through the checkout lines, especially with the little one now, it's very difficult. It requires a lot of planning on my part to get there and get out before he's done. The traffic is very frustrating. I know they're working on it. I think I'm not the only one that wishes we could just snap our finger and it'd be fixed, 'cause we're all tired of it. And healthcare, getting into a doctor is very difficult also. We bought a house and thank goodness we got one and we're here for a while, so got little roots sproutin'. [laughs] So it's good to have friends too, that you can grow with and build off of. (Jamilyn) There is a lot of tension because of the growth, and so there are definitely times that people feel like these new people are coming here and disrupting our lives, and that can sometimes spill over into relationships when you're out and about in the community. But in general, I have found this to be a very welcoming community. After buying this property, I was kind of in charge of getting it rezoned commercial, 'cause this was agricultural land, and it was a big mess. We moved in here and we just basicay, we had no place to stay and no place to park our trucks. So we moved in here and did that. Well, the community got very upset because we didn't go through the right hoops of getting it zoned commercially. We actually got denied changing it to commercial the first time I went through and then I had to go back and basically plead my case of we're actually trying to help. I mean, get our 14 trucks off the side streets and out here and establish a place that we can call our own and not really hassle anybody in town. Well you gotta think about it this way. Us being able to be here takes 15 trucks out of the parking lot of the Wal-Mart. Isn't that a benefit to town? I think that they have to realize, we've come a long ways here to make a living and this is basically the only place around right now that's hopping and has work. Right now we have approximately 20. We have 3 basically, mechanics and 15 guys working for us, and then us 3 here. We each take a shift, if you will. Right now we're building the shop, so we're all here right now. We're having to do a lot of the work ourselves, 'cause it's too busy to hire anybody up here. When we first started off, we was going to have 10 maximum, that's what we thought, but now we have 15. There's an opportunity here to grow and if we can manage it right, well we'll probably keep on growing. We've had to adapt and come up to here to try to make a living. I mean, it's the place that there's an opportunity right now. There's not very many in the United States right now. The businesses, they're just not getting the help that they need because the people are heading to the oil field industries. They pay more. My brother owned a restaurant in Parshall; he couldn't get help. His staff would leave to get the higher-paying jobs and so he just closed it up; he couldn't handle it. Especially in the wintertime, when he was using some students, when they had to go back to school, then he just didn't have any help at all. It seems lika restaurant would be a real moneymaker because people need to eat, but if you don't have the staff to man it, then what can you do? I don't see the businesses coming. I know in other areas, like in Stanley and Williston and such, they're building, but they don't have the regulations to go through that we do, and I think also that people are reluctant to build on a reservation because they think that they would not be able to, number one, because of all the regs and such, and that if they decided to go, would they be able to sell? You have the boom, and then you have the bust. I know in the '50's there was an oil boom and a bust, in the '80's there was an oil boom and there was a bust. So right now, we're in the oil boom, so from history, I would say there's going to be a bust. So maybe that's why we're not building up as much as we should be. (man) Constant motion would be the honest way to talk about it. There are planes coming in; it seems like almost 24 hours a day. There are constantly trucks going out of town and into town. It's those kinds of little ways, I think, that are affecting people most. This isn't going to go away quickly; we're not going to go back to the idyllic days of whatever that time was. But this is all us now and we have to learn how to live with that. But I still think honestly that Williston is a great little town to come and raise a family and to live in. I don't feel any less secure than I did, I don't feel any more threatened, I think we have a good school district, I think we've got a good city. Are there some real challenges coming up? Yes, there are some real challenges coming up, and I'm hoping that the city and the city government can begin to address some of those kinds of things. But give it time; we're going through growing pains, is basically what we're going through. And I think in a few years, when things begin to settle out and there's not this huge expansion, and we've settled down to having what we want, I think Williston is still a good place. There are people who have a vision, things they want to add to the city, but we're in the middle of growing pains. It's like having a little 2-year-old toddler. It wants stuff; it doesn't know what it wants yet, but eventually it figures it out. And I think that's where Williston is right now. With all the people moving into town, people are feeling less secure in their own homes because of all the strangers that are in town. And I really think we've got to get past the idea that's us and them. It's just kind of got to be all just "us" and some us are more well off than others and some aren't. But it's all Williston and it's all going to be Williston for a while. The pace has really changd in Tioga. We have more people around; there's more traffic. It's very busy now. You used to go downtown to the grocery store and it would take you an hour to get a milk because you'd visit everybody. Now a lot of times you don't know people. But it's still okay because then you get to meet the new people that are coming into town and it's wonderful to have the change. Just a little bit hard to get used to; we like people coming, it's wonderful, change is inevitable, we're lucky to be part of the change, we're lucky to have youth come in. Our town would die and become a ghost town if we didn't have the change and the youth and the oil come in, the farming, everything, it's changing, but it's a good change. We don't want to die; we want to stay alive and vibrant. (man) We're currently located on County Road 4, which is a highly industrialized road for the oil field. Part of this County Road 4 will also become the future proposed bypass that the state is working with us as a city and county to put this together, and they put this bypass on a fast track and they tell us they'll start construction hopefully next spring, next summer. The first year it'll all be gravel, and then they'll come back in 2013-2014 to put the actual pavement on it. It's all about safety, and all these trucks you see in front of us, it's just been truck after truck, they all come through town. They go north, they actually go through the bypass in the city and it just creates a tremendous amount of pressure. You know, it could take you 40 minutes just to get through town right now because of the volume of trucks and the volume of traffic. This whole subdivision is comprised of approximately 5 to 550 acres. Up until a couple months ago, this was one big wheat field. Most of these buildings that you see are all oil field-related except for one of them. This building here is going to be a 10,000-square- foot building, as most of these buildings are. On the other side of the dirt pile here, we see the trucks going down the road and the water haulers. There we've got about 40,000 square feet coming down the pipeline to be ready for springtime. Within this part that you see the buildings operate now, we have approximately 125,000 square feet being built. All these buildings you see out here now are leased or have already been sold. If it's less than a 5-year lease, we don't even negotiate. It's got to be a 5-year minimum on up the ladder, just because the cost for the infrastructure and the roads which we're standing on, is very, very, very costly. This area will have the bypass going right through the dead middle of it, right in the heart of it, which will come up, be Highway 85, continue northbound and then veer off to the northwest and tie into County Road 4. We're very fortunate out here to have work, let alone to this magnitude, I mean, we've got to feel very blessed and very lucky and fortunate. We just have to keep reminding people on that. More and more of our people are coming back to find jobs, and they're moving in with their families. You know, there's extended families living within a home. At my mother's house, my niece is there, and they go back to Mandaree during the weekend but they stay at my mother's house during the week 'cause there's no place in Parshall for them to live. That's one thing that I've really noticed, that families are having to double up or are having to go back to, like our ancestors did, and live with extended families, because in my culture, back in the 1800s we had the earth lodges and whole families lived there, even horses lived there. So we're sort of moving back that way. Discussions at our house are always like, "Can you imagine living with more people in the house?" [laughs] Our regulars, they have to wait for a table. They don't like that anymore; they used to be able to sit for an hour and visit with their friends and now they know that they probably should move on because there's somebody waiting to take your place. This is the formal dining room. Like this room last night was just full of people and we turned it over 2 or 3 times. You have to plan on where you're going to go. You have to make right-hand turns, because you can't get on to streets, because there's just that much traffic. You wait... we've always been a patient group of people out here, but patience is running thin sometimes when you have to stand in line at Wal-Mart. You don't go out to Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon. Grocery store lines are long. You want to shop locally, but there's a lot of times that you go through the stores and there's nothing left on the shelf because there's just that many more people here. We welcome the change; I wish it would slow down a little bit though. Everybody wishes it would slow down. It's not a bad thing; it's a good thing that we're developing the oil on the reservation and people are benefiting from it. Our socioeconomic status for tribal members is raising and that's good, but the entire region has been impacted. The difference is that the state has regulations to address some of the spills and violations that may be happening. On the reservation here, we don't have those codes specific for nontribal members, so we've had a lot of influx of nontribal members on the reservation that we cannot cite, for eating, truck spills, whatever the violation may be. So we are trying to address those issues. And hopefully, we can work out some things jurisdictionally with other entities like the counties and the state, so we can help resolve those issues and make the reservation safe-- that's our main concern. Well we kicked it around a little bit, decided to have a little fun, 'cause it's just such a crazy wild place in Bakken we started calling it Bakken Central. It's gotten to the point where even the locals shy away a little bit because it used to be a fun place to go for coffee. You could spin in there any time of the day or get a tire changed, get an oil change in a hurry, but today it's just a mad rush over there 24 hours a day. We've got 4 and 5 registers running and up to 10 people in each line at 4:00 in the morning. And they load up, like their little cafe over here, with kind of the junk food, that has expanded a lot. They're buying the food, they're buying the beverages, nuts and so forth, because when you go out on a rig, you don't know how long you're going to be there is basically what it is, so they're storing up on different things. Then like in the wintertime, this is about the only place you can buy some stuff. I've had to buy tire chains here, I've bought a jack here, a lug wrench, I've even bought some other jackets and so forth, 'cause I had 2 of 'em get wet on a job, so I bought a jacket here. Frequently we'll have 135 trucks overnight in our location and my C-store manager'll be over there until 1:00, 2:00 in the morning a lot of times trying to direct traffic and try to keep them away from our pumps. 'Cause they roll in there; they're desperate for a place to park, get some sleep, and there just isn't anyplace else. A year ago, we spent about a quarter of a million dollars overhauling the bathrooms. The lines were getting too long; it was just unmanageable. We put in showers at the request of the truckers and of course if you have showers, you have to have a laundry, and we got into clothing. You get a rainy day at hand, you wouldn't believe how the raingear goes out of the place. Gloves, in the winter, about $20,000 worth of gloves every month. We've been called, I've heard customers call us the little Wal-Mart in Stanley. We carry a variety of things. We get a lot of buses in, where the guys are going to the derrick or to the field, and they stop in, pick up what they need. They'll be picking up odds and ends of clothes they need, 'cause there's guys living in their trucks year 'round, and they come in here, they take a shower, they come in here and they grab food. They can't go uptown because they've got the trucks, so we're kind of where they get a lot of things. This year we also got into tire chains and I'm sure we sold $100,000 worth of tire chains to the oil field as well. We used to have a mechanic shop in the back of our store. It's really turned into more of a tire shop at this point. It's not uncommon to fix 65 truck tires in the summer, especially when you get that heat and those tires are under a lot of pressure, so we've got 3 guys back there busting tires most of the time. You have to bump your salary to where you can bring people in. If you don't, you won't have people. We give a lot of people a chance to work in our store and we have a variety of jobs that they can do, but it is, unless you're used to being around a circus, you just-- not everyone can do that job. The kitchen is extremely busy. We start at anywhere from 5:30 till about 8:30, then we get a little bit of a break and then it kicks up again at 11:30 to 1;30. We have a breakfast bake, which is scrambled eggs and potatoes, and we also put out like McDonald's hamburgers, like a croissant and eggs and sandwiches or bacon. And at lunchtime we have cheeseburger, pizzas, and various kinds of sandwiches and soups and salads. It's exciting and it's fun, and you better learn how to work very hard. [laughs] Your winters are extreme. I thought I was a real tough Montana girl that could handle it, but I'll tell you what, your winters are pretty extreme. And other than that, it's real pretty. Another challenge we faced is allocations on fuel-- There's no fuel-- there's a pipeline coming from Montana, which brings the fuel to this area. It is exhausted basically. The allocations are there; we've gone to actually having to rail some fuel in; it's the only way we can keep up. It certainly is profitable, but it doesn't come without a price. When I look at what we have here in northwest North Dakota, it's just like a gold rush up here. We're just really fortunate to have this kind of environment, economically at least. Oil's great, you know, if you have it, it's wonderful. But you still, it seems like you always have to give something up to get something else, and that's kind of where we are now, realizing that. You know, the economy is great, it's great for people who are looking for jobs from wherever they're coming from. And the workers are coming from a long ways away, but it's also helped employ locals because there's money to be made here. There's times Milo'll say something and I'll just say, "Well, just remember, if you're not getting a check from the company, then you can bitch, but if you are..." This is home and this is where we want to stay. We've heard many people say well it's just getting too busy here, I think we're just going to pack up and move and sell. We don't want to do that. This is where we raised our family and where our sons are raising their family, and we want to stay here because it's home. Yes, we can extract the oil, yes, we're going to exploit the oil, but do we have to exploit the people? Do we have to exploit the land and the water in the process? I don't think we have to. For the common good, we can all sit down and figure this out. We are not asking for something that isn't due us, certainly not. We're not asking for a windfall; we're just asking for some crucial key planned development. And there's resources out there and there's funding out there to help us. And we're going to be here, the Mandan-Hidatsa people. We've been here from time immemorial, and we're going to be here when this is gone. My children and my grandchildren, I want them to have something here when this day is done and this oil is extracted. I want this land and water to be livable, and I want planned development. Tioga's been through it all. They flourished and they crashed and that's in a lot of people's minds around Tioga. And so we're probably as aggressive as some of the other communities are, going out and sticking your neck out, so to say, for infrastructure needs and stuff because we did get burnt a little bit in the '80s on that, and we're being very cautious about what we do now with this boom. Everybody says this one is a little bit different, but everybody still remembers the past. With growth there's pain, but it's a very positive thing. We're happy to have it. I'd rather be fighting this thing, dealing with the oil field rather than trying to figure out how we're going to be able to make payroll next month. Some people might say well, you should have been prepared for this, because you knew it was coming. Well, I don't think so, not like this. I think this is a real thing; I think that this is going to go on for quite a while. It's technology and demand and the wells are good. There's going to be a lot more oil wells, a lot of 'em. I don't expect this to go anywhere soon. (Jessie Veeder) Shelly don't stop movin' Till the sun goes down What she once was she's not What she's lost now found, brings them Breakfast in the morning and ice cold beer at night Listens to them talk breaks up their fights She stands her ground Boomtown People lined like houses up and down the street Bottom line below us 'bout 10,000 feet 22 degrees you find a better place to go You'd be here too you know you'd hang around Boomtown (woman) This program is funded by-- the North Dakota Humanities Council, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities; the North Dakota Council on the Arts, and by the members of Prairie Public. (man) To order a DVD copy of "Faces of the Oil Patch" call... or visit our online store at and click on "shop."

See also

This page was last edited on 19 August 2017, at 21:21
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