So now it's Boomtown USA. And it.is.crazy.
When we were there in July, I took a lot of random photos with my cell phone. Things just kept shocking me. I was too young to remember the boom of the 80s and apparently this boom is the 80s' bigger, meaner older brother. Yeah, that's right.
So join me for a (long) photo experience through a few of the changes I noticed of my beloved western North Dakota. Click the photos to see them bigger.
A beautiful North Dakota landscape. Oh how I miss those bright blue skies and fields you can see for miles and miles! But as you can see circled in red, there are evidences of oil popping up in even the best of scenes.
Now when you drive along the highways, you'll see pockets of trailers, semis, and shacks. "Man Camps" built just for the influx of workers. Yes the scenery has changed indeed.
You know those truck stops where truckers can park to sleep overnight? They are packed in there like sardines now. There must have been over 100 in this lot as we drove into town.
If you know anything about me, you know that bringing your cart back to the cart holder is VERY important to me. It says something about your character if you don't return your cart. So when, on our drive in, this is one of the first things I saw, I was saddened:
The oil industry pays very, very well. Most of it is dirty, hard work but again, it pays very well. No one wants to work menial jobs like cooking deliciousness at Gramma Sharons or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart. Why would you when you could earn five times as much? So the rest of the industries are suffering. Props to Gramma's for their creative employment strategy:
All this oil business means there's a lot more people around northwestern ND. More people means more traffic. This is the traffic light off the bypass to get to my house. It is busy like this ALL the time. So many, many semis and trucks... I'd say twenty trucks to every car.
As Greg and I drove into town, the change in traffic was obvious. I didn't quite get how traffic has changed life until my dad forgot his cell phone on the way up north one day. I realized it shortly after he left the house so I grabbed his phone, hopped in the car and went to chase him down. Normally this would be no biggie. Just look for my dad's truck at the stoplight and if not, he went to Simonson's to fill up so head there. I didn't realize how difficult this would be now. There were too many trucks similar to my dad's four-door. And there were too many semis blocking my view. I was actually laughing out loud in disbelief as I drove like a mad woman trying to find him. Fifteen years ago I could have found him in two minutes. This time it took me over thirty.
This photo was taken at the same intersection. Growing up, we used to play a license plate game on road trips, where you "x" off each state's license plate. How did we ever play that and enjoy it? Did we ever get more than five states and Canada?! Well, now you could play it and easily hit most states. Here's three. I even saw Hawaii when I was home.
I call this the Wal-Mart stop light. It never existed before the new Wal-Mart. Now you may be stuck at it for ten minutes.
Ah, Wal-Mart. It opened up when I was in junior high (I think) and then they built a new super one a few years ago. It's always busy. Always.
One of the things Greg and I scoffed at was people telling us that the shelves at Wal-Mart were bare. Really? Bare? Come on. But it is partially true. We learned from someone that knows someone that's a manager at the Williston Wal-Mart: they should have over 150 workers and they have 60.
There are full palates in the middle of the isles, just waiting for someone to unpack them. The shelves aren't all bare, that was a bit exaggerated. But if you want a banana, you'll have to just take it out of the box:
To be fair, there are certain isles that are far from bare. Think of items that an oil field worker wouldn't need and that isle is quite well stocked. In fact they are overflowing in the drapery isle:
It was an experience to go to Wal-Mart. I began to understand why my mother had to give herself a pep-talk in order to get the gumption to go there. It's busy, noisy, dirty. I heard a couple speaking Italian. I saw from the logo-d polos they were wearing that they were workers at a new hotel that went up. Full-on Italian people? In Williston? Part of me thinks that's awesome, heaven knows I could have used some world culture growing up!
But at what cost is this change? What have you done with my hometown? PUT YOUR CART BACK! (Just to be clear, I'm not yelling at that dude in the Jeep. Unless that's his cart he didn't put back. Then I am yelling at him).
One of my beefs with SC is the littering. It's really frustrating how the culture at-large feels about littering. In comparison, I never thought North Dakota had a problem with litter. Sure, there was litter, but nothing noticeable. Now, well, that's just not the case:
Here in Columbia, we frequently have to endure the annoying security system salespersons that knock at our door. I don't think I even really knew what home security systems were until we moved here (minus what I saw in movies). In fact, we didn't lock our doors all that often growing up. But now houses in Williston have those dorky little "warning: ADT security system" signs, too. Including Greg's old house (I'm sure they loved some random car driving slowly by and taking a photo):
Here's our hometown from a distance. New construction is everywhere, even way out on the road to the golf course:
Not all the changes are bad, of course. There are new, exciting things coming. But it always comes at a price. Let's say you wanted to go to someone's wedding and needed to find a hotel. Too bad, they are booked for years out. Years. My parents house was on the market only one day before they had an offer (which fell through, but then quickly had another offer; they are scheduled to close in a few weeks). So if a nice, young family wanted to settle down in Williston, they would have no decent place to live that they could afford.
Unless their family happened to have a oil well! Then they could buy a nice big house. The oil is making some people ridicuously, filthy rich. This would be a crazy good cultural study, in fact. A bunch of Norweigan farmers homesteaded on this land they got from the government who stole it from the Native Americans and now their kids' kids are rolling in the dough ... or some random investor from Colorado (because, sadly, many of the farmers sold their mineral rights when the going got tough). I just hope all this excessive wealth doesn't ruin these people. Of course I'm biased, but I like to think of North Dakotans as hard-working, giving, humble people.