Stories from the Bakken.

After a year by myself, I finally convinced Lottie to join me in the Bakken. Our 25th anniversary was May 28, and I was on a job, so I missed it by three days. When I did get home, I figured I better do something nice, so I bought her a new Infinity. That shut her up for almost 20 minutes. One of the minor problems with a modern vehicle is that it has a lot of buttons. Lottie, being a sheltered, country girl, was afraid to push all the buttons, for fear that one of them might be the ejection seat. We were riding along one day when I found a button with an arrow pointing up. I opened the sunroof, and said, “Watch this.” As my finger inched toward the button, she slammed on the brakes, and started bawling – thought it was real! I laughed so hard tears ran down my leg.

One of the things we had considered for our anniversary was to go on a cruise. I got thinking about it, and after doing the research, figured it might not be a good idea. Lottie is a cancer survivor, and the medicine she takes compromises her immune system. Cruise ships occasionally have strange diseases that affect lots of people, and I’m too old to train a replacement, so I ain’t taking any chances with my bride. After talking her into a summer in the Bakken, we decided to ride the train. Amtrak will take us from 25 miles from the house to five miles from my office in three days. I booked a compartment, and off we went.

I don’t know if I’d do it again, but it was an adventure. We rode overnight to Washington, D.C. And I got to see The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans monument I had never seen, and experience the fog of Foggy Bottom. I’ll never go back. After another overnight ride, we reached Chicago, another big city this country boy will never revisit, and were accosted by the smoking Nazis. We were outside, looking at the river, when a fool came up to me and told me that I couldn’t smoke there. I asked him if he could swim. He wanted to know why, so I told him that if he didn’t disappear from my sight, I was gonna throw him in the river. He went away.

The next day, we arrived in Williston, N.D. Since I have studied the history of the area, I know that in years past, a lot of women came out there on the train as mail-order brides. I couldn’t help but think what those women must have thought when they got off the train in the Dakota Territory. At least I had a pick-up instead of a mule-wagon for my mail-order bride.

We went to my shack, which is a 30-foot camper where I live. She proceeded to clean and polish things that I hadn’t even noticed during the past year. Women are like that. Eventually, she asked me if we could go get something to eat. Ya gotta understand that this is rural North Dakota. So I took her to the nearest place with a kitchen – a saloon. The next place is 30 miles away. We had great steak, and Lottie fed the bloodhound that wanders around.

As the summer went on, I took Lottie on several small jobs that I did. She was fascinated by the rigs and the work. I didn’t take her on jobs that I figured were risky or unsafe, or on 24-hour jobs. She stayed at the shack, and became camp mom, helping new arrivals get adjusted. She helped a young couple from West Virginia get out of a tent and into a motorhome before the weather turned bad, and cooked for lots of folks. She will be missed in the camp.

One of the first orders she issued: “We are going to have water!” I hadn’t worried about it too much since I have a shower at the office, plus baby wipes and Old Spice. But I found out that women need enough water to wash an elephant every day, so we got a tank and a pump, and contracted with a guy to haul off the black-water periodically; I now have water. Hope it doesn’t freeze this winter. She also insulated the camper with two inches of foam insulation, and had all sorts of civilizing influences. I’m gonna miss her!

Along about midsummer, our oldest boy, Franklin, who was a swat-team cop, announced that he was tired of getting shot at and spit on for no money. I told him to put on his big-girl-panties, and come to the Bakken. He’s here – rough-necking on a rig, making money and loving it. At least I have kin to talk to when we are off work.

I’m on days off right now, but going back tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ll get home again before the end of the year, but my check goes home to Lottie, who gives me a small allowance occasionally. Either way, I’m having fun and doing something productive.