The explosion of oil drilling in the Bakken fields has created problems for the people of Williston, N.D., and Sidney, Mont.
But it has also created tremendous opportunities for local residents and has provided quality jobs for people from throughout the country, said Paul Doney of Havre.
Doney has spent the last six months working as a truck driver on the oilfields. And he’d encourage others to sign on for work in the Bakkens if they are committed to working long and hard.
“It is the most intense, off the hook work I have ever had, ” he said.
He said he is one of a handful of workers who commute to the oilfields from the Hi-Line.
He’s seen first-hand the boom in the two cities at the hub of the business explosion.
“It hasn’t hit Sidney as much, ” he said. “But there are more trucks on the streets than cars. ”
In Williston, he said, “there are 10 trucks for every car. ”
Rents have skyrocketed, restaurants are bursting at the seams and man camps have popped up all over the place.
“One woman I was talking to from Kalispell left her real estate business to come to Williston, ” he said.
She opened a hot dog stand in the parking lot of a NAPA Auto Parts store — the busiest NAPA Auto Parts store in the country, he said. She’s making all kinds of money.
He said he sympathizes with some residents who feel they have lost the quiet of their hometown, but others have sold their homes at massive profits to move out of town.
It’s a great job that pays well, he said. But people planning to work had better be prepared for long, hard, tough work under difficult circumstances.
Looking for a new career, he said, Gary and Greg Baltrusch taught him how to drive a semitrailer.
“So, I thought I knew how to drive a semi, ” he recalled. But he got a job with Corcoran Oil Field Services. “Then I learned how to drive a semi, ” he said, laughing.
“If you are going to work there, you’d better be ready for a butt chewing when you do something wrong, ” he said.
Yet, there is no place with the camaraderie between workers like the oilfields, he said.
“You work with these people long hours, and you live with them, “ he said.
Nearly all of the people on the oilfields are from out of town, he said. They are supposed to work three weeks and get a week off, he said. But sometimes the three weeks turns into four or five.
Bosses are rough on employees, he said. “They want to make money, ” he said. “That’s what they are there for. ”
But, he said, they help out employees whenever they face difficulties.
When his boss heard that his daughter was about to deliver his first grandchild, he ordered him to go home right away.
All weekend, while his daughter was in the hospital, he received a constant flow of calls and text messages from friends on the oilfields asking how she was doing and congratulating him on becoming a grandparent.
While he was talking to a reporter Saturday, he was interrupted about 10 times from people inquiring about his grandson.
The days in the oil fields are long. At the end of the long days, people return to the man camps.
“All you do is have a place to do your laundry, shower and sit and visit with people for a little while, ” he said.
With little time left to sleep at night, Doney said he has learned one valuable lesson.
“I’ve learned how to nap, ” he said.
Some people have campers to stay in overnight, but farmers in the Williston area are charging $1,600 rent for the land to put a camper on — no water, sewage or electricity.
“In Sidney, it’s only $800 a month, ” he said.
Oilfield workers have gotten a bad rap because of the arrest of two men for the murder of Sidney teacher Sherry Arnold.
The two men were “no-goods, ” he said.
“They weren’t oil workers, ” he said. “They had been fired from their jobs. ”
Oil workers “work too hard to get too stupid, ” he said.
Most are so exhausted after working they don’t have time to get stupid, ” he said.
How long does Doney plan to spent on the oilfields?
“My daughter just gave me a grandson, ” he said. “So, I guess I’ll be there another 18 years. ”