Kay Bakken, Fargo
My husband and I recently returned from a three-day bus tour of the Bakken Oil Region sponsored by Jake and Dawn Kubela of World Class Tours in Wahpeton. One word to describe the trip: Amazing! A lot of planning resulted in a trip put together seamlessly for us "guinea pigs" as Jake called us.
If I would pick another word it would be educational for sure. Jake was able to provide information about being a truck driver in the region for about a year, plus his former boss joined us on the bus to show and tell about their jobs. The average driver is about 56 years old and the average length of employment is one year. Dawn's father and an uncle were both on the bus to tell us of the changes they have seen while they showed us the area where they live and work. So much personal, inspiring and uplifting words from those who experience living there every day.
We met in a nursing home to see and hear the concerns of a community regarding their elderly population; we saw the oil wells usually four to a pad and along a section line instead of in the middle of a large farm field. The wells and storage tanks blended into the landscape as much as possible so they were not an eyesore as you drive in the area. We saw the results of communities that built massive rec centers and are continuing to add to the outside with more sports-related activities for all ages. Dickinson's Community Center was built in 2004 prior to the oil boom and Williston started its center after the boom.
We saw and heard from people who love their community and want people to understand that their concerns are housing, traffic and the roads and infrastructure needed for everyone's safety. We heard positive statements from the people dealing with the issues that come up with any fast growing area, including crime, and from those that deal with keeping their community safe. Yes, they have some problems but what community doesn't? The people of the Bakken are positive, looking forward not behind, and give a warm welcome to anyone visiting or moving to the area. They are people first!
We stayed in the cadillac of "crew camps" our second night and it was very interesting to see how the workers are well taken care of while working their long shifts. It is a well-oiled machine directed by a great lady who makes the guys feel as much at home as possible and in return expects no breaking of the rules: no drugs, no alcohol, no women. There are 34 written rules you must abide by or you are gone. The meals are provided with their room, they are given sack lunches to take out to the work field and they can take snacks to their rooms at night. They are provided clean bedding and towels and each unit has a washer/dryer for their personal use.
All of the workers we visited with were friendly, hard working and wanted to make a good living for their families and this area is providing them that opportunity.