The attention grabbing headlines of the oil boom in North Dakota are sometimes glamourous and other times heart breaking. But the stories in between glamour and heart break are often missed.
With growth comes prosperity for some and struggles for others in North Dakota. It’s a location that has been analyzed and ranked over and over again as a best place to do business and have a career. The unemployment rate ranked just below 3.0% in July, 2012.
It’s hopping. New faces. New people. New businesses.
And yet we still have old traditions.
The landscape has changed in some areas of North Dakota. For decades, this area was considered not productive land. Much of it sat as monumental, beautiful land with little use.
Today oil has changed the landscape. It’s a small footprint in the landscape, carefully engineered and calculated to be productive with little affect to the environment around it as possible. The land is now productive, building prosperity, thanks to the years of dedication and care of a multi-faceted industry that brought technology and production to land once labeled “wasteland”.
In the midst of this changing landscape, I recently visited my friends Weston and Teresa on their ranch where they’re raising cattle and four young daughters in the middle of the oil boom. The ranch remains in their family. Weston and Teresa have made sure of it.
The roads are busier now in the middle of North Dakota’s oil boom. There is more hustle and bustle in “town”. Out of state license plates may surround Weston and Teresa and their family at a stop light, 25 miles from their ranch. The grocery store lines are longer. They might not leave their keys in their ignition when they dash into a store for quick errand.
Through it all, their livelihood has not stopped. Family ranching remains in the middle of the North Dakota oil boom.
What has oil given North Dakota? It gives financial freedom to many. For those of us raised in North Dakota, it gives us the ability to have a life and career in our home state. For decades, the next generation could not have careers here. It was not the land of opportunity. Now, we can stay. We can build our lives here. It gives an opportunity for ranchers like Weston and Teresa to grow their family, grow their ranch and build a stronger life and future on the land Weston’s family has ranched for three generations.
What has North Dakota’s oil boom given to America? More freedom. Weston said something to me on my visit that resonated. I’ll try to quote as best as he said it but this is summarized.
“I would rather have an American come to North Dakota for a job in this oil boom than be an American solider in the Middle East fighting for oil in a war and possibly losing their life for oil on foreign ground. That man or woman, instead of having to fight for oil overseas, can have a job here, make money and whether they choose to stay here or not, is up to them. They can make money and return to their home or they can make money and build a new life here.”
Freedom to choose is a beautiful thing, not just here on the North Dakota prairie but across America. The headlines don’t talk about it.
But freedom has glamour and freedom is filled with heartbreak.
But the freedom is ours.
I am grateful for families across my home state of North Dakota and this great nation that are willing to be bold in their choices, stand by their values and faith and balance all of it with what is best for their family. Weston and Teresa and their family are not seeking glamour in an oil boom. Their story thankfully is not full of heart break.
They are simply living out their American freedoms, living out their American dream.
Thank you to Weston and Teresa for their willingness to share their story. You can connect with their family and ranch: Down on the Double Trouble Ranch. Also look for an upcoming guest blog post here from Teresa on her first hand perspective on family and ranch life in the middle of the North Dakota oil boom.
Thank you to my sister, Kirsti, for giving me oil boom insight and word smithing on this blog post. She and her husband are also living out their American dream in the middle of the North Dakota oil boom.