On the benefits of walking
Conversations I’ve had today:
– With an oil rig supervisor standing in his trailer. He answered my questions about the drilling: 20,000 feet of 4-inch pipe 2 miles down, then 2 miles over. The well would be fracked in a couple weeks. Etc. He gave me cold water to fill my empty bottles. As we both went back to work, he said, “Have a nice walk, Tom.”
– With two young roughnecks sent from a well site to get more steel bars for a pumpjack. One, David, had long, floppy hair, and he was all covered in oil. He was in his early 20s. He grew up near Tioga, north of Lake Sakakawea, and spent his life in North Dakota, which he said was too bad. David and his partner had dragged a half dozen steel rods under their pickup and strapped it up underneath. It hung an inch above the road as they drove away. “Living in North Dakota is not a bad thing,” David had told me. “But there’s a whole lot of world out there.”
– With a man from Pamona, California, who used to haul refrigerated trucks full of seafood from Los Angeles to Boston. Then he’d load up on scallops and halibut and drive back west. Five years ago, with his business slowing, he brought his truck to Williston, North Dakota. He lived in it for a year, hauling water and fracking chemicals to well pads. Now, he’s settled with his wife and four kids – boys aged 17, 16, 15, and 11 – in Minot. Today, he was scraping paint from oil operations trailers as I walked past on the road. He asked me what I was doing. I told him. He explained that he is doing painting and other light work for a while. He was recently diagnosed with stage 5 kidney disease and is waiting on a transplant. The dialysis, every three days, makes him weaker.
– With a third generation farmer while sitting in the shade of his new metal equipment shed. He told me about the barn down the road that his grandfather designed and built in 1915.
– With the farmer and his wife, standing in a garden and eating fresh stalks of asparagus in the late afternoon. They offered me a place to sleep for the night, so I am sitting on the porch of the bunk house, waiting for the three South African farm workers to finish planting spring wheat, as I type this post.