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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published April 20 2012

Dalrymple: Wild West of North Dakota has milder side

WILLISTON, N.D. – You’ve heard about the trucker bombs and the bar fights.

You’ve heard about the new sex offenders who have moved to the state and the increase in police calls associated with oil development.

But have you heard about the guy in a pickup who eagerly offered to pay for a stranger’s car wash?

Or the truck driver who offered food off his plate to someone he just met?

Or the construction workers who used their one day off to unload a couple’s U-Haul?

You haven’t heard about them because these aren’t the stories we in the media typically cover.

But these are the guys I’ve met in my two months in Williston, and I’d like to tell you about them.

During my first weekend here, I took advantage of a warm February day to go through the car wash. The sign on the building said the car wash accepted credit cards, so I thought I would be OK even though I didn’t have the correct change.

But after waiting in line, I got to the credit card machine and found out it was broken. I couldn’t just leave because a long line of vehicles waited behind me.

I hopped out of my car and asked the guy in a pickup behind me if he had change for a $20. Without hesitation, he gave me enough cash to pay for the car wash. In the meantime, a second guy stopped and asked if I needed help.

This was my first clue that I hadn’t been hearing the full story about guys in the Oil Patch.

That realization grew after I started attending a few community dinners that are geared for newcomers.

During one dinner, a truck driver I’d just met noticed that my piece of roast beef was a little gristly. He was worried that I wasn’t getting enough to eat and offered me some of the meat from his plate.

His friend, another truck driver I’d met a few times, told me to clean up my language after I slipped and said a four-letter word, forgetting that we were in a church.

Who would have thought that I’d be the one with foul language in the Wild West?

The strongest impression that has been left on me came from some construction workers who were temporarily living in an apartment in my building.

My husband and I didn’t have anyone lined up to help us move into our apartment. We don’t have family here, and a friend who had offered to help had to work that weekend.

So we started unloading by ourselves, but we were exhausted after spending the previous two days moving out of our Fargo apartment and driving in winter weather to Williston.

We needed help.

Out of desperation, I asked a guy who happened to hold a door for me if he could help us for even a half hour.

He agreed, and before I knew it, he was back with at least five other guys.

It turned out that they were the workers responsible for doing the siding for my building and some neighboring buildings. I had seen them working long hours, six days a week, and this was their one day off.

They moved everything into our third-floor apartment in less than two hours. And they made it look easy, including an incredible feat of strength where they lifted our grill over a living room full of furniture.

If it wasn’t for them, we’d probably still be unloading that U-Haul.

I know there are some bad apples among the new residents of the Oil Patch, but I haven’t met them yet. I’m finding that the majority are hardworking people who are seeking opportunities in North Dakota.

I hope to continue telling their stories. If you have a story you think I should tell, please contact me at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.


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Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. Read her blog at areavoices.oilpatchdispatch.com