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Amy Dalrymple, Published July 28 2013

Faces of the Boom: Blessed in the Bakken

SIDNEY, Mont. – Patty Kneeland feels so blessed to be an oilfield wife, she wears a reminder around her neck.

Kneeland and her husband, Bruce, moved to the Bakken region of eastern Montana two years ago after they closed a bar and restaurant they operated in the opposite side of the state for 10 years.

The seasonal business in the historic gold mining town of Virginia City, west of Yellowstone National Park, wasn’t attracting as many tourists in the down economy, and the couple decided it was time to close.

The Kneelands, both in their 50s, had to look outside of their home area for work, and found good-paying job opportunities in Sidney, about 45 miles southwest of Williston, N.D.

Bruce works as an operator for a construction company, traveling to scoria and gravel pits in North Dakota and Montana and loading the material in trucks for use on oilfield locations.

Patty Kneeland works part time cleaning living quarters and offices at drilling rig sites.

They found a mobile home in Sidney that needed some fixing up, but the landlord has kept the rent reasonable, she said.

“When we moved here, everything just fell into place,” Kneeland said.

Hobby and business

The couple don’t go out much in the evenings, so Kneeland fills her free time by making and selling jewelry through a business she calls Pattana.

She recently began making necklaces and earrings geared for the oilfield, including a necklace she wears featuring a charm of an oil derrick that says “Oilfield wife and blessed.”

Some of her other hand-stamped necklaces say “I love my oilfield man,” “Bakken oilfield mom” and “Keep Calm. I’m an oilfield wife. I got this.” Kneeland has sold the jewelry at two vendor shows and is getting a good response from people in the Bakken.

“I love to do it,” she said. “I’m hoping they do well.”

Challenges, chances

Working in the oilfield is new for the couple. Kneeland, who travels as far as about 85 miles to Mandaree, N.D., to clean trailers on oilfield locations, said learning the oilfield lingo and finding rural locations was challenging at first.

“The oilfield was so new to me,” Kneeland said. “I got lost a lot.”

The couple kept their home in Virginia City and plan to work in the Bakken for about five years before evaluating their next step. They’re grateful for the opportunities they’ve found with the oil boom.

“I think it’s amazing,” Kneeland said. “There are so many jobs out there.”

Dalrymple is a Forum News Service reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.