I was in my last year of grad school and starting my clinical hours. We were living in Texas, I had to stop working full time which put a financial strain on our family. I completed about 700 hours of clinical experience to meet the requirements for graduation. I pushed hard to graduate about 3 months early and I spent countless hours studying for final comprehensive exams and then the national certification exam. I passed all the required tests and in December of 2014, I became a certified family nurse practitioner (FNP).
During this time, we learned through friends, of an opportunity for Mike to work in the oil field in North Dakota. He was becoming increasingly frustrated with his job situation and earning far less than he was worth. He has always been a loyal employee and a hard worker. We decided to go for it! Once again, we found ourselves packing up and moving across country. But this was our plan, essentially, to be free spirited, take chances, and explore.
Brandon was 16 at this time. He really loved Texas, but when we discussed the opportunity in North Dakota, he was on board to go. He looked at it as another adventure. He did his research and thought it looked desolate and like a wild frontier! He was attracted to these attributes. Maybe I should have paid a little more attention when he described it as desolate!
So, on November 18, 2014 we had a caravan of 3 vehicles and a trailer, heading north. I was crossing fingers and toes and praying we did not encounter snow or ice on the way. We rolled into Watford City, North Dakota 3 days later. We had arranged to stay with a friend in an apartment until we would move into a house that was part of a job I was planning on accepting at a clinic owned by the local hospital. We had to board the dogs at a local veterinary clinic as the apartment did not accept dogs.
After a tortuous 8 hour interview with the hospital and their board of directors, I was terrified that I was going into a horrible situation as my 1st job as an FNP. The next morning, I began looking at other job options. There was one other clinic in town. Their website looked decent enough and it appeared the business was owned by 2 nurse practitioners. It was a shot in the dark, but I sent an email to the general information email address, explaining my situation as a new FNP that had just moved to town.
Fortunately, their jack of all trades employee, Bekki, quickly informed the owners and they contacted me that afternoon. I met with them later that day and I knew as soon as I walked into the clinic that this place was different. It felt comfortable and the owners were kind and passionate about their work. The clinic was beautiful. It is owned and operated by 2 nurse practitioners and they essentially offered me the job on the spot. Just one problem, it did not come with housing.
Our house was down a long dirt road.
I had no idea there could be so many unpaved roads
in our 1st world country!
Lots of damaged windshields from semi trucks
that travel these dirt roads, throwing rocks.
Watford City is/was referred to as a 'Boom Town'. It is right in the middle of the Bakken Oil Basin Formation. This area is using the fracturing process to produce a crazy amount of 'sweet crude oil'. Apparently this oil is much cleaner and requires less processing than oil form other sources or areas. There were more jobs than people. The unemployment rate was less than 1%. If a person wanted to work, there were plenty of opportunities, and the pay was extremely good.
I'm sure these folks don't mind the big pump jacks
and storage tanks in their front yard as they are probably receiving a
very attractive monthly check for mineral rights.
These are basically FEMA trailers in a
trailer park with a small kitchenette and beds on each side.
When we got to North Dakota, these were renting for
$1200 per month.
I don't know the statistics but the female to male ratio was probably about 1:20. There were stories of the men being dangerous and committing violent crimes. I was told I should not walk alone or go the store by myself after dark. I honestly felt like this was a huge exaggeration once I got here and I have never felt uncomfortable or concerned about my safety. Except, for the time I took Taylor to Walmart and I was pretty sure about 5 male employees were trying to block her in the middle of an aisle! She thought I was overreacting when I snatched her up and glared at the men!
Well, as luck would have it, the price of oil came crashing down shortly after we moved here! There was lots of talk regarding decreases in pay and loss of bonus money with Mike's job. At one point we were just hoping to save enough money to move to the next place before he would lose his job. Fortunately, this time I really was overreacting! His job has been stable. He works a lot of hours but we are accomplishing some ambitious financial goals.
There are fewer people living here. We have seen entire trailer parks be cleared out. There is much less drilling taking place, but the existing pumps cannot be stopped. Companies can slow the extraction of oil, but they cannot stop production. This is a good thing as Mike's job involves existing wells. He travels to several sites per day and monitors the flow of oil and determines when and how much oil is shipped to a larger holding tank where it is then collected in tanker trucks and so forth. There's more to it than that, but the more I try to explain, the more I probably get wrong!
Rent has come down significantly, making life up here much more affordable. Traffic is improved since there are less people on the roads. Fortunately there are enough people still here that I stay busy at work. The clinic stays busy and has an excellent reputation in the community. I also took a 2nd job with Sanford Health where I work in a mobile medical clinic that provides occupational healthcare to the workers. We do drug testing, pre-employment physical exams, DOT exams, injured worker exams, etc.
The 1st 6 months up here were very much an emotional roller coaster. I worried about the stability of Mike's job. We were paying a ridiculous amount of money to rent a house that I was less than impressed with. The winter was brutal. There are limited services here in Watford City, and I was accustomed to constantly going to new places and restaurants and always being busy prior to the move here. We did not have internet for the 1st year we were here. We had no TV for the 1st 2 months. I thought I would go crazy.
Uptown Watford City!
I've come to kind of like the quaintness of town!
The pharmacists and storekeepers know their customers.
We have our favorite servers at the local restaurants.
The closest Walmart is 1 hour away. The closest McDonald's is 1 hour away. I did not think I'd ever miss McDonald's, but sometimes, a familiar Egg McMuffin is hard to beat! Just being honest. I never thought I'd drive 3 hours to go shopping, and then 3 hours back home in the same day. That's how far the closest 'big city' is and that's Bismarck. For my Ohio family and friends, it's probably about the size of Kettering with less variety of restaurants.
I am not sure what happened, but I started to embrace North Dakota. I love the people. The people that are from here and those that have really made this place their home. The women here are the hardest working women you could ever know. They farm and ranch, raise families, have careers outside of the home, and participate in community and church events, simultaneously. The people here have been very kind to me and my family. The landscape is open and expansive. The badlands are at the edge of town. The skies are magnificent. I've been involved with more parades in the past year than in my entire life!
Sweet little Lutheran Church outside of town.
Large population of Norwegian Homesteaders and
they are predominantly Lutherans.
North Dakota Skies are beautiful.
The sky really does feel bigger up here!
The Kids: Brandon graduates in the Spring. He plans to enlist in the Air Force. Deric is living just 5 hours south of us in Rapid City. He is still in the Air Force and is stationed at Ellsworth A.F.B. He is now living off base in a town home and has a dog named Marley. Taylor is engaged to Zach and living in Naperville, just west of Chicago. I became a grandmother this year, Taylor had sweet little baby boy Logan on November 4th. I made it with time to spare and I am so glad I was there to witness his arrival. Geoffrey and Chelsea are living in North Carolina. They keep inching their way closer to South Carolina! They are planning their wedding for Spring of 2017 in Ohio. Mike and I had the pleasure of visiting them in September of this year.
We're not sure what the future holds, but I'm sure it will be fun.
Hopefully I'll be more active in updating the blog to share with friends and family!