Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

Archive for April 2012

It’s quality of life issues that I hear people talking about. Natives and newcomers alike: dirt, traffic and noise and the increasing cost of living here. And crime.

Perhaps I’m naïve. I hear about crime in The Oil Patch and wonder, “Who has time for that? We’re all working too hard; making too much money; sending it back home; using our precious free time to rest up for the next day’s work.” My view is likely a product of seeing the good in human nature a few milliseconds before the bad.

Local police report that the crime rate has not increased. What has increased is the number of people in this once-peaceful town. And with that has proportionately grown the number of crimes.

There are a couple of bars near the train station. Until recently, the warning was that all bad things start from there. Now, the bad seems pervasive.

The word is out across the country: ‘The Oil Patch has jobs and money; it doesn’t have the usual number of outlets at which normal hard-working citizens can recreate.’ So those outlets are streaming here along with all of the other opportunity seekers, bringing with them their proclivities for doing good or doing bad. Unfortunately, those who would do good are muted because good news rarely makes headlines. It may also be true that the opportunities to do good are diminished by extended work hours and efforts to maintain relationships back home by various means.

And then there are criminal opportunists: people who come here specifically to do their misdeeds in a land fat with money. No need for a recitation of their activities; it’s just like any other big city now.

Residents who are used to leaving their homes and cars unlocked are unhappy that the hometown peace has been replaced by the boomtown reality.

And this. Somewhere between 9,000 and 20,000 trucks roll through here every day. If you do the unpleasant math, that means that a whole lot of truckers have to “go” as they pass through the city. And as we all know, when you hafta “go”…   The problem is that there are no truck stops along the entire Williston corridor. And you can’t pull your semi into McDonalds.

Here’s what’s happening: truckers are filling their soda bottles and are tossing them out the window onto the roadside at cruising speed. This joins some even more disgusting human waste and other litter: hypodermic needles, for example.

Knowing this, residents — who were previously disposed to keeping their environs clean — have become indisposed to spring cleanup efforts. It’s not just trash pick up anymore…it’s life-threatening.

The situation got some buzz early this week. I’m now hearing of citizens and company groups who will gather this weekend and brave through the hazards in Williams and McKenzie Counties to keep their highways clean.

It’s easy to see the bad in people: they’re in your face all the time. But sometimes you have to celebrate the good in people, too. It makes living here, well, livable.

I am a product of the big city. I frequently (not-so-jokingly) say that I like bus fumes and skyscrapers. I once worked for a man who grew up on a farm. For him, nothing smelled sweeter than cow dung, and the sight of a distant red barn made him feel all warm inside. He always hated his trips to New York, and it took me a full six years to warm up to his cow-barn Green Bay WI. But I did, ultimately, adapt. And then he transferred me to Minneapolis.

I’ve probably made too much of the fact that The Oil Patch will be an acquired taste, but it’s an issue I have to deal with every day. And it’s something I have to overcome because this is the opportunity available to me now and I intend to fully capitalize on it. It’s probably my last shot before retirement.

So, I’ve taken little trips: explorations of my surroundings; searches for beauty. Allow me to share.

We’ll start near home. The heart of Sidney Montana is a mere two miles from the banks of the mighty Yellowstone River. (Click to enlarge.)

The placid Yellowstone on a Sunday afternoon

Note the massive rock formation on the other side. This is a hint of “The Badlands:” a geological feature in fair supply around these parts.

The view toward the confluence with the Missouri River.

Some stumps speak for themselves.

There's plenty of wildlife here, though I have - thus far - seen only the roadkill variety. But I have seen sheep before shearing.

But mostly, it’s the northern “Plains;” so-called because the landscape is, well, plain. This is what I see in abundance every day.

Yes, it's beautiful.

Call me weird…but after days-on-end of rolling plains, this is an oasis in the desert.

The brand-new Bakken Buffet on Hwy 85 just east of SH 68 in McKenzie County ND. The food is fabulous. Lots of semi parking.

And Pat and Shanelle, mother and daughter, help bring warmth to the cockles of every heart. How could they not? They’re from New York!

Nature is nice. But it's always good people who make a place feel like home.

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