Like Crabs In A Bucket, Dickinson, North Dakota

When I grew up in the South, I used to catch blue crabs in the Indian River.  While you were crabbing, you dropped the crabs that you caught into a half-filled bucket of water.  If you would look in the bucket after you had caught about five crabs, one of the crabs would very nearly have the tip of one of his claws on the top rim of the bucket.  But he never got out, because the other four crabs had a hold of him and were pulling him back down.  Dickinson is like that.

When I first got to Dickinson in 2011, I went to work for an oil field service company that was short handed.  They hired me, and two other out of state workers.  One of the workers never showed up.  They hired me because I had a camper on the back of my truck, I had a clean driving record, no criminal record, and had construction experience.  In order to encourage me and the other guy to stay, the company management said that they would provide housing for me and the other guy, that is, until the other workers heard that.  The other workers, which were from Dickinson, said, “That aint right, why should the company pay for them to have a place to live, they don’t pay for us to have a place to live.”  The result, the company withdrew the offer to provide a place for me and the other guy to live.  Did that benefit the current employees from Dickinson?  No, it only caused me and the other guy to have to live in campers on the company property, it had no benefit to the current employees.

After the offer of company subsidized housing was withdrawn, the current Dickinson employees started to say, “That ain’t right, you get to stay in your camper on the company property and not pay rent.  We have to pay rent for where we live.”  I explained that I had a house, I had to pay for that house, property tax, homeowners insurance, utilities.  My house was in a different state, I did not need or want another house, I just came here to work.  I wondered to myself, “WTF, why are these people so intent on making sure that you don’t get anything, when it doesn’t affect them, they just want to see that you aren’t getting anything.”

The second company that I went to work for in Dickinson, I stayed in my camper on the company property.  So did a friend of mine who I will call “SA”.  “SA” went to the Dickinson DMV to change his driver’s license to a North Dakota license.  The DMV lady asked for his current address, and “SA” gave her the construction company address.  The DMV lady argued with him that this was not his address, until she did not want to argue any more, and she telephoned the police.  “SA” was arrested for providing false information to the DMV.  The charges were dropped when the prosecutor realized the address that “SA” gave, was actually where he was living, oops!  What benefit did the DMV get from refusing to give “SA” a North Dakota driver’s license?  “SA” had a job, he lived at the construction company yard, and he continued to live there for another two years, working for the company.  He did not earn enough money to afford $1,500 per month for a one bedroom apartment, plus utilities.

I will give a couple of examples of the experiences of local people, who have lived here their whole lives.  A friend of mine, who I will call “DS”, owned thirty acres of vacant land outside of Dickinson.  “DS” did not make much money, but due to a circumstance that came up, he had the opportunity to buy a used manufactured home for roughly $3,000, about ten years ago, but he had to get it moved to his property.  He checked with Stark County to find out what the rules and requirements were, he wanted to place the manufactured home on his property.  He was informed by the county that he could not move the manufactured home onto his property and live in it like he wanted.  He accepted their reason.  It was not until someone moved a manufactured home onto an adjacent property several years later, that he found out that he had been lied to.  He told me that he felt like some people at the county had disliked him, and they just didn’t want to see him get ahead.

A life long resident of Dickinson, who I will call “CL”, who has a degree in business, has told me many stories of trying to start businesses, trying to gain employment, and opportunities in Dickinson.  When he was young, thirty years ago, a house or a property would become available, ones in which he figured he made enough money to be able to buy if he really lived frugally, but he could manage.  He asked older business people in the community what they thought about him buying that land, if they thought it was a good idea or not.  They told him oh no, no, no, bad idea.  Sometimes he had an idea to start a business, he would use his money, and borrow some additional money from family members, and he was told, oh no, no, no, bad idea, from business people who had a say in it, like a bank, or a supplier.  As he got older, and he saw other people start the businesses that he had wanted to start, and their businesses grew, he said he thought, “WTF, why did everybody try to talk me out of, or try to stop me, from starting that business, or buying that house?  Why did I listen to those people?  It turns out they just didn’t want me to succeed, they were jealous or something!”

You may or may not have experienced this before, where you live in a town, or work for a company, where people try to block you from something.  You may want to buy a property, start a business, get a job, get a promotion, and people try to prevent this from happening, not because they want what it is that you want, they just can’t stand to see someone else get ahead.  I used to think of it this way, “They don’t want to put in the time and energy to start a business or get a promotion in order to advance themselves, but, by God, if they can help it, you’re not going to get ahead either!”  Just like crabs in a bucket, pulling each other back.

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