What People Are Like In Dickinson, North Dakota

I first came to work in Dickinson in 2011, and stayed for eight months. I returned to Dickinson in 2013, and have been here since then. Altogether, I have lived in Dickinson for almost four years.

In most of the blog posts that I have written, I have stated that the local people in Dickinson are unfriendly, uncooperative, not helpful, that they dislike people from out of state, and that they dislike each other. I also wrote that in the past in Dickinson, people were unable to get ahead, and the only way they could feel like they were successful, was when somebody else failed, so they developed the practice of not helping people.

The four years that I lived in Dickinson, it seemed like every day I was faced with hostility, meanness, unfriendliness, lack of cooperation, unfairness, and always the threat of something bad happening. I wrote several times that if you wanted to know what living in Dickinson was like, you needed to watch the movies “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Deliverance”, and “Planet of the Apes”.

However, in 2015 I did write a blog post titled “A Different Side Of Dickinson”, where I described a completely positive experience doing self employed work for homeowners in Dickinson. I wrote that the homeowners were very positive and complimentary about my work, that many of them paid me more than I asked when I was done. Through word of mouth only, I have gotten about twelve contracting jobs.

I am continuing to see a different side of Dickinson through working directly for local homeowners. For one thing, there has been a complete lack of hostility, and instead politeness, helpfulness, and civility. I want to briefly describe a few experiences.

I worked for one of the wealthiest people in Dickinson, whose family was from Dickinson. He lived in a modest home, considering that he had long been way past being a millionaire. He and his wife were very pleasant, friendly, and there was not ever even the slightest bit of arrogance. When I see him around town, he says hello and talks to me.

I also have worked for homeowners in Dickinson, who worked for fifty years at low paying jobs, who have been pleasant, friendly, cooperative, and helpful. Recently, I worked for a homeowner in Dickinson who was in his seventies. He grew up on a farm outside of Dickinson. He explained to me how he, his brother, and his father used to have to dig with hand shovels, for $3 per day.

I have tried to explain several times in this blog, how poor the people in Western North Dakota had been prior to the oil booms. I wrote about it recently in “Farming And Ranching In Western North Dakota”, and in “Note To Jessie Vender, And Everybody”. What I want to explain and describe, is that it may have been the sudden drastic changes occurring during this last oil boom that may have led to the unfriendly, uncooperative, unhelpful, hostile behavior of some local people in Dickinson.

Having your apartment rent go from $300 per month to $1,500 per month in a two year period, or your house rent go from $600 per month to $3,000 per month, would make anyone angry and hostile. The local people in Dickinson who had been making $9 per hour at a local business for many years, became aware that oil field workers were starting out at $18 per hour, and were working many hours of overtime at $27 per hour. The sudden huge increase in housing prices, the large difference between what local people had been paid in comparison to what out-of-state oil field workers were paid, the tremendous increase in road traffic with aggressive out-of-state drivers, new businesses and development, I think that it all aggravated and angered the local residents, especially when they couldn’t see any personal benefit to them.

It may be that the people that I am doing self employed work for, they are all long time local homeowners, who did not experience the pain of having their rent quadruple. Maybe that is why they are friendly and helpful. I did want to write about this group of people, to explain that they have all been completely friendly.

However, I want to write again for about the tenth time, that there were property owners, property investors, and property managers who were extremely greedy, who tried to gouge and take advantage of everyone. What everyone who came to North Dakota will remember, was how cold it was, how absurdly high the rent was, and how they were taken advantage of.


2 thoughts on “What People Are Like In Dickinson, North Dakota

  1. Do you think….just possibly, that those “hostile”, “unfriendly” people you were first talking about, were not even true locals? Because I am born and raised in Dickinson and believe that we have a friendly city. Maybe I’m biased, maybe I’m naive. But this current posts sounds more like the locals. As you mentioned, the friends citizens that you did work for, sound like they have been LONG time residents. Maybe its you who needed to open your eyes and realize that those people were actually out of staters….But this is your opinion, and you are entitled.


  2. A quick response, I was born in Dickinson, moved away very young and moved back for middle/high school. We were poor and my mom was single raising my sister and I. The people of Dickinson behaved then exactly as you described in your first impression of them above. We were outsiders (even though my mom grew up there) and they were hostile, mean, rude and unwilling to accept us due to our circumstances. So I would venture to say your original impression was indeed correct and not just a result of the lot they had been dealt with the oil boom. Maybe they were like that from the first boom/bust in the late 1970’s/early 80’s? I don’t know for sure, but I do know it was rough being an outsider there in the 90’s. I feel terrible for the people who already lived there and had to deal with the influx of outsiders, but if I am not wrong, most cities view that as opportunity and growth and welcome it instead of scoffing and treating the new people like trash.


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