A Type Of Greed That Hurt An Individual’s Own Family In Dickinson, North Dakota

A week ago I wrote two blog posts about “Causes And Effects Of Excessive Land Greed In Dickinson, North Dakota”.  I wrote that during this most recent Oil Boom in Dickinson from 2007 through 2014, land owners were unwilling to sell vacant, unoccupied, barren grassland outside of Dickinson for less than $100,000 per acre.  In addition to that, the land owners would not sell off just one, two, three, four, or five acres, the buyer had to purchase the entire 30 acre to 120 acre parcel.

One of the reasons why the land owners would not sell off just one to five acres, was because they feared that someone putting a house on one lot, would make a developer no longer want the remaining lots for industrial or commercial use.  Or, an industrial building on one lot, would make a developer no longer want the remaining lots for residential use.  An additional reason why the land owners would not sell off just one to five acres was, greed.

Outside of Dickinson, there is still a tremendous amount of vacant, unoccupied, barren grassland stretching for hundreds of miles in every direction.  And, there are not very many single family homes on one to five acres outside of Dickinson, you can drive around outside of Dickinson and you will notice this immediately.  The houses just stop, crowded small houses all together next to each other, and then they just stop.  This is because the land owners would not sell off just one to five acres.

I met some of the land owners in Dickinson during the Oil Boom.  Some of the land owners I knew very well.  I will explain what happened to one of them, though what happened to the other land owners that I knew, is very similar.

This particular land owner was born in Dickinson on his parents’ farm.  He inherited some land from his parents, but purchased an additional parcel of land in the 1990s for about $800 per acre.  He was very poor throughout his life.  He had two marriages that did not last very long.  Most of his life he was single.  What he described to me about both of his marriages, was two wives with young children that just could not stand the many periods of being broke, and having to go to charities for food and diapers.  In Dickinson, when there was not an oil boom going on, employers paid very low wages and it was very difficult to get any job at all.  His two wives left North Dakota, taking their young children with them.

His ex-wives and children did not want to have very much contact with him for twenty to thirty years because of the bad memories.  He would have liked to have traveled out of state to visit them, but he never had the money.  When the Oil Boom came back to Dickinson in 2007, within several years most of the people in the United States began to hear about it, including his ex-wives and children, who were now adults.

The land that he had purchased for about $800 per acre in the 1990s, he now wanted to sell for $100,000 per acre.  He turned down many offers from people and businesses to purchase one to five acres at $100,000 per acre.  He turned down offers to buy the whole parcel for $2.5 million, which was just over $80,000 per acre.

Meanwhile, from 2007 through 2014, he informed his family members that soon he would be very wealthy from the sale of his land.  He wanted his adult children to talk to him, and have a better opinion of him, so he talked about what he planned to do with his millions, and what he could do for them.  He informed his adult children, some of them who were now married with young children, that when his land sold he would be willing to buy each of them a home of up to $160,000, with some conditions.

His adult children had grown up poor without a father, and with bitter mothers who hated their father.  They had all moved on with their life, had adjusted, and had an equilibrium in their life with their jobs, spouses, children, and households.  The adult children had mixed feelings about their father in North Dakota now wanting to have involvement in their lives, now that he was expecting to be very wealthy, and trying to make up for the past.  The adult children replied “No”, with his offer to buy them homes, probably seeing that this was an attempt by him to have the right to visit them and his grandchildren whenever he wanted, without them being able to refuse.

The Oil Boom came and went, with all offers from buyers being refused, because the land owner felt that his land was just too valuable to sell.  Though the highest offer was $2.5 million, no one would buy this land now for even $400,000, because no one needs it now or wants it now.

The land owner’s adult children had not thought about their father very much once they had families of their own, until he began informing them weekly and monthly for seven years, that soon he would be very wealthy.  Whatever their feelings for their father, at least they could expect to have a large inheritance one day.  What is $3 million divided five ways, $600,000?  I believe that each of the adult children had some hope of receiving something, because that is what they were led to believe.

I believe that many many North Dakota families went through this.  Growing up poor with a lot of bad memories and disappointment, but finding an equilibrium and way to get by in life as an adult.  When the Oil Boom came back, land owners believed that they had a chance to become very wealthy.  Adult children and their spouses waited to see how much money their parents would receive from oil leases, oil revenue, and the sale of land.  How much money would this be, and how would they share it?

Because of the Oil Boom, many North Dakotans that were getting by in life, began to wonder how their life would change.  Would they be able to move from an apartment into a house?  Would they be able to buy a new reliable vehicle?  Would they be able to go to college?  Would they be able to get their teeth fixed?  Would they be able to have a different kind of life?  If often depended on what amount of money a family member would receive, and if they would be willing to share this money.  The Oil Boom caused a lot of disagreement, animosity, and hard feelings in families that otherwise would not have happened.

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