Since moving to downtown Dickinson a couple of months ago, I have been able to ride my bicycle more than when I was living outside of town north of Dickinson. Now, it is easy for me to ride my bicycle to the Post Office, grocery store, hardware store, and restaurants.
While zigzagging my way through the old downtown neighborhoods in Dickinson on my bicycle, I had a chance to pay more attention to the houses than when I was driving. I was sorry that I hadn’t noticed before how many interesting old houses there are in downtown Dickinson.
I wanted to take photographs of some of the old homes in downtown Dickinson. I thought that it would be easier and safer for me to do this on a bicycle ride, rather than driving one of my vehicles. I was aware that it would probably upset a homeowner if they saw someone taking a photograph of their home, and that no amount of explaining would make it O.K. with them. I tried to think of the best time for me to photograph without upsetting anyone, but there really was no best time.
On this past Sunday afternoon when I went on a bicycle ride in order to take photographs, I found that the inhabitants of the old downtown neighborhoods in Dickinson didn’t even like me riding through their neighborhoods. They were watching me with suspicion even before I came to a stop and took out my camera. From the way that they were behaving, I sensed that photographing someone’s home half a block away from them would have caused some of these residents to go berserk. I had to pass by many nice homes without being able to photograph them.
I tried to look at it from their point of view. There have been a lot of thefts from garages and vehicles in downtown Dickinson. The thefts are probably committed by scraggly meth addicts on foot and on bicycles. I can understand this, I have felt the same way about passersby in the places that I have lived.
There was really nothing that I could say or do to not make these homeowners uncomfortable. They would have been just as suspicious or even more suspicious if they saw me come to a stop in front of their house in a vehicle, take photographs, and then drive off. I understand that they are concerned about their house, their possessions, and what is going on.
Later on Sunday, I went on another bike ride for exercise and for something to do. This time I rode through the blue collar worker, lower middle class neighborhoods just beyond the oldest downtown neighborhoods. The residents of these blue collar neighborhoods acted suspicious of me too, and as if they didn’t like me riding through their neighborhoods. It seemed like these blue collar workers were probably just as concerned about their new expensive vehicles, as they were about their homes and other belongings.
In the old downtown neighborhoods, and in the blue collar neighborhoods, I got the impression that the homeowners are proud of what they have, protective of what they have, and fearful of losing any of what they have. So much so, that even a person riding by on a bicycle is a threat to them.
I believe that these homeowners don’t know what is going to happen in Dickinson. From my reading and learning about what happened in Dickinson during the oil boom of the 1950s, and the oil boom of the late 1970s, these two previous oil booms each lasted about eight years, and after they were over, there were massive job losses, jobs were scarce, jobs were low wage, housing prices dropped by 60%, and people walked away from their houses because they owed so much more than their houses were worth.
In Dickinson, the retirees and the people who were planning on retiring, to live off a combination of savings, investments, social security, and pensions, these people will be O.K. The non-retired homeowners with mortgages and expensive vehicle payments, they will not be O.K. These people will have a difficult time making their monthly payments because they may lose their job, or their wages will become lower and lower. At the same time they are having difficulty making their monthly payments, they will find that they still owe $140,000 on their house, and it is now worth $100,000.
House payments of $1,100 to $1,600 per month on a house that is worth way less than you owe, truck payments of $900 to $1,100 per month on a truck that is worth less than you owe. And the best job you can get, if you are lucky, take home pay is $2,500 per month. I don’t think that the people in Dickinson know what is going to happen.