I first came to Dickinson, North Dakota in 2011 during the Oil Boom. Though there was an extreme shortage of housing, and very high housing prices, there was an atmosphere of excitement and optimism in everyone, property owners, business owners, local workers, out of state workers, and even the vagrants from out of state.
I was absent from Dickinson in 2012, but when I came back to Dickinson in 2013, the excitement and optimism was noticeably gone. At the Paragon Bowling Alley bar on a Friday or Saturday night back in 2011, there were about 200 people, in 2013 on a Friday or Saturday night there were about 40 people. At Patterson Lake in the Summer of 2011, there might have been 200 people along the north shore, in 2013 in the Summer there might have been 30 people.
A couple of things that took the excitement out of people in Dickinson, was everyone getting DUIs, no longer being able to drive, losing their job, and becoming broke and unemployable. For those people who did not get a DUI and lose their job, they realized that working seven days a week, 12 hours per day, was not making them rich, it was only making them pay a shit-ton of income taxes.
As it got to be 2015, and the price of oil fell from over $100 per barrel to $40 per barrel, the Oil Boom was over. The number of operating oil drill rigs went from over 200, to down to 40. Everything slowed down as a result, less surveying, less heavy equipment earth work, less trucking, less casing work, less wireline, less tank batteries, less fracking, less sand and water hauling, less need for mechanics, less need for roustabouts, less need for pump jack installation, etcetera.
Dickinson slowed down. Traffic decreased. Restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores became less busy. Manufactured home parks, trailer parks, and apartments came to be less and less occupied. Hotels and motels had more and more vacancies.
Though Dickinson experienced an economic downturn, some of the calming was a relief. House prices and rents became more affordable. Local people felt that there was going to be a return to normalcy. In many ways, everyone was glad to see the “Oil Field Trash go away.”
I probably wrote two hundred blog posts during the time that the Oil Boom was going away. I wrote about my observations, impressions, and feelings about what was happening. Of course, what my feelings were, had a lot to do with where I was working, where I was living, and how things were going for me at the time. Most of the time, things were not going very well for me, which was the case for most out of state workers.
Deep in my mind, despite all of the chaotic things that I was writing about, I thought that Dickinson was going to return to a kind of middle-class, mid-West values, settled, normalcy. I was wrong about this, and this has kind of been upsetting to me. To have the fundamental belief that Dickinson was essentially, deep down, good, and to be so wrong about this, makes me kind of sick to my stomach.
Instead of Dickinson returning to a middle-class, mid-West kind of values, Dickinson is returning to a kind of Street Survivor, Prison Life mentality, which I hadn’t known was its true nature. How was I supposed to know that Dickinson was like this?
During the Oil Boom, I didn’t like going to restaurants in Dickinson because of the “Oil Field Trash”. Many times in the King Buffet, Perkins, or Bonanza, I was sorry about where I was seated because I didn’t like hearing what the oil field workers were talking about, trying to talk about inappropriate things in order to be funny.
Now, I really, really can’t go anywhere, don’t want to go anywhere, because the local people in Dickinson are so nasty. What I thought was obnoxious, offensive behavior from the oil field workers, I would gladly go back to that, rather than the scowling, sneering, deep dark hatred of the local people.
I will describe this another way. I have lived in Dickinson for five years now, and in that time, I have never seen the gentle, mild-mannered, polite, considerate people that I have met in Dickinson, out at dinner. From 2011 to 2015, I could understand that the few nice people in Dickinson that I met, did not go out at night, because the oil field workers were kind of overbearing. But once Dickinson slowed down after the oil boom, these few pleasant mild-mannered people in Dickinson did not come out.
Professional people, business people, home owners, business owners, and property owners that I had met during the day, that I thought highly of, and would have enjoyed seeing out at night in Dickinson, I never, ever did see them out in Dickinson, even after the Oil Boom was over. I wondered why this was.
One of the reasons why I wondered where these nice people that I had met were, was because every time that I went out in Dickinson, the people that were out were so rough, mean, and nasty. I guess that I am slow to catch on, I could have caught on about a year earlier, the people in Dickinson Are rough, mean, and nasty.
I thought that Dickinson was middle-class, and lower middle-class people, but instead they are more like Street Survivor people or Prison People.
I had made the comment periodically during the past five years of living in Dickinson, that the people in Dickinson would rather hire someone that did four years in prison, instead of a person who did four years in college. Now I know why this is.
During the Oil Boom that lasted from about 2007 through 2014, there was not a lot of crime or theft in Dickinson, compared to other states. During 2015 through 2017, after the Oil Boom was over, the crime and theft in Dickinson really picked up, the theft in Dickinson now, is the worst of any place that I have ever lived. I attributed this to people losing their jobs, and people needing money. Now, I am beginning to think, and to see, that this is the local people.
I just don’t know how this happened, or why this would be the case, that the people in Dickinson are more like Street Survivor people or Prison Life people. Knowing this, and looking around at local businesses, local government, and how things are done in Dickinson, this all starts to make more sense now.