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Posted 9/28/11 (Wed)


Once in awhile, but not often, I’ve strayed from ranching. I suppose most ranchers in the western Dakotas have done this. But the high gas prices and oil boom got me to reminiscing. It was the oil boom in the 80s.
Most of us have struggled through droughts and blizzards and floods and low cattle prices. We’ve suffered with scours, pneumonia, and coccidiosis. We’ve had frozen ears and rat tails and broken legs and snake bites. We’ve tipped over trucks and horses and burned up balers and haystacks. We’ve missed the market highs by months and hit the lows to the minute. And we just keep on ranching and doing the best that we can. All of this was hitting lots of us in the 80s.
My brother-in-law and I decided to go into the construction business. Oil field construction. We didn’t really have any equipment, just an old D6 Caterpillar, but we didn’t let that deter us. We figured if we got a job, we could get equipment. No use investing a lot of money we didn’t have in something we didn’t need. But we hung our shingle out and visited a few well sites and drilling companies. And then we waited.
Our first call came on a December night during a blizzard. A well site down on Bear Den needed a dozer to push snow off a location. But the catch was, we had to have the dozer there by morning. I quickly accepted. Not knowing where Lynn or the dozer was. Lynn was staying down at Murphy’s during the storm. The phones were out and the road into the ranch was blocked. Not wanting to miss our big chance, I headed for the mountains to find Lynn. I walked in the last half mile and woke Lynn up. The dozer was up on the reservation, about twenty miles from where we needed it. We didn’t have a truck or trailer.
It was about two in the morning, around zero, and pretty nasty when we reached the D6 and got her running. We were going to walk that dozer about twenty miles in the dark to this well site. It was pretty darn cold on that dozer. You could hardly hold onto your beer. Not really. You decide. I was running her down the road ditch and that snow was boiling over those tracks and blowing in my face. I looked at that old blacktop road and decided Highway 22 was frozen hard enough to support that old 6. I pulled her up on the road, put her in reverse, and backed that 6 down the highway for five miles. Sparks just flying.
When daylight came, we were sitting on that well site, and on the payroll. That old dozer sat on that location for a couple of months. Either on standby, or working. There would never be another poor day.
Eventually, Lynn found out how good an operator I was, and I had to go back to ranching. But for a couple of months, I fooled a lot of people!
And now with another boom here, I have to recall the old bumper sticker that was popular years ago, “Please God, give me one more oil boom. I promise not to **** this one away!”