Life and death in a Boomtown

Posted by Skylar Browning on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 12:02 PM

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Best-selling author Mark Ebner spent part of his winter in Sidney, Montana, and Williston, North Dakota, talking to locals about the high life and rough living in America's newest boomtowns. His story, titled "Fracked Up!", doesn't skimp on details about primitive "mancamps," high-priced prostitutes, higher-risk fracking operations, brutal on-site injuries, sketchy after-hour crimes, and the one thing that makes it all possible: high-paying jobs for those with limited education and, in some cases, even less experience. His story introduces a smattering of opportunists, from the builder living in a trailer looking to open an Italian restaurant to the trucker who owns a wolf and is there because it's "the boom of a century!" to the sweet-natured stripper from Missoula. He writes:

It’s the kind of place where you can see a middle-aged woman set an original Louis Vuitton bag up on the bar of a local dive. Where the hot twin waitresses at the local diner can earn $200 in tips for a split shift and family farmers can unload the right 60 acres for close to a million bucks (the tell are the shiny new grain silos, combines and pickup trucks visible from the highway). And it’s where the new Okies can dream of a new Big Rock Candy Mountain. This is either the Badlands made good or a good time gone bad, once the next bust inevitably arrives.

And me, I’m no exception.

There's no shortage of coverage about what's going on in eastern Montana and the Dakotas, especially following the death of Sidney teacher Sherry Arnold. Unlike many of those stories, Ebner's gets into some of the grimy reality of chasing the latest American dream.

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