mud and miracles…it’s been quite the week in the oil patch


You know those days where nothing goes quite right, and it seems like every tiny little task becomes an enormous inconvenience? I have those days a lot. So much in fact, that I’ve really struggled with major anxiety these past few months. Randomly, I become aware that I’m bottling up so much negative anticipation that my chest feels full and I have to remind myself to breathe. Not good.

I know things happen out of our control, we have to  take things as they come, be open to change, blah, blah, blah. I have faith in God and I’m pretty easy going- not much actually upsets me. It’s just LIFE that has been beating me up a bit. Nothing major, just the little things that scratch at my “life is good” mental mantra. Things like having one of your favorite hats blow out the back of your pickup truck as you drive down the busiest highway in Williston. Or getting stuck in the mud when trying to job search.

Winterizing the trailer took way longer than we expected. Besides working on the trailer a couple of weekends ago with the help of friends, it took an additional full day and a couple afternoons to get everything done. Granted, Sam was adding on a mudroom to the front of the trailer because we needed more storage and his oil patch clothes are so full of dirt when he comes home, a generous layer of dust covers EVERYTHING inside. Because there was so much to be done, Sam gave me a job to do (I had been begging to help, but my skills with a hammer are dubious and probably fatal with a saw, so he had sweetly said he had it all under control). Thrilled beyond what is normal, I changed out of my dress and put on old jeans, a sweatshirt and a big puff coat, and my signed baseball cap my dad gave me after he’d been at some kind of race-car event. I really love that hat, but I hardly wear it (usually doesn’t go with dresses and heels).

Face-mask secured, I started my job of stuffing fiberglass insulation up the wheel wells and all the spaces between the plywood and foam. It was about 20 degrees outside and though the cold bit through my work gloves, I really enjoyed the work. I even warmed up enough to toss my hat into the truck bed with all of Sam’s tools. Finished with the insulation, I cut foam for the little spaces on the ends of the trailer, while Sam framed the mudroom. We saw a vibrant sunset and it was a great afternoon just working together on our trailer.

The next morning I was waiting to hear if I’d got the job I’d interviewed for. I’m not great at interviewing. Like, really not great. When asked at the end of the interview, “Is there anything more you’d like to tell us about yourself?”, the best I could come up with was a desperate voiced, “I’m a nice person…” WHAT?! Who says that?! What am I, 16?! I guess they took pity on me, because they did call, and I did get the job! Joy! Elation! Drug test at 4pm! Uhh…

If you haven’t driven US-85 N, let me tell you that it is frightening in a F-150 truck, and terrifying beyond comprehension in a car. There are semi trucks, tankers, vac trucks and every kind of oil field and construction truck you can think of barreling down the highway. The speed limit is 70mph, which everyone essentially ignores, and taking a turn off the highway is like practicing to be a stunt driver in a James Bond movie. We’re talking, two-wheels in the air, gravel flying, the fast approaching semi truck swerving to not hit you and your truck bouncing and rattling like it’s going to implode. Yeah. Not my favorite. So, you can imagine how it might feel to be merrily driving along to your drug test and look out the rear-view just in time to see your baseball hat fly out of the truck bed. I pulled over, but I realized there was no way I could search for my hat and make it to the test on time. I had to leave it there, wherever there was. Everything kind of looks the same. It’s hard to landmark a spot.

Sam would have looked for it, but he didn’t get home till way after dark, and neither did I. He lovingly told me it probably wouldn’t be there in the morning. The wind is so strong, and with those huge trucks flying down the road all night long, there was probably no way a little hat had stayed even close to where it originally landed. I was so disappointed. But, I determined I would look for it on my way to training in the morning.

Of course, I was running behind. And of course, there was a thick frost on the ground turning everything mostly white. I drove along the highway under 70mph- mercifully, there were no trucks near me! Things got even better- my eyesight isn’t stellar, but I saw a round bump that looked like it could be a ball cap. Even though it was white, it was worth checking out. I pulled into the nearest dirt road, flashers on, and started trudging through the tall grass.

It’s funny how much distance one covers in such a short amount of time. Sixty-five mph doesn’t seem really fast, but that’s a different story when you are walking the distance you traveled. I ran as best I could in the slope that leads to the ditch. The wind off the highway is brutal! But it was so worth it because there, covered in frost, was my hat. I went to reach for it and had to pull it because it had landed on a sharp stick with burrs that held it firmly in place. How perfect, how wonderfully, divinely perfect! It seemed so hopeless my hat would be found and yet, here it was, and unharmed! It is JUST a hat, but the whole scenario was uplifting, even faith-boosting. A little chunk of that endless worry that always fills my chest just melted, went away.

Whatever worry I had left surged to EPIC proportions as my younger brother made his trip over to Williston. Two-day drive, little car, little brother- it doesn’t matter that he is, in fact, bigger than me and just out of the Marine Corps- I was still internally taking inventory of the potentially horrible things that could happen on his way here AND once he got here. He made it safely late in the evening (I had pulled onto the most visible dirt road he would be able to see from the highway and put my flashers on- there’s no way to see the miniscule street signs at night) and when we got to the trailer I parked where I normally park, leaving my brother to park his Mustang in the  deeply trenched and tire-tracked dirt. I thought about it briefly and I even said, “Hmm, I hope you don’t get stuck, this stuff is more clay than dirt,” but I followed that with, “Well, I’d only worry if it rains, which hasn’t happened yet!” and we went inside to eat dinner.

It rained. It rained and rained, and rained some more. It rained so hard, I had trouble sleeping  (imagine sleeping in a tin coffee can as rain pelts the plastic lid) and wondered once or twice if the car would be stuck. Sam is so nonchalant about these kind of things. I’m agonizing, and he’ll say something like, “I’ll just tow him out with my truck if it happens”. I give him a scowl, and we move on.

My scowl was quite justified in the morning. As per usual, it was a series of unfortunate events. My brother was going to follow me to my training session so he could inquire there about work. He was anxious to find something right away. Finding housing is a huge issue, and can take days to sort out. We tried to pull out of the thick goo which had been semi-frozen clay-dirt the day before, but was now sucking Brandon’s tires into four wheel-sized trenches. My truck made it out, but Brandon couldn’t ride with me because he’d have no transportation to job search while I was in training. Sam couldn’t tow him either, since the rain prevented him going to the job site, and he’d been called into an impromptu, early morning meeting. We were stuck. I had to go, so I left my brother at the trailer. He remained cheerful despite the setback, which I really appreciated because it was all MY fault he was stuck in the first place!

The drive on US-82N was TERRIFYING. Mud had smudged over the road lines making them extra difficult to see in the dark, it was still raining and the roads were slick. I found myself feeling anxiety about the fact that Brandon would have been following me in his car in these awful conditions. I arrived safely at the job site only to find the main office was completely CLOSED! Now, not only would Brandon have been following me on a dangerous drive, he would have come all that way for nothing. On top of it all, he would have had to attempt to make his way back to the trailer alone, trying to find his way with all the confusing and dangerous construction in Williston.

Sitting in training, thinking of how lucky we were that Brandon got stuck in the mud, my anxieties found a new playground. “What if he doesn’t find work? What if he finds work at a crappy company? What if he has to live in a man-camp or a gross motel room? What if the guys he works with are jerks? What if he has to drive a long way to work in that car of his? What if, what if, what if?!” I was trying to focus on breathing, (while being shown a horrific video of work place accidents such as falling from a ladder and being impaled on pipe, falling from a wooden pallet improperly placed on a lifted forklift and smashing your head open [they showed BRAINS, BRAINS on the concrete], combustible oil rags, H2S gas, confined spaces, being crushed by an avalanche of dirt in the trench you’re digging, etc., etc., etc.) while my anxieties hit an all time record high as I thought of Sam and Brandon working in a minefield of fatal opportunities. Then I got the best text I’ve ever received in my life: “Sam got me a job”. My brother had been hired by the company Sam works for. That was a miracle, for reasons I really can’t share here, besides saying that the impromptu meeting, the random chance that a foreman needed another guy on his crew that morning and there was none to be found, that Brandon was stuck at the trailer and therefore available to work immediately, that this company is big on safety, that the guys are mostly friendly and watch out for each other and that the company trailer right next to ours was empty even though the condos were full- all of those pieces, some very unlikely, came together in the most perfectly timed way.  I can only say it was a miracle.

Since that day, I haven’t had to remind myself to breathe. It’s like God has proven once and for all that He hears my prayers, and even when things do not go my way AT ALL, He is bigger. I’ve tried so hard to trust Him, but I’ve never been able to feel confident in Him. Who hasn’t been let down repeatedly by life? But for some inexplicable reason, the hat, the mud…I know in my heart what I can’t piece together in my mind. I feel calm, and though I still find things to worry about, it lasts like 5 seconds and I’m filled with assurance again. Assurance of what, it’s hard to say. I don’t think everything in life is going to be easy from now on or perfect, but I do feel peace. It’s like I know that I know whatever may come, I’m in His hand.




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