Williston, Watford City, New Town, Sidney, Montana and a handful of towns like them are located near the epicenter of the Bakken formation, a subsurface geologic strata thought to contain between 4 billion and 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Discovered in 1951, this potential windfall has been sitting for half a century like dinosaurs’ blood beneath a thick layer of marine shale, waiting for the magic bullet to arrive that could liberate it. That bullet finally appeared in the form of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology – fracking – a controversial form of water-intensive high-pressure drilling that requires an average of a million and a quarter gallons of fluid per well and incorporates numerous toxic chemicals at potentially dangerous levels that critics claim can permeate the water table. About 1,800 wells are being added a year along the formation, with much of the oil sitting in tanks while crews lay track from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and hundreds of empty flat-black tank cars sit gleaming in the attenuated daylight.
“It’s like every other boom that’s happened since the Gold Rush,” says Sara. “It brings out the assholes of the earth.”
“Still, this place is something to see,” adds Matt. “This is history in the making.”
Matt is “in the grind” – a chain hand, one of the lower totem positions in a drilling rig crew hierarchy that runs from worm to tool-pusher and company man. That’s not to mention the service groups, hydro-testers, hot oil trucks and all the other secondary positions required – like his friend who’s banking $25,000 a pop pressure-washing rigs and derricks. Matt generally works one week on, one week off, often driving two hours each way on top of a 12-hour shift, and frequently dreams of turning wrenches in his sleep. He makes $70,000 a year for just six or seven months work total, and claims the only time his back starts to hurt is when he’s not working. He’s heard they’re predicting steady work in the Bakken for the next 15 years, and plans to ride the boom for at least the next five.
“You know, I’ve literally stood here and watched an oil worker walk right up to a girl and say, ‘I want to fuck you.’ That’s the mentality. These guys come up here and think they can do whatever they want because they’ve got Halliburton, Hess, Nabors or Schlumberger on their shirt. They’re coming in, hiring the scum of the earth – they couldn’t get a job where they’re from because of their reputation or their mentality. And when this oil boom leaves – if it ever does – this town is gonna be a ghost town.”
“I actually wore a fake engagement ring for a while, but it didn’t make a difference. There are guys here from Louisiana and Oklahoma and all over, a lot of them are ex-cons. So there’s this whole unstable atmosphere. But everyone is making so much money. Almost every night of the week, there’s a block of time when it gets packed – so packed they can’t let more people in. Everyone is drunk; there are fights outside all the time. But the club is like a neutral zone. Personally, my rule is that I don’t date guys who go to strip clubs. But these aren’t guys who typically go to strip clubs. They’re just there because there’s nothing else to do. A lot of times they’re going through some really hard stuff, and they want to talk about it: ‘Oh, my wife’s leaving me and she took our kids’ or ‘I’m a single father….’” She says her lap dances – $20 per three minute song – oftentimes seem more akin to therapy sessions.
Continuing the Solent Way after a break for winter, this is the fourth stage. I started around 10am from Lee-on-Solent, past Hill Head, Titchfield Haven, Meon Shore, Brownwich Cliffs, Chilling Cliffs, Hook, and on to Warsash. From just north of the village, the Solent Way goes via ferry to Hamble, but I stopped today on the eastern shore. On the way I saw dogs (many), jetskis, birds, helicopters, the Isle of Wight, the nature reserve, erodind cliffs, fawley power station, oil refinery, and the village of Warsash.
As soon as one crosses from Hampshire to West Sussex things turn a little bit odd, a little bit spooky, a little bit weird. I don’t know why. This is completely unfounded but I feel it every time. It’s fun to go over the border and explore a little into this wigglier county. Today we went to Maysleith, which isn’t really a place but there’s a wood and a hanger and an old house. It’s near the villages of Milland and Rake. We parked near Combeland Farm and walked north east underneath Maysleith Wood and then Maysleith Hanger, past Maysleith House (C17). Then a steep climb of path and stone steps up to the top of the hill. Soon we were in the churchyard of St Lukes church (Milland and Rake parishes). Unusually there is also a chapel in the same grounds. Tuxlith chapel was built in the 16th Century but there was probably something older on the site. Around it and the church were many rather bumpy graves, each with its own spongy mound. Some of the headstones were headirons, rusty and so very Victorian. The path took us through the woods near the old A3 then down through moss-banked tracks and to the start on Canhouse Lane.
Petersfield is a market town 18 miles north of Portsmouth and about 20 miles east of Winchester. Today I explored the eastern side of the town centre from the old college in College St, past the western end of the High Street onto Dragon Street and further east into Sussex Road which leads to the heath. Most of the listed buildings here are C17 and C18, with some C16 and C19. Many have older sections behind the newer facades, evidenced by the uneven roofs. Compared to Winchester, the increased amount of space for building is apparent, with many of only two stories. Petersfield grew as a coach stop on the Portsmouth-London route and due to its market. The Red Lion is a large in on this historic route. The pictures below are all of Grade II buildings, with the exception of Dragon House and Heath Lodge, both II*. Pictured first, my favourites today are Fir Cottage, The Masonic Hall, and 24/26 Dragon St. I am grateful to the owner of Wych Elm Cottage for allowing me onto her property to take that photograph.
You’ve heard the joke, right? What do they call The Hunger Games in France? Battle Royale with Cheese.
That’s about right. Think Battle Royale without much battle and what battle there is over very quickly and in a flurry of muddled camerawork and editing for an age certificate. Think Truman Show. Think Lord of the Flies. Or should that be Lord of the Aphids? Think that garish film with Bruce Willis in the future with all those OTT future fashions. Think of a lot of missed opportunity for either a good adventure movie, or a good satire, or a dystopian nightmare. Think of forests and flashy computers, day-glow and streams. Think of characters you never get to know, allegiances never explained, and not knowing how many are left alive. Think of healing potions and special cammo cream. Think of very shaky cameras and disorientating editing. The girl was very watchable, and did the right thing most of the time. There’s a really quite touching funeral arrangement with flowers. I wanted to enjoy the film, but couldn’t due to how poorly, um, executed it was. There could have been some really cool action, hunting, chasing, hiding, etc. but the opportunities were for the most part lost. Whoops we went to see a teen movie, I thought half way through. Poor teens. I hope for their sakes the books are better.
Is St Cross a Winchester suburb or is it a village? St Cross is one mile south of central Winchester next to the meadows of the Itchen, underneath St Catherine’s Hill. Away from the main road there is the feel of a village, in the Back Street and around the medieval Hospital founded in 1130, along with some old cottages. On the busy St Cross Road it’s very much part of the city, with groups of C18 and C19 town houses, Georgian and Regency. The group of buildings of the hospital is described in the Listed Buildings section of English Heritage as “One of the most beautiful groups of buildings in the country”
Favourites today are 6, 7 and 10 St Cross Back Street, and of course the mini-cathedral of St Cross Church. These are ordered first in the photographs below:
This morning, in the cool spring air, we walked through Durford Wood and part of Rogate Common, just inside West Sussex from Hampshire. Here’s some of what we saw during an hour and a half’s walk over very sandy soil.
Sometimes I feel I’ve got to
Run away I’ve got to
From the pain that you drive into the heart of me
The love we share
Seems to go nowhere
And I’ve lost my light
For I toss and turn I can’t sleep at night
Once I ran to you (I ran)
Now I’ll run from you
This tainted love you’ve given
I give you all a boy could give you
Take my tears and that’s not nearly all
Now I know I’ve got to
Run away I’ve got to
You don’t really want IT any more from me
To make things right
You need someone to hold you tight
And you’LL think love is to pray
But I’m sorry I don’t pray that way
Don’t touch me please
I cannot stand the way you tease
I love you though you hurt me so
Now I’m going to pack my things and go
Tainted love, tainted love (x2)
Touch me baby, tainted love (x2)
Tainted love (x3)