- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Members of the Oilfield Wives and Girlfriends of Williston met for coffee on a recent Monday at Daily Addiction and discussed a variety of topics including the oil and gas industry, employment, school systems and projects such as the creation of their upcoming cookbook.

Shaleena Layton, a member of the nonprofit, said the group started in 2009 when women in the community began joining together in effort to launch a Facebook page to better organize social meetings.

“It’s an easy way to meet people,” Layton told the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1lapYhj). “And made the transition for women (to Williston) easier.”

The Facebook page says the group became a nonprofit in December 2012 and provides support to wives, girlfriends and female family members who find themselves living in the area. As a nonprofit, the group has raised money for Relay For Life and March For Babies. The women sell T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts to cover group expenses such as rental fees, permits and advertising for events.

On the recent Monday, Layton and three members of the group planned several events, such as the Formal Dress sell, buy and exchange event Feb. 15 at James Memorial Art Center, and the 3rd Annual Charity Ball scheduled for March 22. The latter raises funds for Relay For Life.

The four women who met for conversation that afternoon were all from out-of-state, representing the majority of nonprofit membership. Layton is from Wyoming, Heidi McCormick from Washington, Holly Bowles from Montana and, newcomer Mary Lemings, from Arkansas. The women vary in ages and professional backgrounds, all having different reasons why they accompanied their husbands and significant others to the Bakken.

“The move was driven by the economy,” McCormick said.

The women said husbands and boyfriends held jobs as truckers, laborers in construction and brick and landscapers. Couples moved to Williston for work, whether they wanted change or needed change.

Many have children enrolled at area schools and take care of their homes while they men now work as oil crew operators and truck drivers.

“I don’t sit idle, that’s for sure,” Layton said.

The women agree Oilfield Wives and Girlfriends of Williston can operate as a “support group,” since their new surroundings can be “lonely when the husbands are gone,” McCormick said.

Lemings agreed, saying she found the group in her efforts to meet new friends.

“I felt like we’d all be in the same boat,” Lemings said. “When you first come out here, it’s hard to meet new people.”

Their most recent project is an Oilfield Wives and Girlfriends Cookbook. Bowles has collected more than 60 recipes thus far.

Bowles said the cookbook will include recipes for breakfast, appetizers and desserts, among others. It’s scheduled for completion in the spring and will be available on the Facebook page, even for those online members who live out-of-state.

“It’s a good way to share our recipes,” McCormick said.

Bowles has received numerous recipes, instructing how to cook baked s’mores, simple barbecue ribs, creamy chicken and wild rice soup and gluten free chocolate cake.

The women said their cookbook is one of many planned for the future, as their membership continues to grow.

All agreed meeting each on Facebook was easier and safer than heading to the bar scene in search for friendship. However, they agreed the area has become safer in the past year.

The gender gap in Williston is evident, especially the disparity between single men to single women in the community and such has forced the women to question their safety. However, the four who met on Monday said the bars, restaurants and general establishments are “getting better” considering they take necessary precautions.

“Williston is really not that bad,” Lemings said. “But you want to go out at a certain time of day.”

The group also agreed wives and girlfriends of oilfield workers are often mislabeled. Some rolled their eyes when retelling stories that they were called “oilfield trash” before, although the term can also be used in sarcastic exchanges.

Layton was once told she was an “oilfield widow,” meaning she had become a so-called single-parent since her husband was on-call for work 24-7.

“This lifestyle is not for everybody,” Layton said. “But that was a horrible expression.”

All want to combat such negative perspectives, informing people “there is good to Williston.”

“I think you have to be a strong person,” McCormick said regarding her living in the Bakken.

Members of the group had varying deadlines for how long they plan on staying in the area. Some said six months, others, until the “boom ends.” All said joining Oilfield Wives and Girlfriends of Williston has helped alleviate some worries, adding joy to their stay.

“They become your family,” Bowles said.


Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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