Faces of the Boom: A match made in the Oil Patch

Chris Kamph, left, and Amanda Propper, pictured Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, in Williston, N.D., met in North Dakota on a blind date and will be married in Williston this week. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Amanda Propper was so nervous for her first date in North Dakota, she had her friends wait across the street.

“I didn’t want to go. I hadn’t dated anybody up here,” said Propper, who moved from Georgia to Watford City about 1½ years ago. “That wasn’t in the plan. I didn’t want to date, I just worked.”

But the 36-year-old found she had much in common with Chris Kamph, an oilfield electrician from Idaho she met through a mutual friend.

Both have teenage children from previous marriages and moved to North Dakota’s Oil Patch to pursue high-paying job opportunities.

Ever since that blind date in Watford City last November, the two have been practically inseparable. They will be married on Saturday at Williston’s Spring Lake Park.

“We’re blessed, we really are,” Propper said.

Kamph, 34, who has worked in Williston since 2008, is an electrical foreman for Precision Drilling. He works about 80 hours a week to monitor 10 drilling rigs in the Bakken, in addition to being on call once a month to respond to issues that arise at the company’s 128 rigs across the country.

Kamph said he’s grateful for the job opportunities in North Dakota.

“They’re wonderful,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity here to get a good head start in life.”

Propper’s brother worked as a welder in Watford City and recruited her to work as a welder helper. Propper, who had done welding work in her early 20s, initially said she was too old to do that again.

Then she learned the month-long job would pay $10,000.

“I said, ‘Maybe I’m not too old,’” Propper recalled.

That month led Propper to a position working in the office of the company, Saddle Butte Pipeline. She enjoyed it, but after meeting Kamph, she was always driving back and forth from Watford City to Williston.

Propper, who had never seen snow before moving to North Dakota, decided driving on U.S. Highway 85 during the winter was too tough, and she moved to Williston in January. She now works part-time managing the Williston Senior Apartments and plans to go back to school to pursue a nursing degree.

Kamph has two children and Propper has three, ages 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18. All five will live in Williston.

“It’s like we’re the Brady Bunch,” Propper said.

Finding a house in Williston, especially one big enough for the whole family, was challenging. For a few months, six of the family members lived in a three-bedroom condo. But even in the tight space, the two families blended well together.

“Our children really got along. That was amazing,” Propper said. “A family that united well, that’s for sure.”

They moved into a new house a few months ago and recently finished the basement so everyone will have a bedroom. The family plans to live in Williston for several years, likely long enough for the kids to finish high school. The couple says they’d eventually like to move to the Oregon coast, where they plan to take their honeymoon.

Family members are flying in from around the country to attend Saturday’s wedding. Propper plans to sing the Etta James hit “At Last” during the ceremony.

“She’s the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” Kamph said.

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