POWERS LAKE, N.D. – When Carolynn Robinson and her husband moved from Washington state to North Dakota to work in the oilfields, they thought it would just be a summer gig.
But the move worked out so well, they decided to stay.
“We’re getting more and more attached to North Dakota,” said Robinson, who moved to the state about two years ago.
Lack of work in their home state prompted them to move to North Dakota.
Robinson’s husband, Travis, came to North Dakota first, and now works as a pipeline welder.
Robinson followed after budget cuts caused her to get laid off from her job with the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, where she operated equipment to clear logging roads.
Her job in North Dakota also involves running heavy equipment – which she has done for nearly 15 years – but now she works on oilfield locations.
“My skills have become more diversified and I’ve learned a lot,” said Robinson, who works for B&G Oilfield Services of Williston.
On Friday, Robinson was operating a backhoe and blade at oil well sites near Power Lake. She also installs pipeline, runs a bulldozer and does labor work, typically working six 12-hour days a week.
“I do a little bit of everything,” she said.
Robinson has female co-workers, but she’s the only female worker for B&G who operates heavy equipment. Throughout the Bakken, she’s noticed more women and families than she did her first year in North Dakota.
“I think word’s getting out that it’s not the wild, crazy oilfield like everybody has the interpretation that it is,” Robinson said. “It can be family-friendly, so wives and families are moving out.”
Robinson and her husband have six children, ranging in age from 10 to 21. Three of their children live with them in North Dakota, along with their oldest daughter’s husband, who also works in the Bakken.
They rented a couple of different places before finding their current home in Alexander, which is between Williston and Watford City and a convenient location for their jobs. Finding a place large enough was challenging until their 10-year-old son learned his friend was moving away, which opened up a house in town.
Rent is expensive, but they’re able to afford it with two oilfield salaries.
“We’ve been fortunate out here. It’s given us the ability to get ahead,” Robinson said. “Back home we were struggling and out here it’s much easier.”
Robinson said it was difficult to move away from their extended family in Washington, but now many other relatives are following them to pursue North Dakota job opportunities.
The family spends a lot of time at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and enjoyed ice fishing for the first time this year. They still have their home in Washington and planned to return, but now they’re thinking they might not move back until retirement.
“For right now, we’re getting comfortable and enjoying everything North Dakota has to offer,” Robinson said.