By Kathleen J. Bryan
Forum News Service
MINOT, N.D. — Nick Vaughn earns in two nights what took him two weeks to make in his home state of Tennessee.
The 34-year-old Gallatin, Tenn., man uprooted his family — wife Burgandy and four children — in September in hopes of finding a better life in Minot.
The former automotive factory worker who was earning $9 an hour now tends bar at the Blind Duck Lounge and Casino. His wife quickly found work as a licensed practical nurse in a retirement home, increasing her salary by $3 per hour.
Vaughn said his brother-in-law, a retired Air Force service member who has been working in the Oil Patch since July, coaxed the family to move, saying “There’s a better life here for you.”
Life in Gallatin saw “plenty of work,” he said, but the growth rate of the Nashville suburb that had a population of more than 30,000 in the 2010 Census has outpaced available housing, forcing buyers and renters to pay a premium for a place to live.
And for Vaughn and his family that meant staying with relatives, he said.
Vaughn said unless a worker wants to join the ranks of middle management, the most a person can make is $9 to $10 an hour.
As a bartender at the Blind Duck, it’s on Friday and Saturday nights where he earns the majority of his money.
“We’re actually able to save and pay off debt. We can provide the kids with necessities, things they would normally have to wait a while to get. We were barely able to make ends meet,” Vaughn said.
His 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift allow him to be the “taxi in the one-car family,” driving his wife and kids, ages 7 to 13, to and from work and school.
“I take everybody where they got to go,” he said.
A dyed-in-the-wool Southerner and native of Selma, Ala., Vaughn said he still roots for the Crimson Tide, the University of Alabama’s football team. On game days, every TV in the Blind Duck is set to the game to watch, and you had better not touch that dial.
Patrons “love” the bar’s karaoke nights, Vaughn said. The top three most popular drinks are Bud Light on tap or in bottles, whiskey or rum with Coke and Patrón tequila.
On a recent mid-week evening, a Christmas tree bedecked with sparkly lights welcomed patrons and festive garland and ornaments hung above the bar. Vaughn served up drinks with an occasional “Yes, ma’am” in his soft Southern drawl.
The Peace Garden State is home now, and Minot is just the fresh start Vaughn and his family were counting on.
“It’s a great town — good people,” he said. “The kids were ready to leave. This is something new, a fresh start. We love it here, the quality of life has gotten 10 times better.”