Questions for Rhea Bewick, an Oil Field Wife Living in a Camper

I’m starting a new feature this week where I’ll periodically interview other bloggers in North Dakota. I believe building an online community with fellow bloggers is so important and there are some fantastic blogs out there covering the oil boom that deserve a shout-out. Today’s feature is with Rhea Bewick, a blogger at littlecamperontheprairie.blogspot.com, who currently lives in a camper in New Town, North Dakota with her husband. Here’s my Q&A with her:

Name: Rhea Bewick
Age: 22
Occupation: Administrative assistant for a water and oil hauling company
Hometown: Just outside of Fresno, CA
Blog: http://littlecamperontheprairie.blogspot.com/

Blaire Briody (BB): What’s your living situation like?

Rhea Bewick (RB): We live in New Town, North Dakota, which is on a Native American reservation.  We live in a camper in a man camp. It is a lot different than anywhere else we’ve lived. Before North Dakota, my husband and I had lived in a tiny guest house, then I moved back in with my parents while he was in Iraq for 15 months, and then we lived in an apartment for a year.

At first I was scared shitless. My husband was gone all of the time at work, and I was home alone, and I only knew one person in the park.  I was trying to get a concealed weapons license and always had a kitchen knife by my side. I had read so many stories online about how unsafe it is for women to be here.  I was probably overreacting, but my motto is that I would rather be safe than sorry. Now I have calmed down a bit, but I have my handy dandy pepper spray on me at all times.

BB: Why did you move to the oil patch?

RB: We moved up here because when my husband came back from Iraq, he had no clue what he wanted to do. He could have gone to school, but he wanted to do five different careers.  I wanted him to find a job, but that was difficult in California. We had a good amount saved up because I had lived with my parents and our only bills where for my car, school, and cell phone. Well, after he had been home for a year, our savings had basically run out and we were getting desperate.  My husband had heard from a friend about the oil boom. His friend knew someone up here driving a semi truck and making a lot of money. The next day my husband told me that this was what he had wanted to do for now. So I said alright. We packed up everything, financed a truck, bought a camper in Las Vegas, and moved here.

BB: What’s been the most challenging thing so far?

RB: The most challenging thing has been the weather. Coming from Central California, it was a major adjustment to say the least. Below freezing was not in my vocabulary until now, let alone negative. The people up here are sort of rude too. I understand it though. My husband and I came from a small community – our graduating class was probably about 120 people – so we understand why this small town is angry at the people moving in and taking over their town. They are getting a lot of money from this oil boom though – even the crappiest food places are making major mula. This town will never be the same though, and it does make me sad. If that happened to our small hometown, I would probably be devastated.

BB: How has your life changed since coming to North Dakota?

RB: Moving up here has given us so many new life experiences. We’re making new friends, learning about our finances, learning how to live in a camper, etc. If moving up here doesn’t change you then I don’t know what does.

BB: How long do you plan on staying? Could you see yourself building a life here?

RB: We plan on staying probably 2 more years.  It was originally only one year. That year has come and gone though, and we didn’t save up nearly as much as we had hoped.  We have some goals we would like to reach – we plan to save up enough to have kids around the age of 25, save up for a major down payment on a home (if not finance all of one), and enough for retirement. We are only 22, so we think that starting these things now will do wonders in the future.  We do not plan on living here forever.  We will probably move back to California to be close to family.  Plans change all of the time though – I mean, we didn’t plan on moving up here to North Dakota to live in a camper! So we take what life gives us.

BB: Money is one reason a lot of people give for why they came to ND, but in your opinion, how much more makes it worth it?

RB: We need to be making quite a lot for it to be worth our while. The spot where we have our camper parked is $850 a month. That is how much our 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment was back in California. The job I have pays for my housing though, so that is such a relief. Food here is ridiculously expensive – a gallon of milk is $6! It is no wonder that I see truck drivers buying cheap, nasty TV dinners all of the time.

BB: Would you recommend North Dakota to others? Why or why not?

RB: Yes, we recommend North Dakota to everyone. If you don’t know what you want to do yet, then come on up here and make some money in the mean time! We have a friend up here who is almost done paying off their house, and others who can go buy RV’s with cash. It’s a life experience that you can tell your grandchildren about for years to come. The Bakken isn’t for everyone though, and we have seen a lot of people who just can’t handle it. If you have kids and don’t want to pull them out of their schools, then you should probably stay at home. This place isn’t really for children. We see it as a sacrifice for now, so we can have a better future.

Rhea and her husband, Zach

Rhea and her husband, Zach

Rhea's husband in front of their camper.

Rhea’s husband in front of their camper.

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4 thoughts on “Questions for Rhea Bewick, an Oil Field Wife Living in a Camper

  1. Wow–good interview that depicts what’s it’s really like in Bakken Country. What a transition to winter over there after being Californians and seeing their camper in the reality of winterization process was interesting! Thanks & best of luck to them taking this time to work & save: smart!

  2. This is a really interesting view of North Dakota oil field life from the perspective of an outsider and a woman. I’m interested in moving to North Dakota to find some work. Rhea cites the weather as one of the most challenging aspects, but this is actually part of what appeals to me about North Dakota. My only concern is that it might be a bit like the movement of people from the Midwest to California during the dustbowl; it promises to be the place where you can get rich, but is this really possible for everyone? I’d love to see some statistics on how North Dakota’s economy compares to other parts of the country.

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