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Literature
LIVING IN THE BAKKEN (1 of 4)
I had just returned from San Antonio after working at my schizo paranoid aunt’s medical clinic for a year. One day I went to work with my Filipino friend Chris from the island of Cebu. He worked for a construction company in Chicago.
With a strong Filipino accent, he told me, “I have some vacation time coming up. I was thinking about visiting my cousin in North Dakota. Her husband makes a lot of money working there. Man if I were only single I’d move to North Dakota for work. But there’s not much to do there and the weather sucks! Wanna go there next week?” I replied, “Hmm, okay sure, haha!”
The next week we rented a car and first drove to South Dakota to go sightseeing. Since neither of us had seen Mount Rushmore we decided to go there first. Chris had nice fancy camera with a big lens. We took lots of pictures with Mount Rushmore in the background. But we usually had a finger pointed up in the air, instructing the other to move their finger t
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Literature
LIVING IN THE BAKKEN (2 of 4)
The entertainment room was to be furnished with a pool table and a ping pong table. Greg, Eda and I were sitting at her old home’s dining room table. I asked her, “What type of entrance door would you like for the entertainment room?” She had some ideas in mind but was slow to respond. Greg told me, “Just pick any old door!” Eda seemed frustrated and she selected a plain steel entrance door with no window or design on it. I replied, “Okay, you sure?” I noted the dimensions required in the specs. As we exited the home, Greg said, “Shit, I wouldn’t have chosen that door. I used to live in a big nice house in Forsyth, Montana and I had big French entrance doors in front of my house.”
Eda selected a more stylish door later that day. The next day I marked the ICF’s with a marker and wrote the height and width of each doorway. Greg looked at the dimensions I had written for the entertainment room entrance door. He was about to
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Literature
LIVING IN THE BAKKEN (3 of 4)
Greg’s wife always brought her stepdaughter Evie along whenever she went to shopping or to the laundromat. Sometimes I’d tag along to help carry laundry to and from the car. I just sat there with my laptop webcam chatting to my girlfriend in Sweden. Evie would sit next to me playing her handheld videogame. Sometimes men would come up to Aletha and ask her where she’s from and make small talk. I found it surprising the first time I went to a laundromat because the employees looked like washed up hookers. This was the same for half the waitresses in nearby diners and restaurants. The woman I saw wore heeled shoes, a tight leopard print sweater and a push up bra. Whenever she bent over I got an eyeful. She was too old for my taste but I couldn’t help noticing. Maybe this was her side job. Who knows, maybe she owned the place? I assume she could’ve been a drug addict also. It seemed like there wasn’t much to do in the Bakken. Taking drugs was an escape I
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Literature
LIVING IN THE BAKKEN (4 of 4)
“I’m done. I’m outta here. This is my last day.” Due to the extreme cold, my phone died soon after.
Soon after Greg asked me, “Hey Raphael. You wanna go home early?” I replied, “Ummm…If you want. I don’t care.”
It was another one of those days where Greg only wanted to work a few hours. We drove down to Gene’s home. I sat in the car and looked at my phone. It was still dead. Greg spoke to Gene and his wife for twenty minutes. Strangely I kept noticing him turning around and staring at me through the glass front door. He actually seemed scared. I thought it was my imagination. I just sat there drinking a can of pop, eating a sandwich I made, while surfing the web on my work tablet. Greg emerged and told us it was okay for us to leave early but that we had to go up and move some of the concrete blankets. We drove back up the hill to the worksite began putting away the tools. We covered the table saw and tools with tarp and
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HAPPY HOLIDAYS! 

CHECK OUT MY FAVOURITES TO PREVIEW PHOTOS AND ARTWORK FROM OTHER DEVIANTS. I HOPE SOME OF MY FAVES WILL BE YOUR FAVES ALSO!
I had just returned from San Antonio after working at my schizo paranoid aunt’s medical clinic for a year. One day I went to work with my Filipino friend Chris from the island of Cebu. He worked for a construction company in Chicago.

With a strong Filipino accent, he told me, “I have some vacation time coming up. I was thinking about visiting my cousin in North Dakota. Her husband makes a lot of money working there. Man if I were only single I’d move to North Dakota for work. But there’s not much to do there and the weather sucks! Wanna go there next week?” I replied, “Hmm, okay sure, haha!”

The next week we rented a car and first drove to South Dakota to go sightseeing. Since neither of us had seen Mount Rushmore we decided to go there first. Chris had nice fancy camera with a big lens. We took lots of pictures with Mount Rushmore in the background. But we usually had a finger pointed up in the air, instructing the other to move their finger to make it look as if we had a finger up the nose of one of the presidents in the background, haha! Sometimes my friend would stop and take many photos of his wife as if it was a fashion shoot or something. His wife would pose in sexy positions for him. I found this quite annoying.

We met a Filipino couple from Minot at Mount Rushmore. They asked us where we were headed next. We told them we were going to Williston, North Dakota. The woman replied, “Williston? There’s nothing there. Be careful, a truck might crash into you and people drive crazy there.”

Leaving Mount Rushmore, we stopped by Rapid City and ate at a Chinese buffet. It was quite good. Then we drove towards Williston. There was not much along the way. The closer we got to Williston, the more oil rigs there were. They reminded me of birds pecking for food, bending their heads down and coming near the ground. Besides each of the oil rigs was a giant flame burning off unwanted flammable gases. Some areas there were places that smelled like rotten eggs. It was H2S or better known as Hydrogen Sulfide gas coming up from the depths of the earth due to all the oil being pumped out.

The next day we arrived at a small home in the middle of the city. The street had many pickup trucks parked on either side. We arrived 9 am and from inside we heard speakers blaring. Greg’s kids were inside watching a movie. Greg came out and greeted us. He was a tall overweight man with red hair in his early 40s. As I shook his hand I noticed he was missing the last segment of his middle finger. I wondered how that happened. I suppose he cut it off on a table saw or something careless. He was of Norwegian descent. His wife Aletha was a short Filipino woman in her late 20s who he met online. Greg and Aletha had 2 kids together: Nathan, 5 a half Asian looking kid with brown spikey hair and Allie, 4 who didn’t look Asian at all. Greg had 2 red headed kids from another marriage Evie, 11 and Ethan, 10.

Everything seemed perfect. The kids were well behaved. We went to the park and the kids ran around and had a great time. Greg took us for a ride around the neighborhood on his dune buggy and showed us his speed boat parked in the backyard. He bragged about how fast it was and the two Corvette engines that propelled it. I asked, “Do you ever take it fishing?” Chris and I often went fishing in Illinois. Greg angrily replied, “This is a speed boat, not a fishing boat!” Chris didn’t talk much to Greg. It was as if he didn’t like him.

For breakfast Aletha cooked a bunch of pancakes, eggs and bacon. We went to Walmart and purchased some extra folding lawn chairs for a cookout later that day. The weather was nice and everyone was enjoying themselves. Greg purchased a case of beer and he and I were the only people drinking. We sat by the barbeque smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and eating pork and white rice. We got along real well. He spoke a lot about working for oil companies. He currently was working as a truck driver for a company that delivered oil to businesses. He apparently was paid very well because he could afford to pay the exorbitant rent for that tiny home in Williston.

Later that evening Chris told me we should be headed back. I had drank so many beers that along the way back there few gas stations. Chris pulled over on the shoulder of the highway and I relieved myself. It had to be the longest piss I ever took in my life. It seemed like it took over a minute for me to empty my bladder. I felt like a new man afterwards.

The road trip home was pleasant. We visited the Mall of America in Minnesota. From there, we went home. Even though I exchanged phone numbers with Greg, I didn’t expect to hear from him again.

I had been working on a construction design and 3d animation project for my buddy in Cali. I knew my friend Kiyu since grade school and we went to college together. He studied Law and I studied Computers and 3d graphics. I had been creating some proposed buildings and had created animated walk-throughs when I received a text message from Greg. He asked me if I wanted to work in North Dakota with him. Since Kiyu was already on his way to pick me up from Cali I told Greg I’d have to think about it.

A week later I finished the 3d animation for Kiyu. Greg asked me again about working with him. He said we’d be doing many things, but mainly construction work. Since I never lived in North Dakota before, I decided to give it a shot. If things didn’t work out I’d just continue driving west until I reached Cali.

During the last week of September I packed my things and loaded up my van. I punched in the address Greg had texted me and set off for North Dakota early in the morning. My father shook my hand and I gave him a hug. He had suffered a stroke and he had a ton of medical bills to pay. Most of the money I made was going toward paying for his bills and his home in Chicago. The closer I got to North Dakota the more overcast and rainy it became. 1-1/2 hours outside of Williston the highway got very difficult to see due to the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. I turned on the high beams on my van but it only reflected the light back towards me. That was how I was welcomed to the Bakken which is a subsurface rock formation of the Williston Basin underlying North Dakota, Montana and Canada. Beneath the Bakken there is a vast amount of oil.

Approaching my destination, Greg and I agreed to meet at Walmart where I followed him to my new temporary home. He and his family lived in an old 1971 Greyhound bus converted into a camper. There wasn’t much space inside. The front area had two benches and in the middle of the bus was a washroom. The rear of the bus were two sets of bunks on either side. In the far rear of the bus was Greg and Aletha’s bedroom.

Living on the bus with a family wasn’t the most convenient. There wasn’t much privacy and the kids are noisy. Things didn’t seem at all like when I visited them at the home they rented. Perhaps it’s because they now lived in a more confined space? Or maybe it was because they were just on their best behavior the day I met them?

Greg and Aletha’s had two spoiled children named Nathan and Allie. Their mother Aletha seemed lazy and she had Evie do most of the work. Aletha’s step children Evie and Ethan seemed as if they were second class amongst the kids. There wasn’t much to do in Williston. I’d go to Walmart and shop for food and items I didn’t really need. I love pies and I always like them with whip cream on top. I’d buy apple, cherry and pumpkin pie, whatever had the furthest expiration date. Evie and her siblings would always ask for a slice, but mostly Evie. She’d ask me for food or soda pop that I had purchased and I’d always tell her, “You don’t have to ask, just go ahead and grab whatever you want.” I figured she just had really good manners.

Later I discovered that she had to ask Aletha for anything she wanted in the refrigerator. I noticed that Aletha would ask Evie to go everywhere with her. Grocery shopping, trips to the laundromat, Evie didn’t have much of a choice. I got to become close to Greg’s kids, especially the mistreated stepchildren. My usual routine on weekends was to spend time at the Williston Public Library. I’d chat with my girlfriend Sophie in Sweden. I didn’t have wifi in the bus so weekends were fun. One Saturday I arrived home early from the library. I’d usually stay until closing. Evie and Ethan were there. Evie was babysitting a child. I microwaved some food and cut myself a slice of cherry pie. I offered Evie a slice and she accepted my offer, thanking me as I held the disposable plate and fork before her. Evie began complaining about how she was responsible for babysitting the children that Aletha was supposed to care for. “I should be the one getting paid. Aletha doesn’t do anything!” Evie exclaimed.

I asked, “Why do you and your brother live here? Do you like it here?” Evie replied, “NO! I hate it here!” Her eyes became watery and I could see the frustration in her face. I said, “You don’t have to live here if you don’t want to. Why don’t you ask if you can stay with relatives or with your real mother?” Evie didn’t reply. It’s as if something told her to stop talking about the subject with me. I’m certain she was scolded in the past about never discussing the matter with anyone. Soon after, Greg, his wife and two kids arrived. He was surprised to see me there early.

Nathan was a boy from Hell and he got away with everything. He was very loud, obnoxious and dying for attention. He would often walk around with two plastic toy shovels (one red and one blue), banging them on the floor. One evening one of them finally broke. I was ecstatic. He sadly approached me and held up two halves of the red shovel and asked, “Can you fix this for me? Glue it?” I replied, “Just throw it away, haha!” He still walked around banging the blue shovel on the floor but at least it was only half as annoying.

Nathan would often climb up and walk on the kitchen counter. Whenever he fell down I was laughing inside, “Muhahaha!” He would often try and get his older half-brother Ethan in trouble by crying whenever they fought for the same toy. Nathan always got away with it. Greg would yell at Ethan and he’d reply, “I didn’t do anything!” One day Ethan was in his top bunk on his back playing his handheld video game. Nathan climbed up and kept pestering his brother. Ethan took his video games seriously and he kicked Nathan off the top bunk. Greg came out and yelled at him for doing so. He made Ethan apologize to Nathan. That was another one of those moments where I was laughing inside after the thump onto the floor, “Muhahaha! Die demon child! Die!”

Greg and I worked for Gene and Eda Kellog out on a ranch in Watford City. Gene was a 50 year old overweight balding man of English and Norwegian heritage. Gene always wore a baseball cap to cover his balding head. Like everyone else does, he asked me, “Why do you shave your head bald? You still have hair.” I replied, “To make the transition into baldness more easier, haha!” Gene was missing the teeth adjacent to his front teeth. I don’t understand why he never got his teeth fixed? It wasn’t like he couldn’t afford it. He suffered from diabetes and had an electronic glucose monitoring device attached to his waist. Eda was a Filipina in her late 20s that Gene met online. Eda and Aletha met their spouses on the same mail order bride website. What a great convenient way to meet someone and fall in love?

The Kellog family owned quite a bit of land in Watford City. To me Watford City wasn’t much of a city actually. It was more of a town. Williston was more like a city but it didn’t have the “city” label. Everything seemed overpriced in Watford City. There was a rip-off grocery where many items cost more than a city like Chicago, but at least in Chicago there were people who would bag the items for you. Not in Watford City. At least the relatively low price of gas made up for the grocery expenses.

From Monday through Friday my routine was as follows:
4:30am: Wake up, take a shit in a toilet that wasn’t flushed in order to save water.
(I usually am constipated so I sat on the toilet for longer than an average person)
4:45am: Floss, gargle, shave and brush my teeth
4:50am: Bathe using a wash towel, soap and 1 approximately 1 liter of water
5:00am: Make a sandwich for lunch
5:05am: Fix some breakfast in the microwave and eat.

We left for work each weekday around 6 am. Greg would usually just wake up and change into his work clothes. He was a chain smoker and it was quite annoying how he would barely crack the windows on our commute to work. He always kept the heat on high in the car. We drove to work with a sporty sedan with a cracked front windshield. Many windshields were cracked in the Bakken. This is due to the rocks on highways and roads that get catapulted by truck tires. There were many trucks on the roads. Semi trucks hauled oil, water, sand, etc. All this was necessary for oil to be pumped from the ground.

Gene didn’t speak much to me at first. He mostly spoke to Greg. At the beginning and end of each work day Greg would enter their home and discuss thing for twenty to thirty minutes. I’d sit in the car and text friends or family and eat whatever I had left over from lunch. The drive home was the same as the drive to work. Greg would whine about the other drivers and the traffic (which was nonexistent to me in comparison to LA, NY or Chicago). We’d get home and I’d remove my boots and change into some clean clothing. The kids would be watch television making a lot of noise as usual. Soon after Aletha would fix something to eat. She liked cooking a large amount of food one day and we’d live off the leftovers for 3 more days, using the microwave to reheat things. I was really sick of leftovers after eating them two days straight.

Gene lived in a beige double wide home next to his parents’ white double wide beige home. His mother never visited the home next door. Every once in a while I’d see Gene’s mother Donna emerge. I was told she was a cousin of Nancy Reagan. She kind of looked like her actually, except her hair was white but she died it light brown. Donna’s husband always stayed inside.

The weather around the Bakken is very cold and chaotic. Weather varies from even as close as one mile away. Sometimes there are nasty blizzards that would last just 30 minutes and then the sky would clear up and it would be sunny. During winters the roads are icy and visibility is terrible. Why didn’t Greg just move closer to the work site? Greg kept complaining about traffic that was nonexistent. Maybe he’s never lived in a big city but the traffic was almost always flowing in and out of Williston during the early morning hours. He always drove and he never wanted me to drive there. Greg always said to me, “I have always driven everyone to work, even when I worked at the oil rigs.” Whenever Greg’s wife called he’d always finish his conversation with, “Goodbye. I love you. Muaahhhh!” Greg was always complaining about the other cars either driving too slow or too fast. He should’ve just paid attention to the road and stop whining. He appeared to be easily frustrated. I am a very positive person and I always look on the bright side. He and I were opposites but we got along well for the most part.

Greg would take back road routes that went off the main highway and onto scoria roads. Scoria is a type of hard red clay rock that is used on small highways and roads in North Dakota. The dust from the roads gets everywhere. Cars are filthy after driving over them. Sometimes semi trucks are turning or they drive over rocks that are flung into your front windshield. Several times a rock would came straight at me while I was sitting in the front passenger seat. Along the highways, some truck drivers would purposely drive over rocks on the shoulder or median strip to purposely hit cars behind them with rocks. Greg previously worked as a truck driver and he told me he did so himself. That’s so mean!

Greg and I were helping build Gene’s new home not far from his old home atop a hill. Greg was familiar with using heavy machinery like a backhoe and a skit steer. A backhoe is a tractor-like vehicle with a digging shovel on either end. The bucket in the rear is attached to a hinged boom so it can be maneuvered in many directions, while the shovel in the front moves up and down and can be tilted to dump its contents. Inside the vehicle is a swiveling seat to position the operator facing in either direction depending on which shovel is being maneuvered. At the bottom rear of the backhoe are stabilizer legs that can be positioned onto the ground in order to stabilize the equipment as the rear bucket is being maneuvered. The shovel in front is also laid onto the ground in order to keep the machine steady while it is excavating. Gene’s backhoe had four large wheels but his skit steer was equipped with tracks. A skit steer is a smaller vehicle with lift arms to attach a variety of attachments, such as a bucket or forks. Greg kept complaining about the skit steer because it had tracks on it, making it slower and difficult to maneuver. Gene bought many attachments for his skit steer, including a forklift attachment, a concrete mixer (which wasn’t very good and it required the door to be opened to control some of its functions). Gene had money to waste. I never drove any of the heavy machinery so I did most of the assisting work for Greg.

Two weeks into the job I was helping guide Greg who was operating the backhoe in front of me. I was telling him if he was clear of any obstacles while he was shifting some dirt from one location to another. He was discussing what he wanted to be done during a break. He usually was smoking a cigarette whenever he was taking a break. After our break was over he stepped inside the backhoe and started it up. Soon after in my left ear I heard what clearly sounded like an old Native American Indian that yelled, “Tecumseh!” Hearing and seeing ghosts was something that happened to me frequently. Learning that spirits feed off of fear I simply ignored what had just happened. I wondered, “Perhaps it was an echo or a strange mechanical noise that only sounded like an old native Indian chief yelling in my left ear? Yeah, right!” Later that day as we were driving home I told Greg what I heard. He replied sarcastically, “Oh really?” I answered, “It sounded pretty clear to me, but maybe it was just my imagination or the backhoe making some strange noise.” A week later Eda came up to the worksite with a concerned look on her face, “Raphael? Did you really hear a native man yell in your ear?” I don’t remember ever telling her? I replied, “It sounded like someone but it probably was the equipment making a weird noise.” She said, “There aren’t any native burial sites for at least 20 miles from here. So you couldn’t have heard a native spirit.” Unconvinced, I replied, “Yeah, I guess not.” Of course I thought, “S-u-u-u-u-r-r-r-r-e. It was my imagination.” I googled “Tecumseh” and I discovered he was a famous native war chief. Was he talking to me? I am confused for being a native. Some friends even think I have some native blood in me. I asked a native friend and she told me the spirit was warning me to get away from that place because it was not safe. Knowing that Gene owned a multitude of weapons I thought likewise also, haha!

We spent the first few weeks excavating the foundation for the new home. The ground consisted mostly of clay. The soil wasn’t good for much. The boring terrain is comprised of grassy hills and buttes. There were very few trees because the soil wasn’t good enough for tree roots to maintain a good foothold. Most of the trees were along creeks (locals pronounced them “cricks”).

Days were long, especially because Greg seemed to be taking his time working. I was often bored but I kept myself busy. Greg and I worked by ourselves for the most part. It was funny because whenever I’d mention that I hadn’t seen Gene or his wife for hours, one of them would magically appear five minutes later. I joked with Greg that they had a hidden camera and microphone atop the hill.

Gene had many security cameras hooked up around his home. Strangely, they were all wired cameras. He didn’t trust wireless devices. He even thought something was jamming his cell phone signal. I just figured he had a poor signal since he lived in the middle of nowhere.

One day we were informed that Eric, the night shift security guard would switch duties and start helping us the following week. Eric was an army war vet. He had tattoos on his arms and drove around in Gene’s black dually pickup truck. At the end of our shift, he’d arrive to work with classic rock music blasting from the car speakers. He was a big fellow and had a loud voice. Eric seemed like he was a very bossy person but he was quite funny. Eric also married a Filipina named Zinnie. She was a dark skinned woman with a very strong Filipino accent. Like Aletha, she spent much of the day watching Filipino satellite television channels. Doing so wasn’t improving her English and I was surprised to learn she had lived in USA for six years. It was very hard to understand Zinnie. Like Gene and Eda, Eric and Zinnie met on a mail order bride website also.

The following Monday, Eric, Zinnie and her son paid us an unexpected visit at the work site. Zinnie and Eric were arguing. Eric was quitting. Zinnie worked as a housekeeper and babysitter for Eda. Eric and Zinnie were a team. They both quit at the same time. That was sudden.  Gene and Eda seem so nice. At the end of the work day Eda spoke to Greg and I and urged us to bring up any work related problems so something like this would never happen again.

Gene owned lots of camera equipment. He majored in Photography in college and used to own a photography business. He told me, “I usually was hired to take photos at rodeos and other events. I used to post the photographs on my website online but they’d just steal the photos.” I replied, “Aw, man. That sucks.” But I thought, “That’s why you watermark your photos, you dumb fuck!” Gene always called PCs a “piece of crap”. His office consisted of a Mac and several older Macs. I’m more of a PC person myself. For some reason I find that Mac people are haters of PCs. Why is that? It’s probably because PCs are too sophisticated for simple brained people. PC haters always claim how Macs are better for graphics and music. Yes that is true but there are also many drawbacks. Most software is made PCs. Mac software is much more expensive. One day Gene asked me, “Hey Raphael, can you look at my Mac? I think it’s broke. It won’t turn on anymore.” Two weeks later when I was free and remembered I was supposed to look at it, I went into his office to see what was wrong with his Mac 27 inch LCD monitor and computer. I asked him, “Hmm, where’s the power button?” He pressed a button on the corner of the screen and no lights turned. I traced the power cord back to the rear of the computer and discovered it had come loose. Quick fix, doh! I told Gene, “Try turning it on again.” Gene exclaimed, “Oh man! I should’ve asked you two weeks ago!” I replied, “I didn’t do anything.”

Gene and Eda were devout Christians. I often heard happy positive Christian music emanating from Eda’s MacBook or Gene’s Mac. I found it annoying Gene would regularly play the one hit from ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) “Don’t Bring Me Down”. Cheesy. Gene and Eda were recluse and had few friends. They had three children together. Kavin 8, Neveah 5, Lexi (Alexis) 4 and Maria 2. Kavin was Eda’s son from another man.

During the construction project there were many alterations in the design. Greg found this very frustrating. I was creating a 3d floor plan of the basement. Atop the structure was what Gene referred to as a “modular home”. To me this was just a glorified double wide or trailer home. The design was often changed by Eda, then Gene and so forth. Changes were made on a weekly basis. I didn’t mind. I was being compensated for all the delays. We hadn’t reached any points of no return yet.

Once the foundation’s ground was level, we began laying out string and snapping chalk lines. Firstly we had to lay pipe for all the plumbing. Greg wasn’t the most skilled home builder. He kept bragging how he had built homes in the past from ground up. For some reason Greg chose to use 2 inch PVC for drainage pipe in case the basement got flooded. Even though it was a safety precaution, 2 inch pipe was too small a diameter. I didn’t question his expertise. He always snapped back whenever I questioned his decisions. Once all the pipes were laid out, Eda wanted to test the pipes to make sure no water leaking. This infuriated Greg. I didn’t understand why. He felt as if they didn’t trust his craftsmanship. The moment of truth arrived. Eda stood there with a video camera recording everything as Greg and I walked to different pipes, pouring a bucket of water into them. Nothing leaked. Success!

Eda and Gene intended to start a construction company. They called it “Braveheart Construction”. I thought that sounded cheesy. Over time I realized that Greg grew less and less interested in being a foreman for their “company”. We were using this home as a sort of training exercise for this construction company. As this project went on I realized Greg was making increasingly poor decisions and purposely causing delays.

The next step was to compact the floor using a gas powered tamper machine. This machine just vibrated and moved forward along the surface, sort of like driving a lawn mower.  We were preparing the ground for the footing around the structure. Footings are concrete structures around the perimeter and supporting walls of a home. We chose to make the footing 1 foot in depth. We created a framework of long wide planks of wood and secured them in place using wooden stales. Homes are built differently in the Midwest. I asked Greg, “Why not pour the floor and footings all at the same time like is done in the Midwest? Greg answered, “This is how structures have been built for thousands of years. Even the Egyptians used footings.” I answered, “Okay then, everywhere but in the Midwest.” He rebutted, “We could do it that way. But in this case we aren’t.”

The structure was very large: 76 feet long by 31 feet wide. There was another room at the southwestern corner that was 16 feet by 16 feet. This was to be the safe or panic room. This room was to have 2 large expensive safe doors installed. Being a great planner, Gene purchased these months in advance before they were ever installed. The heavy doors just took up a car space in his mother’s garage. The basement walls were to be 10 foot high. The prefabricated home was to rest atop our structure. The walls were to be made of 8 inch rebar reinforced concrete walls. I figured Gene was some gun toting doomsday prepper.

As we neared the deadline for the basement structure to be completed, Gene got more stressed. He kept complaining about how the new home saleswoman Dakotah was trying to rip him off. He said, “She wants me to pay the remainder of the amount and we haven’t even seen photos of the new home and it hasn’t been delivered!” What a joke. Gene and Greg were similar in that they were easily frustrated and stubborn. If it were me, I would have just backed out of the deal if I were uncomfortable. But not stubborn Gene.

After we finished the footing framing, we spread a layer of sand and stone inside the framing and laid rebar on the floor to reinforce the concrete. We contacted a concrete company and purchased the necessary tools: hand trowels, shovels, 2x4’s to slide across the framework to level the surface and a power screed. A power screed is a gas powered device with two handles that vibrated atop the concrete surface. It had a long flat aluminum blade on the bottom to make the surface smooth.

Anticipation grew as the day came for the big concrete footing pour. Gene, Greg and I were prepared or we thought we were. Eda was ready with her video camera to record our work. She was documenting everything and taking photos for a future website for Gene’s “Braveheart Construction Company”. I wonder where he came up with that name anyhow. When I hear the term “braveheart” all I picture is Mel Gibson with blue war paint on his face. Perhaps that is Gene’s favorite movie or he found Mel Gibson attractive or something. Greg always referred to our boss as “Genie the Weenie”. Gene never acted very masculine. I suppose all his firearms made him feel safe. I’m sure he was picked on and beat up often growing up.

The first concrete mixing truck arrived and out came a Latino man who didn’t speak English very well. In the back of the concrete truck, Greg and Gene took turns maneuvering the chute to aim where concrete flowed down. The Latino truck driver was at the rear of the truck manning the controls. He made it difficult for us and there was a communication problem. The man was very scared about getting too close to the edge of the giant pit we dug out in the hill. The ground was steady and firm but the driver refused to get too close to the edge, fearing it would collapse. Just an hour into it and Gene acted like he was about to pass out. We spent hours shoveling wet concrete to and fro and rotated our duties. Since Gene wasn’t fit to help much he was relegated to manning the chute form then on.

At one point I stood there with the power screed and Gene wasn’t paying attention. When concrete trucks are nearly empty there is a higher ratio of rocks in the mixture. As I was holding the power screed, Gene dumped a bunch of rocks over my head. Having a nearly shaved head but wearing just a baseball cap, I was yelling at Gene, “HEY! GENE! HEY GENE! STOP!” My cries were in vain. I had nowhere to go. I didn’t want to go back and ruin the concrete that I had just smoothed out and I could not get in Greg’s way who was shoveling concrete around, so I had to stand in place. I wanted to just drop the machine but I didn’t want to damage it or ruin the smooth concrete. The next day my head itched. I scratched my head and I was peeling skin off my head. I discovered I had scabs all over the top of my head. “Damn you fuckin’ Gene!”

The second concrete mixing truck driver was Caucasian. He was much more helpful and we had no communication issues with him. He drove closer to the edge of the wall and was more helpful. We had the most difficulty pouring and distributing concrete in the center of the foundation. We kept telling the driver to get just a little closer and reassuring him that the ground was safe and strong enough to support the truck. The man later stepped out of his truck and made the sign of the cross and looking up toward the heavens praying nothing bad would happen. We all laughed. To finish things off, we stuck rebar vertically down into the center of the footings. The rebar was to support the outer walls of the structure.

We were exhausted but the footings were done. On the northern side there was one footing that was bowed out since there was a lack of stakes hammered into the ground beside the wood frame. Oops! But that didn’t matter because in the end everything would be covered with concrete to cover the floor. We were exhausted and covered in concrete dust. That was our first real test and the hardest we’d worked so far. That was just the beginning. The other steps were going to get progressively harder and the weather was going to get worse since winter was just around the corner.

Weeks went by. The fall was quite mild for this area. The days were mostly sunny but the days that rained were miserable. The ground became muddy and if your boots weren’t laced up tight enough your shoe might get stuck in the wet mud or clay.

Gene owned an annoying black cat named Pepper. He’d jump on the table and try and scavenge food from me whenever I was eating. Then there was Bear. He was a large 2 year old German Shepherd. He was an untrained dog that was very playful yet annoying. Each morning as we neared Gene’s house in our work car, Bear would follow us and block our path and when we exited the car, he’d greet us by trying to jump on us. Greg hated Bear.

Sometimes Bear would bite me on my ankles because he wanted me to play with him or didn’t want me to go. Bear always wore a GPS tracking/shock collar with a long flexible rubber coated antenna on it since Bear often wandered off. Gene always claimed someone was leading him or taking him away. Gene kept saying, “Bear’s our first line of security.” That dog was so stupid that if he’s your first line of security then you don’t have a chance. He’d much rather walk up to a stranger and play fetch than try and attack anyone. One day a man drove up to the home in a new black pickup truck. He asked Gene if the dog was his and told him the dog jumped onto his car and scratched it. It cost Gene hundreds of dollars to fix the paint job. If that were my dog I would’ve been shopping for a new dog after that.

Whenever Gene and Eda weren’t around, Greg would try to kick the dog whenever he got close to him. Being a chain smoker, Greg would often sit in our work car smoking and talking to his wife. Whenever the opportunity arose, Greg would quickly swing the driver side door open in hopes of hitting the dog. It was rare but Greg was elated whenever he did hit Bear with the car door. Bear regularly tried to bite our work car’s tires and bark at us whenever we were driving away. He’d even be as bold to stand in front of cars trying to leave the residence. One morning Greg got too carried away and drove a little too fast around Bear who was racing across in front of him and ran him over by accident. “Thump,” as something struck against the front driver side of the car. Not paying attention in the front passenger seat, I asked, “What was that?” Greg slammed on the brakes and jumped out and ran behind the car. Greg inspected the dog, making sure none of its legs were broken and there was no blood visible. Greg patted Bear on its neck and on the top of its head for ten seconds. Bear walked away gingerly as if he was in some discomfort. This was the only form of sympathy he ever offered the dog. Greg returned and said, “Whew, I almost got fired.” He jumped in the car and we drove off to the hardware store for supplies.

The floor plan called for a 33 foot beam to extend from the west end wall to the center of the structure, running along the marriage line where the two halves of the modular home met. I came to the realization that Greg wanted to delay the entire project. He often whined about the project during the commute to Gene’s home. His anger built up each day as we neared Gene’s home. Each day was the same. Greg would say how he’s had enough and things have got to change from now on. He’d exit the car angrily and once he reached their doorstep he was a different person and all smiles. Greg was bipolar. What a weirdo.

Greg told Gene to contact a structural engineer to inspect the latest design and specify what was necessary to support the long beam. This delayed us another two weeks. The steel beam took weeks to arrive. In the meantime Greg and I had to make some modifications to the footings we had made. The engineer informed us that we had to make larger concrete footings to support the column that was holding up the eastern side of the beam. We had to make adjustments to the footing that ran through the center of the home. Gene, Greg and I drove 3 hours to Dickinson, North Dakota to an equipment/machinery rental store to purchase a concrete saw that could cut through rebar and 1 foot of concrete footing. A short haired blond muscular 20 year old 20 clerk stood behind the counter. Pointing at the wall, Gene asked, “Which of these concrete saws do you recommend?” On the wall were 3 saws with the cheapest on the bottom and the most expensive one on top. The clerk answered, “People renting the best model have been having some issues with the saw, so I recommend the middle model.” Gene walked up to the counter and asked for the most expensive model. I thought, “What an idiot!” The clerk responded sarcastically, “Whatever Gene wants, Gene gets. Haha.”

The next day Greg and I spent a lot of time cutting a large chunk of the center footing away. The engineer claimed our footing was not strong enough for the weight load above it. We had to make a footing that was 4 foot square instead of 3 foot square to support the column under the beam. It took hours to cut through and break apart the footing. The footing was very strong. It was 1 foot in deep and 3 feet wide. Greg grew frustrated after we finished cutting through the rebar and concrete. I asked, “Why don’t you use the backhoe?” He quickly disappeared and returned with the machine. Greg used the extended the rear boom and used the rear bucket to pound the newly cut concrete section until it came loose. Greg pounded on the concrete until the piece finally broke off. Greg damaged a section of the footing in the. Greg and I felt that we actually weakened the structural integrity of the center footing. Greg exclaimed, “That stupid engineer! An extra foot wider is overkill. What a waste of time. Fuck this!” The engineer also instructed us to break up the concrete footing at the western end of the beam’s support column, and increase the size there 1 foot also.

Gene, Eda, Greg and I had a meeting. We came to the conclusion that our concrete footings were already strong enough and to disregard the engineer’s suggestions. This home was built like a bombproof shelter in a hill. We just wasted another two weeks waiting for the engineer to give us instructions. We continued on with the project that was already a month behind schedule. We had to pick up the pace because winter was soon approaching and North Dakota winters are severe.

I spent most my life living in Chicago. I remember the harsh winters when I was a child. Living in North Dakota wasn’t too bad for me. I kept telling everyone that the weather was like reliving my childhood.

One day I had to pay the local insurance agent a visit in town. My vehicle was insured through his company. He was a 50 year old blonde well-dressed man who grew up in the area and moved away, later returning to that area. He and I had a discussion about global warming. I told him how the climate in Chicago had gotten warmer over the years. He disagreed with the theory of global warming and that some areas of the world had actually gotten colder and in the long term everything hasn’t changed much. I thought, “Okay, sure.” I didn’t want to argue with him. I thought, “Hell, I don’t want that fucker raising my rates! Haha!”

Each day the weather got a bit colder. One day a semi truck arrived loaded with ICF’s (Insulated Concrete Forms). ICF’s are white hollow blocks of polystyrene foam that interlock like Lego Blocks. Assembling them was fun yet tedious. After laying down one row, we’d secure the blocks to adjacent blocks using plastic zip ties. Then we’d lay a piece of rebar across the inside of the blocks. When we got to the top row, we’d drop lay a piece of rebar vertically every 3 feet apart. They ICF’s were staggered so that the end of one block lined up with the center of the next block above it. The majority of blocks were straight pieces, however we also used blocks designed for corners and T-type intersections where 2 walls met. We started laying ICF’s from corner and worked our way toward the center. In the middle of each wall there was a bit of a discrepancy. We had to cut adjoining blocks to size and fill in the gap using spray foam.

Once the walls reached a certain height, we had to start cutting out rectangles for the doors and windows. I was responsible for helping design the placement of the doors and windows. For some reason Greg never allowed me to spend much time to discuss the design with Eda. I told him, “How am I supposed to design the basement without sitting down with Gene and Eda? They have to tell me where the doors and windows are supposed to go.” The design phase was very difficult because Gene and Eda were constantly in disagreement. Floor plans were designed and redesigned frequently. I was a bit annoyed but I didn’t care. I was being paid for my time. Greg hated how the floor plan was coming out. He kept informing me how he’d design the home. I just ignored him. It wasn’t his house to begin with. I did my best not to argue with him since he was the foreman but there were times when I raised my voice. On one occasion Greg had to cut out the foam wall to design where a door was to be placed. Gene, Eda, Greg and I were all in disagreement. I like to design things in a functional yet a flowing feng shui manner. There were many factors to consider. In the end, I positioned the door to the entertainment room in a place that Eda and I agreed upon. Greg didn’t agree but it was too late. He even argued with me that the terrain had to be altered. So it had to be altered to get the door where Eda wanted it.
LIVING IN THE BAKKEN (1 of 4)
Life in the Bakken with Gene and Eda Kellogg. Struggling with weapons and the drug cartel in the middle of the Bakken of North Dakota.
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The entertainment room was to be furnished with a pool table and a ping pong table. Greg, Eda and I were sitting at her old home’s dining room table. I asked her, “What type of entrance door would you like for the entertainment room?” She had some ideas in mind but was slow to respond. Greg told me, “Just pick any old door!” Eda seemed frustrated and she selected a plain steel entrance door with no window or design on it. I replied, “Okay, you sure?” I noted the dimensions required in the specs. As we exited the home, Greg said, “Shit, I wouldn’t have chosen that door. I used to live in a big nice house in Forsyth, Montana and I had big French entrance doors in front of my house.”

Eda selected a more stylish door later that day. The next day I marked the ICF’s with a marker and wrote the height and width of each doorway. Greg looked at the dimensions I had written for the entertainment room entrance door. He was about to cut out a rectangle to mount a wooden frame for the door. He exclaimed, “This is wrong! This should be 36 inches!” I yelled back, “The inner dimensions were specified on the website! Fine, cut it 36 inches if you want, we’ll just shim it!” Soon after, Greg apologized, “Sorry man, I’m stressed out.” I replied, “No prob.”

Greg and Aletha under a great deal of stress because they were getting a new home built in Williston. Greg kept promising me that we’d be living in a regular home within a month. But the months kept passing. He actually wanted me to live in the bus parked next to his new home. I really didn’t care to live in that cold bus much longer. The nights were so cold I had to put a space heater beside my freezing feet but the space heater was positioned in an angle where it couldn’t warm both my feet evenly. Imagine having one foot burning and the other one freezing. That’s how cold it was living in the front of the bus where I slept. There were windows there with metal horizontal blinds but that didn’t help keep the cold out.

At the end of each day Greg and I would take a detour to check on the progress of his new home. But actually there was never really much going on there. It was mostly an empty lot. Each week there would be some digging going on to prepare the foundation. The home sellers supposedly increased the final cost another $90k but Greg stubbornly still wanted to go through with it. If it were me even a $25k increase would’ve been too much. And to make matters worse Greg later discovered he wouldn’t have a basement but just a crawl space under the home. Greg kept telling me that next year he’d have the home jacked up and he would make a basement later. I kept thinking, “Yeah sure. Dream on.” Greg kept insisting, “I’m doing this for my wife. If I had it my way, I’d just move into a trailer park in Watford City.” I kept asking Greg why he wouldn’t live closer to the job site. Once he replied, “Evie is doing well in school and she has lotsa friends in Williston. I don’t wanna transfer her to another school.” Our 1-1/2 hour commute each way was not worth it. Greg and I took turns paying for gas. Since I was “saving his ass” by helping him on this project, he insisted that I only pay every third time we fueled up. Greg and his wife didn’t want me to pay them any money for living in their bus camper but I wrote Aletha a $500 check every month. Besides, she even did my laundry and fixed me a plate of food for dinner every day.

Thanksgiving Day was memorable. We all sat cramped in the front of the bus around a small table. There were bench seats on either side of this table. Aletha didn’t buy a turkey so she baked chicken instead. Greg made stuffing comprised mainly of chopped gizzards and celery. Under the circumstances they made the best of it. Greg and his wife were cooking for hours. The food was delicious. For dessert Aletha had her usual pecan pie. I brought out my cherry and apple pies with whip cream topping for the kids. Greg’s kids kept knocking over and spilling cans of pop on the small table in the bus. Today wasn’t any different. On two occasions, one of Aletha’s kids knocked over a can of pop that spilled all over Greg’s lap. The second time this happened Greg got arose frustrated, wiping himself with a paper towel. That was how our 40 minute Thanksgiving meal ended. I had drunk quite a few cans of soda pop. The cold weather started setting in and late that night I had to pee. Someone was inside so I fell asleep on the bench in front of the bus. I dreamt I was urinating in the washroom and it felt so relieving. Suddenly I had one of those dream moments where you ask yourself, “I’m not doing this in real life am I!?” I awoke in a puddle of pee. I rushed to the washroom to finish urinating, changed my pants and threw my thick blanket in a plastic bag. The next morning Evie asked me, “Nathan didn’t pee on your blanket did he? It smells like pee around here.”

Assembling the foam walls 10 feet in height took weeks. It was December and the winter had set in. We didn’t have enough manpower so Greg had his wife help us. Greg also hired John, his daughter’s 19 year old boyfriend. John was from Oregon. He was a tall and skinny young man who wasn’t accustomed to or prepared for the cold. The day I met him he had on a pair of jeans and a leather jacket. Greg, his wife and I were equipped with warm knitted hats, thick coats and insulated bibs which are a pair of overalls that go over your clothing.

It had gotten cold and I was having issues with my feet getting too sweaty. When you’re out in the extreme cold, you don’t want your feet to become too sweaty because they freeze in the cold. I found that it was actually better to wear a thin pair of insulated socks rather than a thick pair. And I also purchased a pair of insulated boots. Sitting in a car where it is too hot didn’t make things any better for me. Greg would turn the heat on full blast and I would lower it every few minutes. By the time I arrived to work my feet were already. I learned to remove my boots as soon as I got into the car each morning and after I got off work.

The ICF walls were finally almost complete. Since the blocks were white, the structure looked like a giant igloo castle. Greg scheduled for concrete trucks and a pump truck the following day. On days like today where Greg would bring his wife along, Greg didn’t bring his kids to school in Williston. Some days Greg would ask Zinnie to babysit them at her camper but she wasn’t always able since she had found a new job.

Greg and his wife, John and I worked frantically preparing the aluminum support beams for the walls and securing boards for walking across to reach the top of the walls. The support beams consisted of a long square hollow tube of aluminum and another tube that went at a diagonal to the ground. In order to secure these to the ground, Greg hammered 2 pieces of rebar (which were too long) through holes in the flat base of the diagonal tubes on the ground. The rebar pieces jutted out of the ground at opposing angles and was clearly a safety hazard. The boards 8 feet above the ground were already covered in a layer of snow. At one point I was walking slowly across the elevated walkway, carefully placing ICF blocks in place. Greg asked, “What are you afraid of heights?” I responded, “No, I’m afraid of slipping and landing on the rebar you hammered into the ground!” Even when I was at ground level I cautiously walked past the support beam’s rebar jutting out of the ground. A few days later, Greg stumbled and fell backward landing on one of the rebar pieces I avoided. He screamed, “Y-e-e-e O-w-w-w-w-w!” I could see him from the corner of my eye but I acted as if nothing happened. Greg was rubbing his butt and exclaimed, “Damn, I almost made myself an extra butthole!” I laughed but thought, “What an idiot! I knew that was gonna happen. Better him than me, muhahaha!” As work continued on I lost more faith in his construction prowess.

Greg always bragged how he knew so much and was much more intelligent than our boss and his wife. He claimed he had considered joining the army like myself. I told him that I had scored a 93 out of 100 on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) exam. With an unconvincing smirk on his face, Greg claimed he had scored a 99. I thought to myself, “Uh-huh, sure.”

We continued to work nonstop setting the last rows of ICF blocks. Greg kept saying, “We’ll make it in time, don’t worry.” Sometimes Eda would prepare us lunch but Greg would usually say, “We don’t have time for lunch.” He seemed to dislike anything nice Eda tried doing for us. Since her buddy Aletha was around, Eda prepared some Norwegian pancakes with homemade extra runny, not sweet enough purplish berry sauce. I loved the pancakes. The sauce, not so much. We ate the pancakes outside in the cold at the worksite. The day earlier Eda brought us pizza. Beforehand she asked us if we wanted something to eat. Since in Asia it’s disgraceful to refuse food offered and since I was famished, I answered, “Ugh, okay, sure.” Crabby Greg replied, “We don’t have time to eat!” He looked at me and asked, “Would you rather eat or take longer to work cuz we spent time eating?” I replied, “Alright.” Nonetheless Eda came out with pepperoni pizza and we all ate, haha!

I don’t understand why Greg never packed a lunch. I usually made a turkey, ham or bologna sandwich and packed miniature donuts and some cans of generic pop. Eda kept saying that Greg should eat and his hunger caused him to be so grouchy. Sometimes Eda would invite Greg and I inside for lunch. She always fixed us a big plate of white rice. The rice was usually too dry for my liking. She’d also prepare packaged premade food that was delivered via a big truck.

Aletha helped assemble the walls but she didn’t do much. Whenever Eda came around Aletha would emerge from her SUV and start working really hard. Half the time Aletha was there, she’d sit in the car because it was too cold for her. I had a different take on working out in the cold. It reminded me of the days I grew up in frigid Chicago. I kept working and pacing around in the cold because it kept me warm. It forced me to keep working. When I would stop and take a break in a heated car that would just make it harder for me to get back to work. So I usually stayed out in the cold working. And I don’t know if it affected my brain but the colder it was outside, the faster time went for me. I know that sounds crazy but it worked for me.

Years ago I used to work in downtown Chicago near the lakefront along the Gold Coast area. People in Chicago didn’t dress warm enough for the winter. I was the same. I’d come to work in a trench coat with an inner lining. I never wore a winter hat because it would mess up my hair. And I never used a scarf because I could never keep it around my neck. It was cold but the below zero wind chill coming off Lake Michigan made things worse. One day I walked into a small sandwich and soup shop for lunch. I stood there and my forehead was numb from the freezing wind. A woman behind the counter asked, “May I take your order?” I opened my mouth but I couldn’t speak. It was as if my tongue and brain were frozen. She asked, “Ready to order?” I finally was able to speak. I replied, “G-i-i-i-i-m-e-e-e-e  a large chicken soup please.”

Greg’s wife worked quickly but didn’t secure the plastic zip ties that secured the ICF blocks well. A few days earlier when Greg and I arrived to the worksite we noticed a fourth of the top of the southern wall had blown out of place. It hung there, with the rebar barely keeping the wall from falling apart. Greg and I worked hard for several minutes until we were able to lift the section back into place. Greg climbed up to the top of the blocks and walked along the top row to make sure the blocks were securely in place. I secured the section by screwing long sections of 2x4’s vertically along several rows of ICF blocks.

Greg became increasingly frustrated the day before the big concrete wall pour. I had enough of his bipolar attitude. 99% of the time he was easy to get along with but 1% of the time he was angry. As time went on his dark side made itself more and more visible. He drank more each day. At first he’d just drink “red beers”. A red beer is made by taking a big sip from a can of beer and then pouring a tomato/clam juice into it and then swirling the mixture around. Further into the project, he gradually drank beer straight. That wasn’t strong enough so he purchased large plastic bottles of vodka that he’d mix with some beverage. He and his wife drank more each day. Sometimes there was no soda pop so they drank cups of vodka straight.

One day Greg got frustrated and yelled at me, “Did you put that block there? You didn’t do it right!” I replied, “I didn’t cut that block or put it there! I dunno who did that!” John admitted it was he that was working in that area. Eda was present. She always agreed with whoever was making a big deal of something. She was like a “yes man” for a boss that just agreed with him to support his ego. Greg yelled, “C’mon guys! We’re running out of material. We have to be more careful and conserve.” Eda added, “Yeah guys! We have to be careful and conserve or we’ll be short of materials!” I replied back, “We have plenty of blocks. Too many of that type!” Later that day Eda climbed up to the wood platform near the top of the wall. She asked, “Why are these corner pieces like this?” Greg didn’t have enough of the corner blocks so he had to take normal blocks and cut the corners at 45 degree angles to jerry rig a corner block. Greg had an embarrassed look on his face and replied, “I calculated the right number of blocks. They must’ve not sent us the right amount. I double checked. I ordered the right number. Right Raphael?!” Eda and everyone looked at me. Since I was still pissed off at Greg I just looked at him and turned my head to continue working. He repeated, “Right Raphael?!” I turned towards him and looked at Eda and replied, “Ummmm. I dunno!”

We worked all day and it was getting dark. Greg kept complaining that we didn’t have enough help but also whenever I told him I knew someone that could help us, he would turn down the offer. Greg kept saying that he would rather have someone who didn’t know much about construction rather than someone who did know. Greg had a big ego. He was a Mr. Know It All type who always thought his way was the best way. We disagreed with each other’s methods each day.

After it got dark outside Greg decided it was time to go home. I wanted to work a few more hours in order to get ready for the next day’s concrete pour. I asked Eda and Gene if it was okay if I stayed behind and slept over their home that night. They agreed. I stopped working at 8:30pm and Eda cooked some hot dogs for supper. I found it confusing because the locals said “supper” instead of dinner and dinner was lunch. This was due to their Norwegian heritage. The locals also never used the word “washroom”. That was always referred to as a bathroom.

There was a spare bed in her son’s room that I slept on. I awoke at 6am and I would have gotten ready to leave but I was a bit paranoid of Gene’s home. I didn’t know if there was an alarm system since he was the paranoid type. Gene had a multitude of guns. He always had several handguns on a kitchen shelf. Besides the front door on the floor stood two assault rifles and a semi-automatic shotgun. I chose to play it safe and remain there until after the family awoke at 7am. I heard noises outside but I assumed it was the annoying German Shepherd.

I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and got dressed. At 7:30am I was surprised to see that Greg, his wife and John was already at the worksite. “What time did you guys get here?”, I asked. Greg replied, “5”. Everyone was working frantically to prepare things. The concrete and pump truck were due in a few hours. Greg asked me to look for some drill bits. Gene had a black trailer full of tools parked beside his home. The trailer was between the home and the large propane tank. Greg told me the trailer was there to shield the home in case someone decided to shoot at the propane tank in hopes of blowing up Gene’s home.

I entered the tool trailer and searched for the drill bits. Greg always said I took too long to search for tools in the trailer. But it was due to his disorganization and lack of care for Gene’s tools. I think I found the bits he wanted. I just brought the whole drill bit case for good measure. I hurriedly walked up the hill to the worksite. Aletha and John were on either side of Greg when I returned. “Here”, I said as I handed Greg the large drill bit case. Greg looked at me with an evil look and replied, “You didn’t even look inside!” I yelled back, “Look inside!” He opened it and sarcastically said, “Oh, it’s here.” What a dumb fuck asshole! We had a few hours to go and a whole day of work to prepare. John was underdressed as usual and shivering. Greg, Aletha and John kept going into the car to take breaks and thaw out. After 3 hours John informed me, “Hey Raphael! We’re leaving early.” I asked, “What about the concrete and pump trucks?” John answered, “They’re gonna cancel.” I was like, “Alright.” More delays. I didn’t care.

A few days later we were able to reschedule the pump and concrete trucks again. Greg and I took our time finishing up and preparing. John had another job so he couldn’t help us. He worked one week on and one week off at his job. John said all he did was stand by a machine and press three buttons all day long. Easy at it may seem John almost set the whole building on fire a month earlier because he had pressed the buttons in the wrong sequence. That job seemed like a no brainer and he was paid well. John’s company obtained large filters from other companies and burned everything down in order to extract rare metals like platinum. Each month they accumulated enough platinum dust to form a huge solid slab of platinum worth millions of dollars. I asked John, “Are they hiring?” John replied, “Apply online. This job does have its benefits.” I asked, “Like what?” John replied, “They pay for health insurance and I don’t have to take showers at home. Each day when I get there I have to take a shower. And when my 12 to 14 hour shift is over I take another shower before leaving. That’s to collect all the rare metal dust particles that are on me, haha!”

Finally the day came for the concrete to be poured inside the ICF blocks. We had a few hours to spare so Greg and I drove into town to pick up lunch at the biggest gas station/rip-off convenience store. Convenience stores in the Bakken were not just stores with snacks and miscellaneous items. They also carried hardware store items that workers for oil rigs and other work crews may require. There were even boots and coats, winter hats, etc. The prices were often inflated of course. Greg grabbed a personal pizza and I stood in line for a submarine sandwich.

Standing by the fast food section of the large convenience store were always a crowd of Mexicans. They’d always be there talking to the Latino cooking staff. I always wondered about that. I bet they were getting extra portions! Years ago I worked for an insurance company in downtown Los Angeles. Sometimes I’d go to lunch at a popular Chinese fast food place. Actual Chinese workers would ask you what you wanted for a main entrée and a side. Their English was bad and they seemed robotic and uncaring in a way. I’d sometimes bring an African-American coworker named Lucrecia along. We’d usually eat inside the restaurant at one of the tables. One day as we just got seated my coworker brought something to my attention. Lucrecia asked, “Raphael. I notice they always give you more food than me.” I looked down at my styrofoam container on my red plastic tray. Then I looked at her tray of food and back at my food. I replied, “Today it seems like they did give me larger portions.” I gave a thumbs up. “Yay for me. Are you saying that cuz I’m Asian looking that the Chinese workers are giving me more food?” Lucrecia replied, “Yes, of course.” I responded, “Okay, next time we come back here remind me to compare our portions again, a’ight?” With a mouthful of food she nodded in agreement. A week later we sat at the same table and we compared trays again. I did indeed receive larger portions. I told Lucrecia, “Fine. You’re right, hahahaha! How observant of you. Most women watch their figure anyhow. Do you want me to order for you from now on?”

It was my turn in line to order. I stepped forward and there was a Latina girl behind the counter. I told her, “I’d like a roast beef submarine sandwich. Everything on it but onions.” She shook her head laterally in the universal “No” manner. She stepped to her right and picked up a pink form and pencil, handing both to me. “Fill this out”, she said. I thought, “Aw damn. This is America. Her English sounded pretty good to me? What the fuck?” I stepped away, losing my place in line. The next person was a Latino man who ordered a submarine sandwich without filling out a form! I thought, “Damn Mexicans! You need to speak Spanish to get any service around here!” I finally got my submarine sandwich after five minutes. Never again. Not enough meat in it. There was plenty of bread though. I bet the Mexican guy before me got extra toppings for free!

So Greg and I returned to the worksite. The pump truck arrived and a truck driver wearing a bright orange sweater emerged. He arrived before the concrete trucks. A pump truck is basically a big truck equipped with a massive air compressor. A long hose is attached to it to pump concrete to its desired location. We were equipped with several hand trowels. Gene purchased a vibrating tool which basically consisted of what looked like a huge metal vibrator dildo. A hose leading from a motor was attached to it. This device was used for removing air pockets inside freshly poured concrete by placing the huge wand into concrete or beside a wooden door or window frame where concrete was being poured.

Before the concrete trucks arrived Greg asked the pump truck operator for tips. The man instructed us that we should reinforce the wood frames around the doors and windows since those tend to give way. He said, “If those give way, man you’re gonna have a big mess on your hands.” I began cutting 2x4’s that fit snugly horizontally within the door and window frames and hammered them in place. The pump truck operator walked all around the structure and pointing he said, “The northwest corner of that room needs to be reinforced. Screw some 2x4’s between the corner of that wall and the wall of dirt. Make sure you jam the wood into the dirt so it’s firm and don’t give way, alright?” I hastily followed his directions and grabbed my giant dildo looking machine.

The concrete trucks soon arrived and this was the moment of truth. Actually, the work went by pretty fast. I followed Greg around starting at the bottom of the wall where he was pouring concrete, running it along the inner wall, wooden door and window frames. I went up to the top of the wall with this vibrating device as the walls were nearing completion. We began at 5pm and the last concrete truck was gone by 8pm. However we had a lot of troweling to do. Greg made another big error by ordering too much accelerant in the concrete. Even though it was 0 degrees Fahrenheit outside, too much accelerant caused the concrete to harden too quickly. Greg and I spent hours troweling the top of the wall. The quickly hardening concrete made the concrete even more difficult to work with. It was freezing outside and we were trying to get the top of the wall smooth. We worked frantically trying to smooth the concrete inside the polystyrene edges of the ICF blocks.

Halfway done and my trowel broke off from the handle. We were even running out of trowels! I had to use my broken trowel since they were breaking on us. Damn you Greg! Why’d you have to order so much accelerant!

Greg worked until midnight. Gene stood there beside him holding a flashlight most of the time. After Greg left I stayed behind and Gene held the flashlight for me so I could see what I was troweling. The night grew colder over time. Every 15 minutes Gene looked at his smartphone to update me on the temperature:
“Raphael, it’s minus 4 degrees!”
“Raphael, it’s negative 5!”
“Raphael, it’s 7 below!”

Even though I wasn’t freezing, Gene was making me feel cold just by telling me the temperature. I wondered, “I suppose he wants me to stop. I don’t care. Wasn’t Gene raised here? Why is he freezing? What a wimp!” Soon after I told Gene, “Let’s go inside!” We stopped working 30 minutes past midnight. What a night. That was our 2nd hurdle. Now the last main task is pouring the concrete floor.

The northwestern North Dakota winter weather really starting setting in. Each week we saw a multicar accident along the highway commute to work. We’d usually leave 6 am when it was still dark. By the time we arrived at half past 7, the sun would come up. Roads and highways were icy. Unlike the Midwestern states, North Dakota sprayed a chemical onto the highways instead of using salt. This compound didn’t do as good a job melting the snow but I suppose its effects lasted longer and it was less damaging to the roads. Another drawback was that unlike salt, this sludge would splash on your windows and reduce visibility even further.

The next task was preparing the ground for the concrete pour. Due to the intermittent snow and freezing temperatures, Gene chose to purchase a huge silver tarp to cover the structure. Gene, Greg and I spent a whole day securing the tarp. We took rope and ran them through the grommets to secure the tarp over the walled structure. Unfortunately the tarp couldn’t stand up to the high winds atop the hill. The tarp was torn to shreds a few days later. I knew this would happen. As each day went on I began to doubt the intelligence of both Gene and Greg.

At work I argued more with Greg. We disagreed about everything. I’m not sure if he just was trying to start arguments but I knew not to take in any part of it. On our long rides to and from work I’d choose my words wisely as not to choose one side or the other. If he had a theory I wouldn’t question it, nor would I agree. For example one conversation he brought up was about glaciers. Greg told me, “Scientists don’t know for sure this area was formed by glaciers. Maybe it was something else.” I replied, “Like what brought rocks from far away areas to different places?” Greg responded, “Maybe there was an explosion or something.” I replied, “Yeah, maybe.”

In order to provide us with cover from the snow and to make things warmer inside the structure, Greg talked Gene into purchasing a giant roll of shrink wrap plastic. Our first reaction when opening the box was, “Blue! What the fuck!” Greg said, “Genie the Weenie fucked up again. Now everything’s gonna look funky and psychedelic through this blue plastic!” Greg brought his wife along and the three of us spent the day securing the temporary roof. First we took strapping tape and ran it across each wall about 7 feet from the ground. Some sections of strapping could be moved so that the plastic attached to it could also be moved like covering a domed stadium of sorts. This was one of the few better ideas Greg came up with. When we were done, everything under our blue temporary roof looked weird. It was hard to get used to at first but after a few days we got accustomed to seeing everything in a blue shade.

Now there was a bunch of snow and ice inside under the canopy. I chose to shovel the snow and use a cart to haul the snow outside. Greg always seemed to find a way to waste time and have something do the work for him. He cut a bunch of thin strips of wood to create 2 large boxlike frame structures. From this he used some of the broken tarp to form an enclosed tent. He then placed propane heaters inside each tent and pointed the forced air heaters inside to melt the snow. Each day Greg would move his tents and heaters a few square over. What a waste of fuel. I was getting more snow out of there while he was just creating water that was refreezing each night after we’d leave and turn off the heaters. Real smart.

For days we worked in the heated enclosure. I walked around wearing just a t-shirt and jeans. It was 0 degrees outside but inside this structure it was well over 90 degrees. This was a strange experience for me. I was shoveling snow in this heat and hauling it outside for 4 days. My foreman coworker just made things worse. But I didn’t mind. Let him do things his idiotic way. Shoveling snow was a change of pace. I didn’t mind.


A week later we had removed all of the snow but underneath the ground was ice. In the meantime Greg decided he didn’t want to pour the concrete floor in a few sections. He wanted to do everything in one day. That idiot Greg. He always had high unachievable goals. He and Gene decided to rent a huge truss screed. This is a machine that travels across the surface of freshly pour concrete, leveling it as it moves along. Unfortunately the truss screed we rented was a bit short of reaching the north and south walls that were 30 feet across. Greg decided he would fashion some extension attachments on each end to reach each wall.  

After picking up the truss screed, Greg and I drove to the large home improvement store in Dickinson. Greg said he needed to purchase material to extend the truss screed. I asked, “What are you gonna use? We can cut some metal and weld it together or something. I have a welder.” Greg asked, “Can I use your welder? You don’t mind?” I replied, “No. It’s brand new in the box still. It may require some assembly.” Greg decided to pass up on the metal and he decided to use 2x4’s. I disagreed with him that the wood wouldn’t hold up to the task. The next day he realized I was right. It was funny because Greg would never explain how he would do something. He’d always start putting his hands up in the air trying to visualize and describe something and then stop to grin and say, “You’ll see. You’ll see.” This is how most of his winging it failures came about. My usual reply with a skeptical look on my face was, “Okay…Sure.”

Greg decided to use my welder after all. It required minor assembly. Greg didn’t even take the time assembling it. He simply took the components he needed to do the job. He almost threw away the box with the remaining components, including the welder handle, screws, etc. I got pissed off when I discovered he was careless and going to throw the rest of the stuff out. Luckily I told him not to throw away the box! He didn’t care about anyone else’s things, just his own. That was becoming more and more evident because he didn’t seem to care for Gene’s tools at all. One weekend it snowed quite a bit and Greg’s plastic ceiling collapsed. Gene sent angry text messages with photos to Greg. He was upset that Greg left all the tools out and uncovered. They weren’t actually left out in the open. The canopy had collapsed. The following Monday morning Greg and I arrived to work earlier than usual. We were surprised to see Gene at the worksite at the corner of the structure undoing a section of the canopy which was covered in snow. Upon noticing Gene, Greg yelled, “Hey, hey! What are you doing?!” Off in the distance I heard them talking and Greg grabbed a box cutter and cut a slit in part of the canopy to allow the snow to fall inside. I was not near them but Greg quickly walked back and told me to return to the car. Greg seemed really pissed off and asked, “Did you see what he was doing?! Did you see what he was doing?!” I replied, “I wasn’t near you guys.” I actually didn’t want to start an argument with Greg but I saw things differently.

Greg insisted, “Gene was trying to sabotage the project! He was purposely trying to make the cover collapse! I wanted to punch him in the face! Self-sabotage, self-sabotage!” I insisted that I didn’t see what was going on. Logically, I assumed Gene was trying to relieve the pressure of the snow by lowering the corner of the canopy and allowing the snow to fall down.

I don’t know why Greg got into the construction business anyhow. He claimed he was great at picking stocks. He did admit he lost everything he owned three times before understanding the stock market. He also claimed to have owned an auto body repair shop for years. What ever became of that? He did seem knowledgeable about paints and auto repair. When I first met Greg he was driving a truck for an oil company. He claimed he had been overworked and underpaid so he quit. Supposedly it took 2 workers to replace him and they each made more than him. If that was true I’m sure it’s because Greg never followed instructions, did everything half ass, and started arguments.

Gene and Greg were both wimps. Greg would always stress how he couldn’t stand working for Gene anymore but he kept returning to work. Gene was antisocial. His form of communication is indirect and through a smartphone. He’d text message people to make his disapproval known. Either way, both of these guys grew to hate each other over time and I was caught in the middle.

In order to modify the truss screed we rented, we had to purchase some metal bars in town. We found a welding shop that sold and welded metal bars. A tall young man with sunglasses over the top of his long brown haired greeted us. Greg placed our order and the young man picked up what looked like a mic. Greg asked jokingly, “Are you gonna sing karaoke?” The man replied, “Haha, no. George come to the office please.” A scruffy long goatee biker looking dude entered and picked up the order slip for the metal we needed. The young man offered us gourmet coffee while we waited. He had one of those fancy newfangled single cup coffee brewing machines. Greg drank some of the coffee but hated it. He left it on the counter. The young man offered us tiny black calendar books and black mouse pads advertising their company’s logo. Greg told me not to tell our boss about the free items given to us. Greg handed the manager our boss’s credit card, signed and forgot to take the card back. As we were leaving the manager yelled, “Hey, you forgot your credit card!” Greg replied, “Oh, thanks! That’s not mine. It’s our boss’s.” It was evident Greg didn’t care if he had forgotten it. When we returned with the receipt our boss didn’t seem happy about the high price for the metal.

Greg spent days modifying the extension attachments to the truss screed. He was cutting metal, grinding, hammering, drilling holes and attaching wheels to it. A bunch of stuff just to kill time. In the end the machine didn’t work properly. It didn’t roll smoothly across the ground. I spent a week prepping the floor, trying to melt the permafrost Greg had created. After days of delays, I stopped and inspected what Greg had been tinkering with for days. I said to him, “It won’t work cuz there are too many wheels. Take that section off, put those wheels over here.” Greg and I constructed a wooden track on the north and south wall for the truss screed’s wheels to run across as it moved across the floor. Greg tried making other refinements to kill more time and just complicated things further. Ultimately he listened to my advice but never acknowledged it.

On a few occasions Greg received some angry text messages from Gene and threatened to quit, only to come back to work the following day. He seemed bipolar. Greg kept complaining how we were only a two man team and we could only do so much by ourselves. One day I was happily surprised to see Gene’s brother Jim stop by to drop off some extra help. Bryan was a scruffy looking skinny dude wearing a blue jean jacket and jeans. He enjoyed playing fetch with Gene’s annoying dog. Bryan introduced himself with a cigarette in his hand, “Hi, I’m Bryan. I’m here to help you with the concrete floor.”

I was ecstatic. I had a renewed energy, how uplifting. Just what Greg asked for. Maybe there is a God, haha!

Bryan was a chain smoker and always had his backpack handy. Every 20 minutes it seemed as if he were grabbing something from inside it such as a sandwich, crackers, cookies or a canned beverage. Bryan like Greg worked in spurts for 20 or 30 minutes only to stop and take a 10 minute break. I was the opposite. I’d keep working at a steady nonstop pace. When there was nothing to do I’d always pick up a shovel or something to make it look like I was busy, haha!

Bryan was laying rebar across the floor making a grid to reinforce the floor once concrete was poured over it. On one of Bryan’s breaks he reached into his backpack and to my surprise pulled out a can of beer. My confidence in him was waning but I was still glad to have an extra set of hands helping us. He seemed more knowledgeable about pouring concrete than Mr. Know It All Greg. I’m sure Greg saw Bryan as an enemy since he knew more about working with concrete pours. An hour into work Bryan pulled out a large button that read, “Sober 21 Days”. My confidence in him started to plummet.

Bryan told us he’d been clean for 24 days now. I suppose his last meeting was a few days ago, haha! I thought, “Hurrah! But what is he sober from? Not beer, haha!” Soon after he asked Greg and I, “Hey, can you guys gimme a ride to town later? My car broke down.” Greg asked, “How’ve you been getting around?” He replied, “Your boss’s brother drives me around.” I asked, “How’d you meet the Kellog’s?” He answered, “At church.” I thought, “A religious man perhaps?” I discovered his sole purpose for attending church was to find work.

Either way I hoped he would help us from now on since John never returned due to Greg’s temper. This guy was a bit older and seemed more knowledgeable despite being a recovering drug addict. Bryan’s phone kept ringing and he kept arguing with his girlfriend. Bryan said he caught her cheating recently. At the end of the day we all hopped into the work car. I let Bryan sit shotgun and we drove into town to drop him off. After he left I was in a better than average mood. Excited, I asked Greg, “So did Gene tell you if Bryan/Ryan whatever is working with us from now on?” Greg answered, “Bryan/Ryan…I think he said Ryan. I’ve worked in the oil fields and I’ve seen guys like him come and go.” My heart sank. He was the answer to Greg’s prayers. I thought, “He may be a little rough around the edges but he deserves a second chance, haha!” Greg continued, “Plus he’s probably gonna break up with his girlfriend and that’s gonna cause him to get off the wagon.”

We saw Bryan the next day but that was the last time we saw him. The last I heard of him, Gene had driven him to work but had to drive back to town because Bryan had an emergency. Gene waited for 2 hours and couldn’t get a hold of Bryan on his phone so he returned home never to hear from Bryan again. Too bad. Bryan probably moved on to another church to meet other kind folks that offered him work.

After a week of tinkering, Greg’s modified truss screed was working properly. The machine was already a week past due. This contraption had 2 pulleys on each end. Now the truss screed measured 28 feet across. The machine was noisy but slowly crept along, vibrating its way across the floor. Finally! Just another week behind schedule. Greg was someone with high ambitions. He couldn’t settle for a standard job where we’d pour several slabs. He had to make it something he could look back upon and brag about. If it were me, especially because of the inclement weather, I’d have poured the concrete in three sections. But since Greg felt he ordered concrete with too much accelerant when pouring the walls, he chose not to include any accelerant during this concrete pour. To reinforce the concrete we chose to include fiberglass strands in the concrete mixture.

Finally the day had arrived! Another freezing cold day. Once again Aletha joined us at work. She opted not to bring her kids to school again. She dropped them off at Zinnie’s camper/trailer. Greg, Aletha and I were joined by a pair of long bearded dudes that drove 3 hours away from Sidney, North Dakota. They had been referred to Gene by Dakotah, the salesperson for the “modular home” that Gene liked to refer it to which was going to be placed above the structure built. I thought the prefabricated home was more like a glorified trailer home or another name for a double wide at best. Aletha, Greg and I stood outside and greeted the two bearded men. We all dressed warmly but didn’t wear bibs since they were certainly going to get concrete splattered on them. The pump truck and concrete trucks arrived. Aletha kept her distance. She was shy and her English wasn’t very good. She was out of place anyhow. Greg shouldn’t have brought her along. She never was much help but I suppose they wanted the extra money. Keep in mind that Aletha came from a hot climate region and was working outside in the freezing cold. She spent half the time at the worksite in her warm car.

There was a shortage of women in the Bakken. Greg kept saying that in town going to the stores was “guys opening door for other guys”. And even though there were a few women there, the ones there weren’t all that pretty. Greg called the women in Williston a “Williston 10”. A “Williston 10” was a 10 in Williston but a 3 or 4 anywhere else. And sometimes at the local Walmart I’d notice some really exotic tall modelesque sexy looking women from foreign countries. I suppose they too were either mail order brides or strippers.
Greg’s wife always brought her stepdaughter Evie along whenever she went to shopping or to the laundromat. Sometimes I’d tag along to help carry laundry to and from the car. I just sat there with my laptop webcam chatting to my girlfriend in Sweden. Evie would sit next to me playing her handheld videogame. Sometimes men would come up to Aletha and ask her where she’s from and make small talk. I found it surprising the first time I went to a laundromat because the employees looked like washed up hookers. This was the same for half the waitresses in nearby diners and restaurants. The woman I saw wore heeled shoes, a tight leopard print sweater and a push up bra. Whenever she bent over I got an eyeful. She was too old for my taste but I couldn’t help noticing. Maybe this was her side job. Who knows, maybe she owned the place? I assume she could’ve been a drug addict also. It seemed like there wasn’t much to do in the Bakken. Taking drugs was an escape I suppose.

Gene thought his sister Judy in the neighboring home a mile away on the Kellog Ranch was doing some illegal activity. Sometimes there would be semi trucks coming in hauling ranch-related or building materials. Judy was the older sibling of Gene. He always spoke badly of her. Since Zinnie quit, Gene’s sister had her maid help take care of the home next door that Gene’s parents lived in. Sometimes she’d emerge and be texting or talking on her cell phone. Gene always found her very suspicious. Gene said she had acne marks on her face like a meth addict would have. One day she took two hours to change her tire. Gene stared out the window the whole time. He made sure he had it recorded on his security cameras and reviewed the footage. I’m certain there was nothing suspicious.

Like all paranoid schizo people, Gene had a paranoia of wires. I used to live with two paranoid schizo people. From this day forward, I swear I will never do that again. Actually my mother was semi paranoid schizo also, but that’s a different story. Before I had moved to North Dakota, I lived in the opposite climate in Texas. I lived in my aunt’s mansion on her ranch property. I lived there 6 days by myself. My aunt, her husband and my grandma would stop by to stay one day a week. My aunt and uncle just went there to go swimming and get away from the big city. My aunt had security cameras all over the house. She kept telling me, “Raphael you’re pretty good at avoiding the cameras. We can’t tell whenever you’re here.” I kept thinking, “Yes, byotch! That’s so I can have some privacy.”

There was one camera that she kept having me shuffle around. It was one of those cameras a hunter or Big Foot believer would use in the forest to capture snapshots of creatures walking past. It was a camouflage colored box that nobody but me knew how to operate. I’d check it weekly, move it to a different location each week. It was quite frustrating dealing with a paranoid person.

Before that I lived in Chicago with a paranoid coworker named Kenny. We both shared an office/apartment. The office had living quarters in the rear. Kenny was a short bearded fellow who wore outdated suits from the early 90s. We both worked for a medical company performing mobile x-rays at nursing homes so we were on call 24/7. I worked alone until this idiot arrived. The first thing he did was put up a bunch of paintings in the office. These paintings were framed so they were inside a glass frame. He told me, “I like these types of frames so that I can see reflections when I’m facing the other way.” He then searched the basement for unusual wires. Gene had the same problem with wires whose purpose he was unaware of. In the end my new roommate discovered that the stuck up neighbors next door at the insurance company were stealing some of our electricity.

So we all grabbed shovels to help distribute the concrete evenly. The pump truck started pumping concrete and we started from the west end. Greg’s modified truss screed started vibrating along the floor. Every few minutes there would be a small hiccup. Sometimes there wouldn’t be enough concrete or too much concrete in one area and we’d have to move the truss screed back a bit. Sometimes one of the two cables at either end of the truss screed were pulling too fast so adjustments were constantly being made. Greg’s wife stood behind us with a shovel in hand. She barely did anything except for get out of our way. Everything went rather smoothly and within two hours we were done. I was actually very impressed. This went along much smoother than anyone could have imagined.

There was just one problem. When we go to the west end of the floor, the machine had to be hoisted out. That seemed easy enough, just take the backhoe, lower the extension bucket, tie the truss screed onto it and lift. I carefully walked along the wooden truss screed track along the inside of the northern wall and turned the truss screed 90 degrees. Greg lifted the truss screed and at the very last moment before he cleared the ten foot wall, he bumped the very top of it, causing small clumps of concrete to splash all over the west side of the floor. It was slightly disappointing. We had other equipment to smooth it out anyhow.

Now was my task to hose down and get all the concrete residue off the truss screed. Greg left it near Gene’s home and in the freezing cold I stood there with a hose and a broom trying to clean it off. Greg kept whining, “Clean it real good. We’re gonna have to buy this machine if it’s not good and clean.” I thought, “Yeah, sure. I bet it doesn’t have to be spotless.” I spent over an hour hosing it down and scrubbing it. Gene always tried to be helpful but his logic was questionable. He handed me a box of heavy duty wet wipes. I smiled and said, “Hey thanks!” But I set it down on the ground because it wasn’t gonna do me much good. What was he thinking?

After I got the equipment relatively clean I had to stop. My jeans were wet and they were freezing. Moving was getting difficult with frozen pants. Besides I was starving. I walked back to the worksite and sat in the car with the heat on full blast to defrost. I felt content. Everything went much smoother than expected. For once, Greg was right. Piece of cake. I was eating when Greg approached the car all frantic. He opened the driver side door and said, “Hey Raphael, we really need your help!” With my mouthful of sandwich, I mumbled, “What’s wrong? Can’t you ask those guys to help you?” He answered, “They already left.” I replied, “Why?” Greg said he had told them we didn’t need their assistance anymore.

When I walked to the worksite and saw the floor I was in disbelief. Greg was using what is called a power trowel to finish the top surface of the concrete floor. A power trowel is a gas powered machine with a big handle on the end and what looks like a fan pointed downward toward the ground. This machine takes some practice using. One basically walked around with this machine, as long as he can keep it under control because it tends to wander wherever it wants. As long as the concrete surface is dry enough, this can be possible. But the concrete hadn’t hardened at all! The weather was too cold and Greg stupidly didn’t have any accelerant put in it. The machine just sank into the ground. Greg made a trail of footprints in the concrete also.

We had to cover the plastic canopy and get some heaters in there to help the concrete harden. We spent an hour pulling the heat shrink plastic roof back into place. We placed some wood on the ground to set all the propane and forced air heaters back into the room and put them on high. The propane heaters looked like fat cylinders with a bunch of holes in it. A hose ran from the propane tank to fuel the heater. The forced air heaters looked like jet engines. The ones we bought were fueled with diesel fuel.

Hours passed and it was getting dark. Greg kept trying to use the power screed machine but it kept sinking into the concrete like quick sand. After eight hours since the last concrete truck left, Greg was able to use the machine somewhat. For the footprints in the ground, Aletha and I used hand trowels for hours trying to get rid of the shoe sole indentations. Things got worse by the moment. Even though I was getting paid for all the extra work, I was still exhausted. Some areas were still wet and this was taking much longer than expected. Greg kept insisting, “This floor is fucked up. But I’ve seen worse…barely. But my truss screed worked like gangbusters!” Greg grew up in Montana and he always had some words I never heard before. One of them was the word “caddy whompus”. He often used that to describe anything that was uneven or crooked. Greg used to own an auto body shop and he had a good eye for something wrong. I had a good eye for such things because I’m simply detail oriented perfectionist and I have a sixth sense when something is lopsided or awry. Greg kept crouching down and looking at the floor from a distance, “This section is real caddy whompus.”

Since some sections of the floor were still damp we had to wait hours for him to run the power screed over it. We’d move the heaters around and turn the direction they were blowing hot air. Greg would come inside and try and salvage the floor every thirty minutes. We kept walking back to the car to take a thirty minute nap. I discovered the next day that Gene heard noises up at the worksite and walked up to the worksite with his gun pointed at our work car, only to discover Greg and Aletha asleep in the front seats. I was either in the back seat asleep or back at the worksite keeping myself busy cleaning or organizing tools.

At 3am that morning we were starving and tired. We agreed to drive into town and get some food. Since I knew I was working overtime and making extra that day due to another one of Greg’s blunders, I bought him two packs of smokes and two energy drinks. I didn’t know exactly what he smoked so I just picked up an empty box from the floor and showing it to the cashier I said, “Gimme two of these.” I picked out two large cans of energy drinks for Greg.

Part of our daily routine before leaving work was stopping by a gas station to fuel up or just stop by a convenience store. Greg would always pick up two packs of cigarettes to support his nicotine habit and two large energy drinks to keep him awake on the drive to work and back.

We all returned back to the car and Greg was appreciative for my gifts. He had bought a cup of coffee. He asked, “Aren’t you tired? Why didn’t you get some coffee?” I replied, “Coffee doesn’t do anything for me. I just drink it three times a week just cuz I like the taste of it.” I always drank my coffee with lots of crème and lots of sugar. Coffee doesn’t really keep me awake because I knew my mother had spoon fed me coffee since I was an infant. I suppose over the years I had grown immune to the effects of caffeine.

We returned back to work. The last four hours Aletha did nothing but stand around and take naps. I was always keeping myself busy. Greg kept working the power screed until he was semi-satisfied with the uneven floor surface. He kept saying how the floor wasn’t too bad and that his truss screed idea “worked like gangbusters”. I grew tired of it. Who even uses that word “gangbusters”? All that matters was the end result. The end result was unsatisfactory in my opinion. Finally at 7am we were done. We drove home exhausted. Greg drank one of his large energy drinks and he continued to complain how tired he was. I offered him another can but he said, “What? No, man. I just had a can. If I drink another can I’ll get all crazy. I thought to myself, “Too late, dude!” He kept saying how that stuff was good for you. Good for you, my ass!

We didn’t return to work for a few days. Greg continued to get angry text messages. Gene and Eda wanted to know how many hours we actually worked that day too. As usual, Greg threatened he would quit. He kept saying, “We’re getting paid for as long as we were there! I had to babysit that concrete and we didn’t leave til the job was done!”

We didn’t return for a few days. Then a storm came and the ceiling above the concrete collapsed. We returned to work. We tried to patch up the heat shrink ceiling. Gene had purchased a dozen concrete blankets. They were some overpriced thick fluffy black plastic layers with some synthetic white fluffy material sandwiched in between. I knew how the inside looked because part of one of these blankets caught on fire due to Greg’s carelessness as he was trying to melt the permafrost beneath one of these concrete blankets. As I predicted, the blanket caught on fire. All Greg did was laugh and give me a wide eyed look and said, “Don’t turn that blanket over.” Soon after I peeked under and saw what the inside looked like.

Since we didn’t have any more heat shrink plastic for another temporary ceiling to work under, we ended up using some of the large concrete blankets to jerry rig a ceiling. Gene’s favorite home repair product was duct tape. He didn’t buy the cheap stuff either. Only the best for Gene. He had many rolls of thick black duct tape. We used a whole bag full to help quilt a roof together. This roof kept coming apart but we always had more duct tape. Gene used this duct tape for all repairs. Greg was amused that we were using all of it up. Since Gene didn’t have any faith in wireless security cameras because he thought someone was intercepting the signal (which was highly unlikely), he had network cable running all around his house leading to each camera. These cables were suspended with good old duct tape.

The makeshift ceiling kept falling apart and after a few days we turned off the heaters and removed all the duct tape from the concrete blankets and laid them on the floor to help cure the concrete floor.

It was Christmas. Greg still kept complaining how we were short-handed. I kept asking him if he wanted to hire a friend I met at the library named Buddy. Greg wasn’t interested in hiring him. Greg didn’t want anyone more experienced than him working on this project. I met Buddy at the Williston Public Library one day. I went to the library on weekends to chat with my girlfriend overseas. The library was beside a park. In the library parking lot were cars from different states. There were Nigerians, Latinos and other unemployed people going to the library to find work online. There actually were few locals there. I suppose I was a local now. I’d come in with a pair of winter slippers and a thin jacket and baseball cap. It seemed like everyone there wore a baseball cap. When in Rome. Near the entrance was a boot scraper which is a set of brushes with the bristles pointed towards the sides and soles of boots. Many of the oilfield workers worked two weeks on and two weeks off. On their time off, sometimes they’d spend time at the libraries. This part of North Dakota could get really muddy especially at worksites. When it wasn’t freezing cold during the winter, oil field workers had to deal with the muddy ground. I always told people sometimes I didn’t mind the cold so much because of that reason.

This library had a section with several private seated tables. I would always go to one of those booths to chat with my headset. One day I arrived later than usual to the library because I had a hard time starting my van in the cold. One of my chores living in the bus was to drive to pick up fresh drinking water each weekend. I’d load up my van with large jugs of water and drive a mile away to an automated water vending machine. It was miserable. I’d stand there in the cold and insert quarters into the machine and wait for the jugs to fill with water. I had to make two trips each week. After one trip I’d go into the bus and pour the heavy jugs of water into a wide PVC pipe to fill up the water reservoir. Greg wanted to conserve water they barely flushed the toilet. There was usually feces and urine still in it. The washroom stunk. Each time I used it I took a deep breath of air before entering. Greg was too lazy to pump the waste water out often enough. Sometimes he would dump out some waste water underneath the bus. It smelled of sewage.

After finishing refilling the water reservoir that weekend I drove to the library. I found a table near the booths and kept an eye out for someone leaving. I brought a book on construction and brought it with me. I didn’t like bringing my work on my time off so I put it down after a minute and left it on the table. A nosey 60 year old thin man with thick bottle glass looking lenses approached me and asked me about my book. He asked, “May I look at that? I have that book.” He picked it up and said, “Oh never mind, that’s the newest version. I had the earlier one.” The man extended his hand and introduced himself, “I’m Buddy.” I thought, “That sounded like an alias.” I extended my hand and shook his and said, “My name is Raphael.” Buddy asked me what type of work I did. I answered, “I do construction work.” He sat down next to me and I asked him some questions regarding construction. He appeared to know a lot regarding that subject. He would even get into specific details. Buddy claimed he had done that type of work for two years in and around Williston.

Buddy was a religious person. He always walked around with a Bible. Buddy was a very positive person who kept preaching to me. “If you are a positive person, good things will happen. It all depends on your outlook on life. Do good things and good things will happen.” He sounded like a dude trying to coerce me into joining a cult. I figured he was religious because he had served time in jail and had nothing to read but the Bible. I told Buddy I’d return tomorrow. He told me he was returning the next day and we decided to meet for lunch on Sunday. Williston was a strange place. Stores wouldn’t open until noon on Sundays. This was to make sure people attended church. Even on radio stations I’d hear Christian church sounding music until noon on Sundays. I listened to mp3s in my car so it didn’t matter to me.

I sat with Buddy until the library closed. My girlfriend was busy and she didn’t get online anyhow. Exiting the library was unusual. There was a display posted with sexual offenders. As we were leaving Buddy pointed out, “I know him, him and him.” I wondered if Buddy was one too.

Leaving the library I discovered Buddy drove an old white van. It was his work van and his home. At one point Williston was second to Manhattan in terms of rent. Rent in the Bakken was too expensive for him. In order to shower, Buddy had a membership at a local health club. Many oilfield workers in the Bakken lived in “man camps which were glorified trailer parks. Buddy invited me to a taco fast food place that had internet service. I wasn’t hungry so I ordered the cheapest things on the menu: a taco and a soda. We sat at a table with the only outlet. My girlfriend was online and I began video chatting with her. Soon after a man looking for work came in. He said if there were any other outlets in the place. Pointing, Buddy said there are some high up near the ceiling and laughed saying, “This is the Bakken. You do what you gotta do.” The man stood on a chair and plugged in his laptop charger.

Two hours later I finally ate my taco. It wasn’t very good. Buddy said the food there was hideous and that he worked at restaurants in the city during cold winters and the food at that franchise was some of the worse he’d ever tasted. An older employee came around sweeping the floor. Buddy spoke to him. I wondered if Buddy had worked there also. Buddy and I agreed to meet the next day at the nearby Chinese buffet restaurant. I returned back to the bus that evening happy because I had made my first friend outside of work. I usually don’t associate with people older than myself because for the most part I find older people boring.

I met Buddy there at 11am when they opened. The parking lot was almost full at the time. I was pleasantly surprised that the establishment had actual Chinese employees. They looked like they didn’t speak much English. The Chinese women actually looked somewhat attractive. I generally don’t like Asian women but maybe it’s because there was such a shortage of women there anyhow. Eating there was a strange experience. I was pleasantly surprised that the food was exceptional. I found it odd that Buddy brought three plates of food to the table before he started eating. He didn’t even bother getting dessert. I ate unusually faster than usual. Sometimes I’d go to Chinese buffets by myself and pig out for two hours. We ate for about not much more than an hour. In that time period the people seated at each of the neighboring tables had changed two or three times. Damn these people eat fast! I suppose all anyone does there is work. I found it funny that Greg would often leave the doors to our work car unlocked. He’d sometimes leave his wallet in the middle console. He kept telling me, “There is little crime here. People are too busy working.”

Just before Christmas Greg said he was quitting. I didn’t really care because of all the drama. I was actually excited. Greg said I could find work for an oil company even though the boom was beginning to go bust. Greg said it was a shame I didn’t get to experience working at an oilfield and making more money.

Eda texted me that she wanted me to move inside their home. I didn’t really want to because I knew they were rather religious, I didn’t like their dog, and I’d like to come home late at night sometimes. Knowing Gene had plenty of weapons I imagined myself coming home late or talking a midnight walk and being shot walking around his home. I decided I was going to move to LA after all. I was pretty excited.

Later that evening Gene’s wife talked Greg into returning back to work. I wouldn’t be surprised if she offered him more money also. My hopes were dashed. Damn bipolar mother fucker! Greg kept insisting how we were so short handed but still refused to take on another worker. I wanted to visit my family in Chicago for Christmas but I figured that was out of the question.

The week we returned to work and it was business as usual. We went to the lumber yard and purchased items we needed to put up the marriage line wall. At the lumber yard one of the Nigerian workers helped us load up the wood and wood particle boards. The worker helped us load one of Gene’s pickup trucks but then we noticed the worker made a mistake. The boards seemed heavier than I expected or was I just getting weaker in my old age? Greg noticed the man was giving us the wrong thickness wood boards. The boards were thicker than we asked for. Greg yelled out, “Hey! You sure these are the right boards? I think these are too thick.” The man replied, “Oh wait. Sorry, we use metric system back home.” We unloaded the wrong boards and replaced them with the ones of the correct thickness. After jumping into the car to leave, Greg stopped and asked the man, “Have you wintered here before?” The man laughed an answered, “No I just got here last month.”

The next day the steel beam we ordered arrived and we returned to the same metal/welding business to order the correct. We ordered a metal post that Greg had calculated. Nearing Gene’s home, something the steel beam shifted and was sliding around. Greg stopped the car and yelled, “Oh shit!” He inspected the rear of the truck and walked to the side of the scoria road and picked up some dirt from the road. Greg walked to the rear of the truck and started patting the dirt on the tailgate. When Greg returned back into the he was shaking his head and wiping his palms against each other to get the rest of the dirt off. I asked, “What happened?” Greg replied, “The beam scratched up the car. Hopefully Gene won’t notice, haha.” I was a bit perturbed at Greg’s reaction but I wasn’t surprised.

Greg had already damaged many tools, including an expensive cordless drill. The handle had a big crack on it. I never saw anything break like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if he used one end as a hammer or something. Greg had broken numerous drill bits, and many more drilling the necessary holes in the long beam for the nuts and bolts to secure it onto the steel post.

The next day I pulled out my printed floor plans and Greg and I laid wood along the floor. He told me to mark out where the walls for each of the rooms so that we could put up studs on the wall that lined up with the walls. I marked out the studs but something was off. I had lost 11 inches for the bath room. I kept telling him something is wrong here. I double checked and triple checked. Greg grew restless and said, “You fucked up!” I replied, “No, I didn’t fuck up! My designing software is accurate to a 32nd of an inch!” He shut up. I ended up making the washroom its original size but reduced the size of a room east of it. There were two windows that were equally spaced in that particular room. No that room’s walls had to be altered. Greg and I argued about the placement of the walls. I told him, “Dude, this windows should be equally spaced from the walls. I know when something is off just by looking at it. And I don’t think Gene will not notice.” Greg agreed to what I asked sarcastically, “Happy now?!” I replied with an equally sarcastic look, “Yeah I’m happy now!”

Greg and I assembled the frame for the wall and positioned it. Just to be sure, as Greg stepped away, I measured the wall from one end to the other. Greg peered over the edge of the wall and looked very angry. “What are you doing!” he exclaimed. I replied, “Just checking something.” I was growing tired of Greg’s increasingly bad attitude. I knew that it was a matter of time before I was going to quit.

The next step was to secure the steal column into place. Again, something was off. We purchased a bag of nonshrink mortar to compensate for Greg’s mistake since the column was a bit too low to support the long beam it supported. He initially blamed it on the steel/welding company but still didn’t admit his own error.

The next day we prepped the beam to place atop the column. I prepped the other west end of the beam that sat atop an opening in the concrete wall. This too was a bit low so I prepped that also. Greg and I disagreed on the method of mixing the mortar. I always use a rectangular plaster pan for mixing such, but Greg insisted I use a bucket. I followed his stubborn method even though the outcome was the same. Greg and I disagreed on almost everything. I think he was disagreeing out of spite. Greg noticed that the boss and his wife favored me and he seemed jealous. Whenever our boss and his wife weren’t at home he told me that “Gene and Eda are out getting the adoption papers for you.”

Greg spent the rest of the day drilling holes in the long steel beam. The only drills Gene owned were cordless ones. The batteries were drained of energy every 20 minutes so I was going back to Gene’s house every hour to charge three or four batteries and pick up freshly charged ones. Greg was very frustrated, breaking many drill bits in the process. He was yelling and swearing half the day. His frustration level grew higher and higher each day. I always tried to keep a positive attitude but he grew more annoying by the day.

Greg informed our boss that we needed a corded high quality drill. Greg just kept whining as usual. The next morning Greg showed some initiative by purchasing one right before we arrived at the worksite. Progress was being made. Greg was drilling the holes faster. An hour after we arrived, Gene’s wife arrived with an identical drill. Greg kept mentioning how Gene kept accusing him of stealing his tools and Eda had brought an engraving tool to label her drill. This infuriated Greg even further. He also was mad that they had also purchased a drill. Nothing they did could ever please Greg.

It was New Year’s Day. I told Greg I didn’t want to work on New Year’s Day. He claimed Gene and Eda wanted us to work on that day. When we arrived at work Greg didn’t want to go and greet them as usual. I had to go in and pick up some battery packs. When I knocked on the door, Eda appeared surprised I came to work that day. I was puzzled. Greg told me they wanted us to work that day. Did he just want to work to make more money? We were already a month behind schedule.

Greg tied a strong strap onto the steel beam and used the backhoe to position it in place. I used a rope tied to the beam to set it in its final resting place and Greg secured it with large nuts and bolts. Surprisingly, setting the beam turned out well with fewer delays than usual. Perhaps things were looking up?

The next task was to secure sill plates (treated lumber) along the top of the wall. Large bolts were to be screwed into the wooden boards and into the concrete wall. Then the prefabricated home was to be anchored onto the structure. Greg’s frustration level grew and grew each day. He swore more and more. Each night he drank more vodka. Each morning he took over the counter medication for his aching body. Now every morning he’d ask me, “Do you feel like going to work today?...” Before I could answer he’d answer for me, “Of course you wanna go to work today. You never get tired.”

Each day his complexion was more pale. I knew was my days were numbered because I didn’t want to put up with him anymore. I began to wonder what reason brought me here. I just wanted to save up more money. I didn’t think it was going to be this miserable. I began thinking maybe I should just sneak away one night and leave all this behind. Start off fresh and continue westward to LA as I originally intended.

Instead of using one wooden board (sill plate) for the top of the wall, Greg decided to double sill plate it. Everything seemed to be done to cause more delays. There was no need to place double the material and work. Everything we did seemed to follow this trend. Days before we started, Greg and I drove 2-1/2 hours away to Dickinson to purchase the necessary materials. Greg purchased the wrong sized wood. Greg seemed especially pale and hung over that day. I never questioned him about whether we were purchasing the correct wood. He usually lashed back at me whenever I questioned his knowledge and experience. Naturally, Gene was upset at Greg’s mistake. Greg asked me, “Didn’t you know we were buying the wrong sized wood?” I replied, “I didn’t know.” I sort of sensed something wrong when Greg purchased 8 inch sill plate gasket rolls. These are pink foam rolls that are to be placed between the top of the concrete wall and the wooden sill plate. And instead of purchasing wood that was 8 inches wide, he purchased wood that was 6 inches wide. I figured that was strange but I didn’t want Greg to have another of his oft times hissy fits so I didn’t question him. We had to make another trip for materials 2 days later. Greg received some angry text messages and claimed he was going to get fired over making a mistake of buying the wrong wood. That evening Greg told me, “Raphael. They shouldn’t fire me over making that mistake. I admit I bought the wrong wood. I made one mistake and they wanna fire me. That’s not right.” I just thought, “That was a lot of wood and a big mistake to me. Lucky you still have a job, dumbass!” I replied, “Yeah, man. We can return the wood anyhow.”

As the days passed, I noticed a trend with Greg, he worked less and less hours. What’s the use of driving three hours and just working four? Greg always asked me if it was alright with me and I always replied, “I don’t care.” Not like I liked working with this idiot anyhow. If he wanted to delay the project further, it didn’t matter to me. Maybe this would get Greg and I fired even sooner?

This day happened to be the worst ever. Greg was swearing half the time. He was complaining and yelling at me half the day. It was a windy day and Greg was yelling, “We need more help! We are just two people!” The wind was blowing the rolls of sill plate gasket about and unfolding the large rolls and placing them between the wood boards was becoming too demanding for Greg. I didn’t have as much difficulty. Greg’s frustration had reached a breaking point. After that was done, we had to drill holes for the large bolts to secure the wood onto the top of the concrete walls. Greg used a ladder to get to the top of the wall and he used Gene’s pneumatic nail gun to secure both sill plates together. He was swearing and yelling the whole time. I always tried assisting Greg and making things easier for him, bringing him more nails and doing whatever was necessary but he just took his anger out on me and yelled at me more. I had had enough. Gene was nearby and he witnessed this. Sometimes Gene’s nail gun would get jammed and Greg would bang it on the sill plates. Greg was also becoming more careless. At one point he even dropped it on the ground. It still worked but Gene noticed this. He was really upset.

I had enough. If Greg got mad at me one more time, I was planning on quitting. Miraculously, he didn’t. But I had already made up my mind. I was going to quit soon. We left early as usual to get a head start to the weekend. That evening Greg came home with a BB gun. The bb gun was black with an orange color on the end of the barrel so it wasn’t confused with an actual gun. Greg had also purchased a tiny laser sight that he mounted just underneath the barrel. Greg also purchased rubber a box of rubber BB’s. He was so happy showing it to me. I was surprised he actually bought one. Greg happily told me, “Now if that dog messes with me, I’m gonna shoot him! Yeah!” Concerned, I said, “Rubber BB’s won’t leave any marks but that’s gotta hurt.” Greg replied, “Yeah! I’m sick of that dog!” I didn’t really like Bear but I didn’t think this was right.

Later that evening I made up my mind. I was quitting. I texted Gene’s wife that I was not returning. Gene and Eda insisted that I not quit and that they would replace Greg. I texted her, “I’m done. I’m leaving this weekend and moving back to Cali. I will not work another day with Greg. He just purchased a BB gun and said he would use it to shoot their dog.”

Gene wanted to speak to me. I agreed to meet him at the library that I went to each weekend. The next day I met Gene. He brought a tape recorder and wanted me to record everything Greg was saying on the drive to work. Greg was always talking badly of the boss and his wife. He often told me, “Gene and Eda deserve each other. Some people should not be allowed to have children. Like Gene. He’s a diabetic retard! Genie the Weenie!”

I didn’t want to follow through with her plan. Eda helped coerce me by offering me a $10 per hour pay raise. I thought, “Hmm. Lemme think about it.” Later that evening I texted Eda, “I don’t think this is safe. What if he were to discover the tape recorder?” She texted back, “I will pray to God to protect you.” Even though I was born Catholic, I thought, “I don’t believe in God. But for $10 more an hour I’ll believe in anything.”

On Monday Greg was his usual irritating self. I put the tape recorder in my jacket and was going to press the record button but I chose to wait. Greg walked to the car and said, “Oh, I forgot the gun!” I was really concerned for the dog’s safety. I hated the dog but even I thought that was inhumane. As he was about to open the door to the bus, I asked, “You’re not really gonna shoot the dog are you?” Greg turned around and had an evil look on his face and yelled as if he was a child, “What you gonna do? Tell on me?!” I replied, “No. I just don’t want to see you get into trouble!” Two days earlier Gene told me that he would have his rifle aimed towards Greg and would shoot him on the spot if he tried shooting Bear. Unfortunately I hadn’t turned on the tape recorder. I wish I had. I waited for Greg to come out of the bus and then I hit the record button, placing the tape recorder back into my jacket.

Greg went into the bus and didn’t emerge for fifteen minutes. When he did he was a totally different person. He must have taken some pills to calm down. I checked the time on my phone and Greg looked really suspicious. He looked as if I had set it to record our conversation. Days prior Greg and his wife were trying to see what I was texting whenever they walked past me on the bus.

The drive there was really weird. Greg barely said anything bad about Gene and Eda the whole drive there. The only bad thing he said was he thought Gene could be gay. I wanted to text Eda on my phone but each time I picked it up, Greg stared at me. I had to warn them of our estimated time of arrival but I couldn’t do so. Even though we weren’t running late, Greg received a phone call from his wife asking what time we were going to arrive to work. As we neared the work site, Greg uncharacteristically drove very slowly. Greg drove around the work site. This too was something he never did. Then as Greg parked the car I kind of sank into the passenger seat because I imagined Gene shooting him with his rifle. Greg wasn’t himself. Eda informed me she was going to place a recording device at the worksite. This was a mystery to me. I was even wondering how or where she could conceal it without Greg noticing.

Greg wasn’t himself that day. It was freezing cold, cloudy and lightly snowing throughout the day. An hour later I walked to Gene’s house to drop off the tape recorder. After I returned back to the worksite, Greg told me to move all the tools and materials out of the safe room. While doing so, I discovered a two-way radio hidden between some building materials. I looked around and quickly placed it into my pocket. I thought, “Whew! That was close. Good thing I discovered it!” It was rather large and bulged out of my jacket. And what if someone were to accidentally push down on the press to talk button? I hid the radio somewhere else. I thought they were going to place a recording device here? I just carried on with my work. I texted Eda,

LIFE IN THE BAKKEN

by Gene Kellogg



I had just returned from San Antonio after working at my schizo paranoid aunt’s medical clinic for a year. One day I went to work with my Filipino friend Chris from the island of Cebu. He worked for a construction company in Chicago.

 

With a strong Filipino accent, he told me, “I have some vacation time coming up. I was thinking about visiting my cousin in North Dakota. Her husband makes a lot of money working there. Man if I were only single I’d move to North Dakota for work. But there’s not much to do there and the weather sucks! Wanna go there next week?” I replied, “Hmm, okay sure, haha!”

 

The next week we rented a car and first drove to South Dakota to go sightseeing. Since neither of us had seen Mount Rushmore we decided to go there first. Chris had nice fancy camera with a big lens. We took lots of pictures with Mount Rushmore in the background. But we usually had a finger pointed up in the air, instructing the other to move their finger to make it look as if we had a finger up the nose of one of the presidents in the background, haha! Sometimes my friend would stop and take many photos of his wife as if it was a fashion shoot or something. His wife would pose in sexy positions for him. I found this quite annoying.

 

We met a Filipino couple from Minot at Mount Rushmore. They asked us where we were headed next. We told them we were going to Williston, North Dakota. The woman replied, “Williston? There’s nothing there. Be careful, a truck might crash into you and people drive crazy there.”

 

Leaving Mount Rushmore, we stopped by Rapid City and ate at a Chinese buffet. It was quite good. Then we drove towards Williston. There was not much along the way. The closer we got to Williston, the more oil rigs there were. They reminded me of birds pecking for food, bending their heads down and coming near the ground. Besides each of the oil rigs was a giant flame burning off unwanted flammable gases. Some areas there were places that smelled like rotten eggs. It was H2S or better known as Hydrogen Sulfide gas coming up from the depths of the earth due to all the oil being pumped out.

 

The next day we arrived at a small home in the middle of the city. The street had many pickup trucks parked on either side. We arrived 9 am and from inside we heard speakers blaring. Greg’s kids were inside watching a movie. Greg came out and greeted us. He was a tall overweight man with red hair in his early 40s. As I shook his hand I noticed he was missing the last segment of his middle finger. I wondered how that happened. I suppose he cut it off on a table saw or something careless. He was of Norwegian descent. His wife Aletha was a short Filipino woman in her late 20s who he met online. Greg and Aletha had 2 kids together: Nathan, 5 a half Asian looking kid with brown spikey hair and Allie, 4 who didn’t look Asian at all. Greg had 2 red headed kids from another marriage Evie, 11 and Ethan, 10.

 

Everything seemed perfect. The kids were well behaved. We went to the park and the kids ran around and had a great time. Greg took us for a ride around the neighborhood on his dune buggy and showed us his speed boat parked in the backyard. He bragged about how fast it was and the two Corvette engines that propelled it. I asked, “Do you ever take it fishing?” Chris and I often went fishing in Illinois. Greg angrily replied, “This is a speed boat, not a fishing boat!” Chris didn’t talk much to Greg. It was as if he didn’t like him.

 

For breakfast Aletha cooked a bunch of pancakes, eggs and bacon. We went to Walmart and purchased some extra folding lawn chairs for a cookout later that day. The weather was nice and everyone was enjoying themselves. Greg purchased a case of beer and he and I were the only people drinking. We sat by the barbeque smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and eating pork and white rice. We got along real well. He spoke a lot about working for oil companies. He currently was working as a truck driver for a company that delivered oil to businesses. He apparently was paid very well because he could afford to pay the exorbitant rent for that tiny home in Williston.

 

Later that evening Chris told me we should be headed back. I had drank so many beers that along the way back there few gas stations. Chris pulled over on the shoulder of the highway and I relieved myself. It had to be the longest piss I ever took in my life. It seemed like it took over a minute for me to empty my bladder. I felt like a new man afterwards.

 

The road trip home was pleasant. We visited the Mall of America in Minnesota. From there, we went home. Even though I exchanged phone numbers with Greg, I didn’t expect to hear from him again.

 

I had been working on a construction design and 3d animation project for my buddy in Cali. I knew my friend Kiyu since grade school and we went to college together. He studied Law and I studied Computers and 3d graphics. I had been creating some proposed buildings and had created animated walk-throughs when I received a text message from Greg. He asked me if I wanted to work in North Dakota with him. Since Kiyu was already on his way to pick me up from Cali I told Greg I’d have to think about it.

 

A week later I finished the 3d animation for Kiyu. Greg asked me again about working with him. He said we’d be doing many things, but mainly construction work. Since I never lived in North Dakota before, I decided to give it a shot. If things didn’t work out I’d just continue driving west until I reached Cali.

 

During the last week of September I packed my things and loaded up my van. I punched in the address Greg had texted me and set off for North Dakota early in the morning. My father shook my hand and I gave him a hug. He had suffered a stroke and he had a ton of medical bills to pay. Most of the money I made was going toward paying for his bills and his home in Chicago. The closer I got to North Dakota the more overcast and rainy it became. 1-1/2 hours outside of Williston the highway got very difficult to see due to the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. I turned on the high beams on my van but it only reflected the light back towards me. That was how I was welcomed to the Bakken which is a subsurface rock formation of the Williston Basin underlying North Dakota, Montana and Canada. Beneath the Bakken there is a vast amount of oil.

 

Approaching my destination, Greg and I agreed to meet at Walmart where I followed him to my new temporary home. He and his family lived in an old 1971 Greyhound bus converted into a camper. There wasn’t much space inside. The front area had two benches and in the middle of the bus was a washroom. The rear of the bus were two sets of bunks on either side. In the far rear of the bus was Greg and Aletha’s bedroom.

 

Living on the bus with a family wasn’t the most convenient. There wasn’t much privacy and the kids are noisy. Things didn’t seem at all like when I visited them at the home they rented. Perhaps it’s because they now lived in a more confined space? Or maybe it was because they were just on their best behavior the day I met them?

 

Greg and Aletha’s had two spoiled children named Nathan and Allie. Their mother Aletha seemed lazy and she had Evie do most of the work. Aletha’s step children Evie and Ethan seemed as if they were second class amongst the kids. There wasn’t much to do in Williston. I’d go to Walmart and shop for food and items I didn’t really need. I love pies and I always like them with whip cream on top. I’d buy apple, cherry and pumpkin pie, whatever had the furthest expiration date. Evie and her siblings would always ask for a slice, but mostly Evie. She’d ask me for food or soda pop that I had purchased and I’d always tell her, “You don’t have to ask, just go ahead and grab whatever you want.” I figured she just had really good manners.

 

Later I discovered that she had to ask Aletha for anything she wanted in the refrigerator. I noticed that Aletha would ask Evie to go everywhere with her. Grocery shopping, trips to the laundromat, Evie didn’t have much of a choice. I got to become close to Greg’s kids, especially the mistreated stepchildren. My usual routine on weekends was to spend time at the Williston Public Library. I’d chat with my girlfriend Sophie in Sweden. I didn’t have wifi in the bus so weekends were fun. One Saturday I arrived home early from the library. I’d usually stay until closing. Evie and Ethan were there. Evie was babysitting a child. I microwaved some food and cut myself a slice of cherry pie. I offered Evie a slice and she accepted my offer, thanking me as I held the disposable plate and fork before her. Evie began complaining about how she was responsible for babysitting the children that Aletha was supposed to care for. “I should be the one getting paid. Aletha doesn’t do anything!” Evie exclaimed.

 

I asked, “Why do you and your brother live here? Do you like it here?” Evie replied, “NO! I hate it here!” Her eyes became watery and I could see the frustration in her face. I said, “You don’t have to live here if you don’t want to. Why don’t you ask if you can stay with relatives or with your real mother?” Evie didn’t reply. It’s as if something told her to stop talking about the subject with me. I’m certain she was scolded in the past about never discussing the matter with anyone. Soon after, Greg, his wife and two kids arrived. He was surprised to see me there early.

 

Nathan was a boy from Hell and he got away with everything. He was very loud, obnoxious and dying for attention. He would often walk around with two plastic toy shovels (one red and one blue), banging them on the floor. One evening one of them finally broke. I was ecstatic. He sadly approached me and held up two halves of the red shovel and asked, “Can you fix this for me? Glue it?” I replied, “Just throw it away, haha!” He still walked around banging the blue shovel on the floor but at least it was only half as annoying.

 

Nathan would often climb up and walk on the kitchen counter. Whenever he fell down I was laughing inside, “Muhahaha!” He would often try and get his older half-brother Ethan in trouble by crying whenever they fought for the same toy. Nathan always got away with it. Greg would yell at Ethan and he’d reply, “I didn’t do anything!” One day Ethan was in his top bunk on his back playing his handheld video game. Nathan climbed up and kept pestering his brother. Ethan took his video games seriously and he kicked Nathan off the top bunk. Greg came out and yelled at him for doing so. He made Ethan apologize to Nathan. That was another one of those moments where I was laughing inside after the thump onto the floor, “Muhahaha! Die demon child! Die!”

 

Greg and I worked for Gene and Eda Kellog out on a ranch in Watford City. Gene was a 50 year old overweight balding man of English and Norwegian heritage. Gene always wore a baseball cap to cover his balding head. Like everyone else does, he asked me, “Why do you shave your head bald? You still have hair.” I replied, “To make the transition into baldness more easier, haha!” Gene was missing the teeth adjacent to his front teeth. I don’t understand why he never got his teeth fixed? It wasn’t like he couldn’t afford it. He suffered from diabetes and had an electronic glucose monitoring device attached to his waist. Eda was a Filipina in her late 20s that Gene met online. Eda and Aletha met their spouses on the same mail order bride website. What a great convenient way to meet someone and fall in love?

 

The Kellog family owned quite a bit of land in Watford City. To me Watford City wasn’t much of a city actually. It was more of a town. Williston was more like a city but it didn’t have the “city” label. Everything seemed overpriced in Watford City. There was a rip-off grocery where many items cost more than a city like Chicago, but at least in Chicago there were people who would bag the items for you. Not in Watford City. At least the relatively low price of gas made up for the grocery expenses.

 

From Monday through Friday my routine was as follows:

4:30am:           Wake up, take a shit in a toilet that wasn’t flushed in order to save water.

    (I usually am constipated so I sat on the toilet for longer than an average person)

4:45am:           Floss, gargle, shave and brush my teeth

4:50am:           Bathe using a wash towel, soap and 1 approximately 1 liter of water

5:00am:           Make a sandwich for lunch

5:05am:           Fix some breakfast in the microwave and eat.

 

We left for work each weekday around 6 am. Greg would usually just wake up and change into his work clothes. He was a chain smoker and it was quite annoying how he would barely crack the windows on our commute to work. He always kept the heat on high in the car. We drove to work with a sporty sedan with a cracked front windshield. Many windshields were cracked in the Bakken. This is due to the rocks on highways and roads that get catapulted by truck tires. There were many trucks on the roads. Semi trucks hauled oil, water, sand, etc. All this was necessary for oil to be pumped from the ground.

 

Gene didn’t speak much to me at first. He mostly spoke to Greg. At the beginning and end of each work day Greg would enter their home and discuss thing for twenty to thirty minutes. I’d sit in the car and text friends or family and eat whatever I had left over from lunch. The drive home was the same as the drive to work. Greg would whine about the other drivers and the traffic (which was nonexistent to me in comparison to LA, NY or Chicago). We’d get home and I’d remove my boots and change into some clean clothing. The kids would be watch television making a lot of noise as usual. Soon after Aletha would fix something to eat. She liked cooking a large amount of food one day and we’d live off the leftovers for 3 more days, using the microwave to reheat things. I was really sick of leftovers after eating them two days straight.

 

Gene lived in a beige double wide home next to his parents’ white double wide beige home. His mother never visited the home next door. Every once in a while I’d see Gene’s mother Donna emerge. I was told she was a cousin of Nancy Reagan. She kind of looked like her actually, except her hair was white but she died it light brown. Donna’s husband always stayed inside.

 

The weather around the Bakken is very cold and chaotic. Weather varies from even as close as one mile away. Sometimes there are nasty blizzards that would last just 30 minutes and then the sky would clear up and it would be sunny. During winters the roads are icy and visibility is terrible. Why didn’t Greg just move closer to the work site? Greg kept complaining about traffic that was nonexistent. Maybe he’s never lived in a big city but the traffic was almost always flowing in and out of Williston during the early morning hours. He always drove and he never wanted me to drive there. Greg always said to me, “I have always driven everyone to work, even when I worked at the oil rigs.” Whenever Greg’s wife called he’d always finish his conversation with, “Goodbye. I love you. Muaahhhh!” Greg was always complaining about the other cars either driving too slow or too fast. He should’ve just paid attention to the road and stop whining. He appeared to be easily frustrated. I am a very positive person and I always look on the bright side. He and I were opposites but we got along well for the most part.

 

Greg would take back road routes that went off the main highway and onto scoria roads. Scoria is a type of hard red clay rock that is used on small highways and roads in North Dakota. The dust from the roads gets everywhere. Cars are filthy after driving over them. Sometimes semi trucks are turning or they drive over rocks that are flung into your front windshield. Several times a rock would came straight at me while I was sitting in the front passenger seat. Along the highways, some truck drivers would purposely drive over rocks on the shoulder or median strip to purposely hit cars behind them with rocks. Greg previously worked as a truck driver and he told me he did so himself. That’s so mean!

 

Greg and I were helping build Gene’s new home not far from his old home atop a hill. Greg was familiar with using heavy machinery like a backhoe and a skit steer. A backhoe is a tractor-like vehicle with a digging shovel on either end. The bucket in the rear is attached to a hinged boom so it can be maneuvered in many directions, while the shovel in the front moves up and down and can be tilted to dump its contents. Inside the vehicle is a swiveling seat to position the operator facing in either direction depending on which shovel is being maneuvered. At the bottom rear of the backhoe are stabilizer legs that can be positioned onto the ground in order to stabilize the equipment as the rear bucket is being maneuvered. The shovel in front is also laid onto the ground in order to keep the machine steady while it is excavating. Gene’s backhoe had four large wheels but his skit steer was equipped with tracks. A skit steer is a smaller vehicle with lift arms to attach a variety of attachments, such as a bucket or forks. Greg kept complaining about the skit steer because it had tracks on it, making it slower and difficult to maneuver. Gene bought many attachments for his skit steer, including a forklift attachment, a concrete mixer (which wasn’t very good and it required the door to be opened to control some of its functions). Gene had money to waste. I never drove any of the heavy machinery so I did most of the assisting work for Greg.

 

Two weeks into the job I was helping guide Greg who was operating the backhoe in front of me. I was telling him if he was clear of any obstacles while he was shifting some dirt from one location to another. He was discussing what he wanted to be done during a break. He usually was smoking a cigarette whenever he was taking a break. After our break was over he stepped inside the backhoe and started it up. Soon after in my left ear I heard what clearly sounded like an old Native American Indian that yelled, “Tecumseh!” Hearing and seeing ghosts was something that happened to me frequently. Learning that spirits feed off of fear I simply ignored what had just happened. I wondered, “Perhaps it was an echo or a strange mechanical noise that only sounded like an old native Indian chief yelling in my left ear? Yeah, right!” Later that day as we were driving home I told Greg what I heard. He replied sarcastically, “Oh really?” I answered, “It sounded pretty clear to me, but maybe it was just my imagination or the backhoe making some strange noise.” A week later Eda came up to the worksite with a concerned look on her face, “Ralph? Did you really hear a native man yell in your ear?” I don’t remember ever telling her? I replied, “It sounded like someone but it probably was the equipment making a weird noise.” She said, “There aren’t any native burial sites for at least 20 miles from here. So you couldn’t have heard a native spirit.” Unconvinced, I replied, “Yeah, I guess not.” Of course I thought, “S-u-u-u-u-r-r-r-r-e. It was my imagination.” I googled “Tecumseh” and I discovered he was a famous native war chief. Was he talking to me? I am confused for being a native. Some friends even think I have some native blood in me. I asked a native friend and she told me the spirit was warning me to get away from that place because it was not safe. Knowing that Gene owned a multitude of weapons I thought likewise also, haha!

 

We spent the first few weeks excavating the foundation for the new home. The ground consisted mostly of clay. The soil wasn’t good for much. The boring terrain is comprised of grassy hills and buttes. There were very few trees because the soil wasn’t good enough for tree roots to maintain a good foothold. Most of the trees were along creeks (locals pronounced them “cricks”).

 

Days were long, especially because Greg seemed to be taking his time working. I was often bored but I kept myself busy. Greg and I worked by ourselves for the most part. It was funny because whenever I’d mention that I hadn’t seen Gene or his wife for hours, one of them would magically appear five minutes later. I joked with Greg that they had a hidden camera and microphone atop the hill.

 

Gene had many security cameras hooked up around his home. Strangely, they were all wired cameras. He didn’t trust wireless devices. He even thought something was jamming his cell phone signal. I just figured he had a poor signal since he lived in the middle of nowhere.

 

One day we were informed that Eric, the night shift security guard would switch duties and start helping us the following week. Eric was an army war vet. He had tattoos on his arms and drove around in Gene’s black dually pickup truck. At the end of our shift, he’d arrive to work with classic rock music blasting from the car speakers. He was a big fellow and had a loud voice. Eric seemed like he was a very bossy person but he was quite funny. Eric also married a Filipina named Zinnie. She was a dark skinned woman with a very strong Filipino accent. Like Aletha, she spent much of the day watching Filipino satellite television channels. Doing so wasn’t improving her English and I was surprised to learn she had lived in USA for six years. It was very hard to understand Zinnie. Like Gene and Eda, Eric and Zinnie met on a mail order bride website also.

 

The following Monday, Eric, Zinnie and her son paid us an unexpected visit at the work site. Zinnie and Eric were arguing. Eric was quitting. Zinnie worked as a housekeeper and babysitter for Eda. Eric and Zinnie were a team. They both quit at the same time. That was sudden.  Gene and Eda seem so nice. At the end of the work day Eda spoke to Greg and I and urged us to bring up any work related problems so something like this would never happen again.

 

Gene owned lots of camera equipment. He majored in Photography in college and used to own a photography business. He told me, “I usually was hired to take photos at rodeos and other events. I used to post the photographs on my website online but they’d just steal the photos.” I replied, “Aw, man. That sucks.” But I thought, “That’s why you watermark your photos, you dumb fuck!” Gene always called PCs a “piece of crap”. His office consisted of a Mac and several older Macs. I’m more of a PC person myself. For some reason I find that Mac people are haters of PCs. Why is that? It’s probably because PCs are too sophisticated for simple brained people. PC haters always claim how Macs are better for graphics and music. Yes that is true but there are also many drawbacks. Most software is made PCs. Mac software is much more expensive. One day Gene asked me, “Hey Ralph, can you look at my Mac? I think it’s broke. It won’t turn on anymore.” Two weeks later when I was free and remembered I was supposed to look at it, I went into his office to see what was wrong with his Mac 27 inch LCD monitor and computer. I asked him, “Hmm, where’s the power button?” He pressed a button on the corner of the screen and no lights turned. I traced the power cord back to the rear of the computer and discovered it had come loose. Quick fix, doh! I told Gene, “Try turning it on again.” Gene exclaimed, “Oh man! I should’ve asked you two weeks ago!” I replied, “I didn’t do anything.”

 

Gene and Eda were devout Christians. I often heard happy positive Christian music emanating from Eda’s MacBook or Gene’s Mac. I found it annoying Gene would regularly play the one hit from ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) “Don’t Bring Me Down”. Cheesy. Gene and Eda were recluse and had few friends. They had three children together. Kavin 8, Neveah 5, Lexi (Alexis) 4 and Maria 2. Kavin was Eda’s son from another man.

 

During the construction project there were many alterations in the design. Greg found this very frustrating. I was creating a 3d floor plan of the basement. Atop the structure was what Gene referred to as a “modular home”. To me this was just a glorified double wide or trailer home. The design was often changed by Eda, then Gene and so forth. Changes were made on a weekly basis. I didn’t mind. I was being compensated for all the delays. We hadn’t reached any points of no return yet.

 

Once the foundation’s ground was level, we began laying out string and snapping chalk lines. Firstly we had to lay pipe for all the plumbing. Greg wasn’t the most skilled home builder. He kept bragging how he had built homes in the past from ground up. For some reason Greg chose to use 2 inch PVC for drainage pipe in case the basement got flooded. Even though it was a safety precaution, 2 inch pipe was too small a diameter. I didn’t question his expertise. He always snapped back whenever I questioned his decisions. Once all the pipes were laid out, Eda wanted to test the pipes to make sure no water leaking. This infuriated Greg. I didn’t understand why. He felt as if they didn’t trust his craftsmanship. The moment of truth arrived. Eda stood there with a video camera recording everything as Greg and I walked to different pipes, pouring a bucket of water into them. Nothing leaked. Success!

 

Eda and Gene intended to start a construction company. They called it “Braveheart Construction”. I thought that sounded cheesy. Over time I realized that Greg grew less and less interested in being a foreman for their “company”. We were using this home as a sort of training exercise for this construction company. As this project went on I realized Greg was making increasingly poor decisions and purposely causing delays.

 

The next step was to compact the floor using a gas powered tamper machine. This machine just vibrated and moved forward along the surface, sort of like driving a lawn mower.  We were preparing the ground for the footing around the structure. Footings are concrete structures around the perimeter and supporting walls of a home. We chose to make the footing 1 foot in depth. We created a framework of long wide planks of wood and secured them in place using wooden stales. Homes are built differently in the Midwest. I asked Greg, “Why not pour the floor and footings all at the same time like is done in the Midwest? Greg answered, “This is how structures have been built for thousands of years. Even the Egyptians used footings.” I answered, “Okay then, everywhere but in the Midwest.” He rebutted, “We could do it that way. But in this case we aren’t.”

 

The structure was very large: 76 feet long by 31 feet wide. There was another room at the southwestern corner that was 16 feet by 16 feet. This was to be the safe or panic room. This room was to have 2 large expensive safe doors installed. Being a great planner, Gene purchased these months in advance before they were ever installed. The heavy doors just took up a car space in his mother’s garage. The basement walls were to be 10 foot high. The prefabricated home was to rest atop our structure. The walls were to be made of 8 inch rebar reinforced concrete walls. I figured Gene was some gun toting doomsday prepper.

 

As we neared the deadline for the basement structure to be completed, Gene got more stressed. He kept complaining about how the new home saleswoman Dakotah was trying to rip him off. He said, “She wants me to pay the remainder of the amount and we haven’t even seen photos of the new home and it hasn’t been delivered!” What a joke. Gene and Greg were similar in that they were easily frustrated and stubborn. If it were me, I would have just backed out of the deal if I were uncomfortable. But not stubborn Gene.

 

After we finished the footing framing, we spread a layer of sand and stone inside the framing and laid rebar on the floor to reinforce the concrete. We contacted a concrete company and purchased the necessary tools: hand trowels, shovels, 2x4’s to slide across the framework to level the surface and a power screed. A power screed is a gas powered device with two handles that vibrated atop the concrete surface. It had a long flat aluminum blade on the bottom to make the surface smooth.

 

Anticipation grew as the day came for the big concrete footing pour. Gene, Greg and I were prepared or we thought we were. Eda was ready with her video camera to record our work. She was documenting everything and taking photos for a future website for Gene’s “Braveheart Construction Company”. I wonder where he came up with that name anyhow. When I hear the term “braveheart” all I picture is Mel Gibson with blue war paint on his face. Perhaps that is Gene’s favorite movie or he found Mel Gibson attractive or something. Greg always referred to our boss as “Genie the Weenie”. Gene never acted very masculine. I suppose all his firearms made him feel safe. I’m sure he was picked on and beat up often growing up.

 

The first concrete mixing truck arrived and out came a Latino man who didn’t speak English very well. In the back of the concrete truck, Greg and Gene took turns maneuvering the chute to aim where concrete flowed down. The Latino truck driver was at the rear of the truck manning the controls. He made it difficult for us and there was a communication problem. The man was very scared about getting too close to the edge of the giant pit we dug out in the hill. The ground was steady and firm but the driver refused to get too close to the edge, fearing it would collapse. Just an hour into it and Gene acted like he was about to pass out. We spent hours shoveling wet concrete to and fro and rotated our duties. Since Gene wasn’t fit to help much he was relegated to manning the chute form then on.

 

At one point I stood there with the power screed and Gene wasn’t paying attention. When concrete trucks are nearly empty there is a higher ratio of rocks in the mixture. As I was holding the power screed, Gene dumped a bunch of rocks over my head. Having a nearly shaved head but wearing just a baseball cap, I was yelling at Gene, “HEY! GENE! HEY GENE! STOP!” My cries were in vain. I had nowhere to go. I didn’t want to go back and ruin the concrete that I had just smoothed out and I could not get in Greg’s way who was shoveling concrete around, so I had to stand in place. I wanted to just drop the machine but I didn’t want to damage it or ruin the smooth concrete. The next day my head itched. I scratched my head and I was peeling skin off my head. I discovered I had scabs all over the top of my head. “Damn you fuckin’ Gene!”

 

The second concrete mixing truck driver was Caucasian. He was much more helpful and we had no communication issues with him. He drove closer to the edge of the wall and was more helpful. We had the most difficulty pouring and distributing concrete in the center of the foundation. We kept telling the driver to get just a little closer and reassuring him that the ground was safe and strong enough to support the truck. The man later stepped out of his truck and made the sign of the cross and looking up toward the heavens praying nothing bad would happen. We all laughed. To finish things off, we stuck rebar vertically down into the center of the footings. The rebar was to support the outer walls of the structure.

 

We were exhausted but the footings were done. On the northern side there was one footing that was bowed out since there was a lack of stakes hammered into the ground beside the wood frame. Oops! But that didn’t matter because in the end everything would be covered with concrete to cover the floor. We were exhausted and covered in concrete dust. That was our first real test and the hardest we’d worked so far. That was just the beginning. The other steps were going to get progressively harder and the weather was going to get worse since winter was just around the corner.

 

Weeks went by. The fall was quite mild for this area. The days were mostly sunny but the days that rained were miserable. The ground became muddy and if your boots weren’t laced up tight enough your shoe might get stuck in the wet mud or clay.

 

Gene owned an annoying black cat named Pepper. He’d jump on the table and try and scavenge food from me whenever I was eating. Then there was Bear. He was a large 2 year old German Shepherd. He was an untrained dog that was very playful yet annoying. Each morning as we neared Gene’s house in our work car, Bear would follow us and block our path and when we exited the car, he’d greet us by trying to jump on us. Greg hated Bear.

 

Sometimes Bear would bite me on my ankles because he wanted me to play with him or didn’t want me to go. Bear always wore a GPS tracking/shock collar with a long flexible rubber coated antenna on it since Bear often wandered off. Gene always claimed someone was leading him or taking him away. Gene kept saying, “Bear’s our first line of security.” That dog was so stupid that if he’s your first line of security then you don’t have a chance. He’d much rather walk up to a stranger and play fetch than try and attack anyone. One day a man drove up to the home in a new black pickup truck. He asked Gene if the dog was his and told him the dog jumped onto his car and scratched it. It cost Gene hundreds of dollars to fix the paint job. If that were my dog I would’ve been shopping for a new dog after that.

 

Whenever Gene and Eda weren’t around, Greg would try to kick the dog whenever he got close to him. Being a chain smoker, Greg would often sit in our work car smoking and talking to his wife. Whenever the opportunity arose, Greg would quickly swing the driver side door open in hopes of hitting the dog. It was rare but Greg was elated whenever he did hit Bear with the car door. Bear regularly tried to bite our work car’s tires and bark at us whenever we were driving away. He’d even be as bold to stand in front of cars trying to leave the residence. One morning Greg got too carried away and drove a little too fast around Bear who was racing across in front of him and ran him over by accident. “Thump,” as something struck against the front driver side of the car. Not paying attention in the front passenger seat, I asked, “What was that?” Greg slammed on the brakes and jumped out and ran behind the car. Greg inspected the dog, making sure none of its legs were broken and there was no blood visible. Greg patted Bear on its neck and on the top of its head for ten seconds. Bear walked away gingerly as if he was in some discomfort. This was the only form of sympathy he ever offered the dog. Greg returned and said, “Whew, I almost got fired.” He jumped in the car and we drove off to the hardware store for supplies.

 

The floor plan called for a 33 foot beam to extend from the west end wall to the center of the structure, running along the marriage line where the two halves of the modular home met. I came to the realization that Greg wanted to delay the entire project. He often whined about the project during the commute to Gene’s home. His anger built up each day as we neared Gene’s home. Each day was the same. Greg would say how he’s had enough and things have got to change from now on. He’d exit the car angrily and once he reached their doorstep he was a different person and all smiles. Greg was bipolar. What a weirdo.

 

Greg told Gene to contact a structural engineer to inspect the latest design and specify what was necessary to support the long beam. This delayed us another two weeks. The steel beam took weeks to arrive. In the meantime Greg and I had to make some modifications to the footings we had made. The engineer informed us that we had to make larger concrete footings to support the column that was holding up the eastern side of the beam. We had to make adjustments to the footing that ran through the center of the home. Gene, Greg and I drove 3 hours to Dickinson, North Dakota to an equipment/machinery rental store to purchase a concrete saw that could cut through rebar and 1 foot of concrete footing. A short haired blond muscular 20 year old 20 clerk stood behind the counter. Pointing at the wall, Gene asked, “Which of these concrete saws do you recommend?” On the wall were 3 saws with the cheapest on the bottom and the most expensive one on top. The clerk answered, “People renting the best model have been having some issues with the saw, so I recommend the middle model.” Gene walked up to the counter and asked for the most expensive model. I thought, “What an idiot!” The clerk responded sarcastically, “Whatever Gene wants, Gene gets. Haha.”

 

The next day Greg and I spent a lot of time cutting a large chunk of the center footing away. The engineer claimed our footing was not strong enough for the weight load above it. We had to make a footing that was 4 foot square instead of 3 foot square to support the column under the beam. It took hours to cut through and break apart the footing. The footing was very strong. It was 1 foot in deep and 3 feet wide. Greg grew frustrated after we finished cutting through the rebar and concrete. I asked, “Why don’t you use the backhoe?” He quickly disappeared and returned with the machine. Greg used the extended the rear boom and used the rear bucket to pound the newly cut concrete section until it came loose. Greg pounded on the concrete until the piece finally broke off. Greg damaged a section of the footing in the. Greg and I felt that we actually weakened the structural integrity of the center footing. Greg exclaimed, “That stupid engineer! An extra foot wider is overkill. What a waste of time. Fuck this!” The engineer also instructed us to break up the concrete footing at the western end of the beam’s support column, and increase the size there 1 foot also.

 

Gene, Eda, Greg and I had a meeting. We came to the conclusion that our concrete footings were already strong enough and to disregard the engineer’s suggestions. This home was built like a bombproof shelter in a hill. We just wasted another two weeks waiting for the engineer to give us instructions. We continued on with the project that was already a month behind schedule. We had to pick up the pace because winter was soon approaching and North Dakota winters are severe.

 

I spent most my life living in Chicago. I remember the harsh winters when I was a child. Living in North Dakota wasn’t too bad for me. I kept telling everyone that the weather was like reliving my childhood.

 

One day I had to pay the local insurance agent a visit in town. My vehicle was insured through his company. He was a 50 year old blonde well-dressed man who grew up in the area and moved away, later returning to that area. He and I had a discussion about global warming. I told him how the climate in Chicago had gotten warmer over the years. He disagreed with the theory of global warming and that some areas of the world had actually gotten colder and in the long term everything hasn’t changed much. I thought, “Okay, sure.” I didn’t want to argue with him. I thought, “Hell, I don’t want that fucker raising my rates! Haha!”

 

Each day the weather got a bit colder. One day a semi truck arrived loaded with ICF’s (Insulated Concrete Forms). ICF’s are white hollow blocks of polystyrene foam that interlock like Lego Blocks. Assembling them was fun yet tedious. After laying down one row, we’d secure the blocks to adjacent blocks using plastic zip ties. Then we’d lay a piece of rebar across the inside of the blocks. When we got to the top row, we’d drop lay a piece of rebar vertically every 3 feet apart. They ICF’s were staggered so that the end of one block lined up with the center of the next block above it. The majority of blocks were straight pieces, however we also used blocks designed for corners and T-type intersections where 2 walls met. We started laying ICF’s from corner and worked our way toward the center. In the middle of each wall there was a bit of a discrepancy. We had to cut adjoining blocks to size and fill in the gap using spray foam.

 

Once the walls reached a certain height, we had to start cutting out rectangles for the doors and windows. I was responsible for helping design the placement of the doors and windows. For some reason Greg never allowed me to spend much time to discuss the design with Eda. I told him, “How am I supposed to design the basement without sitting down with Gene and Eda? They have to tell me where the doors and windows are supposed to go.” The design phase was very difficult because Gene and Eda were constantly in disagreement. Floor plans were designed and redesigned frequently. I was a bit annoyed but I didn’t care. I was being paid for my time. Greg hated how the floor plan was coming out. He kept informing me how he’d design the home. I just ignored him. It wasn’t his house to begin with. I did my best not to argue with him since he was the foreman but there were times when I raised my voice. On one occasion Greg had to cut out the foam wall to design where a door was to be placed. Gene, Eda, Greg and I were all in disagreement. I like to design things in a functional yet a flowing feng shui manner. There were many factors to consider. In the end, I positioned the door to the entertainment room in a place that Eda and I agreed upon. Greg didn’t agree but it was too late. He even argued with me that the terrain had to be altered. So it had to be altered to get the door where Eda wanted it.

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YuryLettuce Featured By Owner 7 hours ago  Professional General Artist
Thank you for the llama :la:
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:iconkurtkrueger:
KurtKrueger Featured By Owner 14 hours ago  Professional Photographer
Thanks so much for the Llama! That is GREATLY appreciated!

Please be sure to check out my other posting sites! They are all completely different - no duplications - but all equally erotic.

This is me:

You will need to sign up for these sites in order to view my work. But just do it. They’re free.

deviantART: kurtkrueger.deviantart.com/?rn…

tumblr: kurtkrueger.tumblr.com/
(I'm "Shadow Banned" on tumblr - so you must follow this exact link to view my work! A search won’t do it.)

Facebook: m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=…

FetLife:
fetlife.com/users/904326

MeWe:
MeWe.com:
mewe.com/i/kurt.krueger

Twitter: @kurtkrueger8

My Bookstore:

My latest book:
“LIPS" (Complete Edition)
www.blurb.com/b/9164610-lips-c…

‪It's also available as an eBook.‬
www.blurb.com/b/9164610-lips-c…


"The Erotic Adventures Of Amy"
(Now part of the Museum Of Sex in NYC and The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University)

The Deluxe Version: 12x12 inches (30x30 cm), hardbound:
www.blurb.com/b/7201623-the-er…

... and something from my very deep past: "The Face Of Hollywood"
www.blurb.com/b/3812833-the-fa…

~ Kurt
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:iconodeyarea:
OdeyaRea Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thx for the Llama!
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:icondannelle13:
Dannelle13 Featured By Owner 2 days ago
thanks for the llama! :)
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:iconvonvile:
vonVile Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
thx4llama!
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:iconimtheguy97:
ImTheGuy97 Featured By Owner 5 days ago
Muchísimas gracias por la Llama Badge
Thank you very much for the Llama Badge

La la la la La la la la La la la la La la la la 
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:iconblackdonner:
BlackDonner Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the Llama. happy Llama...an important part of life happy 
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:iconmollymcmolly:
MollyMcMolly Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the llama!
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:iconcappy3pinups:
Cappy3pinups Featured By Owner 6 days ago
Thanks for the llama!
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:iconzasz130:
zasz130 Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the :llama:!
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