The Land that Oil Forgot

Epping_9553I’ve been slowly collecting photos for a project called “The Land that Oil Forgot.”

Let me explain: The increased oil activity in western North Dakota has led to some communities exploding in population, jobs, business and more. It can be readily seen in Williston, Minot and Dickinson as a few examples.

Then there’s the other communities in the area. Those that haven’t grown and look like a Wild West ghost town.

I went out to get a photo of Epping, N.D. which is about 15 miles outside of Williston. It has an official population of 100 people but developers are looking to put in 750 new homes because prices and locations are easier than in Williston.

I came across this abandoned old house just on the outskirts of Epping’s main hub but never stopped before. On this day I went out and the house looked worse than it did before, so I ventured up to it.

Inside I found it was just left. That simple. The kitchen still had dishes in the cupboards and sink, a full room it looked like. I was amazed that nobody was staying in it or that it stayed that intact. I think I even saw cigarettes inside the house still.

As I was snapping photos a car happened to drive down the road and leak into my frame. Combined with the cloud/sky structure I thought it represented an interesting dichotomy of what oil patch created in communities so close to each other.

One that, train depot aside, has yet to flourish six years into the increased oil activity, while much of western North Dakota sits under the blue skies of oil revenue and population increases.

Both sides have their pros and cons, but I’m very enamored with these communities that have almost become forgotten outside of themselves.

I plan to visit Epping more. Especially after a resident called to express her displeasure with the way the photo portrayed Epping. I’ll have to meet with her after vacation and see if her view sheds more light on either of our perceptions of the small community.

© 2013 Jerry Burnes/Williston Herald

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