'Fight Night' in an oil-boom town

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    Fight Night in Crude Country: Blood, Beer and Bikinis in Williston, N.D.

    - Ben Garvin

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    A fighter awaits his match at Fight Night in Williston, North Dakota.

    - Ben Garvin

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    Two contenders grapple in a Fight Night match.

    - Ben Garvin

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    Fight Night fans stand for the Star Spangled Banner before a match.

    - Ben Garvin

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    A bikini girl getting ready to enter the Fight Night ring.

    - Ben Garvin

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    A Fight Night contender.

    - Ben Garvin

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    A young fan stacks beer cans at a Fight Night event.

    - Ben Garvin

A fighter awaits his match at Fight Night in Williston, North Dakota.

North Dakota's oil boom has drawn thousands of workers to the rural state, clogging its highways with trucks and overwhelming its small towns with new residents. Rents are sky high. Workers live in sprawling temporary barracks called mancamps. And there's not much to do except work.

Todd Melby is chronicling the oil boom from Williston, N.D., in a year-long project, Black Gold Boom, an initiative of Localore and the Association of Independents in Radio. Marketplace is airing a series of his vignettes of people and scenes from the boom region.

In this first piece, Todd takes in a rare live performance in Williston, a martial-arts fight night, the Williston Basin Blowout.

About the author

Todd Melby is a North Dakota-based reporter covering the oil boom for public media project Black Gold Boom: How Oil Changed North Dakota.

A fighter awaits his match at Fight Night in Williston, North Dakota.

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I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

This series brought back some old memories:

In 1969 the small electronics company I worked for in Hicksville, NY had developed some specialized equipment for Shell Oil to record data from the 'rocking horse' type oil well pumps, and then analize it to check the performance of the well pump head and sucker rod string..
In 1971 we leased the rights to use and market the techniques and I was sent in July of 1971 to train someone in the Williston, ND area to use the equipment, and sell the service to independant well operators - at the time, it was the only engineering job opening in ND. I ended up spending 7 weeks in Williston, including my 21th birthday, training the person we hired. I remember the weather being so warm that when I walked, I could feel the air flow around me like thin water. The three things that kept me from going crazy from boredom there were: a drugstore that had an extensive paperback section, a German restaurant that one a week served my favorite meal, and something that had a hidden long term effect on me - one of the two movie theaters in town showed "Le Manns' - which caused me many years later to buy several exotic cars. The other theater showed "The Sound of Music", which I never bothered to see.

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