Notes from the Heartland, in Williston, North Dakota

On state highway 85, trucks loaded with the means of the North Dakotan oil boom roll over the bloody headless carcasses of dogs, elk and racoons. Grit and gravel fizz through eighteen-wheelers and patter the windshield. Roadside signs scream prosperity (“We have land!”) and piety (“an embryo is a life not a choice”). Haphazardly constructed houses, campsites and hotels suggest quick-buck urgency. Machines dip in and out of wells in metronomic regularity. Flames of burnt natural gas flutter in drilled cornfields like hot orange flags of adventure and conquest.

Williston is another America. There is no unemployment. Rents would make Manhattanites blush. Jobs at Wal-Mart and McDonald’s pay twice the federal minimum wage. The city has revenue to burn. “How long do you think it will last?” ask locals, as if befuddled by the happenstance of their geography. Of course, the town has problems. Traffic, crime and prices are all on the increase. But only a minority wish the fracking would stop – and most of them have long since sold up. Read more