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FNS Photo by Luke Franke Kim Duncombe takes a family portrait with three of her five kids, Matthew Jr., Raegen and Kassie, left to right, and her husband, Matthew Duncombe, shown on an iPhone. Matthew spends two weeks away from the family at a time while running pipelines for the booming oil industry in western North Dakota.

Waiting for Dad to come home from the Oil Patch: Work in oilfields forces couples to manage separations

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Big and bold on the chalkboard in the Duncombes’ family kitchen is a countdown.

It’s in the heart of the home, a place where family members will pass by it countless times a day.

It simply reads: “Days until Dad comes home: 16.”

It will be 16 days — more than two full weeks — before the family of seven is reunited again.

The Duncombe family is one of many who, since the oil boom in western North Dakota, now spend more time apart than they do together.

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