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A new adventure

I wonder if my father, who grew up with only one brother, knew when he got engaged to my mother that he was marrying into a small battalion and that he'd spend the rest of his life being surrounded by it?

I hope so because it seems like we spent every weekend of my youth visiting with one or another of my mother's brothers or sisters or with the battalion as a whole.

One sister lived in Williston, another in Tioga and then Ray, one brother moved from Bismarck to Flaxton and another one lived in Minot and so on.

Typically, since we still lived in the same hometown as my grandparents, wherever the battalion gathered, my grandparents would ride along with us. Which meant that the seating arrangement would be mom, dad and big sis in the front seat with little sis and I stuffed between two grandparents in the back; dressed in enough cold weather gear to survive 48 hours in subzero temperatures, while sweating away 20 pounds during the first 15 minutes of the drive.

Not long after departure, my dad would inevitably crack his window a bit, pull out his Old Golds, light up and send me into a near nauseous spin from which there was a 50/50 chance I'd recover. That is, at least until we neared the oil fields of Tioga or Flaxton and then that unique odor, serving as the straw that broke the camel's back, would crawl through my nostrils like a snake and into my stomach where it'd stir up that morning's contents like a blender and turn it into hot lava looking for an outlet from which to explode.

That's when I'd tap my mother on the shoulder, never my father, and let her know that it was time to pull over or face the consequences and she'd in turn give him a previously well rehearsed sign.

Things would then briefly return to normal until little sis, who was actually the family's "Carsick Champion," took her turn signaling mom who'd again signal pop; although getting him to pull over for a second time was a little like trying to land a 140-pound marlin.

Once at battalion headquarters, we'd be greeted by the likes of uncle George, who was John Wayne with bigger hands and a smaller hat, Aunt Ila, the lifelong teacher and audiologist who took crap from no one, Uncle Percy, the human encyclopedia, Uncle Herb, who once got in trouble in his teens for creating his own radio station and Uncle Leslie and Aunt Doris, upon who's land, south of Tioga, oil was discovered in the early 1950s and is still being pumped out today.

Uncle Leslie was a small man of big stature who entertained us all with his joke telling and accordion music and who's life, despite the oil wells, changed almost not at all.

Their daughter Linda is a year older than my oldest sister and my Aunt Doris was pregnant at the same time my mother was with me, with both looking forward raising cousins the same age, automatic playmates, which never came to pass since my cousin Wanda died at birth.

It was in the midst of that hurt that my mother agreed to share me with her sister as though I was her own and that set in motion a strong relationship that ultimately led to an abundance of nurturing from more than one source.

As part of that nurturing, yes both I and even my son have benefited from the profits of those wells that were first drilled in the early '50s and are still pumping today.

I mention that because, as the new manager of The Drill, the publication designed to measure the impact that energy is having on western North Dakota, I can tell you that there are hundreds of these kinds of stories and many more that you'll be reading about each month.

So check it out. It comes out next week and with time I think you're going to love it, whether your life has been affected by oil or not, although, if you currently reside in the North Dakota, you'd be hard-pressed to declare that it hasn't.