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FOTB: She’s weighing her options in the Bakken: Woman who moved from Tennessee ready to put down roots in Oil Patch

NEW TOWN -- Megan English was working at an automotive factory before she came to western North Dakota and more than doubled her hourly wage. The 23-year-old from Kingsport, Tenn., along with her brother and sister-in-law, moved to the Oil Patch ...

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FNS Photo by Kathleen J. Bryan Scale operator Megan English, 23, of Kingsport, Tenn., talks to fleet operations manager Javier Martinez of Albuquerque, N.M., on Monday before he scales out at Wildcat Minerals in New Town.

NEW TOWN - Megan English was working at an automotive factory before she came to western North Dakota and more than doubled her hourly wage.
The 23-year-old from Kingsport, Tenn., along with her brother and sister-in-law, moved to the Oil Patch in May to make a better life for herself and 20-month-old daughter Regan, she said.
As a scale operator for Lakewood, Colo.-based Wildcat Minerals, she oversees the weigh scale utilizing a computerized program to supply trucks with silica sand used in hydraulic fracturing in the oilfields.
Wildcat leases a New Town grain elevator owned by Dakota Quality Grain Cooperative for its operations, said terminal manager Peter Kalligher of Duluth, Minn. He said the terminal loads an average of 40-50 trucks per day, depending on the number of oil wells being fracked.
English said she was only making $8 per hour at the factory in Tennessee. When her brother and sister-in-law found jobs in North Dakota, she decided to tag along, with Regan in tow.
“I came out here hoping I would find a job,” she said.
The four live in “the only place we could find” - a three-bedroom trailer on the edge of New Town, the largest community on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. New Town has seen its population grow from about 1,900 in the 2010 U.S. Census to more than 3,000.
English said she initially cleaned workforce housing, however, she jumped at the chance to work for Wildcat.
“I had to go into homes where men were living, and I didn’t feel comfortable about it,” English said.
Her 12-hour shift at Wildcat keeps her busy weighing trucks in and out of the terminal, communicating with drivers, and on occasion assisting in loading sand from a railcar.
English said many of the truckers are “very respectful,” but there have been a few who have been inappropriate, coaxing her to stand her ground.
“I find that my attitude’s changed a lot since I’ve been here,” she said. “I used to not care about what people said to me. Now I speak my mind.”
Kalligher described English as an employee who has “ears that work” and “above average computer skills,” which, he said, is important for a scale operator.
English said she is one of three female scale operators among a total of eight staff. The terminal runs 24/7, Kalligher said.
Regan is cared for by English’s aunt when she is working. She said she has a good support network that also includes two uncles and two cousins, and their boyfriends and children, who all came to North Dakota to work.
A 2011 high school graduate, English she said she hopes to become a surgical assistant one day because she loves to help people, she said. In the meantime, putting down roots has become her new chapter.
“Although it was sad saying goodbye to my parents, it was a new beginning for my daughter and I. … I don’t ever want to leave,” she said.

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