Tom Green’s Challenge

 

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Tom Green proves why he is considered a legend in ultrarunning as he crosses the 2016 Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run finish line after completing 50-miles, marking the longest distance he has run or walked since he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a tree trimming accident on April 20, 2015.

 

BY TERI SAYLOR

Tom Green did not cross the finish line at the Umstead 100-Mile Endurance Run to great fanfare and loud cheers, but while he deserved it, he neither needed nor wanted it.

The 50-mile ultramarathon distance he covered in 14 hours and 45 minutes on April 2 was a triumph in itself, and it was the longest distance Green’s two feet have taken him since a tree-trimming accident nearly ended his running career and his life less than a year ago.

For average fans of distance running, Green’s return to the ultramarathon circuit may seem no less than miraculous, but his friends and fellow runners would rather attribute his comeback to the ingredients that make up Tom Green– a strong spirit, a stubborn streak a mile long and willpower made out of cast iron.

The last thing Green remembers about April 20, 2015 is watching the Boston Marathon with his friend Alan Doss.

He vaguely recalls pulling some branches down from a tree in his yard, but the rest of that day and the three weeks that followed are dark.

“I woke up and my sister was there,” he said on the phone recently. “She told me I hit my head and I was in the hospital. I was incredulous.”

Mention the name “Tom Green” to almost any ultramarathon runner or fan and you’ll get a story about how he inspires beginners and encourages fellow veterans when they struggle.

Tammy Massie is one of them.

A prolific endurance runner who tackles marathons and ultramarathons almost every weekend, Massie had just completed her ninth Umstead 100-mile race and was gearing up to volunteer at the Bull Run Run 50-miler on April 9, another race Green was planning to tackle.

“I met Tom about 10 years ago when I first started volunteering at the Bull Run Run,” she said. “He is such a gentleman and an inspiring runner. From all of the energy he has given us over the years – we are giving it back to him.”

From cross country races to ultrarunning

Green, 65, who started running cross country as a kid, is what sportswriters and pundits might describe as a durable runner. Speed has never been his strong suit, but he always has possessed enough endurance to take him to the finish line of almost any race. His 100-mile PR is 17 hours and 28 minutes at the Vermont-100 in 1992. At age 47, he ran 132 miles in the 24-Hour National Championship.

“I never knew an ultramarathon existed until I read about a 100-mile trail run in a magazine,” he said. “And when I read it, I was suckered in. There were photos of middle-aged men, some on the heavy side, and smiling like they were having the time of their lives.”

So at 32 years old, he entered his first ultra – the Old Dominion 100 – and completed 60 miles.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said.

Green considered that first attempt a failure, but he refused to quit. The second time he tried, he completed all 100 miles. The following year he fell short again. Going one for three wasn’t good enough for him, so he set his mind on completing every single ultramarathon that existed.

It was 1986, and there were just four ultras: Vermont, Wasatch, Leadville and Western States. To run all four in the same year became like the holy grail of running and it was anointed the Grand Slam of Ultramarathons.

Other runners tried and failed, but Green persevered, finishing all four races in a cumulative time of 96 hours, 26 minutes, and 28 seconds, claiming his spot in the history books as ultrarunning’s first Grand Slam Champion, and sealing his status as a bona fide running legend.

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Tom Green uses hiking poles to navigate a flight of stairs leading up to the Umstead 100 main aid station and the starting point for each loop.

 

If you ask Green, this ultimate achievement is not worth fussing over.

“It seemed like it would make a good adventure and a challenge at the time,” he said. “Back then, people looked at me like I was Superman, but that was the farthest thing from the truth. I was always just an average runner.”

As Massie sees it, Green is a rock star among mere mortals.

“He is super duper famous,” she said. “To me, seeing him at races is like seeing Jon Bon Jovi at a Target.”

The accident

Green may not remember much about the accident that nearly killed him, but Alan Doss remembers every frightening moment.

The two men, who have been friends for more than 30 years, are carpenters and although they live 400 miles apart-Green in Maryland and Doss in West Virginia – they often collaborate on projects.

Doss and Green had taken a break after building a split rail fence around Green’s property to watch the Boston Marathon. When the race ended, they went back outside to cut down a couple of limbs hanging over Green’s garage.

“The limbs jutted out from the tree trunk, parallel to the ground,” Doss explained. “We had decided on a plan for safety, and executed it perfectly.”

The men cut the smallest limb first. When they tackled the second limb, it fell right where it was supposed to but as if it had a mind of its own, it hit the ground, kicked back up and struck Green behind his left ear, nicking his carotid artery, and causing a fracture of the temporal bone.

“Tom fell like a sack of potatoes almost on top of me,” Doss said. “Blood was squirting out of his head wound, and I put my hand over it to make it stop squirting.”

Green was airlifted to the University of Maryland Trauma center in Baltimore where he lay in a coma for two weeks.

Green’s wife, Kay, who is a radiology technician, credits Doss for his quick actions that may have saved her husband’s life.

“I felt bad for Alan, who witnessed the accident, but he did the right thing by holding Tom’s head still, staunching the blood flow and yelling for someone to call 911,” she said while standing around the Umstead course waiting for Tom to pass by on his journey.

In the hospital’s intensive care unit, Green’s condition was touch and go for days, and no one knew if he would ever be the same. He suffered a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, and blood clots which caused a stroke, all symptoms of traumatic brain injury that would keep him in a comatose state. When he finally opened his eyes, he still wasn’t really there, Kay Green said.

Then he started responding to stimulation and following commands.

“That’s when we knew he would come back,” Kay said. “When he was able to lift his right leg, we cheered because we knew he would someday be able to run again.”

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At 6 a.m. on April 2, Tom Green started the Umstead 100 Endurance Run using a baby jogger to help him balance. He went on to finish the run’s 50-mile option, his distance PR since a freak tree trimming accident left him critically injured a year ago

 

But Green had to learn how to walk before he could run, and when he returned home after a month of physical therapy, he set out to do just that.

Using a walker at first, he measured his distance, not in miles, but in mailboxes.

“Tom walked to the first mailbox on our street,” Kay said. “Then he was able to make it to the second mailbox.”

Within four weeks, and using his walker, Green could shuffle a mile, which took 40 minutes.

“At this point, we just didn’t know how much Tom could recover,” Doss said.

But while Green kept improving, balance continued to be a problem. He knew if he ever wanted to have a chance to run ultras again, he’d have to find something to hang onto for balance, yet navigate easily.

Jogging strollers are the rage for mom-and-dad runners with new babies. Green reckoned he could run with one too.

The comeback

Green set his sights on the Crooked Road 24-hour run in Rocky Mountain, Virginia, a November run that would come only seven months after he almost died.

His goal was to finish 50K, but after going 30 miles in 10 hours, he was exhausted.

“So I took a nap,” he said. “And when I woke up, I felt guilty for stopping, so I got up and walked nine more miles.”

Then on March 19, Green decided to try a free run without using the jogger at the Hat Run in Maryland. Along the way, he lost his balance, fell and hit his head again.

With the Umstead 100 just two weeks away, on April 2, Green was determined to follow through despite his set-back. He was determined to get 50 miles.

Set in the rolling hills of the 100-year old William B. Umstead State Park, the endurance run takes place on a picturesque, looping bridle trail, rocky and unforgiving on the feet, but easy for anything with wheels, like mountain bikes and baby joggers.

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Tom Green navigates the rocky bridle trails at the Umstead 100 Endurance Run

 

For Green, the Umstead 100-mile endurance race was as much a lesson in strategy and willpower as it was in strength and endurance. To finish in the 30-hour time limit runners must maintain at least an 18 minute pace, and even though Green was planning on going 50 miles, it was important to him to maintain that minimum pace. Strong and steady, he never wavered and never even rested at the aid stations.

After starting just before daybreak at 6 a.m., Green finished an hour after the sun went down at 8:45 p.m.

A few friends and volunteers who were hanging around the finish line congratulated him with handshakes and hugs, but he did not linger. After a few minutes, with his wife at his side, he grasped two hiking poles and quietly hiked away into the darkness.

While 2016 marks exactly 30 years since Tom Green made running history by becoming the first Ultra Running Grand Slam Champion, coming back strong after his traumatic brain injury may be his biggest feat of endurance yet.

When most people think of a champion runner, they envision a chiseled athlete, out in front, breaking a finish line ribbon with arms raised in glory.

But champions are made in many forms.

At any given trail run, you may see a figure, not running, but striding quickly through the forest pushing an empty baby jogger or heaving a pair of hiking poles. He’s focused, determined, and steady as he pushes toward a finish line in the distance.

That is what a champion looks like.

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Tom and Kay Green head out on the Umstead 100 Endurance Run course.

Editor’s note: This story was written for the May 2016 issue of Running Journal. Contact Teri Saylor at terisaylor@hotmail.com or on Twitter @terisaylor

 

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Burns Times-Herald strives to maintain local coverage

Militant occupation causes disruption in community

Protestors decend on Burns Oregon by Samantha White

Militants descend on Harney County in Eastern Oregon to protest the Bureau of Land Management’s control of federal lands and the jailing of two locals farmers for burning brush on federal property. – Photo by Samantha White, courtesy of the Burns Times-Herald

BY TERI SAYLOR

Note: This article first appeared in Publishers’ Auxiliary, of the National Newspaper Association. The occupation is over, and the community is slowly reclaiming the small town lifestyle its residents enjoy.

BURNS, ORE. —Social media devotees have had a field day with the small army of militiamen who are occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Ore., to protest the imprisonment of a pair of local ranchers for committing arson on federal lands.

Online jokesters using hashtags with phrases like “Ya’ll Qaeda,” “#Vanilla Isis,” “Yee Hawdists,” and “Yokel Harem” are living large onTwitter and comparing the militia to a sort of misfit terrorism outfit with a Mayberryesque incompetence brough on by the likes of the characters Barney Fife and Goober. It doesn’t help that the gun-wielding militia have taken over a bird sanctuary.

Randy Parks, editor of the Burns Times-Herald, has been weary of the sensational headlines, the mockery, and the militia itself almost from day one. He sees no novelty in it and wants the occupiers to go back to where they came from so he can return to the business of reporting the real news of Harney County and get some sleep.

“This is a huge disruption,” Parks said in a recent phone interview.

“Here, there is an attitude to wait them out, and that’s what the local law enforcement has elected to do. The sooner they leave, the better off we’ll all be.”

The trouble started Jan. 2, when about 300 anti-government protesters arrived in Harney County, a wild, 10,000 square-mile landscape in eastern Oregon.

Then, a small splinter group took over a building on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where they have been holed up an entire month, with no indication they will be leaving anytime soon.

The protestors came from Arizona, Utah, Montana and other places outside of Harney County.

A festering wound

Trouble had been festering since 2001, when a fire Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, set on their property burned federal land beyond their property line. The U.S. Department of Justice alleged the fire was to cover up an illegal deer hunt, but the Hammonds maintained they were trying to eradicate an invasive species of underbrush.

Five years later, in August 2006, a lightning strike set the landscape ablaze, triggering a burn ban. Steven Hammond started a back burn to prevent the fi re from destroying the winter crop of cattle feed the family had planted on their property. It also burned about an acre of public land.

With that, Dwight and Steven Hammond were charged with several arson-related crimes under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which carried a mandatory sentence of 5 years in prison.

The federal judge in the case thought that sentence didn’t fit the Hammonds’ crime, so he reduced the sentences to about three months for Dwight, and a year for Steven. Both served their time in federal prison.

Then in 2010, the Department of Justice appealed the sentences, won in the 9th Circuit, and the men were ordered to return to prison to finish their mandatory sentences.

They turned themselves in without incident Jan. 4, two days after the protests started.

Since then, local schools have been closed and local residents are scared.

Even Dwight and Steven Hammond, now in prison, have distanced themselves from the protest, according to Parks.

“The family has asked for privacy,” Parks said. “And I respect that. I think they are good people who made a mistake. I also think the judge made a mistake in sentencing them that first time.”

 Small town life

Parks is a former owner of the Burns Times Herald. The 2,941-circulation weekly was founded in 1887.

He was born and raised in Iowa, and started college at the University of Idaho on the path to becoming a teacher. Halfway through college, he changed his career path and movedto Sun Valley to live the life of a ski bum and work at the resort there. That lifestyle lasted 10 years.

He went on to study broadcasting and moved to Burns in 1989, where he worked at a local radio station for 16 years until the station was sold. Parks moved over to print journalism, went in with four partners, and bought the Times Herald.

Recently, the group sold the paper to a couple of local businessmen. Parks stayed on as editor.

In a place where there is more sagebrush than people, the newspaper’s motto is “Covers Harney County like Sagebrush.”

And that suits Parks just fine.

“I am not a big city person. I like small towns,” he said.

If Parks loves small town life, then Burns must be paradise to him.

Just 3,000 people call the Harney County seat home, according to Parks. The town’s close neighbor, Hines, has 1,500 residents.

By Harney County standards, Burns and Hines would be the “metro” area.

The county’s vast landmass has a population of just 7,000, making the area one of the most sparsely populated in the United States.

Seventy percent of the county’s land belongs to the federal government and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

At the turn of the 20th Century, President Teddy Roosevelt established the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which the U.S. Audubon Society considers one of the premiere sites for birds and birding in the nation.

“The refuge is an interesting place and an important part of our community,” said Parks.

In 2012, a coalition made up of environmentalists, local residents, ranchers, federal government employees and other interested parties agreed on a conservation plan for the refuge. It took three years to negotiate, but the result was a plan everyone could live with,according to Parks.

“They didn’t always agree, but we have always done things by working together,” Parks said. “It is the Harney County way.”

Parks describes his community as quiet and dignified.

“People go about their business and keep to themselves,” he said. “We have residents here who are state and federal employees. We are friends and neighbors, and we don’t point fingers at each other. The outsiders are here doing that and stirring things up.”

Media converge on Burns photo by Jeff Graham

Media from all over the country converged on Burns to cover the militant occupation at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. – Photo by Jeff Graham for Burns Times-Herald.

He’s also worried that people from other parts of the country are getting the wrong impression of his community from the national media, which is camped out on his doorstep.

“You watch on television, and they focus in on guns and rifl es, and they don’t focus on the people. They pick out the most antagonizing snippets and show them,” Parks said. “They take things out of context, sensationalize them, and there’s not much we can do about it. Our residents are thanking us for taking the middle road on our coverage.”

Parks doesn’t like covering the standoff at all. It stretches his small staff too thin.

“We had two reporters on our staff, but in December one left to go work for the local hospital, so it’s just Sam (reporter Samantha White) and me,” he said. “We’re to the point where we want it to end. We want to get on with our lives. We want to cover our schools, our public events, meetings, and the things people need to know.”

The Burns Times Herald is printed at the Bend (OR) Bulletin, about 130 miles from Burns.

“We submit the newspaper electronically on Tuesday nights. They print the paper, and we have a guy who drives out to Bend and returns with the newspaper around 11 or 12 at night. Then three of us go out at 5 a.m. on Wednesday and make our deliveries,” he said.

Despite interruptions from the outside world—national media and self-described militiamen from other parts of the country, Parks is determined to continue covering the day-to-day aspects of his community.

“We’ll continue to not ignore the other news of our community. Our role is to keep people informed and stick to the facts,” he said. “And when the militia and media do finally leave, we’ll still be here to pick up the pieces.”

terisaylor@hotmail.com

Dream trip to Mount Everest turns into a nightmare for Raleigh trekker

Ron Wahula of Raleigh enjoyed  a dream trip to Mount Everest Base Camp

Ron Wahula of Raleigh enjoyed a dream trip to Mount Everest Base Camp

By Teri Saylor (photos courtesy of Ron Wahula)

On April 28, Ron Wahula of Raleigh, N.C. is exhausted and ready to be back at home after a dream trip to Mount Everest he had been planning for a year, turned into a nightmare when an earthquake, registering 7.8 on the Richter Scale demolished parts of Nepal and launched an avalanche of rocks, snow, and debris down the mountain, burying parts of the Base Camp and sending trekkers scurrying for cover.

Ron, whose trekking group was below the main area of destruction, escaped the full force of the avalanche but was shaken up. His wife, Carol Wahula, reported his trekking group was too close for comfort, and no one was hurt.

“They felt the earthquake, heard the avalanche, and saw the cloud of snow coming and felt the wind it generated,” she reported in a Facebook message. “They took cover and luckily they were covered only by a couple of inches of snow.”

 

Mount Everest's scenic beauty was transformed into a scene of destruction after an earthquake sent an avalanche barreling down the mountain.

Mount Everest’s scenic beauty was transformed into a scene of destruction after an earthquake sent an avalanche barreling down the mountain.

Ron is the race director for the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon and director of the Raleigh Galloway Marathon Training Program. He has set his sights on adventure and endurance sports in recent years. In 2013, he completed the Umstead 100 Endurance Run, and set his sights on achieving his dream to climb to Base Camp on Mount Everest.

He signed on for a 21-day REI-sponsored trek and left Raleigh on April 13, bound for Nepal.

He had trained for an entire year, spending hours biking, hiking with a heavy backpack, and last summer he attempted the Pike’s Peak marathon, but was denied a finish when he missed a cut-off by minutes.

After arriving in Kathmandu, Wahula started posting photos on his Facebook page, along with enthusiastic commentary about the area’s beauty.  His travelogue included photos of himself standing before Mount Everest’s majestic summit.

On Saturday, April 25, those pictures turned tragic.  Gray, foggy pictures of snow and destruction replaced his earlier photos of clear, blue skies. The once festive, colorful tent city was covered over with snow, ice and gravel.

The scenery looks bleak at Mount Everest after an earthquake caused an avalanche on April 25

The scenery looks bleak at Mount Everest after an earthquake caused an avalanche on April 25

 

Ron posted his experience on Facebook:

“Saturday, April 25th, we departed Gorek Shep. elevation 17,000 + , headed for our goal of Everest Base Camp at 11:30 a.m.,” he wrote. “Approx. 15 minutes into our 2-1/2 hour trek, a massive earthquake occurred. It lasted about 1 minute and as soon as it ended, a huge white and grey cloud that looked like a tidal wave was headed right for us though the valley. Our Sherpas told us to hit the ground. The avalanche lasted 4 or 5 minutes. When it stopped we were covered with only 3 or 4 inches of snow. We were very lucky. Our entire group is well and safe.”

In a text message on April 28, Ron said his group had just finished their third day of a five-day hike back to Lukla, the starting and ending point for Mount Everest trekkers. He described a surreal scene of destruction.

“Lots of damaged buildings and the trail is damaged with rock falls, and helicopters are constantly in the air rendering aid to victims,” he wrote. “From Lukla, we fly to Kathmandu.”

According to Carol Wahula, Ron has lost about 15 pounds during his adventure and is most looking forward to getting a hot shower and eating a hot fudge sundae.

Media Monday: Newspapers and Communities Cope with the Weight of the North Dakota Oil Boom

By Teri Saylor

Editor’s Note:  This is second in a series of four stories about newspapers serving their communities in the Bakken Oil Field of northeastern North Dakota, where an oil rush is creating extravagant population growth and an (almost) out of control economic boom. While writing for the National Newspaper Association’s Publishers Auxiliary, I spoke with the publishers at four newspapers. Here are their stories:

 

As I reported last week, North Dakota is booming thanks to a horn a plenty of oil in its northwest corner.

Roger Bailey, executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association reported that unemployment is around 3 percent statewide. The state coffers are groaning under a $1 billion surplus.

But expenses are going up.

“Expenditures for the state will be rising dramatically in the areas of infrastructure, mostly for deteriorating roads and increased law enforcement,” Bailey said. “A special session of the state legislature will be held in November to address these issues. Nobody really understood how much of an effect this was going to have on the state and its people. Only now are we getting a firm hand on the situation.”

People traveling out west to seek jobs and better lives should take their own housing with them. There are not enough available places to live for the scores of new workers in the area, and the housing that is available is offered at astronomical prices.

The Bakken oil field is a shale formation spanning 14,000 square miles in North Dakota, Montana and Canada.

Television journalist Harry Smith has been reporting from Williston, ND on this story for the new NBC show “Rock Central.”

Here’s the Williston story from the local newspaper publisher, Mitzi Moe.

MITZI MOE, PUBLISHER, WILLISTON HERALD

Williston is bursting at the seams.

“There are tent cities springing up and campers all over the place,” says Mitzi Moe, publisher of the Williston Herald. “Rents are also exploding. Apartments that rented for $700 went up to $1,000 last year, and this year they are at $2,000.”

People are living in tents, in campers and in residents’ basements. They also are renting rooms and living in housing developments called “man camps” located on the outskirts of the small towns around the oil field.

“Hiring people is next to impossible,” Moe said. “We are running short of staff in every department: news, advertising and circulation.”

Moe, herself, was working the front desk during a conversation with a reporter.

“It has been an experience,” she admits. “I am learning customer service all over again, and learning what my staff goes through day to day. Everyone is pitching in too. Our circulation director is helping to sell ads. Our classified advertising people are taking on accounts. There is so much involved; we’re taking it day to day.”

Moe, who has lived near Dallas, TX, compares the jammed roadways around Williston to Dallas metro traffic.

“We’re not prepared for this. We don’t have the infrastructure,” she says. “Williston is a tiny little town. We have one Walmart, two small home improvement stores, a JC Penney. Yet in the second quarter of the year, we beat Fargo (ND) in sales tax collections.”

In 2009, Williams County issued 447 building permits. In 2011 so far, the county has issued nearly 2,000. Mobile home permits have doubled in the past few years, from 627 in 2009 to 1,108 in 2011, according to Moe.

“Our advertising has increased tremendously,” she said. “Our help wanted classified display ads are generating dollars comparable to our display dollars.”

The Williston Herald is a six-day-a-week newspaper, owned by Wick Communications. In a normal week, the newspaper published two sections just two or three days a week. Now the newspaper has two sections every day.

Moe also publishes a weekly TMC publication and has started a new monthly magazine about the oil industry called “Talkin’ the Bakken.”

The four-color, glossy magazine contained 18-24 pages when it first came out.

“Today we are averaging 80 pages monthly,” Moe said. “Our September 2011 issue had 104 pages. October will have 80 pages.”

Her newspaper employees produce the magazine, in addition to their daily newspaper duties, with no extra help or staffing.

“There’s no extra staff to be had,” Moe said. “Our folks are doing an excellent job.”

Moe’s next frontier is to serve the man camps.

“The camps are very nice, sort of like barracks, and each resident has his own room,” she said. “I have been looking for ways to service them with newspapers.”

She and her staff have reported on these camps, running regular features on the men who live there.

While her job has become stressful, it is not without its rewards.

“There is so much going on now,” Moe says. “I am lucky to have a wonderful managing editor, who does a great job with our staff, and I love to see the excitement in young journalists’ faces when they have an opportunity to cover so much breaking news.”

MEDIA MONDAY: Economy Booms in the North Dakota Oil Fields

By Teri Saylor

Editor’s Note:  This is first in a series of stories about newspapers serving their communities in the Bakken Oil Field of northeastern North Dakota, where an oil rush is creating extravagant population growth and an (almost) out of control economic boom. Working for the National Newspaper Association’s Publishers Auxiliary, I spoke with the publishers at four newspapers. Here is an introduction and the first installment:

 

Black gold. Liquid loot.

North Dakota is booming thanks to a horn a plenty of oil in its northwest corner.

While the nation is saturated with news of rampant home foreclosures, employee layoffs, government cutbacks, and double-digit unemployment rates, the “Peace Garden State” is bowing under an economy that has grown so fast, the area can’t to keep up.

Where newspaper classified advertising is shrinking, newspapers in the oil field are doubling their classified pages.  Where reporters, ad directors, and production staff are being laid off across the country, in North Dakota, the newspapers need more workers.

In North Dakota, around the oil fields, fast food restaurants offer $15 an hour to attract employees. Local governments are issuing building permits for new construction as fast as they can approve them.  .

Oil has been a huge shot in the arm for the State of North Dakota from a tax standpoint,” North Dakota Newspaper Association executive director Roger Bailey said. “Unemployment is virtually unknown off the Indian reservations and is in the 3 percent range statewide. The state legislature in early 2011 was dealing with a budget surplus in the area of $1 billion – with a population of 650,000.”

The Bakken Oil Field Straddles the U.S. - Canada Border

But there is a dark side.

“Expenditures for the state will be rising dramatically in the areas of infrastructure, mostly for deteriorating roads and increased law enforcement,” Bailey said. “A special session of the state legislature will be held in November to address these issues. Nobody really understood how much of an effect this was going to have on the state and its people. Only now are we getting a firm hand on the situation.”

People traveling out west to seek jobs and better lives should take their own housing with them. There are not enough available places to live for the scores of new workers in the area, and the housing that is available is offered at astronomical prices.

Accident rates have tripled. Schools are overflowing, and some people have compared the amount of traffic to volumes seen in major metropolitan areas.

Publishers Auxiliary interviewed publishers and editors at four community  newspapers located around the Bakken oil field, a shale formation spanning 14,000 square miles in North Dakota, Montana and Canada.

There are no absolute figures on the amount of oil present, but estimates range from four billion barrels to 20 billion. The controversial method of frakking horizontally deep below ground rather than past methods of drilling straight down, enables oil companies to extract large volumes for many years.

The publishers in this piece reckon the oil boom will last a long time.

STEVE ANDRIST, PUBLISHER, CROSBY JOURNAL/TIOGA TRIBUNE

Steve Andrist

“North Dakota is our domestic Saudi Arabia,” Steve Andrist says. “The oil reserves here are even more significant than earlier geographic surveys predicted.”

Over the last couple of decades, parts of the state were on the decline, according to Andrist, publisher of the Crosby Journal and the Tioga Tribune, newspapers that have been in his family for three generations.

North Dakota is a largely agricultural state, where technology has improved farming efficiency, and reducing reliance on human resources.

“This has led to a population decline,” Andrist says. “We’ve watched young people move elsewhere, because there are not many jobs here. And this has led to a loss of economy and population decline.”

What a difference a few years and a large oil reserve make.

People are returning to northwestern North Dakota. In droves.

“For the first time in 50 or 60 years, our state’s population is increasing,” Andrist says. “At first we thought we had found the answer to turn our economy around. But after a couple of years, the honeymoon ended.”

North Dakota, which makes the news each summer because of river flooding, is now flooded with oil workers, big rig trucks, manufacturing outlets, and jobs.

Local businesses, government and infrastructure can’t keep up.

“Today, anyone who wants a job can find one,” Andrist says. “Reports that unemployment is at two percent are too generous. If there is anyone here who doesn’t have a job, then something is wrong.”

The Crosby Journal and Tioga Tribune are bursting at the seams with legal notices, advertising and news.

“In the de-population days we were scrambling to find stories, and we ran a lot of features. Now we are wishing for the luxury of time so we can do more features,” Andrist says. “We are spending all of our time covering development stories: planning, zoning; water; roads. So many issues.”

Heavy trucks traveling along the rural roads have torn up the asphalt.  Housing rents are hovering between $2,000 and $3,000 per month for homes occupied by several oil workers rooming together.

“We cover more traffic related issues and crime such as bar fights and personal assaults,” Andrist says. “Our health care system is struggling to keep up with the demand, as well as handling injuries caused by oil rig accidents that they have never seen before.

On the advertising side, Andrist has seen an uptick in legal notices and classified advertising.

“We have always had a very small classified advertising section, just one page, which was a joint section shared by our two newspapers. Now we are at two pages of classifieds every week,” he says. “We have public notices published because of zoning and annexation hearings we never used to have.”

Andrist has  had to go up two pages overall in his newspaper, and advertisers are requesting more color, “which we really like,” he says.

“I feel kind of self-conscious when I go to NNA meetings and talk with publishers cutting budgets and laying off people,” Andrist said. “For us, the last two or three years has been our best ever in this business.”

Never Can Say Goodbye – to Michael and Farrah

I have some confessions to make about Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.  The wall-to-wall tributes to these two pop culture icons have conjured up some fun memories.   There’s no escape from the countless montages of photos chronicling Michael Jackson’s transformation from an adorable little boy into the strangely eccentric King of Pop, including a Michael Jackson video orgy on VH1 all day today.  Add these to the clips from “Charlie’s Angels” and photos of gorgeous Farrah Fawcett, who even managed to look beautiful throughout most of the self-made film that documented her struggle with the cancer that would kill her after all.

And that poster.  I thought I had seen the last of that thing after I graduated from college (more about that later).

The general public is strangely sad that Michael and Farrah died.  Most of the world never met either one of them.  We never saw Michael sing in person, and probably never would have.  Neither had produced anything new in years, and they only resurfaced from time to time in tawdry tabloids.

But they were always  there. Woven into the fabric of my own existence through my childhood, teen years and adulthood.    Now they are gone, and in a way, I feel like a piece of my life has gone with them. In mourning the passing of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, I mourn the passing of a little bit of me as well.

The beat goes on.

In memory and tribute to Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, I list some confessions that I have never admitted to anyone, at least in a long long time.

THE POSTER: Back in college, some boys in my dorm had THE POSTER of Farrah Fawcett pinned up in their room.  We girls used to threaten to go in their suite and draw braces on her teeth, and we got a lot of evil, wicked laughs about actually doing it.  We never had the guts to go through with it though.  It would have become the eighth deadly sin.

Farrah Poster

CHARLIE’S ANGELS: For awhile, that was my favorite show.  I loved it.  I wanted to be one of the Angels.

FARRAH’S HAIR ETC: I neither wanted nor had that Farrah Do.  Too big and blonde.  But I did get a swimsuit like hers, black though instead of red.  ‘Nuff said about that.

MOONWALK: I am sure that I am not the only one who has ever tried to moonwalk on a dance floor, both failing miserably and making a fool of myself.  I tried again today when I saw the Gloved One perform it on TV, but I almost fell over Bart the cat while he was sleeping and nearly scared him out of his wits.

THE JACKSON FIVE: I have long held onto an old CD called “The Ultimate Jackson Five,” and a commercial CD called “The Love Songs of Michael Jackson” and I have been blasting them out of my car stereo for days now.  “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

BUBBLES THE CHIMP: I admit it.  I got to wondering what ever happened to Bubbles, so I Googled him.  He’s got a pretty good Internet presence for a chimpanzee.  So here’s the scoop. Bubbles is known as Michael Jackson’s first “child.”  Michael adopted Bubbles from a cancer research center and raised him like a son.  Despite rumors over the years that Bubbles committed suicide, the chimp actually grew up, became aggressive, and had to go live at an animal sanctuary.  Michael Jackson may have been weird, but to his credit, he did right by Bubbles and saved him the same fate as another famous “chimp son” – the unforgettable Travis.

bubbles

A FAVORITE MICHAEL JACKSON SONG: I LOVE the “We are the World” and the video, co-written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson-produced by Quincy Jones.  I had not thought of it in a long time until today, when I saw it twice on VH1 and then watched it three more times on You Tube.  It came out in 1985.  I bought the record and listened to it so many times I learned all the words and practiced singing it in the voices of the featured performers:

SOLOS: Lionel Ritchie; Stevie Wonder; Paul Simon; Kenny Rogers; James Ingram; Tina Turner; Billy Joel; Michael Jackson; Diana Ross; Dionne Warwick; Willie Nelson; Al Jarreau; Bruce Springsteen; Kenny Loggins; Steve Perry; Darryl Hall; Huey Lewis; Cyndi Lauper; Kim Carnes; Bob Dylan; Ray Charles; Stevie Wonder

EXTRAS: Dan Akroyd; Harry Belafonte; Lindsey Buckingham; The News; Sheila E.; Bob Geldoff; Jackie Jackson; LaToya Jackson; Marlon Jackson; Randy Jackson; Tito Jackson; Waylon Jennings; Bette Midler; John Oates; Jeffrey Osborne; The Pointer Sisters; Smokey Robinson

(Click the link below the picture to see a clip)

We are the world picture

We Are The World

There comes a time when we heed a certain call

When the world must come together as one

There are people dying

And it’s time to lend a hand to life

The greatest gift of all

We can’t go on pretending day by day

That someone, somewhere will soon make a change

We are all part of God’s great big family

And the truth you know love is all we need

We are the world, we are the children

We are the ones who make a brighter day so let’s start giving

There’s a choice we’re making

We’re saving our own lives

It’s true, we’ll make a better day, just you and me

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Just Call 9-1-1

Well folks, they’re at it again.

Regular people. They get mad. They dial 911.

Back in the spring, Latreasa Goodman, a Florida woman, got fed up with McDonalds because she ordered and paid for some Chicken McNuggets and received a McDouble and fries instead, which she did not want. When McDonalds refused to give her money back, she called 911.

Since then, other people have begun to think it is a good idea to call 911 when they are disgruntled and frustrated.

SEND THE POLICE! MY  SON WON’T CLEAN UP HIS ROOM messy room

Dispatcher: 911 – What is your emergency?

Caller: My son won’t clean up his room!

Dispatcher: This is not an emergency

Caller: Yes, it IS an emergency. He’s 28 years old, and won’t move out of the house. His room is like a pig sty and today when I insisted he clean it up, he made a fist and threw a plate of food at me. Send some police over here and make him clean up his room now.


WIFE IS “FAT”

Dispatcher: 911 – What is your emergency?

Caller: Some guys told my wife she is fat.

Dispatcher: Is she fat?

Caller: What? That is not the point. The point is you ought to send the police down here and arrest them. My wife was strolling our baby on the street, and two guys were handing out flyers promoting memberships to a gym, and when she said she didn’t want one, they told her that she is fat and she has a fat stomach and she probably eats too many doughnuts.

Dispatcher: This is not an emergency

Caller: This IS an emergency. These guys have no right to tell my wife she’s fat. I want them arrested and put in jail.

Later: One neighbor told a reporter: “That is completely horrible. That should never be the way you talk to people, where you’re offensive. Regardless of whether you’ve had a baby or you’re just fat.”

SHORT-SHRIMPED

Dispatcher: 911 What is your emergency?

Caller: Yeah…I’m up here at Buffaloes Chinese Take-Out. I always get the shrimp fried rice, so I said ‘I’m gonna get extra meat this time, but the guy at the counter didn’t even put the extra shrimp in there.”

Dispatcher: This is not an emergency

Caller: Yes, this IS an emergency. That guy didn’t give me my extra shrimp, and I paid a dollar and sixty-seven cents for it, so I asked that guy ‘Can you give me the extra shrimp or give me my money back? And he started hollering, so I just tell him, I’m gonna call the police.”

Dispatcher: This is really not an emergency.

Caller: I’m just sayin’ to get a police officer up here, what has to happen?

Dispatcher: I’m going to send a police officer. I just don’t know how long it’s going to take.

Somewhere, a shrimp is smiling!

shrimp cartoon