By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
BELFIELD, N.D. — A moment of quiet prayer to a chosen deity can bring some people emotional well-being and spiritual health.
One North Dakota woman said her private moment with God led to newfound wealth and unburdened freedom.
We’ll call her Susan. While speaking with her, she gave her real name, but asked later that it not be used. Seeking humility, she doesn’t want Belfield residents and neighbors to know about her new, wealthier lifestyle.
She’s part of the oil boom overtaking western North Dakota. As oil companies drill thousands of wells across the state to access the oil-rich Bakken geologic formation 10,000 feet below Earth’s surface, locals are seeing new riches from mineral rights ownership.
While some North Dakotans use the money to buy opulent toys — Corvettes are selling like hotcakes at the Williston, N.D., Chevrolet dealership — others free themselves from life’s unforgiving burdens.
Susan is 70 and until last fall worked four jobs to pay her bills, specifically her expensive health insurance. She worked one job in nearby Madora, and she cleaned several houses in Belfield.
That was before her plea to God for help.
She owns a decent chunk of land and the mineral rights. It’s about three miles north of Belfield. Oil companies contacted her about drilling on her property and workers staked out drill locations. She grew excited with the prospect at how much she might make off the deal.
But nothing happened.
Weeks passed, but drilling rigs never touched her property. Day by day, she grew anxious and her hope dimmed.
Frustrated, she turned to her higher power. A fervent Catholic, she said she carried some holy water to one of the stakes on her land and blessed it.
She doesn’t remember the exact words she uttered in her desperate plea. “I just had good words with the good Lord,” she said.
Drillers from Whiting Petroleum Corp., a heavy in this oil-rich region, showed up days later.
“The holy water sure did the trick,” she said enthusiastically.
Her slice of heaven turned into a piece of oil revenue pie.
She won’t say exactly how much she receives in royalty payments other than to indicate that it’s “a lot.” Enough money flows that she quit three of her jobs and now works just a few days a week in Madora “just to help out.”
Lynn Helms, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources director, told The New York Times in December that the average well will pay “about $10 million in royalties over three decades.”
Susan said she’s got “several” wells on her land.
Though her story cannot be verified, she seems genuine about the tale.
Susan said she appreciates her new cash flow, but isn’t completely pleased with drilling. She complains about the dust on the state’s back country roads and hopes oil companies will address it soon.
Overall, she said she sees oil development as a positive for an area that badly needed recharging.
“It brings a lot of jobs,” she said.