Across town, three single men gulped bar food and beer at Outsiders Bar & Grill, bemoaning the lack of women in the area.
"Any guy in his 20s wishes there was more women," said Brett Rowley, 23, of Nebraska.
"Companionship would make a big difference," agreed 26-year-old Brandon Bernhard of Iowa.
They hope to put up to $100,000 in the bank annually working long hours as apprentice electricians, but all three said they plan to go back home.
There's not much to do besides drink, they complained. They've seen workers on drugs. One guy offered them his girlfriend for sex for $150, they said.
"I definitely don't plan to settle here," Rowley said. "I'll go home and start my life then."
Arriving without a plan
Many come to North Dakota without a plan for where they'll live or work, hoping to earn big money at least temporarily.
Locals worry that too many of them have questionable backgrounds and can't get jobs back home.
Crime rates have gone up with the population, police said: Calls for service in Williston more than doubled in three years, ending with 15,954 calls in 2011.
Detective David Peterson said many companies do background checks on workers they hire. "I think there are a lot of hard-working individuals out here that are trying to save their homes and save their families in other parts of the nation," he said.
Concordia Lutheran Church Pastor L. Jay Reinke has been allowing job-seeking newcomers to sleep on cots in the church hall -- raising concerns even in his congregation.
Dressed in jeans, Reinke welcomed "overnighters" filing into the fellowship hall at 8:30 p.m. one recent night.
"I've always favored the underdog," Reinke said. "If I was in their spot, I don't know what I would do, really. ... They're men looking for a job."
Lorenzo Harris walked in with a friend after driving his 1996 Ford Escort from the Twin Cities. Harris said he needed work after he was laid off at a catalogue company and bills piled up.
"My wife didn't like the fact that I was leaving, but you gotta do what you gotta do," said the 43-year-old. "Mount Rushmore is here, right?"
Concordia limits guests to 30 each night, with Reinke occasionally allowing one or two extra to sleep at his house. That night, he looked down at a list and shook his head.
"Gonna have to go to Plan B tonight," he quietly told Harris and his friend. "I'm sorry."
Harris, 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, nodded and sighed. "Ain't gonna be the first time I slept in the car," he said.
Though their four years in North Dakota have been lucrative, Brevig and his longtime fiancee aren't sure how long they'll stay.
They lived in their truck for a few months, with him carrying about $90,000 debt.
He has since paid cash for four more trucks, put money in savings and hired a small crew of fellow Minnesotans, including his fiancee's son and nephew, he said. They live in campers and trucks, too, though Brevig is adding a shower and bunks to the heated repair shed.
Brevig said he knows living there is hard for everyone in his company.
"She'd pack up and leave tomorrow," he said, nodding toward his fiancee. "I can't pass up the opportunities. ... There's money to be made."
Pam Louwagie --612-673-7102
(c)2013 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
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