This is the oilfield

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It took everything I had to get to Fairview, Montana, 1,900 miles from home, and once I arrived it was not as promised. Some of it was good. Some of it was not so good.

The contracts needing fulfilling have not started. I was told they were not going start until the 8th, a full week later than I was told before coming up here. Two days later I’m told that they were pushed back to the 15th and when I spoke with the brokers myself on Monday I discovered they would not start until the 21st.

In the meantime my prospective employer does me a “favor” by lining up work with his relatives hauling beets for $18 an hour. I talk to one of them who says he’ll “keep it off the books.” That he and his three brothers would each cut me checks to keep the payments under $600, the legal limit for a 1099, and if I needed gas or tires or whatever I could charge it to his account downtown.

This may sound like a fair deal but it is outlaw trucking and it is one of the worst possible positions a legitimate driver can find themselves in. It is a trap. Money is often withheld on promise of payment. Gas and meals are charged back to your account at double the rate. There is no legal recourse in these situations because you are invisible and they most often end with the driver walking away.

It is modern slavery and it is more common than you’d think.

I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not the first time I’ve had to deal with bait and switch and outlaw trucking and because of that I’m careful and always ready to bail within minutes because it can be dangerous. It is always stressful and rarely profitable.

Monday I talked with my employer. I was polite but firm and persuasive. I made it 100% clear that I would not be driving outlaw for his cousin or anyone else. I let him know I had already made some calls to the broker in charge of the contract he is on and was given the dates and rates. Then I told him I would continue to make calls to people and companies I know here to line up real work for his truck and suggested some sources for him to call as well.

An hour later he calls back with a fresh contract from one of my sources, a company that I’ve worked with before that knows and respects me. The contract pays $110 an hour. I’ll get 25% of that. Not the best money but not bad given the circumstances.

More than that it’s a good contract that will probably last until just before Christmas with people I trust. People that will see to it that I get paid.

Like I said, I’ve been doing this a long time. I know the rules. And I make a horrible victim.

This is not unusual. It’s business as usual and I’m used to it, as much as a person can get used to things like this.

It’s the world I am working so hard to leave behind. I think you can begin to see why.

Here’s the good parts:

Most importantly, I’ll leave here debt free and with enough banked to upgrade the Caravan and buy some time to focus on writing.

I have a home to return to. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that.

The camper I paid $560 dollars for is now in livable condition. It’s not complete yet but the majority of the work is done. Windows have been taped and sealed with plastic and boarded where needed. It’s air tight. Roof is sealed. Cushions are replaced. Wood oiled. New carpet. It’s small but solid and actually quite comfortable and easy to heat and I will make a decent profit from the sale when I’m done with it.

The truck I’ll be driving for work is in good condition and the trailer is excellent quality.

The new boss owns an RV Park outside of Fairview where I am parked for free. I won’t be signing any rental agreement. There is a very nice community building on site with laundry, showers, big screen, and more all in new condition.

The new boss is not a bad man. He does not have bad intentions. Its just the way things are done out here. There are too few of us who refuse those ways and that’s why they persist.

He drives the school bus for his young children. Is involved in the community. He spent the extra money to make a comfortable place for his employees to live. That’s a rare thing.

He was afraid of losing a driver because of the delays and thought he could help his relatives by putting me in a bind while he waited for his contracts to begin. I am certain his relatives can use the help but I’m a hard man to bind up.

There is no way he could know I am as resourceful and determined as I am until he did what he did and no way for me to know this would happen without coming here. It’s always a bit of a gamble because I can’t always fix a bad situation. I’m grateful that I did this time.

No, he is not a bad man.

This is the oilfield.