WILLISTON, N.D. - Mary Catherine Moore came to Williston in June hoping to spend a year working a high-paying job.
Last week, the 50-year-old gave away her camper, got a $40 gas voucher from the Salvation Army and headed back to Texas.
"I tried it," said Moore. "It's not for me."
Moore had been unemployed in Houston after her jobs working in computer support were outsourced overseas.
With her three children - a senior in high school and two college students - traveling in Europe this summer to visit their father's relatives, Moore decided to look for work in North Dakota to help with her house payments in Houston.
Moore brought her dog, Oliver, a tent and cooking supplies, prepared to camp in the Williston area. But when she arrived, Moore learned that most campgrounds are accommodating recreational campers and are turning away workers.
She found a room available in a Trenton mobile home for $600 a month. She had access to the kitchen and bathroom, which was missing parts of the floor. But the number of adults living there increased to six and she was uncomfortable with the number of visitors coming and going all the time.
Moore left the trailer and bought a pop-up camper. Last week, after spending six nights in the camper in the Trenton area, campers were informed that the campground was only for recreational users.
"The struggle to make sure you have a roof over your head or at least a place to park your camper that's legal ... in addition to basic necessities like bathing and washing clothes ... become major obstacles," Moore said.
Moore also had difficulty finding steady work. She was hired on her second day in Williston to assist a health safety and environmental coordinator for an oil company. But then she found out the job wouldn't start for two weeks.
Moore volunteered at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and turned down other job offers while waiting for that job to start. But after two weeks, Moore said the position was eliminated because others in the company complained that the Williston safety coordinator got assistance and they didn't.
Moore also cooked for a short time at a café in Trenton and tried delivering burritos for a Williston business, but neither job worked out.
Moore said she could have found another job, but the last straw for her was what she observed last Wednesday at the Salvation Army. The source of amusement for people who hang out at the Salvation Army is to look out the window at the people arriving on the bus and count how many have come to get rich in Williston, Moore said.
"If the people that are hanging out here are savvy enough to realize that it's a rainbow that everyone chases and not everyone finds their pot of gold, it was like 'I need to get out of here,' " Moore said.
Moore had put her camper up for sale, but on Thursday she donated it to a church rather than wait for it to sell. She got her last paycheck on Friday from the café and planned to drive back to Texas, where she expects to find two minimum-wage jobs and rent out a room in her home to be able to afford her house payment.
Moore said that unless you're a woman who can work an oil field job typically held by men, the wages offered to women are not enough to afford the cost of living.
"I don't think it's a place for a single woman to come," Moore said. "You're not going to get rich quick as a woman in Williston. Not legally at least."
Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at email@example.com or (701) 580-6890.