Magazine article The Christian Century


Magazine article The Christian Century


Article excerpt

It was sunday morning, and with people driving to church, traffic on our normally quiet street had picked up. I sat in our kitchen -- my husband was still asleep -- and listened to our friend's story. David had brought him home after locking up the bar the night before, as the man was in no condition to drive. He had spent the night sleeping on our couch. Now I was making breakfast for both of us.

He had been raised in western North Dakota, not far from our town, and when we first met him he was, like many young men, working various jobs in the oil fields. The boom was on in the late '70s and early '80s and he was fearless, one of those death-defying people who actually liked the roughest, meanest, most dangerous jobs on a rig. He'd made a bunch of money and had drunk through much of it. Most days, to get through the shift on the of rig, he would take a little speed. The cheap stuff known as crank. Much of it homemade.

He was between jobs now, visiting his parents and kid brothers. He had thought of working the pipeline in Alaska; he knew some people who were making big money there. But he had met some drug dealers in Wyoming, and dreamed up a scheme with them to make even more money. He'd come back home, he told me, because it had gotten too rough for him.

I did not press him for details. In the bar where my husband worked I had heard enough of patch stories to last a lifetime. I had been impressed with the way in which local ranch kids at loose ends would be attracted to the scene -- and the money -- in Wyoming or eastern Montana, but soon found that watching people being run through with pool cues, or having .45 automatics drawn on them in saloon bathrooms, was not much to their liking. They came back home, to lower wages and people they knew.

Our friend was full of stories. One of his new acquaintances, a man from Montana, had drifted south. His corpse had been found, hog-tied, riddled with bullet holes, drifting along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. "I guess he got involved in something that was bigger than he knew," he said, with classic West River understatement. (One way that people here express great pleasure in something is to say, as slowly as they can, "Well ... it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.")

He said that he had thought things were working out fine. He and the guy he was in business with were making good contacts, setting up a network, and he felt lucky to have fallen in with someone with so much experience.

Then one day, as they were driving Ton the outskirts of the small city that was to be the base of their operations, his friend suddenly veered onto the shoulder of the road. …

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