Dreaming of Sleep

Roughnecks and other oil field workers make big money. But that money doesn’t come without sacrifice. Many workers are separated from families. The job can be dangerous. And the long hours can mess up a person’s life.

Just ask Geoff Swenson of Williston. A typical week for Swenson is 70, 80 hours or more. During one marathon hitch in the oil field, Swenson was on the job for 11 days straight.

“It seemed like one long day,” he says.

That grind takes a toll. “I don’t get much [sleep],” he says. “It’s pretty rare anymore. Days off you sleep a lot. You don’t enjoy it. Even when you go to sleep there’s a million things you should be doing. Running errands. Cleaning your house. Not enough hours in the day to do the stuff you miss.”

So Swenson, 27, sleeps whenever he can. One day he was folding clothes on a carpeted floor. He got tired. So he took a nap right there on the floor. “I’ve done it in Home Depot when my parents were looking at lawn furniture,” Swenson says. “I probably looked like an 80-year-old man just camping on the mall bench. All I needed was a woman’s purse to hold.”

Movies? Forget about it. “I don’t remember the last time I sat through an entire movie,” he says. “There’s always at some point when I sleep for 20 minutes. I take a nap. I usually have to watch a movie three or four times before I see the whole thing.”

The days become indistinguishable. Sometimes Swenson’s co-workers ask him what day of the week it is. Often, he doesn’t know. “I’ve driven to the bank many times on Sunday because I have no idea what day of the week it is,” he says. “I don’t have a clue. To me, every day of the week is Tuesday. Or I ask my parents, ‘How work was today?’ They say, ‘It’s Sunday. I see, Oh yeah.’”

— Todd Melby

Photo by Ben Garvin

More from Geoff Swenson on APM’s “The Story.”


One Comment

  1. […] Four large-scale photographs are now on display in Watford City, North Dakota. The photographs feature people living and working in oil country who were featured in Black Gold Boom stories. To date, we’ve posted photographs of singer Jessie Veeder, fire retardant clothing salesman Bryan Johnson, oil man Richard Karpe and oil man Geoff Swenson. […]

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