If you have been a regular viewer of Blood and Oil, you will be privy to the general sense of lawlessness in North Dakota as portrayed by the show. The riches that oil brought apparently comes with its range of sin as well. The show Blood & Oil is more of a TV opera than a documentary. Even for a TV show, it doesn’t make much of an attempt to be on the realistic side of things. If anything, the showmakers have even tried to create the impossible. Things like beautiful snow-capped mountains pop up in the show, which are nowhere to be found in the region. Clearly, Blood & Oil is not even pretending be anything but a soap opera. Despite its “abhorrence” for reality, Blood & Oil has managed to capture some of the truths of everyday life in North Dakota. Learning which of the things were true might leave you shocked.
Deluge of People from Across the Country
The show itself is about a young couple, Billy and Cody LeFever. The two of them are high school sweethearts, who recently married and want to make it big. They move to the boomtowns of the Bakken Oil Field, where they had plans to open a chain of laundromats. There are many people like them, who have moved from all over the country to the oil fields. While the couple itself is not based on any real life couple or events, it is true that North Dakota had become an oasis in the desert that the US had turned out to be around the 2008, when there was a financial meltdown. While unemployment rates across the country were touching levels previously unseen by an entire generation, North Dakota had the highest employment ratio in the country.
Rodes Fishburne, writer of the show explains how the situation was at the height of the oil boom. In his own words, “You could see all 50 U.S. license plates in about 20 minutes”. While the entire nation was looking for ways to throw people out of their organizations, here was one place that beckoned for hardworking people, for their sheer ability to work.
Rampant Drug Problem
In one of the episodes, we see a guy selling drugs on a food cart. While this may seem a bit over the top, this is not quite far from the truth. In as recently as 2014, the FBI had to deal with a peculiar case. A man was attacked, beaten to a pulp with brass knuckles, slashed with razor blades, even shocked with a stun gun, and left to die away from town. This happened in a remote corner of Montana, which has been affected majorly by the oil boom in Bakken Fields. The guy manages to get himself to a nearby farmhouse for help. He survived. Turns out, he was part of a violent gang that was running a drug ring, and produced meth.
The drug ring was being run perfectly by the gang behind an innocent looking house. They packed a lot of ammunition too. One of the guys had 22 weapons. When they feared that a member of their gang might rat them out, they tried to kill him. This was the person, who survived and eventually brought FBI to the meth lab. Seven of the gang members chose to plead guilty. While this is a successful case, things are not always this lucky for law enforcement officials. Before the oil rigs stopped production, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and a host of other drugs, and a number of drug cartels had become quite the way of life in North Dakota. The small town police forces were hardly able to keep up with all this.
The fictional town of Rock Springs, where the show is based in, is actually based upon the real town of Williston. When the show’s writer first visited the place, it was abuzz with activity like nothing he had ever seen. In fact, McDonald’s was paying $40 an hour, because nobody wanted to work for them, when they could get paid much higher in the oil business. Thus, it is no surprise that drifters from across the country were flocking to North Dakota. This posed another unique problem, which leads us to the next point.
Of course, drugs are just one part of the main problem. When there is so much easy money involved, there was bound to me some blood. Reports vary, but there is consensus that the crime rate doubled, and in some cases, tripled at the height of the oil boom. Abduction, murder, rape, and so on, had become a commonplace in these small towns, where these things used to be very rare. The hardest hit were those who were at the center of the Bakken Fields. Arrests increased by 564 percent during this time, compared to 2005, when there was no oil boom. At such high crime rate, the police Sheriffs did not have the resources nor the infrastructure to apprehend or to hold them.
The effect of all this was that North Dakota’s oil boom was becoming a problem for everyone, including the ones who were profiting from it. FBI eventually decided to add more agents into the area. But, they were hardly enough for what was happening. Every week, there would be a mother visiting the station registering a complaint about her missing son or daughter.
All of these issues continued for many years, until the global dip in oil prices shut the whole North Dakota business. However, the show is yet to reach there. Fishburne says the show is set 4-5 years in the past, which means that the show will catch up to this eventually, but not anytime soon. That is, if the show goes into season 2 production, which has not been confirmed so far. Since the ratings never improved, ABC may have wrapped up the show.