Ladies of the oil boom

From hauling crude in semi-trucks to getting their hands dirty out at the oil rigs, these women are living in America's newest boomtown and are hard at work in a traditionally male-dominated world.

Heidi Wrenson
Heidi Wrenson
Occupation: Truck driver
Age: 46

When the economy got bad it was really tough to pay the bills.

So when my brother started a trucking company, I learned how to drive a truck and got my commercial driver's license and headed to North Dakota to work. I live in St. Paul, Minn., so I drive 600 miles to Belfield, North Dakota to work for two weeks each month.

I make $30 an hour driving water to well sites, and we work a lot of hours.

I see hundreds of drivers a day, and one or two are women. That means when there's a women's bathroom, it's going to be really clean. I never fear for my safety in terms of violence against women. I feel protected and taken care of. But there are always gonna be a few guys who say, `What are you doing out here?' and wait for me to screw up.

My first week, I cried three times -- once because I was humiliated when I couldn't back up my truck to a tank while people were watching, another because I was just so frustrated I couldn't make my truck do what I wanted it to do, and the third because my trailer almost slid off the road. But I haven't cried since that first week.

I used to live in my truck. I would pee in a coffee can, clean up at truck stops and shower once every four days. That was really hard, but then my employer got me housing, so now I pay $250 a month to share a two-bedroom trailer with 12 stinky guys who don't clean up after themselves and snore really loudly.

But every single guy I love. I'm a real softie at heart. [My previous job in] social work prepared me beautifully for all of this, with so many people from all over the world who have all different backgrounds. I feel like I can talk to anyone.


By Blake Ellis - Last updated November 02 2011: 7:17 PM ET
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Workers are landing six-figure jobs in the oil boomtowns of North Dakota. Here's what you need to know to find a job there -- just make sure the money is worth it before you move.

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