New York Times publishes Midlander's Letter to the Editor - "This ‘Big Oil’ Bust Is Killing My Small Town"

Published: Apr. 30, 2020 at 5:44 PM CDT
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I cried the day I moved to Midland, the capital of our nation’s oil and gas industry. Back then, almost 10 years ago, my husband’s new job designing control systems for natural gas processing plants wasn’t the sort of work I wanted him to take.

It didn’t mesh well with my increasingly progressive principles. And so on some level, I understand the response from people when I tell them where I live: an odd mix of curiosity, pity and disgust.

Curiosity because, along with our neighbor city Odessa, we’re seen as the land of “Friday Night Lights,” oil barons and women with hair still bigger than Texas. Pity because all they picture is flat, thirsty land peppered with thorny mesquite and bobbing pump jacks. Never mind that the sunsets will leave you speechless. Yet ever since a drop in demand caused by this Covid-19 pandemic caused oil prices to plummet, it’s the last response — disgust — that seems to be everywhere. Disgust stemming from “oil town” stereotypes. And it troubles me. Because I can’t reconcile the disgust-turned-to-glee I see on social media (the “they deserve it anyway” attitude) with the Midland I’ve come to know.

My husband and I are native Texans. When we returned from four years in Beijing with a dog and a newborn daughter, the city quickly made us feel at home again. Over the past several weeks, as we joined the rest of the country in doing what we can to stop community spread of the coronavirus, we’ve been dreading another crisis in the making. One that few outside of the oil-rich Permian Basin in West Texas noticed brewing. On April 20, it happened.