WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 22, 2010, 08:03 AM

Running with Oil: Striking it rich with mineral acres

Stanley, ND (WDAY TV) - The oil-boom in western North Dakota is producing more than just "black-gold." Farmers and Ranchers that have lived quietly in their cozy small towns are now "New Millionaires". Those with "mineral acres" are now getting monthly checks with printed dollar amounts they only dreamed of!

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Tonight, as we finish our Forum Communications special: "Running With Oil", WDAY 6 Reporter Kevin Wallevand and Photographer Chad Nelson take us to Stanley, where oil fever has become infectious.

“It's an early morning in the oil fields. Another sunny, hot day in the patch and not far from Stanley, the pumps are churning and turning out oil.

Not far from town, the Lystads and their horses make for a picture perfect summer day on the farm. Quietly, not that far from here, their oil pumping rigs and the oil boom here is changing their lives.

“I have heard it is one of the biggest oil finds in the lower 48 in the last 50 years and I have heard it is one of the biggest oil finds ever.”

Larry Lystad and his wife Grace are, along with siblings, sharing in the dollars rolling out of pumps where they own mineral acres. Land Grace's family homesteaded when they came from Norway years ago.

“It is kind of a blessing. We did not work that hard. It was our parents because they worked the land and the depression and the dirty thirties.”

While Larry and Grace enjoyed the comfort and quiet of their lifestyle here in western North Dakota before oil, a lot of things have changed. Their bank account is different as is the landscape of their nearby farm fields. The Lystads are not about to go on a lavish spending spree

“If I had won the lottery at age 25, I would have gotten in trouble, which is a feeling I have.”

Or travels around the world…

“We like what we do and we are happy where we are so why change.”

“Probably fix up the place, but nothing too nutso.”

And there is an unwritten rule here on the ranches and farms that surround the oil patch. Neighbors don't get too nosey. Want to know what those oil checks look like?

“Nobody has ever asked us that.”

“It's nobody's business. I am not going to ask my neighbor what his check is and I don't expect anyone to ask that of us either.”

Larry's parents Ken and Grace Lystad have some pumps of their own. They came to Stanley in the 50's, at the time of the old boom and now this.

“Everyone was so excited, unreal. You could hardly believe it.”

“We appreciate it. We think it is nice. We created a trust right away.”

“We are so used to routine and we are not about to change it.”

And it's the little things that come with oil and new money:

“Tried to get him to buy boots, but he didn't want to spend 200 dollars for them, but when we got our first oil check we are going to get those boots.”

For the record Ken still hasn't bought the boots, not sure at his age he will get full use of them. Mountrail County, which includes Stanley, is the biggest producer of oil in the state. More than three million barrels a month!

Meantime, nearly three-quarters of the state's 1.1 million acres is leased for drilling in the 16 oil-producing counties. Sales were a record 269.2 million dollars for about 135,000 acres. Most money funds public schools.