The locals hang out at a restaurant called Sweet Melissa’s, where on a recent weekday the conversation topic was the economy, specifically the long decline of the oil and gas industry.
The coffee at the roadside restaurant was strong and hot, but the underlying fear was hotter and stronger. Many wonder what happened and what the future holds. Others worry about income and family.
Mike Lamp sipped coffee and explained the gas industry has been in decline for a year or more. First, he noticed the riggers were leaving, then the lack of large trucks on the road, and finally on Route 69, once filled with gas rigs, there was silence — the rigs just stopped pumping.
“It’s daunting,” he said. “We had two, three years of good jobs and income. Now, people are wondering if they can pay next month’s electric bill.”
Sitting in a corner booth, eating eggs and toast with grape jelly, Micky Thompson just looks at the menu written on a slab of coal. Thompson said he worked for an oil exploration company and was told he had a job for years to come, but in January he got the dreaded pink slip.
“I feel lied to. I was told the industry was going to be strong for at least 20 years,” said the 34-year-old.
Now, he spends his day trying to find a job, spending time at the local library searching online and on Wednesday looking at the Help Wanted ads in the Wetzel Chronicle, the local paper.
Many here understand the country’s oil and gas reserves are full, meaning there is no need for more supplies. However, what they don’t understand is why last summer they were working 14 hours a day.
“If the gas companies knew the reserves were nearly full, why did we continue drilling? Look at the (mess) we are in now,” said Roger Slider, an unemployed rigger.