Another piece of Williston’s cultural heritage has been put in a solid place at Williston State College, with the recent installment and informal unveiling Monday afternoon of a new statue named The Driller.
The bronze sculpture created by nationally known artist Benjamin Victor depicts the very early days of the oil industry. It is based on a historical photo of a rig hand in which a worker is turning a piece of drilling pipe into the ground. The pipe in the original photo extended well above the head of the oilman, Williston Basin API Chapter President Ken Callahan told the Williston Herald.
The Williston Basin API Chapter paid for $50,000 of the bronze statue’s cost. It is is one of six in a series of cultural monuments Williston State College has commissioned for an outdoor exhibit. Five of the monuments are in place so far, and the sixth is likely to be placed by the end of this year. Once all six are in place with their respective plaques, the college plans a formal grand opening celebration for the series.
The Driller had to be installed with a 165-ton crane. The granite slab The Driller rests on is 20,000 pounds all by itself, Williston State College Foundation Executive Director Hunter Berg told the Williston Herald. The statue, meanwhile, is a mere 600 or so pounds.
The original vision for the series of cultural artifacts actually belonged to Terry Olson, Berg’s predecessor.
“It was kind of his dream to see this thing come to fruition,” Berg said. “It feels good that it’s really really close, but the significance is, when we think college as a place of learning, with this project, I think a lot of people who are visitors to Williston, or even our own residents will come rip to the college and take a walk one day to learn about the cultural history and the significance of this area.”
Oil and gas, of course, has played a significant role in shaping the history and culture of Williston and the surrounding region.
“The oil industry has been here since the 60s,” Callahan said. “And over 50 percent of the jobs in all of North Dakota represents the oil and gas industry and the energy sector.”
Callahan said the fact that API could pay for the bronze sculpture that will represent the oil and gas industry’s role in the region’s history has “meant the world” to him and to API’s members.
“What people don’t understand is what the oil and gas and the energy industry gives to the state and the people of North Dakota,” Callahan said. “”I don’t know any other industry that paves roads, or that gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to hospitals or hundreds of thousands to colleges. I’m not talking individuals that have granted money who are billionaires. I’m talking industry. There’s no industry that does what this industry does, and we don’t ask to be recognized.”
In fact most in the industry avoid recognition, Callahan said.
“They do what they do because they want to,” he said. “That’s what, and when I look at this, and when the API nameplate goes on there and it says participate, engage and educate. That’s our core values. That’s what we are, that’s what we represent.”
Callahan and the API are leading the charge on a side fundraising campaign that will raise money for landscaping around The Driller and one other of the statutes in the series, Callahan added.
Williston API is selling miniature replicas of The Driller. The miniatures will be identical bronze statuettes, mounted on a three-quarter inch block of granite, complete with plaques. The miniatures are available in two sizes, an 8-inch statue for $3,000 and a 12-inch statue for $4,000.
Each of the miniatures will be numbered, and the very first of the statues, with No. 1 on them, will be auctioned off at the upcoming Williston Basin API banquet, set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at The Well.
API plans to sell a minimum of 10 of each size statue, but will be taking orders for more through December. Contact Williston Basin API at email@example.com for details on how to place an order for this unique piece of Bakken history.
Any proceeds raised beyond that needed to landscape around two of the statues in WSC’s series on regional culture and history will go toward API’s efforts to endow a scholarship at Williston State College.
Williston API has a long history of giving to community projects down through the years with donations to Neighborhood Watch Programs, food pantries, Make A Wish Foundation of North Dakota, fire and police departments, Feed My Starving Children, just to name a handful. The community and industry organization recently celebrated a $1 million giving milestone two years ago. The organization reached $1 million in donations to worthy community causes in an eight-year period in 2019.
Williston API has two main fundraisers each year, the Chili Cook-off and the API Golf Tournament. They also annually hold a banquet to salute the companies and individuals who go above and beyond in the oil and gas industry.