This article will appear as the cover story in the next issue of The New American print magazine:
Travis Wright’s first impressions of Williston, North Dakota, in January 2012 remain vivid. It was bitter cold and the Walmart parking lot was filled to overflowing with campers and RVs whose owners were using them as de facto homes while working in the oil fields. Once inside Walmart, Travis discovered pallets of goods blocking the aisles as the understaffed nighttime crew of stockers simply couldn’t keep up with demand. He quickly learned to do his shopping in the middle of the night when the lines were only 30 minutes long. He learned later that this Walmart in Williston was the highest-grossing one in North America. The local economy was booming to such an extent that even paying $17 an hour for entry-level jobs, store officials couldn’t find enough employees to work for that amount.
Travis — at 6′6″ and 280 pounds, his friends called him Big ‘Un — was also astonished to learn