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Oil-Dependent Casper Struggling for Survival With BC-Rockies Oil

July 5, 1987

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) _ Casper knows about the best of times and the worst of times.

The best of times come when oil prices are high. Rigs are working. Roughnecks, land men, geologists, truckers, store owners go gangbusters.

The worst of times are when oil goes bust, as it has in 20-year cycles since World War I.

″This town feeds on oil, and it’s no real exaggeration to say that we depend on oil 100 percent here,″ said Bob Miracle, a 58-year-old Casper native and banker who describes the current recession as devastating.

Since 1982, as the price of oil has tumbled, Casper has been on the skids.

Scores of vacant metal buildings that once housed oil well service companies line the highway from the airport into town, ″For Lease″ signs propped in their windows.

Residential property has dropped 50 percent in value, commercial space by 70 percent, Miracle said. Four banks and two savings and loan associations failed last year.

In his small house on a chuckholed street, Scott Sojourner is taking his last inventory of the fence business he started in 1978 and gave up on this year.

″All I’m looking for is to break even and get out with my shirt,″ said Sojourner, 32. ″I’ve got friends who are so broke they can’t afford to leave. They can’t even buy gas for the truck.″

Sojourner, married at 17, worked construction for several years before starting Firecreek Fence Co. in 1978. He did well, building industrial security and residential fences. He had a crew of 10 men.

After three years, ″things started down″ and steadily worsened, he said.

Sojourner said he was returning his inventory to his supplier, packing up his family and moving to Arizona, where a fencing company has offered him a job.

″I probably could stay if I wanted to live at a poverty level,″ he said. ″But it’s a terrible life, and I want something for my kids.″

The children of land man Bob Penney and geologists Don Cardinal and Marvin Keller are grown and their houses are paid for. That has allowed them to stay on.

″All of us have been through three cycles, but none this serious. This went up too high and fell too far,″ Cardinal said.

Penney agreed: ″I’ve been all dressed up with no place to go for more than two years now.″

Keller, who like the others doubts his grown children will ever resettle in Wyoming, knows of young people who have borrowed money to sell their homes. ″Some even need help from their parents to rent a U-Haul just to get out of here.″

End Adv July 5

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