‘The Only Girl at the Rig’ uses experience to mediate industry and landowner conflicts
Women need nerve to enter the resource industries
Dymphny Dronyk, who has made a living in energy and forest products, records the personal side of going into traditional male fields as only a poet can.
Around Grande Prairie, regional capital of northern Alberta and British Columbia natural gas drilling, she is a successful entrepreneur in a hard field. As owner of an emergency planning and mediation firm, her stock in trade is making peace between industry and landowners.
She is also a published poet, past-president of the Writers Guild of Alberta, a widow, mother of three and neighbor of celebrity sour-gas protester Wiebo Ludwig. She rejects his warrior methods of engaging in confrontation to make strong-arm leadership seem essential to his religious commune.
The effort needed to walk her talk, as a healer of differences, shows in her 2007 poetry book Contrary Infatuations, published by Calgary’s Frontenac House Ltd. with support from the Canada Council for the Arts and Alberta Foundation for the Arts. This is autobiography in verse.
Dronyk records how a woman defuses tension aroused by a stranger visiting a man’s world in “The Only Girl at the Rig”: “I zip my blue coveralls firmly up to my chin and step into the rig shack as the laughter stops. The guys shuffle restlessly, mouths tight with words they can’t speak. Turning a blind eye to the leering pin-up girls on the wall over their shoulders I smile broadly, square my shoulders, swear appropriately and the mood shifts.”
In a poem called “Separating the Men From the Girls,” she explains how women who master their isolation enough to relax and be themselves contribute to a team: “‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll send out my little girl to handle the pissed off farmer,’ my boss assures his boss, both relieved they don’t have to sit in that kitchen themselves. In self-defence I’ve taken to calling them all ‘my boys,’ becoming more motherly and bossy as time goes on. ‘Hey boys – watch your mouth!’ I say with a grin when it gets too crude and they look sheepish, clean up their language. ‘You look a little blue, buddy, what’s going on?’ I ask, and the sad story spills into the mud that tries to suck the boots off our feet at
our latest location. As the only woman
I get to break some rules – sometimes they even forget to flex their muscles around me. My presence loosens the code, softens the work site, and somehow we all adjust.”
Imagine the value that can be added if industry opens up to half of the human race that has largely been excluded to date. There are gains to be had inside firms, where creativity and morale boosts will be needed to endure economic storms that show no signs of going away soon. There is much to be gained outside too, in relations with communities that show no sympathy for corporate Old Boys networks.
Editor Gordon Jaremko and some of the women working on Alberta Oil: (from left to right) assistant art director Natalie Olsen, associate editor Patrycja Romanowska, and art director Paige Weir