Susan Elizabeth Shepard is a writer. She's had her work published by the likes of Jezebel, Salon, and BuzzFeed. Also, she's a stripper. Recently, Shepard authored an extensive post about her travels and experiences as a dancer in modern American boomtowns. Towns in the midst of the vast nothingness of Montana and North Dakota where she lived in trailers, crashed in basements, and danced for men flocking to the 21st century's answer to the Wild West in the name of oil.
Shepard's piece is everything but brief and paints a picture of the nooks and crannies of America that many will never see. She's the fly on the wall of the seedy motel. She's the big draw on the club's dance roster for the week. She's the nomadic stripper serving as the eyes and ears of America in a ghost town no one has ever heard of. She's the main attraction on the only stage and she's responsible for DJing her own show.
Check out an excerpt of Shepard's post below, but head on over to BuzzFeed to dive into the whole thing. It reads like a stained Norman Rockwell painting that's been collecting dust in a forgotten attic.
There’s something sad about profiting from the activities of an industry dedicated to sucking out natural resources that, once used, make the planet less hospitable to life as we know it. When I heard some customers talk about the possibility of oil exploration in my beloved, beautiful western Montana, my stomach dropped. But on a personal level, it felt like I was providing a needed service. Understand, I’m well aware that most guys are just there for titties and beer and to have their zippers polished by my butt. Sometimes, though, I’d rub a guy’s shoulders during a dance and he’d ask me to just keep doing that for five songs. Tense bodies slackened in response to my touch, hard faces softened when confronted with smiles, groups laughed and sang along to cheesy rock at the rack.
At times the customers were bafflingly delightful. The farmer who pulled a Leica out of his overalls and asked if he could take my picture. The shy, funny drilling contractor who would bring us surf and turf from the nearby steakhouse on slow nights. The tattoo artist who said the town was so small you could walk across it. The photographer on assignment to shoot one of the first boomtown articles written about the area. The local fortysomething lesbian smiling like a 21-year-old. The kid who was tickled that I recognized his Daniel Johnston T-shirt. These people would make my day. [BuzzFeed]