If local businesses have seen a surge in business in the past five months, it isn't because of the influx of pipeliners. It's because of their wives.
"We're the ones spending the money," said Arkansas resident Vada Hardin, who, on Wednesday, wore a trendy necklace she found on sale during a foray through Maurices.
"Buy one, get one half off," she whispered.
"It keeps the men happy if the ladies are happy," Texas resident Brenda Maggard said.
Hardin and Maggard were among 22 women who gathered Wednesday at Galaxy Restaurant for lunch, camaraderie and laughter.
Each woman is married to a man affiliated with the construction of a 357-mile natural gas pipeline, a portion of which runs through the heart of Moffat County.
Some of the women have met before in other towns and on other projects. Others were strangers. Their ages range from 29 to 75. Together, the group represents about nine states.
But their experiences forge a common bond.
"We're a family here," Maggard said.
Maggard has traveled with her husband for 25 of the 38 years he has worked on pipelines, staying behind at her Corinth, Texas, home only when her children were in school.
Pipeliner's wives have sought each other out for group lunches and independent friendships for as long as Maggard can remember.
"It's just like a big reunion when we get together," she said.
During her stay in Moffat County, Maggard reconnected with a Texas woman she hasn't seen for 13 years.
The women aren't only seeking companionship -- years of traveling fast and light have taught them how to make new friends and fit in quickly wherever they go. They're seeking those with common experiences -- new towns, different jobs and living out of motor homes or hotel rooms.
Living among locals
"We're not tourists. We live among the locals," Maggard said. "Home is wherever we land. Really, it's what we make of it."
Among them, "pipeline" has become a verb as they talk about the times they've pipelined together, who's still pipelining and who isn't anymore.
Although men are putting in 12-hour days, six days a week on the job, their wives consider each new pipeline project to be a vacation.
"Everywhere we go to seems like we learn more about the area than the locals do," Oklahoma resident Dorothy Sadler said. "We go to the museums and the chambers of commerce."
During the 57 years her husband has worked among pipeliners, Sadler's been a temporary resident of 37 states. She and her husband spent their 50th wedding anniversary on a job in Wisconsin and celebrated with their pipeline family.
When Sadler's children were in school, the family traveled during the summer. For one pipeline project, the family spent an entire school year in Jamaica.
"It's been an interesting life, but I'm always so glad to get home," she said.
A travel trailer in Moffat County is home to Tim and Candi Tyler, their two children and three dogs.
Fifteen years ago, the Lou-isiana woman said she'd stop traveling with her husband when her children started school. But faced with the prospect of not seeing her husband for months at a time, Tyler changed her mind.
Her children attended six schools last year as the family followed Tim's job across the nation. Her children, ages 12 and 14, have grown up following their parents to pipeline projects.
"That's how I grew up," she said. "My dad was a pipeliner."
Her children make friends easily, Tyler said. And they're often complimented for their exceptional manners, especially in Northern states.
"They still have corporal punishment in Louisiana schools," Tyler said. "If they don't say 'yes ma'am' or 'no ma'am' or call adults 'Miss' somebody, they still get licks."
The children have to catch up at some schools or are ahead at others. But Tyler said that's a small price to pay for the family to be together.
In her blood
Massachusetts native Kimberly Taylor said it's difficult traveling with a 15-month-old child, but she also doesn't want to be away from her husband. And she said she doesn't think her husband could bear to be away from his son.
Taylor said traveling is in her blood, and it's a life to which she's accustomed. Before she met her husband, Mark, she also was a pipeliner.
They traveled together until Taylor was seven-months pregnant. She went into labor four days earlier than expected, and her husband was 800 miles away. Mark, who tried to get home for the birth, pulled over to listen to the sounds of his new son crying over the telephone and arrived to see him eight hours later.
Taylor, too, thinks she'll stop shuffling from town to town when her son starts school. But she said she also can't stand the thought of being away from Mark.
Pulling up stakes
The family arrived in Craig on Dec. 1. But Tyler's first chance to attend the gathering of pipeliners' wives was Wednesday. It's also nearly her last.
Many pipeline workers will leave in the next two weeks. Others will pull up stakes in March. The women, who have met at a different Craig restaurant each week since October, expect their group to begin shrinking as members follow their husbands to different projects.
They do so with enthusiasm, they say. Because as their slogan goes: "Ain't nothin' finer than a pipeliner."
Christina M. Currie can be reached t 824-7031, ext. 210, or email@example.com.