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Often that means getting up at 6 a.m., working as late as 10 p.m., wolfing down a bite to eat and then grabbing four hours of sleep. They work for a month and then get a week off.
By midsummer, Lewis and Edgren had left the man camp for a townhouse near the airport, paying $800 each a month with two other guys for granite countertops, their own bathroom and a weekly cleaning service.
Lewis may call it quits soon to head back to Tampa. That’s one difference from military service: They can leave whenever they choose.
“I don’t think I can handle another winter up here,” he said. “It was brutal with winds and snowdrifts and nothing else to look at.” He is hoping to parlay his military intelligence experience into a job in Washington once the car loans and debts are paid off.
Edgren is working on his commercial driver’s license. He and Rachael broke ground in August on a $240,000 house near Zimmerman, Minn.
Without the oil and the paychecks, they’d still be paying off student loans and likely living where Rachael does now: with her parents. He’s not sure how much longer he’ll stay, joking with Rachael that another year would get her a BMW.
“It’s starting to pay off now,” he said during a recent week back home. The new house should be ready by Thanksgiving.
Rachael quietly wonders if her husband can soldier on without Lewis. “I don’t think they would have lasted that long out there,” she said, “without each other.”
Curt Brown • 612-673-4767