Jake and his wife Megan outside an old barn on their property
If you want to get to know Jake Pennington you might have to learn how to swing a rope or fix a fence. If you want to spend some time with him, to learn what pushes this 29 year old construction supervisor to drive 120 miles a day to and from work, you might have to catch him as he’s pulling into the yard of his recently purchased farmstead 20 miles east of Watford City and then offer to help him feed his horses or side his garage…because there’s only so much daylight and Pennington doesn’t waste a minute of it.
The son of a rancher, Pennington comes by his work ethic honestly. He was born just three miles west of where he now makes his home with his wife Megan, near his great grandfather’s homestead. And if you happen to catch him there he will tell you about hunting the surrounding coulees with his grandfather as a young boy and helping his parents run cattle, first in the pastures of his grandfather’s land and then on his parents’ ranch near Sidney, Mont.
And he will tell you what it means to him to be the forth generation living and working on this land, because for Pennington it’s all about roots and tradition. And with a deep connection to place, the decisions Pennington has made so far in his life have been carefully calculated to get him where he is today.
A 2006 graduate of Northwest Technical College in Moorhead, Minn. (now Minnesota State Community College), Pennington holds an Associates Degree in Mechanical Design. During his college career Pennington worked for an agriculture implement dealership and then in drafting in a machine and manufacturing shop. Pennington met his wife Megan in 2005 when a friend brought her to his family’s branding. They were married in the winter of 2007.
The newlyweds made their first home in Glendive, Mont. where Megan worked as a middle school history teacher and Jake worked for Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline before moving into his current position as Construction Supervisor for ONEOK Rockies Midstream where he oversees pipeline construction for the company out of Sidney, Mont.
It was during a hunting trip at his grandfather’s that Pennington stumbled upon the opportunity to get back to his roots.
“Megan and I were looking for a place out in the country,” Pennington said of his search for a home. “ My grandpa leased this piece of land from the owner, so I knew this place was here. I came out here deer hunting and we started talking about moving. We loved the spot.”
As it turns out the family connection to the place ran deep. Pennington’s great aunt had built the house they intended to purchase and his grandparents had been renting the property since it became vacant.
The couple made their purchase in the fall of 2009 and got to work on fixing up the 1950s farmhouse, patching corrals for their horses and building a garage. In June of 2010 the couple found themselves settled into their new home. The best part? They are within a ten-mile radius of Jake’s grandmother and two of his uncles.
“I had to move away from here when I was young, but I grew up with these people,” Pennington says of the community he belongs to. “This is a familiar place to me.”
As for Megan, a self proclaimed history nerd and photographer, she couldn’t be more thrilled to have so many stories and so much beauty surrounding her.
“When we moved here what I loved about the place were the people and how they respected the land,” Megan said.
She works as a substitute teacher in the McKenzie County school district and sells the photographs she takes of the scenery around her home.
As for Jake, his main role with ONEOK is to get natural gas onto pipelines, an important goal in this booming industry. And the fact that he understands his role from both the landowner and industry perspective helps make him outstanding in his field.
“I grew up on a farm and ranch. I know the other side of the fence and what it means to have a pipeline come across your land. I can relate,” says Pennington. “My goal is to do the best job I can for the landowners.”
And when he turns his pickup off the highway and down that gravel road in the evenings, the worries of the day wash away before the sun sinks over the Blue Buttes as Pennington finds himself in familiar surroundings, looking forward to a long ride on a good horse, fixing up the corrals and pastures so he might one day be able to run cattle and, of course, his next hunt in the hills of his childhood home.
And he might tell you all about his plans for the future, if you’re willing to go along on the hunt.
Hometown stories from the oil field brought to you by:
Watford City EDC and McKenzie County JDA
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