• SLIDESHOW Meet workers living in a man camp

  • Daylight hours at Custom Touch Village are quiet. With nearly all of its guests working in the oilfields, the “man camp” resembles a ghost town. The distant drone of vehicles, the occasional rumble of a housekeeping cart and the wind whipping through rows of prefabricated homes are sometimes the only sounds on the 156-acre lot. As the sun sets, workers return to their temporary home.

  • These “man camps” exist to support a transient workforce. There are no weekends here; oilfields and drilling sites operate around the clock, with crews turning over regularly. A comfortable room can be a respite from the difficult, exhausting work. Most rooms at Custom Touch are 214 square feet and can house up to four occupants.

  • Jason Wingo, a supervisor for an oilfield service company, says goodbye to his daughter, Whitney, and his 6-month-old granddaughter, Sofia, before leaving Custom Touch Village for his home in Snyder. Both Wingo and his son-in-law left jobs in Arkansas to pursue more lucrative careers in the Texas oilfields, where entry-level oilfield jobs pay up to $80,000 a year.

  • Most investors don’t look at a 156-acre plot in the middle of nowhere as desirable. But when that plot is located approximately 90 miles from every major city in West Texas and is on the edge of the region’s expanding oilfields, it becomes prime real estate.

  • While some “man camps” are owned by oil companies, others, like Custom Touch, are privately owned. Oil companies lease rooms long-term so their workers have a place to rest. It’s common for these companies to cover their employees’ living expenses, lodging and travel, leaving workers with no bills to pay and lots of money in their pockets.

  • Workforce lodging facilities became known as “man camps” because of the disproportionate ratio of men to women. Although Custom Touch Village is mostly male, some families consider the site their temporary home, too. Girlfriends and wives often stay on site and look after the neighborhood children while the men are away at work.

  • With so many workers living in one location, the social life resembles a college dorm. Men gather around a grill, drink on the steps outside their rooms and fish at a nearby pond. Custom Touch has a hospitality tent with a big screen TV, Ping-Pong, darts and a kitchen that serves breakfast every morning and a community meal every Wednesday.

  • Hotel construction can’t keep pace with the shale boom. “Man camps” are an inexpensive alternative, especially in remote areas. The prefabricated units can be quickly and easily transported anywhere there is demand for temporary housing.

  • Listen:

    Melissa and Dwane Buchanan are the husband and wife team who run Custom Touch Village. The Buchanans have devoted themselves to improving the Snyder site and expanding the brand to other locations throughout Texas, eastern New Mexico and Oklahoma.

  • Listen:

    Dwane is a former construction contractor who spent most of his career in Dallas-Fort Worth. Melissa, who grew up moving around the southwestern oilfields, worked for the Snyder Chamber of Commerce. They both left their jobs to work for Custom Touch Village, a decision that has dramatically altered their lives.

  • Listen:

    Jake Burden is a water hauler and truck operator for Big Horn Energy Services who lives in a motor home at Custom Touch Village. Before coming to Texas, Burden was a wildland firefighter in Arizona and Colorado.

  • Listen:

    Montoya Fuentes works in the oilfields and is living temporarily at Custom Touch Village. Like many others, he was hired at a job fair and began driving trucks in Oklahoma for Baker Hughes, an oilfield service company. He tries to return to his home in Atlanta every three months.

  • Listen:

    Alex Perez, who is training for his first oilfield job as a truck driver, with his 6-month-old daughter, Sofia. Perez has been living at Custom Touch Village for six weeks and left a job with Tyson Foods in Arkansas to pursue a more lucrative career.

  • Listen:

    John West, an equipment operator, prepares to leave Custom Touch Village. West started his career in the oilfields in 2007 between semesters at Southwestern Christian College, where he studied to become a minister. He frequently leads the entire work crew in a prayer before beginning a fracking job.

  • Listen:

    Chris Bush has been working in the oilfields for eight years and spent six weeks at Custom Touch Village while working in the Snyder area. Originally from Houston, Bush now lives in Longview during his time away from work.

  • Listen:

    Michael Golding is the morning cook at Custom Touch Village. He makes a 90-mile round-trip commute to serve breakfast from 5:30 to 10 a.m. at the hospitality tent.

  • Listen:

    Troy Chamberlin plays with his 5-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, after returning to the RV lot at Custom Touch Village. He recently moved to Texas from Colorado, where he worked in corrections. Chamberlin is living with his brother until he finds a place of his own.

Transient Workers Find Communities to Call Home — for Now

Five miles outside of Snyder, on a dusty lot atop the Cline Shale, rows of prefabricated homes feel out of place against the arid West Texas landscape. This is Custom Touch Village, a workforce lodging facility, or “man camp,” that has popped up to accommodate the region’s transient oilfield workers.

These temporary neighborhoods are common in the regions touched by Texas’ shale boom, where housing is in short supply and hotels are stuffed to the gills. They get their moniker from their residents — generally young men who are searching for big oilfield paychecks.

Custom Touch, with its 244 lodge-style homes and 56 RV sites, can house up to 600 of them. But with the way this boom is headed, that’s far from enough: Its owners have two additional sites under construction and three in development.

Scurry County

Scurry County by the Numbers

2000 2010 2013
Population 16,361 16,921 17,302
2009 2010 2013
Unemployment rate 6.7% 6.3% 3.9%
Labor force 7,800 8,100 9,900
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics