Working for fun.
Like the big rigs her company uses for fracking, Stephanie Christensen is tough. When life dealt her one of its worst blows, she forced herself to keep moving — taking over as sole owner of Hot Oil Express, the business she and her high school sweetheart, Dale, created. He drove the trucks. She did the books. And she was afraid every time he left the house.
“The trucks are dangerous,” she says. “We heat oil and water for the oil companies so they can frack. The trucks can blow up, or you can get burned. I always thought Dale would die on one of the trucks.”
Life on Her Own
Instead, her husband and the father of their three children died in an avalanche on New Year’s Eve in 2007 on a family snowmobiling trip near Daniels Summit Lodge in Wasatch County.
“We were all leaving when he said he wanted to take one more loop,” Christensen remembers. “And that’s when the avalanche hit. I knew instantly that he was gone. My daughter and daughter-in-law knelt down and said a prayer. A friend found Dale’s body right where they had been kneeling.”
Her two sons were back at work the next morning, and Christensen continued running the business without Dale at her side.
“Death is a horrible thing to go through,” she says. “There are no words to describe the pain. It’s still hard, and it’s been 10 years. We were best friends; we never skipped a beat. We had everything. Life was so good. I used to wonder if I would ever be happy again.”
"I’ve learned that everything is dangerous. Death can happen to any of us. A car wreck, fall from a horse, you name it. But you have to get back in there and go no matter how heart-wrenching it is. That’s what Dale taught us. He taught us to work and to have fun."
Work as Play
In addition to Hot Oil Express, Christensen owns and operates Rockin C Ranch Livestock Hauling Company and her own personal ranch with 350 cattle. All are successful businesses located in Altamont, Utah, about 50 miles west of Vernal. Two of her children work in the family businesses with her. Son Tyson is part owner of Hot Oil Express and Rockin C, and daughter Whitney helps with the books and on the farm. Son Dewey created three successful businesses of his own and helps when needed.
“Running the businesses has helped all of us to keep going,” Christensen says. “That’s what gets me out of bed every morning.” In fact, if you ask Christensen what she does for fun, she’ll say “work.”
“I love it. It keeps my mind and my health where I want it to be. I love taking care of the cows out where it’s beautiful and peaceful.”
Never Any Doubt
There was never any doubt in her mind that she could take the reins after Dale’s death. She was raised on a ranch, and she knew how to weld, drive trucks and take care of the books. Her husband used to say, “You can run these trucks yourself, Stephanie. You can do this.” And Christensen would respond, “Why would I want to do that?”
She sometimes muses about how the hot oil trucks worried her. “I’ve learned that everything is dangerous,” she says. “Death can happen to any of us — a car wreck, fall from a horse, you name it. But you have to get back in there and go no matter how heart-wrenching it is. That’s what Dale taught us. He taught us to work and to have fun. He was our rock. And now the kids are my rock. And my grandkids are my happiness.”