A Texas Rebel’s Fight for Her Land
More Magazine | Suzanna Andrews
August 27, 2013
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How a down-on-her-luck single mother in a ramshackle trailer reinvented herself as the bright, bold, unapologetically outrageous voice of the antifracking movement
Sharon Wilson is slouched in a comfortably worn brown leather armchair in the cozy, light-filled living room of her home in Allen, Texas, a prosperous suburb of Dallas. Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, she is checking the hundreds of e-mails, texts and voice mails that have come in throughout the day from some of the many people who seek her advice—a roster that includes lawyers, environmentalists and newspaper reporters from around the country. On the mantel opposite her sits a photograph. Simply framed, it shows a beautiful woman, her face buoyed by clouds of fluffy blonde hair, staring at the camera through eyes that look just this side of awake. She wears a peasant blouse and a small, pillowy pout. There is a shadow of physical resemblance to the Sharon Wilson of today—the high cheekbones, the watchful, catlike green eyes and the blonde hair, although it is shorter now, and faded—but in attitude and demeanor the woman in the armchair seems very different. “That,” she says of the photograph, “was another life.”
During that life, which ended not so long ago, Wilson was living in a remote, dilapidated trailer with spotty electricity and a cracked tub that leaked all over the bathroom floor. A single mother facing a mountain of bills, she felt helpless and, she says, “almost out of hope.” Then, in 2008, an energy company paid her a $20,000 signing bonus and promised $1,200 a month in royalties for the right to “frack” natural gas under her property. “I actually begged them to drill my land,” she says, widening her eyes as if still in disbelief at the distance she has traveled. Now, five years after making that deal, Wilson is one of the country’s most outspoken critics of the oil and gas industry, and she has galvanized opposition to what many consider either the most promising or the most dangerous method of energy extraction today.
Read our full story about the remarkable evolution of Sharon Wilson, the tough, blunt, witty voice of the antifracking movement, in the September MORE, on sale August 27.