My grandfather thought paying a farm laborer $8 per day was far too much. He felt even $6 per day was excessive.
I can remember when it cost a nickel to play a record on a jukebox and the same to play the pinball machines. My dad wouldn't let me play either when the price went to a dime. Pay phones and pool tables were a dime. I think a package of chewing gum was a nickel.
Back in 1968, for Mothers' Day, we purchased Bess a new Simca four-door car with everything on it for $3,000. She and the boys drove it from Adel, Ga., to Enid, Okla., and back (2,000 total miles) on $35 worth of fuel. The same trip today would cost over $180 for fuel. Motels were $8 to $13 per night; motels today - forget it. They drove through Biloxi, Miss., soon after Hurricane Camille went though, and I remember the governor of Mississippi threatened to lock up anyone gouging the public by charging $1 per gallon for gasoline.
I remember a Tom's Peanut delivery truck operator in Louisiana telling his story about being overcharged for gas. He said he told his friend, the gas station owner, to put 20 gallons of gasoline in his truck. When he gave his friend a $20 bill, his friend thanked him. The peanut man said, “Whoa, wait a minute, I gave you a $20 bill.” To which the station owner replied, “That's right; gasoline is $1 per gallon.” The peanut man went to his truck, got his pistol and told his friend to give him back his $20 bill - and his friend did. The peanut man then told his friend to call the cops, tell them he stole his gasoline and drove off!
In 1954, when my dad was working for George E. Failing Co. and I requested a price quote for a new Failing CFD-2 (a 300 ft. rig) mounted on a new 3/4-ton Dodge power wagon with 100 feet of drill stem. The total price: $14,750. The equivalent today probably would cost in excess of $150,000. To buy a fully equipped rig today could cost upwards of $850,000.
Back then, we charged $400 for a 60-foot 4-inch well. That's about $6 per foot. What do drillers charge today? I know some who still will drill for $6.50 per foot.
I now have drilling businesses that often call me looking for experienced drillers. They are willing to pay an experienced driller with a CDL license as much as $13 per hour and let them work as much as 70 hours per week. I have said it before: A person with a CDL and an excellent driving record can earn $10 to $25 per hour, sit on his tail and only is allowed to drive (work) a maximum amount of hours of a 40 hour week. Why don't we have more young people wanting to be drillers? I think the above speaks for itself.
If we don't get well drilling and well service prices and salaries equal to today's standards, I suspect that in a few years, there won't be anyone who wants to work in the water well industry. Then eventually many small water well contractors will quit or go out of business. The only contractors left will be major large contractors charging a reasonable amount for their service and paying reasonable salaries.
Drilling contractors today should be changing with the times and charging for their expertise. After all, if it weren't for drillers, most people would not have safe water. Can anyone live without safe water? No!
In my foreign travels, I see people dying of illnesses caused from contaminated water. When we get those people safe water, they treat us royally. In third-world countries, people appreciate safe water - people in the U.S. expect it.
People don't realize the value of a well driller and safe water until there is no water. In reality, without us drillers, where would people be?