Working on the Road
Unless you drill house wells close to home, the drilling business is bound to take you on the road every once and a while. Some companies work such a large area that their crews stay on the road continuously. Over the years, I've had my share of "road jobs" and thought I'd share a few observations. One thing is sure: It ain't for everybody.
It takes a pretty independent self-starter to make it work. Road-work seems to go smoothest if you are single, or, if married, you're very secure in your relationship. If a guy isn't sure what is going on at home, or his wife isn't happy with the situation, he won't stay out long. When I was a young farm boy, I couldn't wait to see what was over the horizon. I went on the road and never looked back. For a few years, home was wherever the job was, and I had a fine old time seeing some of the world. That sure helped me when I went into the army. I didn't have that frozen, deer-in-the-headlights look every time a new situation arose; I felt sorry for the guys who'd never been beyond the county seat.
Most of the time, it is just boring work, but occasionally incidents happen that make for good stories years later ? usually after the statute of limitations has run out! One time, working in the Carolinas, we took on a new hand and left for a job. He was recently out of the Navy, and at first glance, seemed like he would do o.k. He was married, but with his having been in the Navy, I figured that he and his bride would have gotten over whatever separation problems they might have had. Ex-military guys usually do all right.
Turned out, he was world-class lazy and a braggart to boot. He especially liked to brag about how he controlled his wife's every move and thought. After overhearing a few small parts of some of his phone calls home, I figured there was definitely another side to that story. I'd pretty well made up my mind that we were getting less work done on the job with him there than if we just ran short-handed. He was the new guy and got a lot of the toting, washing and fetching jobs that are part of rig life. He thought this was beneath him and slacked all the time, but, since it was a big company with more bureaucracy than the pentagon, I couldn't just run him off without a reason (worthless not being acceptable) and build a huge paper trail to keep staff lawyers and other dead weight looking busy. On a weekend off at home, I happened to run into one of his neighbors who knew both him and his wife. I asked if he ran the show like he claimed. "Let me tell you," my friend began, "She's twice his size, and meaner 'n a snake. He doesn't breathe without her permission. Why, one time I seen her slap him in a Kroger store so hard, it knocked him on his butt. He got up and fell in line, without a whimper. It figured: Lonely sailor lands the first fish on the line. He shoulda known ? they ain't all keepers. She probably saw him as a sure paycheck, as long as she could keep him on a short enough leash.
The next week, it was worse than ever at the rig; he had all the ambition of one of those guys who picks up beer cans on the county DUI patrol. I knew I couldn't fire him for being lazy, it'd hit a little too close to home for some of the folks in the corporate office. The solution was as obvious as warts on a prom queen: He had to quit. During the week, he'd been bragging about buying his wife a .44 magnum and teaching her how to shoot it. I personally thought he was the one that needed it, but, whatever. The final solution came to me one night after a particularly windy bragging session about how his wife always washed and starched and re-packed his duffel, and he didn't have to touch it. That was enough for me.
The next evening, my lead hand and I went to a local Frederick's of Hollywood. We carefully considered and purchased a pair of the finest lace panties that devious perversion could buy. On the way back, my lead hand "accidentally" got a few pipe-dope fingerprints on them. When we got back to the room, I asked the kid if he wanted to go get a beer: "Yup." Off we went. While we were gone, the panties somehow found their way into the bottom of his duffel bag between the dirty socks and other stuff. Imagine that. For the rest of the week, I watched for any redeeming qualities, but, noo. He just got lazier and louder. I didn't feel too bad when we let him out at the shop for the weekend, and his warden, er, wife was there to pick him up. I never heard what happened, but, strangely enough, we were short-handed when it was time to go back to the rig.
'Course, it isn't always the other guy who gets his, uh, "nose in the wringer." Some years ago we went out to relieve a driller who was on vacation. My usual practice was to call home and tell my world-famous wife, bin-Lottie, where I was staying, in case she needed something, and then call again during the week to see if the kids had burned down the house or anything. We were staying in one of those small-town, cheap motels run by one of those hard-working families that work all sorts of hours, put the kids to work and generally make a success of themselves, but aren't about to spend anything they don't have to. They had "renovated" part of the motel, which part I couldn't tell, though part of the renovation had included new phones. I called home after we got to the room and gave Lottie the number on Sunday night. I was planning to call again about Wednesday but never got that far.
It seems Lottie wanted to talk to me around Tuesday and called the number. A woman answered, "Beulah's Massage Parlor." Lottie 'bout shorted out but asked for me. "No honey, there ain't nobody like that here." Lottie hung up and called the operator. She said, "Look, I've lost my husband, and I want the number of every motel in town." The operator said, "We can't do that." Not one to be trifled with, Lottie demanded to talk to her supervisor. The supervisor was sympathetic, probably having "lost" a husband or two over the years, and helped her out. After a number of calls, Lottie finally reached the motel where we were registered. The phone was ringing when I came in. I picked it up and recognized the voice of "She Who Must Not Be Disobeyed." "What is the phone number there?" I, not knowing any better, read the number off the phone, figuring that was probably the number to the motel. "That ain't it, dummy, so cut the crap and tell me where you are." It took awhile, but we finally figured out that the owners of the motel had bought some phones for the renovation at a yard sale and hadn't bothered to change the numbers.
We laugh about it now ... the statute of limitations is up! n