Fall was deceptive this year in the Bakken. Last year, the first frost was Sept. 15. This year, it was in the first week of October. But now, it is in full swing. Twenty degrees is a pleasant day, and it gets as cold as an ex-wife occasionally. I spent one memorable night on a rig floor recently at minus 17 degrees.

One of the problems with the modern oilfield is these guys all drink energy drinks. When I was coming up, a rig would gladly run out of diesel before they would run out of coffee. Not so much now.

I ask the motorman, “Where’s the coffee pot?”

He looks at me and says, “We’ve got one somewhere.”

I tell him to come down and wake me up when the coffee is ready. After a while, I get a knock on my truck window. Usually, the driller sends the worm hand down to get me.

“Driller needs you on the floor,” he says.

I ask him if the coffee is ready.

“Yup.”

I collect my wits (such as they are) and go up the 42 steps to the top dog-house in search of the coffee pot, never knowing what to expect. I’ll tell ya something about young, energy drinking, non-coffee-drinking-hands: They don’t know how to make it. I’ve seen toilet paper, paper towels and socks used for filters, never mind how much to put in the basket. Just fill it up; it makes the many flavors of Starbucks pale by comparison.

I recently pulled a job that was 4 hours from the shop. That is a little far to work 12 or 14 hours and then commute, so I got a motel. I had a young trainee with me so we got a room. Right across the street was a pretty good grocery store, so we went over to get some supplies. My buddy started getting some things that never came to my mind. Salmon filets, fresh vegetables, things like that. I was looking at canned beans and Vienna sausages—roughneck food.

“What in the world are you gonna do with all that stuff?” I ask.

He said, “Hold on, supper is on me.”

I told him the motel said NO COOKING in the room, so what are we gonna do?

No problem.

We got back to the room with the food and he showed me something he learned in Afghanistan: cooking with Mr. Coffee. He put the salmon filets in the bottom of the carafe and started the cycle. In a few minutes they started to warm. He put the vegetables in the basket where the coffee normally goes and poured in a small amount of water. It went through the cycle. Drain off the water from the carafe with the salmon in it, and repeat. By the second time around, the vegetables were perfectly steamed and the salmon was poached to perfection!

This is another reason to hire a vet. They know how to get things done with the materials at hand. Gonna make a fine fisherman. We ate very well for the whole week we were up there. Pretty amazing what you can do in a no-cooking motel with a Mr. Coffee and a little ingenuity. Kinda made me feel old. I’m used to heating corned beef hash on the exhaust manifold.

After a 72-day hitch, I finally had enough and took some days off to go home and see if Lottie and my cat still remembered me. They did. It was great: home cooking, grandkids, fraternizing, good weather. All was well with the world and it allowed me to recharge my batteries for the coming winter.

Columnist Wayne Nash tried coffee-pot salmon on a recent job.

Columnist Wayne Nash tried coffee-pot salmon on a recent job. Here’s hoping he scrubbed out the pot before making his coffee the next morning. Source: iStock

This time home, I did something that I’ve been putting off and neglecting for 15 years. Over time, between race cars, wars, rock and roll music and drilling rigs, my hearing has decreased to 30 percent of what I was born with. I can read lips pretty well, but asking people to repeat themselves continuously was becoming debilitating. I finally got some hearing aids, and I can tell you that they are a life-changing experience. The guy I got them from was a pretty sharp guy and we got along famously from the start. He tested my hearing and figured out what I needed. Two days later, he fitted me and showed me how to work them. I have a remote control (on my iPhone) and can change the volume any time I need. I can also change the parameters for when I am on the rig, at a meeting or listening to music. They are great. Also, after 26 years with Lottie, there is a mute button. I didn’t even know she had one ‘til I got these things. They Bluetooth with my phone, so I can take and receive calls anywhere and hear everyone perfectly. A life-changing experience. The wonders of modern technology. If any of you guys are getting hard of hearing, check it out. It’ll make your lifebetter.

Still don’t know if I can get home for Christmas or not. We have some young guys with little kids, and I’d like to see them home first. I’ve pretty much worn the “new” off Lottie, so a few days one way or the other won’t make much difference. Won’t be the first time Christmas was in January at our house.

In the meantime, keep turning to the right, keep your pumps thawed out and be safe. Spring is coming (eventually). 

 For more Wayne Nash columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/wayne.