Overhead Wires a Danger on Drilling Jobs
In the ’50s, my dad and I traveled from Enid, Okla., to Cabot, Ark., to drill 3,000 post holes 16 inches in diameter and 3 feet deep. After arriving at the Little Rock Air Force base and before signing the contract, we drilled a test hole in the most difficult location we were to encounter. The formation was to be original soil or fill dirt with no rocks or large boulders. This test hole turned out to be the easiest.
Most of the holes were easy, but some of the fill dirt holes had large boulders and the inspector said that if we encountered boulders we could just bypass that hole. The inspector noticed that we were bypassing many of the holes, so he felt we were bypassing many of the holes that only had small boulders. Note that we were being paid for all the holes whether we drilled them or not.
So, we dug up the boulder in the next hole. It was the size of a pickup. The inspector saw it and said hide it. He was also the inspector ensuring that no large boulders were dumped with the fill dirt. He noted that if his supervisor saw that boulder he would be fired. We had no more problems from this inspector.
Since we were away from home on Easter Sunday, we decided to drill because we had nothing else to do and there wouldn’t be a lot of traffic.
Dad usually backed the rig to the next hole while I guided him from behind. In one instance, the rig was having a problem backing to the next hole. I looked under the rig and nothing was blocking, so I motioned dad to come on back. Unknown to either of us, the rig was hot because the mast was touching a 30,000 volt power line. Had I touched the rig or had dad stepped out of the truck cab, we would have been electrocuted. Not realizing we were touching the power line, I motioned for dad to come on back. Needless to say, as he backed up he backed into the overhead ground line beside the high voltage line. The shorted-out power line blew out the service on a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base and the Military Police swarmed us in just a few minutes. After realizing it was just an accident and that, luckily, no one was hurt, they left.
The following day the provost marshall showed up and asked us if we had backed into the power line. Dad told the provost marshall that it was obvious because of the burnt nicks on our mast and the burnt Kelly cable line. The provost marshall told my dad to go to his office and tell them to give us stickers for our equipment that stated, “Do not work near power lines.”
“Don’t need the stickers,” dad advised him. Lesson learned.
Needless to say, we never worked near power lines — nor on an Easter Sunday — again. We received a pretty good signal that “You should never work on Easter Sunday”!
While drilling on the SAC base, we had a problem with officers parking their personal vehicles where we were to be drilling that day. Even though we placed signs and notices on their bulletin boards the day before our drilling, they still chose to park in our way. So we drilled and planted a chain link steel post near the front and back bumpers of one of the cars so they couldn’t move it. We didn’t cement the posts as usual; we just set them with dirt and a film of wet cement near the top. Needless to say, officers never parked their cars where we placed construction signs again.
A family update: Our son Chris (Piglet) departed Virginia Beach, Va., for Lagos, Nigeria, on April 29 to teach cable tool drilling to a religious group of Nigerians. Unfortunately, the monies to operate are dished out by a local church father and Piglet had to meet with him to request monies for food, transportation and required supplies for daily drilling. Because of this, many times the drilling is delayed for hours or days.
Piglet has several projects all over the world waiting for his expertise, but he is registered and has plans to attend the South Atlantic Well Drillers Jubilee. Look for him there.
For more Porky columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/porky.