A lesson from his dad teaches columnist Howard "Porky" Cutter to check your depths yourself upon your arrival and again when your shift is up.

As a youngster while drilling oil wells with my father (Ellis "Porky" Cutter Sr.) in Chanute, KS, we were working 12-hour shifts. I usually worked the evening shift, midnight to noon.

When I arrived at the drill site, the first thing I checked on the drillers' log (on the knowledge box in the doghouse) was how deep we were and how many feet my father had drilled on his shift (he almost always drilled 300 feet in 12 hours). I had asked him several times how he made more footage than I did. He told me that you just have to keep it turning to the right. He advised me that I always started rotating, trying to drill faster, and many times, before he had his clothes changed, I had broken something. He would again advise me to just keep it turning to the right.

Several weeks later after trying to beat his record of 300 feet per shift (and my 200 feet per shift,) I started my shift at midnight. Dad had left and I had lost count of the total drilled depth. Knowing how much total drill stem we had on the pipe rack (trailer), I counted the drill stem remaining on the rack. We were 100 feet shallower than my father showed on the driller's log. Dad had been stealing hole from me all along. In other words, I had been drilling part of his hole each shift.

Throughout the night, the longer I thought about his stealing hole from me, the madder I got. The next morning, I was loaded as to how I was going to deal with the situation.

Upon Dad's arrival and before he changed into his work clothes in the dog house, I challenged him. "You've been stealing hole from me all this time." Dad just smiled and his response was, "I guess it taught you one thing." I thought a moment about what he said, then I asked him what it should have taught me. His answer (with a big smile) was, "Don't trust nobody."

That lesson, alone, taught me that when working shifts, always check your depths yourself upon your arrival and again when your shift is up.

In the many years of being in partnership with Porky Sr., I learned many valuable "old school" lessons.