It was early August when I got a call from a customer who had no water. We went to check out the site, and determined the well is not producing enough water. We concluded that we could deepen the well rather than drill a new one - we would be in and out in a couple of days. We move in the equipment and set up, probed the well for a bit and then we bailed it. We determined the well had been there since the 1960s and had filled in about 10 foot or so.

We start drilling (we use a cable tool rig with a 6” string of tools) and everything is running good and on schedule the first night (I typically work at night since I also work another job during the day). The second night everything seems to be going fine, and the well is producing a good amount of water at this point. I was just about ready to stop the drill when, on the down stroke, the tools caught and the drill line jerked upward. This all happened real fast and, in the same instant, I jumped back.

And you know that sound the walking beam makes with no weight on it? I immediately knew what happened. And you know that feeling when your heart sinks to your stomach?

The 5⁄8-inch drill line broke. After spooling the cable and inspecting the break, I determined it had broken off just above the stinger, which was set in babbit. Now we've had bits come unscrewed before and we'd made our own fishing tools and were able to retrieve them, but we had never lost a whole string. I tried to retrieve it with the tool we had built, but it just didn't have the right catch to get a good hold on the rope socket. I tried for a couple hours that night and got nowhere.

On day three, we made another fishing tool to catch the rope socket and tried it. We were able to catch the rope socket, but couldn't get a real good hold on it. After making some more modifications, we still had no luck. I called up a friend, and he comes out on day four with a friction socket and a set of fishing jars. We figured this would work. We tried for several hours and could get a good hold but not good enough. The tools were stuck tight. On day five, he brings a combination socket. We ran it downhole and were able to lock onto the rope socket right away. We jarred it for a little bit and it didn't even move. We jarred a little harder and nothing.

Then the alternator goes out on the power unit and it shuts down. Being August, it's hot and, by this time, I'm tired and hot and not in a very good mood. I go get the portable battery charger and hook it up to keep the battery charged and we start working again. We jarred for a couple hours and, by this time, we were afraid the cable might break or pull out of the rope socket again. The generator/battery charger decides to quit and we lose power again.

Now at this point, I'm really aggravated that we have a full string of tools, which included a set of drilling jars, plus the combination socket and fishing jars, stuck in a hole that should have been completed in two days, and the customer has no water and we now have a dead battery. So we hooked the service truck up and charged the battery that, and started jarring again. We jarred pretty hard and it finally came loose when we were beginning to think the tools would never come out.

After getting the tools to the surface and inspecting the rope socket, sure enough, the cable broke off right flush with the top of the stinger. This was after spending an entire day of jarring, so we bailed the well and quit for the day.

On day six, I disassembled the tools and put them on the rig and finished cleaning the well. I couldn't have been happier to see that string of tools on the surface again, because it had my only set of drilling jars attached, and losing a string of tools is not something anybody wants. A two-day job ended up being a week long, and this was probably one of the most frustrating jobs I've ever done. It seemed like everything was going well and then, in a split second, went downhill real fast. In the end, we replaced the drill line before the next job.