This guest column highlights a recent drilling escapade.

The spring pole rig is up.
Recently I was lured by a phone call from Mike Frey. Mike and I began to swap lies for a while, as all drillers will do from time to time. Mike asked if I had any old pictures of a spring pole-type rig used around the mid-1800s. His idea was to implement a simple working model to demonstrate at the Empire State Water Well Drillers Associa-tion's summer meeting. We both agreed it would be fun to sell 50/50 tickets to victims - I mean participants - who would take a shot at making footage. By the way, spring poles are people-powered outfits, so woodchucks can make better ROPs (rate of penetration). The driller with the most footage logged wins half the loot, while the other half would go to continuing-education events. This means poor boys such as myself may sneak out for a little “moon lighting” on the night tower!

Mike sparked a fire in me. I not only had pictures, but a good working knowledge of a spring pole since I had played with one as a kid. I was raring and ready to go! There was just one problem: When you're a “well driller extraordinaire,” simple is not your strong suit. Just like my mentor, Wile E. Coyote, the head gears started to turn! Most men of my age would have some sort of, well, other pleasurable dreams, but I would lay awake in the morning and at night dreaming of how I would erect this rig. Despite all the mental planning, I am typical of the male species, and it boiled down to the very last minute before I actually got started.

My wife, Tracey, “Dick Tracey” as I call her (short for Dictator Tracey), ruler of our own personal tyranny, was fairly impressed that I would abandon her and my two daughters on July 4th weekend for constructing yet another damn project that revolved around the drilling industry! With special passports, pardons, lengthy negotiations and maybe some dungeon time (cleaning the basement that is), I was able to persuade the good queen to allow me to depart the kingdom-by-the-lake to return to our shop (my pleasure dome).

Construction commenced. And, of course, the skeeters were so bad they had their own geologist with a tiny map suggesting were to drill. There was one by my ear spuddin' in; he was so loud I swear he was powered by Detroit. The little directional drillers started at my ear and surfaced by my nose, grandpa skeeter was there with his little cable tool, yelling at the rest of the family because they didn't dress their bits right. There was a tiny little Tom Bates - as he slowly advanced, three newspapers had been read before he drew blood. Some had the deep hole package and top-holed through the daunting shirt and jean formation and, despite caving pocket lint, they struck the pay zone. There was a long-bed skeeter with “Morris Pipe” wrote on his wings. Just then Dempsey from the west circled in; Dempsey from the east was using a green grasshopper hauling doubles. As I listened close, I thought I heard a tiny little Joe Mela peddling hammers to the 10 skeeters drilling my knee cap - this must have been the rock quarry. As I went to swipe at one, he tripped out so fast he lost his drill string. But never fail - the fishing crew showed up with the wash-over pipe and … OUCH!

Things went slow, even though my 4-year-old daughter, Brianna, helped me cut logs and dispose of branches. I felt like a snail that fell down the well - every day, he crawled up 12 inches but when he slept at night, he slid back 11. But with a lot of work, patience and persistence, the rig stood completed. It was a very pleasurable experience. I tried to be authentic with the 19th century; however, the chainsaw was a favorable time-saver - especially since I never plan anything.

Well so much for earning a little cash, and so much for being authentic. The 19th-century mule was replaced with a winch truck. We couldn't even rig up without an underground locate - or an insurance certificate. How did our forefathers get anything done without any red tape wrapped around their hands? But following a quick call to Bob Franzese, a certificate was faxed right away. But what would the hotel say about drilling a hole in their front yard? Well, sometimes it's easier to get forgiveness than it is permission. Due to our exceptional male planning expertise, we didn't have the three business days to wait for the locate. So by hand digging a foot, and with some crushed limestone on the bottom of the hole, we presumed ROPs wouldn't even be possible. We all were a little uneasy, because when the drillers showed up to play, they were just like little kids in a sandbox. Let me tell you: They were makin' hole! Mike's wife threatened to spank him if he didn't come for dinner, and Tom didn't even get his “medicinal requirements” until 9:30.

I, for one, am a believer that a good driller keeps a shed built over his tools - and most drillers do! So you can imagine that some of the women weren't too impressed to find out that their husbands had the bright idea of replacing the family exercise machine with the spring pole so they could get paid for footage while the loved ones trimmed down. Julie had contemplated a different idea. Since King Henry shunned the Bow-Flex, Julie would accelerate the reduction of “Henry's tool shed” as she disposed of the walking beam counter balance.

All in all, it was a great summer meeting. Good eats and a lot of fun! We are all very proud of our new Master, No. 007 - Shawn Boyd. Congratulations, Shawn.