This year has been different. Since I knew the slowdown was coming, I prepared. We got the rig in shape early for another season, I sent everybody home and I was on my own. There were a couple business ventures I’d put off for a couple years, a few old friends I wanted to see, a few people I needed to see, so I loaded up my car for a road trip. I got permission from my bride, Lottie, to “go out and play” for a while, promising to call in daily reports and keep in touch. Off I went.
Sure enough, there was a mutt tied to a tree in the backyard. I walked up and feeling kinda foolish, I asked, “Are you the talkin’ dog?” “Yup, that’s me,” he answered. He sat there, wagging his tail and looking like a dumb-ass dog — except he’d just spoken to me! Well, the idea of a talking dog pretty well took me from behind, so I just had to ask, “How did you learn to do this?” The dog explained, “I learned this skill at a pretty young age ... The CIA learned of me and hired me ... Sent me all over the world, where I could wander in amongst world leaders, lay down and hear all sorts of secrets. I got medals and awards and all sorts of stuff. After that, I went to work for airport security. I’d wander around listening to folks, and I heard an amazing amount of stuff: drug deals, interstate flight, that sort of thing. Got me more awards and medals. Now I’m retired, got me a wife and a bunch of pups.” I was amazed, so I thanked the dog and headed back to the house. I knocked on the door, and Cecil came out on the porch. “How much you want for that dog?” I asked. “Ten dollars,” he replied. I had to know: “Why would you sell a talking dog for ten dollars?” Cecil told me, “Cause he’s a liar, he didn’t do any of that stuff!”
I left, without the dog, and got on what is arguably one of the longest, most boring stretches of highway in America — I-10 between Jacksonville and Pensacola. Hundreds of miles of nothing, punctuated by the Florida Highway Patrol, who are long on ticket books and short on revenue. Had to keep the speed below warp 9 to get by. Evening brought me to a natural stopping point — Biloxi, Miss. After 600 miles, I was ready to stretch my legs. Since my bride, Lottie, and I are known to occasionally visit, one of the “investment centers” kindly keeps a free room on hand for us if they’re not full. The way they figure it, if I “invest” enough, I’ll pay for the free room anyway. Sure enough, I invested about $200 and received a return of about $1000, for a net of $800 — gas money, you understand — by morning.
I continued west on I-10 to Lake Charles, La., and started searching the pipe yards for a string of drill pipe one of my friends had asked me to look for. No luck — it was oddball pipe anyway. I figured I’d be lucky if I did find it. Evening found me in a very comfortable room at Harrah’s on Lake Charles, and wouldn’t you know it, right across the parking lot from another “investment center.” Surprise, surprise, surprise. By morning, I had been lucky enough to pick up another nice little chunk of gas money, so west I went.
Next stop was Pearland, Texas. I visited a life-long friend and his wife, who I communicate with but haven’t seen in years. Next stop Angleton, Texas, to visit my old friend Steve Walters, owner of Anchor Water Well. Steve is preparing a rig to go to El Salvador and do some drilling for a Christian missionary group. I wanted to look at the rig, find out about the drilling conditions there and offer my help. The way I see it, we in the drilling industry have something precious to offer. A person can go through life without an education, can go weeks without food, but in some places, only hours without water. In many parts of the world, infant mortality can be cut in half, and the standard of living doubled with the simple addition of a well. We have the skills and, I believe, the moral obligation to pass them on. While in Angleton, I had the chance visit a bunch of old friends and roam around my old stomping grounds — felt pretty good, too. I hit all the western-wear stores and stocked up on the kind of things you can’t get east of the Mississippi.
From Angleton, I headed north though east Texas to visit a few drillers I know and talk to another missionary group that was putting together a project to go to Tanzania and Kenya. Good bunch. Funny thing — there are probably more, but Ken Kitching was the first missionary I’ve ever met who knew which end of the derrick went up in the air, let alone much about drilling. We had a good conversation about drilling, logistics, rig selection and all sorts of things that make a successful program. I wish them the best and will help all I can.
After a side trip to Shreveport, La., to look at a rig, I headed for Shawnee, Okla., and Chuck Mill’s place, Mills Machine. I’ve been working on a tool joint design for large diameter, reverse circulation drill pipe for several years, and it finally got to be time to turn an idea into metal. After a few meetings, a fine dinner and the proper inspiration, we worked out the details and started the project. While I was there, I had the opportunity to inspect the equipment for a huge oilfield auction. I’m talking 100-plus acres of rigs, pumps, mud systems, engines, bits, you name it — it was there. I was in hog heaven! I didn’t stay for the auction; I was afraid I’d buy something. Besides, I was starting to miss my sweetie, work was picking up and duty calls, so I headed east. Back in Georgia, I parked the Lincoln, got in my service truck and went to work. By the way, my sweetie was glad to see me, too … I need to road trip more often!