Over the years I've worked with some interesting characters. Quite a few of them were young men - some on their first job, with no idea what to expect from the world of work.
I got short-handed on a pulpmill job, and my lead hand had a stepson who was young, strong, needed a job and best of all, lived at home. We didn't have to hunt him when it was time to go. Tony was a perfect third hand on the rig; he was bull-strong, willing and determined to keep up with the older hands. He was strong enough to earn the nickname, "The Donk," from the old Crocodile Dundee movie.
One day we had broken out a 17 1/2 inch hole opener from the string and laid it down behind the rig. It had a 12 1/4 inch bit on the bottom and a sub on the top. I told Donk to move it under the pipe rack. A backhoe sat right there, so I naturally figured he'd tie a chain to it and move it with the backhoe, but noooo. I looked over there a couple minutes later and Donk had dead lifted the 500 pound tool, had it balanced on his knees and duck-walked it the 20 feet to the pipe rack! I came down and told him even if he was strong enough to do this (and he was) just how long his back would last, if he kept doing it. There's a backhoe sitting right there. Use it!
Donk was so willing and had such a good sense of humor that we couldn't help pulling a few stunts on him. One day, I told him to get a five gallon pail, "bout half full of water." He came back with a full pail of water. I told him that since this was a pretty big rig, it had special water-cooled crown bearings in it, and every now and then, it needed a little water - 'bout 2 gallons would do it. He said he'd take it all just in case. I told him to go up (65 feet) and pour the water in the little tank up there. Up he went, while we got out from underneath the inevitable! After a while up there, he started hollering, "Where's the tank?" We hollered back, "Look around, ya big dummy!" We finally got laughing so hard he figured it out and poured the water on us!
Another hand comes to mind. I can't remember the boys' name, but the story is worth telling. I had a workover rig on a gas well on the Texas gulf coast.
We were milling up a packer to work over the well. When milling a packer, it's a good idea to watch carefully the cuttings returning from the hole. When the cuttings are all steel, you're milling in the top of the packer and the slip area. When you start getting rubber returns, you are in the elements and can usually pull the packer without having to mill it all the way through. I detailed the new guy to watch the returns and let me know if he saw any rubber. After a few minutes, I looked over there, and he had wandered off to sit in the shade. I went over and told him it was important to keep a close eye on the returns. He went back and watched some more. It wasn't too much more time until he again lost interest and wandered off. I headed over to where he was with the intention of giving him a piece of my mind, but realized I probably couldn't spare it, and since he seemed to be a couple cards shy of a full deck, I decided to try a little psychology on him. I said, "Look, I gave you this job 'cause you're the new guy and not making much money. This is a special packer and we're milling it with a diamond mill. Sometimes the diamonds come off and come over the shaker. If we find them, we're supposed to give them back to the company that sent us the mill, but we don't do it. We just quietly put them in our pocket and sell them later. Got it?" You wouldn't believe how attentive he was on the shaker after that! I guess he thought he'd find a few rocks the size of the Hope Diamond and be able to retire.
I had a young helper once that had the ability to go to sleep at the drop of a hat. He wasn't lazy, just sleepy. Maybe it had something to do with staying out all night chasing girls! We were drilling in West Columbia, Texas, in an area that was pretty deep and drank water all the way. In due course, we ran low on water, and I sent Floyd to get a load of water while I continued drilling. As I drilled ahead, the pits kept getting lower and lower. I lowered the suction and waited for Floyd to return. Eventually, I ran out of water and so I pulled a few joints off bottom and went to look for Floyd. A couple miles down the road, I found the water truck, water running over the top, pump running and Floyd asleep in the cab! I eased up on the truck without shutting down the pump and threw the discharge hose through the window into the cab with Floyd. Surprise! He woke right up and jumped out mad enough to fight. I said, "Come on, if you want some of this old man." He thought better of it and we went back to the rig.
It takes all kinds to make a world and as far as I know, all these young hands have grown into solid, hardworking men. Guess it's hard to judge a man by his youth!