Howard "Porky" Cutter discusses the recent National Ground Water Expo and also shares a letter he received.

Porky was disallowed from entering the convention on a two-wheeled scooter.
Did you ever notice how many handicapped parking spaces are filled at the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) conventions and South Atlantic Well Drillers Jubilee? This just shows that many of our drillers today are elderly or handicapped. A few have electric scooters. We don't have as many young people growing up in or coming into our industry because of the low pay, the CDL requirement, hard work and many better paying jobs out there, but that's an old story!

I've been told that the 2004 NGWA Convention was the largest ever - nearly 6,000 registered attendees. The Green Jackets (Master Ground Water Contractors) presented a full day of workshops on drilling, pump installation and service and how to take the certification exams. These workshops were well attended, standing room only and full of people standing in the hallways, listening. Even though there wasn't enough room and not well set up for signing the attendance certificates, I think it was well accepted. We were a little disorganized, but what the heck, it was our first year. I'm sure that with the NGWA's assistance, next year, we'll have larger rooms with more seating and a desk in the hallway to sign attendees' certificates. Forward and onward!

I want to thank the NGWA employees for putting together such an excellent exposition each year. I give them a lot of heck much of the time, but they must be commended. Even Bess has a problem keeping me in line. The difference is Bess and Kathy Butcher know how to manage Porky.

This year, I broke my record. At the 2002 NGWA Convention in Las Vegas, I only was refused entrance to and/or escorted from two businesses because of the two-wheel handicapped scooter. According to the authorities, handicapped people must have three-wheel scooters, not two wheels. This year, my scooter and myself were personally escorted from the Las Vegas convention center by a Las Vegas deputy sheriff because the powers that be were afraid I would get hurt or hurt others. I was required to rent a Las Vegas Convention Center scooter (with three wheels) at $110 for one and a half days and return it a half-day before the water well convention closed, otherwise I would have had to pay an additional $35 for another half-day. Not to be concerned. Next year, I will have two training wheels on my scooter, totaling four wheels. Let them look for a new way to ban Porky!

I do want to encourage everyone to support the NGWA and attend the NGWA conventions. I think it is important for all drillers to learn what new products and equipment are out there and to become certified. The certification is the only proof that a driller can obtain to show his expertise. Even the drilling schools in the United States and Canada don't offer such a recognized certification. I know I blow my horn a lot for the NGWA certification, but believe me, it works. Be a professional - be certified!

I'm looking forward to the NGWA convention in Atlanta in December 2005. The last time I attended the exposition in Atlanta was in 1983; it was so exciting. That year, I received my master ground water certification. Also, a large building near the convention blew up, crushing several new rigs in the outdoor exhibit area, which many remember to this day as the highlight of that convention.

Contact me at if you have an interest in bringing back the Old Timers' Meetings and the Women's Events to the NGWA expositions.

I'll have to make this article short as it already is past the deadline.

Several people have submitted some excellent stories to me, which were forwarded to the editors of the National Driller for publication. I want to encourage anyone who has a good story about well drilling or the ground water industry to submit it to his or her favorite trade publication. There is one following.

Using a full body harness or a ladder would have been a much safer way to align casing.

A Little Attention To Safety, Please

Editor's note: The following is a letter regarding worksite safety that Porky Cutter received.

Dear Mr. Cutter,

I read your January “Hole Thoughts” [“Remember When - and What It Means Today”] with great interest and decided to write you.

I am a former salt mine diesel and hydraulics mechanic, and I am in the process of starting a water well service, selling pumps, water-pumping wind mills, well rehabilitation and various other well-related items. I read National Driller and Plumbing and Mechanical from cover to cover. I also am trying to finish college at the same time.

I worked for a well driller up north and had to quit, due to loss of a vehicle and complete exhaustion from being away from home for 12 hours to 14 hours a day.

This driller uses 20-foot joints of screwed together casing for his jobs and needless to say, it sits outside, uncovered and continually rusting, until it is used. I know it is their business, but the other employees complain about their not being able to keep people. From what I saw while I was there, I understand why.

After having been involved with underground mining for 22 years and working with MSHA safety regulations, the operator of the rig I was assigned to work with was more than a shock, due to his attitude about workplace safety.

I requested numerous times a new wire brush or a powered wire brush to clean the casing threads - eight threads per inch NPT pipe threads. I also asked if we could have a new pipe wrench to tighten the pipe joints together - needless to say, this fell on deaf ears. The use of wire rope and web straps instead of casing elevators also is a very unsafe way to move and handle casing as well. I have a friend who worked in the oil business and he agrees with what I have described.

I had to climb on the derrick without the use of a ladder or full body harness to align casing and was pinched by the casing hoist cable, which resulted in a large injury to my stomach that I had to go to the hospital to have treated. The rig involved is an IR TR4 with a hydraulic casing tightening wrench cylinder, which drives a Petol wrench in a straight line - he refused to use it, saying it was too slow.

Well, after using worn-out chain wrenches, which slipped and caused multiple bruises, and the operator shorting me on my pay, along with spending $50 plus a week on gas along with the loss of a vehicle, I decided it was time to leave. I lost a lot of sleep making the decision - almost two days - but I know I made the right one. If they had tools that were not worn out and if they were not so lax about safety, I probably would have stayed. But with $8 an hour, commuting 104 miles a day and eventually being laid off during the winter, not to mention no insurance nor pay raise for six months, it was not worth the trouble.

I guess I look at it this way: If a company is willing to spend millions on drilling equipment, what is so wrong or hard about buying a casing spinner to put well casing together or buying good hand tools?

The biggest thing that bothered me was the fact that the driller did a very unsafe thing. While I was putting casing together, I saw him walk over to the service truck and pull out the fuel hose. So I said to myself, “OK, he is going to fuel the compressor fuel tank,” which was on the other side of the drill from where we were. The drill was 50 feet away, and I thought nothing of it and went back to threading casing joints together. A few minutes later, I looked over as the pump still was pumping fuel and I saw the fuel hose was underneath the TR4! To add to the scene, the drill was fully raised while he was doing this and drilling at the same time. He crawled under the rig rather than going around it. I guess he was not worried but I sure as heck was, as I would be the one required to explain what happened if something had happened to him.

I know that well drillers are an independent breed and many of them are farmers, but they have to remember all the time that work place safety is number one! I mentioned this to a driller friend of mine and he told me that you have to be very careful around some of these folks as they are pretty crazy to work for - his opinion.

So you have heard my two cents and if you tell me to piss off, as some of my Russian friends would say, I understand. I appreciate your columns and your input every month. If you decide to use parts of my letter in your monthly, please do so, but I respectfully request that you do not use my name in it.