A run-of-the-mill project gone awry.

The culprit: a pair of well-rusted vise grips.
Here in the central mountain region of New Mexico, my crew had been holding up a job, waiting for a stretch of decent weather to dry out the ground enough so that they could get the pump-pulling rig out into a ranch customer's back pasture well to pull out the pump. The chance finally came, and the guys left first thing in the morning for the short job, which should have had them back at the shop in time for lunch. I was holding down the office and knew they were out of cell phone service at the well way back in the woods. Consequently, I just expected the crew back about lunchtime, or even a little before, but lunchtime came and went and no one showed up. By late afternoon, I was getting deeply concerned about the health, welfare and safety of my crew. The later it became, the more concerned I became. Admittedly, I was starting to get “steamed” at their being gone all day on a two-hour, plus travel time, project.

By late afternoon and almost quitting time, I had concocted and rehearsed several lectures that they were going to be subjected to when they showed up. It's unfortunate that I did not write them down for posterity, because I thought they were darned good lectures on all sorts of subjects from goofing off on the job to proper rig maintenance. By now, I was certain that the equipment had broken down or that someone had been seriously hurt. I knew that I was going to get a call from either a hospital or the tow-truck company any minute.

Finally, a little after quitting time, the pump-pulling rig pulls into the yard and my three guys pile out, obviously tired but intact and not missing any limbs or digits. I went out into the yard to meet them and just as I was about to light off into lecture number one, they produced the pair of very well-rusted vise grips in the accompanying photograph. Well, so much for lecturing anyone about anything: I was just thankful they made it back all right and had accomplished the job. So, I bit down hard on my tongue for a little bit while I listened to the story of how the job went.

Some “pump guy” or someone at some time must have been using these two vise grip pliers to clamp and support the 1-inch schedule 80 PVC drop pipe and somehow everything got away from him. Our ranch customer probably is the third owner of this well, so all records and knowledge of this incident are lost to history. However, if any reader thinks these might be his vise grips, it would be advisable not to claim them. This rancher has voiced various opinions about the former owner of these vise grips, which have included numerous allegations toward severe bodily harm if the former owner should dare to step forward and want his vise grips back.

This pair of vise grips has been laying down this well on top of the pump for about 20 years, silently waiting for someone to just dare to try and get this pump away from them. What should have been a pretty straightforward and quick job turned into an all-day project, but the pump is out and the cause of the trouble was captured. I'm going to make a pegboard display box for the office wall and start a museum with these two vise grips.