The importance of training your helpers.

The more the hands know, the easier the driller's job is.
A drilling superintendent friend of mine was walking through his shop the other day and found two of his hands reading National Driller. When they saw him coming, they dropped the paper and jumped up, attempting to look busy. He told them there was no point in jumping up, they already were caught, and besides, they at least were reading something that pertains to their industry! That got me thinking about the responsibilities that drillers have toward their hands, and the responsibilities the hands have toward their boss and industry.

We in the drilling business work in a unique industry. When you think of our resources, if it can't be grown, it must be drilled for. Everyone on the drill crew, from the newest hand, to an old “silver-back” tool pusher has a part to play in the successful completion of a well. A new guy usually is pretty well bewildered by all the noise, mess and confusion of a drilling location. It is up to the boss to keep the workers safe, while teaching them the basics of the job. It's up to the hand to learn the job so things can get done in a profitable manner. A lot of drillers overlook the training aspect of the job. When you think about it, the more the hands know, the easier your job is.

When I was young and fresh out of the Army, I talked my way into a tool dresser's job - a night tour - on an old 36L Bucyrus-Erie rig. I guess they must have been pretty short-handed, 'cause most of what I brought to the job was enthusiasm. After a couple weeks, the driller quit. He just didn't show up one night. We were drilling ahead in slow hole, and I had figured out how the rig ran, so the daylight driller got me started and left me with it.

Next night, same thing - I was by myself. The third night when I showed up, the pusher and the big boss were at the rig. They wanted to know what I thought I was doing, running the rig by myself … blah, blah, blah. I told them that it didn't look too hard to me, and if they'd just get me a helper, I'd show them a hand. Musta worked, 'cause I had a brand new, green helper that night.

I wanted to do well and learn my job. The only problem: All the other drillers in the field were much older than I was, and they wouldn't share any of their secrets. I think they figured I wanted their jobs. They were right! I busted my tail, working as hard as I could. It took me longer to do a lot of things, because I had to re-invent the wheel a lot, rather than have an experienced hand show me the ropes. Eventually, an old driller kinda took me under his wing and gave me a serious education. He was working a rig for another company, down the “holler” about a quarter mile and when I got in a bind, I'd go down there to get some advice. He'd often come up to my rig and lend a hand 'til I got things straightened out. Jack had a pretty rough manner; he was prone to fisticuffs if he thought I wasn't listening. Several times I had to pick myself up off my butt and consider the lesson I'd just learned. He also drank whiskey like most people drink iced tea, so it was no use talking to him very long after he got off work. The industry has changed now, but that was the way it was then, so I just went along because I wanted to be a driller.

After a while, the daylight driller quit. I, being quite sure of myself by then, figured that I had a shot at the daylight tour - wrong. The pusher hired a wormy fool that seemed to screw up everything he touched. He got run off pretty soon, and another one came along, no better than the last.

Eventually, I collared the pusher and asked him why I couldn't get daylight tour. After all, I had more experience by then, and the daylight drillers I was seeing weren't showing me anything, or even making their footage! The pusher looked at me and said, “You don't call me up every few minutes for some stupid advice.” I guess he had it figured out. If I was out there, fumbling along, at least he could get some sleep! Little did he know that most of the time, I was out there lost as a dog with a Bible!

Eventually, I got the pusher's job before I moved on to bigger and better things. Talk about more headaches, and less drilling, but that's another story.

The point of all of this: Drillers, train your hands. Get them certified, take them to conventions, teach them YOUR job. Hands: Learn everything you can about your job and your industry. It'll pay off when you have YOUR name on the side of the rig.

When you look at it, we're all fightin' the “long line” boys, and if we don't stand up on our hind legs and defend our industry, it'll be gone soon. The big chunk of the public seems to be willing to trade the freedom of their own wells for the security of “guvmint” water. Benjamin Franklin once said, “A man willing to trade freedom for security deserves neither.”