Read how Wayne Nash recently discovered new talent.

Left with no help, Wayne had to drill an irrigation well alone.
I recently found myself in the position of being shorthanded. For the past few years, I've run a small operation, mostly because good help is impossible to find. One day a couple months ago, my helper got in the truck one morning and announced that he didn't want to work anymore. I asked him if he had gotten a better job. “Nope,” he said. I asked him if he needed more money. “Nope,” he said. With that, and nothing more, he bid me adieu. I not only was shorthanded, I was no-handed, with an irrigation well promised to a customer.

I went to the yard, put the tow bar on the service truck and the hitch on the rig and moved the rig to the location. I went back to the yard, hitched the service truck to the water truck and moved it to the location. I ended up drilling the well by myself, just like I did when I was young. What a difference a few years make! I got it done, but I was sore in places I didn't even realize I had! All the while, I was thinking, “I've got to get some help.” I eventually completed the well, set the pump and moved the equipment back to the yard, all the while considering people to hire.

As I've said before, some of the things that a new hire needs to bring to the table are youth, strength, trainability and, most of all, motivation. One night after supper, I decided I needed a cigar. Lottie has tried to bar me from cigar smoking in the house, and if she's home, I generally go out on the back porch. After a while, she came out and joined me. I was telling her my troubles, and she said, “Why don't you go see if Edmond wants to work?” I hadn't thought of that.

Edmond is Lottie's son, and we've had an interesting relationship over the years. When he was a teenager, there wasn't anybody dumber than the ol' man, but since then, he's grown up and learned a lot. He has been trying to start a small paint-and-body business, but as most of us find out, a start-up business on a shoestring ain't the easiest proposition in the world. I thought about it. Since he lives next door, and mama always can crack the whip, I figured motivation wouldn't be a problem. He's certainly strong enough and has most of the basic mechanical skills … what the heck.

I went down to his house and asked him if he had any work. “Not much,” he replied. “You want to help me for a while?” I asked. “Yup,” he answered. The deal was made. I told him he's going to have to get used to getting up a little earlier in the morning than he's used to, and we went from there.

We started slowly; I didn't want rush things and get him in over his head right off. First thing: a hardhat. Around the yard or on pump installations, I ain't too picky, but if the derrick is up, that “turtle hull” better be on your head. Edmond always would put his hard hat on to start with, but he developed a habit of laying it down from time to time. One day, we were making a connection on a house well and had just picked up and run a joint of pipe. When the block came down, he released the plug and swung it over to pick up the next joint. The block swung around and clipped him upside the head. I didn't have to say a thing; the hardhat lesson was learned with nothing more than a minor boo-boo and some cussin'.

Next came boots. I never figured that tennis shoes were proper footwear around a rig. Besides the obvious dangers, wet feet are no fun. I took him to Sears and got him a good pair of waterproof steel toes - much better. He was starting to look and act like a hand now.

During the first few weeks, I was trying to expose Edmond to as many different types of work as I could so he'd have an idea of the whole scope of the industry. Along about that time, one of my friends, George Freeman, Freeman Well Drillers, Fernandina Beach, Fla., called. He said he had a municipal well downstate that needed to be done and was shorthanded (ain't we all?). Would we come down for a few days and help him set it? I was pretty well caught up and figured this would be a good opportunity to show Edmond a triple-cased, pressure-cemented, screened, gravel-packed well.

Interesting job. The location was impossibly tight, and we had a mud system set up remotely, off to the side. All the casing, cement and gravel had to come into the location via crane, over the trees. We got started; everything was going pretty well, and it was time to set the surface casing. Since George was running the rig and I was running the mud system, George told Edmond, “Get on that crane and pick up the casing.” I asked George if he thought that was safe. He said, “He's got to learn sometime; just don't get under the load.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. Edmond didn't know it and I sure didn't either, but he's a natural on the crane. From then on, we had a crane operator.

The job went very well, and we got it done in right smart time and came home a day early. We even had time, while we were waiting on cement, to go run a line-shaft turbine pump - something else Edmond never had seen.

Since then, we've been drilling and servicing and doing all the things that it takes to keep a drilling business going. Edmond is doing fine and probably will drill his first well sometime this summer.

I guess there are a few good hands out there somewhere; it's just a matter of finding them and getting a good training program going.