Wayne Nash hits the road, encountering adventures and industry insights.

The drilling industry lost a true lady and a good friend in late October. Marsha Eppler, business manager of Midway Perforating, and wife of Char-lie Eppler, passed away at their home in Nephi, Utah, after a yearlong battle with cancer. Marsha was executive secretary of the Utah Ground Wa-ter Association, and will be sorely missed by all who knew her.

On the homefront, my bride, Lottie, almost is done with her course of chemotherapy, and the prognosis is good so far for a complete recovery. I sure hope so; I’m too old to train a replacement, and besides, I am having trouble imagining another woman who would put up with this particular well driller.

Recently, I went to Illinois on a job for a few days. When I left, the weather was warm. A few days after I arrived, however, it turned cold and rainy, and I got a dose of something. I drove the 800 miles home and sat on my butt for a few days until I got feeling better. By that time, the well was complete and my equipment was released. I was getting ready to go pick it up when Lottie pointed out that she hadn’t really been out of the house for most of the year and she was getting stir-crazy. Knowing what she’s like when she “takes a spell,” I told her to load up and come with me. She called the doctor and got permission to go. As we were getting ready to leave, I got a call to deliver the unit to Hobbs, N.M. It was starting to look like a grand tour, so off we went.

After picking up the unit in Illinois, we were headed west into a 40-mph headwind that cut my mileage to about 7 mpg. Somewhere around Tulsa, I misjudged and ran my truck out of fuel a long ways from nowhere. Fortunately, I was able to siphon fuel out of the unit to continue. I watched the fuel gauge a lot more closely after that, and Lottie asked me if I had enough fuel at every exit.

Somewhere in Oklahoma, I realized that we would get into Hobbs pretty late that night, and I knew that the area is booming enough that it might be difficult to get a room. So I handed the motel directory to Lottie and asked her to call and make a reservation. She called, made the reservation and got the confirmation number while I drove. We got into Hobbs about 10 p.m. and pulled into the motel. I went in to register – they never had heard of us. Lottie gave them the confirmation number, but they never had heard of that, either! While we were trying to figure out what to do, I checked her phone. Turns out that she had made a reservation all right – in Gallup, N.M., 476 miles away! Oops! We eventually got a room, and everything worked out, but at least I’ve got something to pick on her about.

The next day, we delivered and set up the unit, and everything went well. After six days on the road, we finally headed east toward home. We’re not there yet, as I’ve taken the opportunity to stop and talk to friends and drillers all along the way. It is giving me a good overall view of the indus-try at the field level. Looks like the personnel problem is just as bad as it has been for the last few years, and the drillers who only do house wells are suffering due to the downturn in new housing starts. But on the bright side, the drillers who are branching out or specializing in niche markets are doing very well. Specialties like cathodic protection, geothermal drilling, mineral exploration, oil and gas, and septic tank installation are filling the books. If your rigs are sitting idle too much, I would suggest finding some work that no one else wants or is doing in your area; it might pay more than you’re making now. When you think about it, the rig doesn’t care what is at the other end of the hole, as long as it is useable to the cus-tomer. If you have big enough rigs, at $90/barrell, the oilfield is booming.

We now are on our way home and hope to be there in a few days. At the time of this writing, we are in Biloxi, Miss., at the “investment center,” checking on my retirement funds – by the look of things last night, I’m going to have to keep working. Oh well, back to the shop to see if anything is getting done. See ya in Orlando!