Well, it finally happened. Since I have been in the Bakken, I have had an unblemished record of putting the fish on the bank successfully – until last week. Lemme tell ya what happened.

I got a call from a rig right up on the Canadian border. They were close enough that Tiger Woods could hit a golf ball into Saskatchewan.

They had lost a mud motor in the curve at 88 degrees. (That’s the angle of the hole, not the current temp, which is about 28 degrees.) I went up there, and looked at the daily reports and the Pason.

The hole looked a little raggedy to me, so I suggested to the company man that we make a bit trip and get the hole in good-enough shape to fish. Instead of making a decision, he made a bunch of phone calls to engineers in Houston or somewhere, who could see down-hole much better than I could. They informed us that the hole was in perfect condition, and that a bit trip was a waste of time and money. Under protest, I made up an overshot and a bumper sub. The company man wanted me to run fishing jars in my BHA, but I refused.

I explained to him that jars only work in straight hole. If I start jarring in the curve, I stand the chance of parting the jars, leaving an unfishishable mess.

The crew started in the hole with my tools. Trip time was incredibly slow because the overshot was 81⁄8 inches in an 83⁄4-inch hole. It acted like a piston, and forced mud up the pipe and overflowed in the derrick, making a huge mess. The toolpusher didn’t want to wash his derrick, so he slowed the driller down to eight minutes per stand – I’ve seen hydraulic snubbing units go faster than that. Eventually, we got to the kick-off point and started into the curve. That’s when it got interesting. My tools were dragging to the point that I couldn’t get any deeper without rotating and circulating.

So much for a clean hole. I started by gently rotating the pipe, and working it down. Eventually, we couldn’t make a progress without continuous rotation and circulation. By the time I got to the fish, I was rotating and overshot at 40 rpms with about 15,000 pounds to 20,000 pounds down on it just to make hole. I tried to tell them that an overshot is not a reamer, and we needed to

make a bit trip and condition the hole, but they told me, “Keep going.” I figured I had junked my tools, but finally – after 21 hours – got it to the top of the fish. With those hole conditions, it was very difficult to tell if I had engaged the fish or not. After three hours of manipulating my tools and trying to prove my catch, I started out of the hole. I had an incredible amount of drag coming out, so I couldn’t really tell if I had the fish or not. When we got out of the hole, no fish. Fortunately, my tools weren’t damaged – much to my amazement.

Instead of asking me what I thought about the situation, the company man had about six hours of phone conversation with distant engineers who probably couldn’t fish a cow pie out of a washtub. They decided that the top of the fish, which we probably never reached, was damaged and needed to be dressed off. They had me order a guide for my overshot, dressed with carbide to clean off the top of the fish that we probably never reached. By this time, I was into my third day, of what should have been a one-and-half-day job.

We had a custom guide built in the middle of the night at great expense, and shipped to the rig. Somehow, it seems that all of the oddball decisions and tool orders happen between midnight and dawn. I felt pretty bad for my dispatcher; after his working a long day, I got him up to build and ship me tools at an ungodly hour.

I went in the hole with the next run, which basically was just like the first run, with some additional jewelry. A bit trip still was out of the question because the hole was, according to them, just fine. We had the exact same results, only I had another long day.

After the engineers ordered another run in the hole with tools that weren’t any better, just slightly different, with no results, they finally came up with the idea to make a bit trip and get the hole in some kind of shape to actually fish. We got to bottom with a bit, and cleaned off the top of the fish. Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought – like, five days late. The whole time we were circulating the hole clean, the company man was having conference calls with distant people who didn’t even know which end of the derrick went up in the air.

 After 14 hours of “meetings,” the company finally decided that it had spent too much time and money, and determined to abandon the fishing effort and sidetrack the hole. I spent 5 days, and thousands of dollars of its money because the powers that be could not make a decision. They hired me to fish the hole, and then second-guessed me at every turn. Oh well, it’s their money. I got paid, but if they had listened, chances are, I could have put the fish on the bank in a couple days.

I got my ticket signed, and left the location feeling somewhat less than successful. I was pretty sleepy, but it was only 90 miles to my quarters. No traffic, good weather, 23:00 hours, I was rolling along with the cruise control set. Thirteen miles from my quarters, I heard a loud crash, and the cab was filled with glass. I looked over, and the passenger’s side window had disintegrated. I thought someone was shooting at me. I nailed the throttle, and ran another two miles before I pulled over, got the flashlight and looked at the damage. I figured if it had been a bullet, there would be another hole in the other side of the truck – nope. I still don’t know what happened, but it sure woke me up. One thing I can say: My job ain’t boring.