I have been in the oilfield since I was 20 years old. For the last 5 years I have been an MWD hand; which, in case you don’t know what that is; it means I sit in a comfy shack and watch other people work outside in the elements. I however did my time and I feel that I have license to brag about it. Before my current job. I worked on a service rig for 3 years! I know what working hard through rain and snow and sweltering heat is all about.
Looking back it is actually hard to remember any specific event. It is all a blurr. I wish I had kept a journal during those years. But at the time I lived moment to moment. It was a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with the stress. I remember being so tired at the end of the day that I could barely throw myself onto my bed and pass out.
After about 6 months of working as a roughneck I married the rigs. I went over to my parent’s house to announce to my dad; “I am rich!” I clearly remember inviting him outside to see my new car and telling him those exact words. I saddled myself with 40 thousand dollars of debt and now had the privilege of driving a 2006 Jetta TDI.
I never fit in on the rigs. I have a strong nerdy side. I like to read. I read books about smart things. I have an insatiable desire to gain knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I used to sit in the crew truck on the way back to camp with a book on my lap. I would read at break time. Carefully turning the pages with the tips of my fingers to minimize the amount of smudging from my greasy hands. One guy in particular used to make fun of me. His name was Kiernan Hoolahan.
Kiernan is the worst person I had ever had the displeasure of meeting. If I never see him again it will be too soon! He was the lead hand; the “stud roughneck”. He blocked me from moving up the ranks by never letting me learn how to run some of the machines. He was a drunk and a drug user and the cliché degenerate oilman. But working with him and everyone else on that crew wore off. I started to drink in the crew truck after work and in the many greasy bars in the most backwards parts of Alberta; just to keep up with the ‘boys’. To be one of the crowd I started to smoke. The culture took hold of me.
For all the days of standing in the freezing cold or sweating in the summer sun I have nothing to show. I burned through all my money. My car eventually became an insurance claim (not what you think, another story) and my loan was paid out almost near the end of the term. I bought and sold some real estate but didn’t re-invest the profits and its all gone. I suppose some of the grand vacations I took have left me with some value from those days. I’ve been to Macchu Pichu and one time I went to Panama; all on roughneck dollars.
Towards the end of my roughneck carrier I really started to get squirrely. I had worked in all four corners of Alberta. I had been isolated and miserable and depressed before. But not like I was when I worked in Rainbow Lake. It was brutally cold. I was on a ‘hate crew’. Nobody got along. What made everything completely unbearable is I thought I had an out. I was waiting for a call to come in, any day; from a friend who was going to hook me up with a cushy safety job. That call never came. Finally I snapped and just quit! Quitting in a fit of rage is actually a good feeling! I wasn’t scared to tell everyone what I thought of them. After a lengthy tirade I went back to camp and hitch hiked back to High Level.
Only through introspection and sheer determination have I been able to change myself and get off the destructive path that I was on back then. I stopped drinking. I am ashamed of all the times I went out tried to fit in by drinking and smoking and cursing. I started eating healthy and exercising. Soon I will be completely finished with the oilfield. My out is City Motion. My fiancé Krystal and I decided we want to live fit and healthy. City Motion is the combination of how we want to live and our means for living.
“In all my years of riggin.” That’s a phrase that all the crusty old guys say. I’ve learned that it means even less than what it sounds like it means. It’s an expression of emptiness. All the boom and bust cycles and the fast living add up to nothing and suck the soul right out of a man. However maybe I am just bitter. I suppose it can be whatever you make of it. I, for one, made very little of it. I barely escaped with my sanity.
I am grateful for the mothers of my children who in my absence have raised them thus far. I am grateful for what they do. I am also grateful for the friends that have kept in touch even though my job forced me sideline them. I am grateful for my health and sanity and that I made it through all that. I look forward to opening a new chapter of my life. The roughneck chapter is closed and it is what it is.
Here’s a Shakespearian Sonnet I wrote to commemorate how I feel about all this. I hope you can appreciate iambic pentameter.
Into my soul the wind doth presseth now,
and therein resides shame’s enterprise, loath.
My wearied mind struggles to disavow,
all that which my heart beguiles of them both.
Oh learn’d am I now to suffer and love,
like that old faint and wearied ghost of lore.
A roughneck finds not peace or calm thereof,
But the cold beguil’d embrace of a whore.
Woefully; doth the black dragon not tire
So violently pulled from the depths of hell.
Diesel and iron cannot breaketh a liar;
But meaning and reason they doth dispel
In forfit blindness I must persevere
rue’d am I to find a better career.
Can you relate to working a miserable job that you hate but not being able to quit? Have you found yourself becoming like the people you despise?