Saturday, 26 January 2013

In all my years of Riggin!


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 clichĂ© 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.

Concord 47
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.

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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.

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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?


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Canoeing The Red Deer River


Hey Everyone,

Last summer I canoed down the Red Deer River from 3 mile bend to a campground almost all the way to Drumheller. It was an awesome adventure! Let me tell you about some of the highlights.

It all started when my friend Galloway from back in high school suggested we go on a wilderness hike. After talking about it we decided to hop into the canoe and see how far we could get in 2 days. So we loaded up the canoe with enough supplies and set out.

The first day we paddled at a very easy going pace. We tried paddling in tandem both facing down stream but decided the front guy should turn around so we could talk. Then we decided the front guy should just hang out and let the back guy paddle because it was awkward paddling backwards.

Even though we were only a few hours out of Red Deer we felt like we were really remote. There is no cell phone service in the river valley. We saw lots of wildlife. We saw an old car that had been pushed off the cliff. We saw the odd fisherman along the river. One thing we didn’t see was any fish! That’s right! The Mindful Fisherman didn’t bring a fishing rod. I thought about it but decided I just wanted to paddle. Looking back I will not make that mistake again. There were so many good fishing spots I seriously missed out!

Towards evening we started looking for an island to camp on. The conditions were it had to have a nice beach and lots of burnable driftwood. We would pass one that looked suitable and decide to try the next one down. Then the next one down was worse and we regretted not stopping.

Finally we found one that was ok. It had some wood but we didn’t bring a saw! This whole trip was a learning experience for us. There are a bunch of things we will bring next year when we do this again.

Camping on the island was really nice. The sound of the water and the stirring of the wind made for a very peaceful evening. We cooked our food over an open fire and talked about how this is what it must have been for our ancestors. I felt really connected to the land.

We laid a tarp down and slept in our sleeping bags. Even though it was the middle of the summer it got really cold at night. Air near flowing water is very cool. The night was uncomfortable and it wasn’t a pleasant sleep. There were bugs crawling on us! There were animals howling and waking us up! But it was good because I realized how pampered I am living modern comfort.

In the morning we ate scrambled eggs and set off again. It was a melancholic feeling seeing our campsite float away in the distance. As we rounded the bend we talked about how it was another day of our lives never coming back.

We passed an inukshuk and had to stop and make our own! After piling our rocks we had a christening ceremony. We sang and danced a little bit. Then we carried on down the river. 

Floating down the river is analogous to life in so many ways. You never know what’s around the next bend. You never know what it would have been like to go around on the other side of an island. There are parts when its slow boring and parts that are rapid and dangerous. When the river is wide it is shallow. When its narrow its deep. There are parts when you can choose not to portage the canoe and end up upside down treading powerful current while all your gear is floating away.

We will both testify that there is a waterfall on the Red Deer River! From a distance a waterfall doesn’t look like much. But as you approach it you very quickly run out of time to change course. The river is unforgiving. We went over and capsized. The current was overwhelmingly strong! The water was really deep at the bottom! There were large rocks we only narrowly missed.

We managed to save most of our gear. I did however loose my favorite shirt! My iPhone was in a dry bag that floated and got caught along the shore. The canoe hung up on a boulder. Life jackets and helmets would have been a GREAT idea!

From that point on we had no more food. All the bread turned to mush and the milk spilled into the water. To make matters worse there were no clouds to block the sun and we started to really feel the UV rays. Picture 2 guys in a green canoe with towels tied over their heads. Add to that their steadily worsening demeanor and that’s was us!

We wanted to get all the way to Drumheller but started to realize that we would not make it at our slow pace. So we started paddling harder. For the rest of the afternoon we kept a very steady pace, calling out our strokes and switching sides when our arms got tired. Around every bend we expected to see Drumheller. Around every bend we saw the next river bend.

When we realized that we weren’t going to make it to Drumheller we stopped off at a campground and phoned for a ride. We were disappointed that we didn’t make it all the way but we were happy at the same time for what he accomplished.

As we waited for our ride we started planning our next trip! We will go all the way to lake Diefenbaker! We calculate it will take 10 days. There will be many things we will do different next time. For example:

         -Bringing a water jug instead of individual bottles.
         -Strapping things down so if the canoe flips everything will stay in it.
         -More water proof bags.
         -Some kind of hammock or raised bed.
         -More sunscreen.
         -Helmets and life jackets.
         -Fishing rods.
         -A saw.
        
Do you have any suggestions of things we should bring next time?

I could write an entire blog just on the thoughts and conversations we had. Maybe I will. Overall the experience was awesome! I am so glad that everything worked out the way it did. I am especially grateful for a great friend!

Cheers,



Sunday, 13 January 2013

Ran Out Of Fuel


Hey Everyone,

I have been inspired to write this short blog by @GTMothersSoul and @Seeourtney over on Twitter. They wanted to know about when I hitch hiked after running out of fuel. This occurred a few years ago, maybe 2009?

Throughout my life I have always gotten myself into situations and wondered how the heck did I get into this. Well this situation wasn’t because of random chance or dumb luck it was because of my own carelessness.

A few weeks before I ran out of fuel and had to hitch hike; the fuel gauge in my truck broke; it just stopped moving. I noticed this when I was able to drive from Edmonton to Red Deer without burning any fuel!

Old Pic Of My Truck. Not A Picture Of When This Happend.
Rather than take it in and get it fixed I tempted fate and drove around with only my Mindful Fisherman Intuition. Sure enough I was driving to Edmonton when I ran out of fuel. To make matters worse, all this went down on the darkest and coldest day in December! Well not quite Dec 25, but close enough for poetic license. 

The truck sputtered and the lights dimmed. I lost power steering and could feel everything around me surging and the truck slowing down. I managed to pull off the road and park safely on the shoulder. I turned my emergency lights on and tried to restart the engine.

At first I didn’t believe that I had ran out of fuel because I was able to restart the engine several times. It would run for a minute then stall again. So I popped the hood and peered under to see what I could see. Of course the hood light was also burned out so I wasn’t able to see anything.

I squinted and poked around with the dim light from my trusty iPhone. My fingers went numb in seconds. The wind chill must have been -75C! The fog froze coming out of my mouth! So I got back into the truck and called AMA.

Now AMA has awesome service and I highly recommend them! But they were really backed up and they said someone would be there in 2-3 hours. Keep in mind I was about 20 km south of Leduc on Hwy 2. This was too long of a wait for impatient me.

I decided to try to hitch hike! I bundled up as best I could and stood behind the truck. Thumb in the air! I waited and waited and waited.

I started to freeze after a few minutes and started to shiver and freeze more. I was not dressed well enough. I looked at my phone and when I turned it on it shut itself off. The cold of my pocket had sucked the last bit of life out of the battery.

Half of Alberta passed me by! Either they saw me and didn’t care or didn’t see me in time to stop.

Suddenly a vehicle slammed on its brakes and swerved right at me! I didn’t have time to react at all! I was just about struck by a passing car!

It was the scariest sound ever! Truly a LIFE-FLASH-BEFORE-EYES moment!

The car swerved and screeched as it whizzed past and then carried on without stopping. I stood motionless with my mouth hanging open. They just about hit me and didn’t even stop!

But if getting struck by an out of control car wasn’t going to kill me the freezing cold was! The situation was URGENT!

I had now been outside for no more than 10 minutes and was so cold and shivery that I decided to get back into the truck. I was seriously considering calling 911 because I was afraid of freezing to death.

Thankfully; just as I was climbing back into the truck a minivan pulled up in front of me. I walked over and they immediately invited me inside so I could warm up.

The driver was an old man and his wife was the passenger. I thanked them for saving my life! “Imagine that!” They said. “Freezing to death with so many people able to stop and save you!

So they drove me to a gas station but there weren’t any jerry cans! So they drove me to a few others but no luck. I said I would just call a taxi and go home and deal with this in the morning. So I thanked them profusely and waved good bye.

Then I checked my phone again. It had warmed up enough to turn back on. After calling a taxi I got a call from an unknown number. I answered.

“Is this Jonathan Wieler?”

“Yes”

“This is Constable _____ with the RCMP. Your vehicle was nearly in an accident. I am going to have the tow truck pull it farther ahead so it is more out of the way.”

“Ok.”

“There are 5 cars in the ditch near your truck. I can see that you were safely pulled over so I am not going to ticket you. Clearly these other people weren’t driving according to the road conditions.  I just wanted to inform you.”

Well … La-Tee-Da, I thought.

Lessons for wisdom seekers and the mindful:

o   Don’t Tempt Fate!
o   Stop To Help People Who Are Broken Down!
o   Slow Down & Drive According To Road Conditions!
o   Prepare For Roadside Emergencies!
§  Candles could have saved my life!
§  Better winter clothes.
§  Road pylons.

Can you think of any other things that should be included in a Roadside Emergency Kit?

Cheers,