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Got Fish ?

I was cruisin' along at 6,000 feet TVD once, long ago, and drilled into a big down to the coast fault. It stuck me like a big dog. I yanked on it, jerked on it, tugged on it and otherwise about pulled the damn derrick in on top of us trying to get unstuck and save what was left of my frail pride and skimpy drilling budget. Nothing worked.

After hours of deliberation sitting behind the mud pumps on an up-side-down 5 gallon bucket, I decided to spend another day of rig time fighting for my freedom and pumped everything you could possibly think of down that hole except WD-40. I said grace over every pill I pumped like it was Thanksgiving and prayed to the fish Gods for forgiveness. I timed the gooky with a stop watch, down to the second, calculated and re-calculated, wore two erasers plum out and almost had a heart attack when I lost my Halliburton Red Book. I soaked that well, rotated on it, circulated it, and otherwise slept on the rig floor between sweeps in total commitment, like napping in the waiting room of a hospital. Then I'd wake up and yank on it some more. In the end, make no mistake about it brother; I was stuck.

Stinkin' oil field.

So, I did the 'ol free point shuffle, shot the DP off, went in and fished the BHA with a big overshot, hit it one time with some jars and out she come, slicker than a whistle. Like green grass thru a goose.

When I was laying it all down on the cat walk I was puffed up like a big rooster. I was pretty sure my shit would never stink again.

The next four fishing jobs I had over the ensuing years, however, I bundled so bad it was embarrassing. I eventually succumbed to defeat, decided I was not a fishing tool hand after all, and starting hiring REAL fishing hands. I had a particularly old, gruffy one on location once, with wrinkles on his face like fractures in limestone; I explained to him what I had done to stick the fishing tools I was using to fish stuck tubing and the first thing he asked me was, "Why in the goddamn hell did you do that, hand?" Then he said to me,

"Go get in the truck, son, I'll handle it from here."

I did. And so did he. When his bill came in to the office weeks later I paid it the next day. I even put a little 'thank you' and a smiley face on the invoice when I sent the check in. I never heard from him again and a few years later when I needed him again I was told he'd passed away.

Wherever he went (surely it was Heaven!) he took with him more knowledge, and experience, and common down hole sense than I ever thought I had in over 40 years of operating stinkin' oil and gas wells. When it came to fishing, compared to that guy, I was navel lint.

Photo by Mike Rasco

Man. I've made some enormous messes in my career.

But nobody, I repeat, nobody ever bailed me out of more self-inflicted shit than good fishing tool hands. NOBODY. Generally speaking, the more arrogant they are, the better they are. If when he drives up on location you ask him if he can clean that mess up you just made, and he says "stand back and watch," best stand back and watch. Don't whine about a few extra trips and buy him all the pork ribs he can eat for lunch. Remember, a good fishing tool hand is the Dalai Lama, Santa Claus and Roger Staubach of the oilfield, all wrapped up into one dirty pair of bib overalls. If you ever find a good one, keep him, no-matter what. Laminate his business card, put him on retainer, rent him an apartment, wash his pickup, send his wife roses every week...whatever it takes, keep him. A good fishing tool hand can almost single handedly bring you back from the dead, revive you, jump start you, save your well, give you back long-lost hope and otherwise make you want to start going to church again on Sundays.

Trust me on that.


I wrote this last night after a couple of scotch and sodas and a cell phone conversation with Mike Rasco who was "going home" from somewhere in the outback of West Texas. Mike is a young fishing tool hand from Midland, with a decade of fishing experience already; in a few more years, and few more impression block runs, he is going to rule the Permian Basin with down hole savvy. Put a GPS tag on that hand; don't let him out of your sight. One day you are gonna need him.

Jackie Gillispie and Mike Shellman poking fun at Rasco on a summer evening in Andrews, Texas. He was on location, working; we weren't.

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