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Idle Hands

When your rig gets stacked a hand goes home for a while, mostly to fix stuff around the house, watch the kids play football, and softball, help wash clothes, do dishes, work in the garden and otherwise live a normal sort of life. Eventually your wife begins to remember who you are and the dog stops growlin' at you. Mornings on the front porch holding hands and drinking coffee gets to be a very good thing. Now and then you can catch a little nap in the afternoons of the horizontal nature, not the vertical.

That's all good for several weeks, even a month or two but then a hand starts to get bored and needs to build stuff, or make shit. So we add on to the house, rebuilt the bench in the shop or buy a new horse to see what we can teach the dumb bastard. Mostly, we start tinkering. We're getting a dose of the B word.

If you happen to be talented and your rig is parked, taking a breather, its supporting cast can take a breather too. Lots of laid off hands can put out some pretty cool things to hang from trees, put in the yard, dangle from the mailbox, things the kids enjoy and that will help them remember you when your rig goes back to work. I worked in well control with a good man who was a helluva poet.

Idle hands don't generally stay very idle, I guess is what I am trying to say. Here are some examples, below...

Man, I'd give anything to have this Corona bottle opener, above. That's some BIG work right there !!

All hands are basically the same; when we get bored we have different outlets for creativity.

I got tired of the oilfield one year in my early 20's and drove from South Padre Island to Costa Rica and back on a six month surf trip, in a Volkswagen bus, no less. Did the whole thing on less than $3000 bucks, including a complete engine rebuild in the jungle of El Salvador, had a 103 fever for 5 days after getting stung by a 6 inch black scorpion, ate enough bananas that today I can't even stand the smell of them, speared fish, got thrown in jail for three days and surfed my brains out at beaches that had no names, from northern Mexico all the way to Pavones in Costa Rica.

To get to Pavones you had to hire a local to putter you across the bay in a panga, drop you off in the line up, and the lefts were so long, and perfect. you could only ride 3 or 4 in one day before your legs gave out. Then you could drink cold Pacificos puttering back across the bay and begin to forget entirely about changing the swabs out in a damn mud pump.

When I got back to Texas after that trip I sold a lot of my drawings and watercolor pieces I did during the trip. mostly little pen and ink/watercolor washes all matted and framed for $30-40 bucks a piece; some of the watercolors and pastels I did I got as much as $200 for. I sold stuff at art shows, junk sales, festivals, etc. I was good enough at that I stayed out of the oilfield another 4 months. Mission accomplished. I even got to thinking for a while I was sorta talented. I wrote things people like to read and won some tennis tournaments. I began to imagine a normal life.

But, I got hungry again and after nearly a year wandered back into roughnecking like it was an addiction. Actually, if I recall correctly, it was the $450 a week of steady pay that sucked me back in. And after the first few 10,000 foot bit trips a hand makes he begins to remember his purpose in life and forgets about being talented, or just being average, and starts making plans for the future and working your way up, not sideways.

I got invited to John Severson's (Surfer Magazine Founder, movie producer/director and wonderful surf artist) house in Maui a few years ago and bought an oil painting from him that he was working on in his studio during the visit. I bought the painting for $6,000. He died the next year and the painting is now worth six times that. He liked the dumb little seagulls in my drawings, so in the trade he gave me $25 bucks for the one above. a self portrait of me pearling into some rocks in Oaxaca. I was deeply honored, actually, to get that much for it. This copy of one of his books on the left, however, is, priceless.


In a long, rich life of being a doer, not a dooee, we look back at the things we did to make ends meet, to eat and feel safe; things that stick with us and makes us smile, inside and out when we remember. What's better than THAT?!

Lots of roughnecks are talented and find amazing things to do with their hands, their minds, and their hearts when they're home.

Then, suddenly, we're not. We're back away from our families working long, hard hours in the freezing rain or in the boiling sun...because that is what we do.

La vida mas fina, I say. Or I guess Snoop Dog says it all the time now on TV, on the beach, the big wanker.

Which reminds me, I'd sure like to find me one of those pipe wrench bottle openers. Those are cool.


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