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Sleep Deprivation

The first 14 years I was in the oilfield I had a home of some sort to visit now and then, but for the most part I slept, when I could sleep, standing up behind generators on drilling rigs, on doghouse floors, in my pickup, on the ground now and then and mostly in $29 a night motel rooms... $19 a night if you could rent them for the week.

If you are, or were, a roughneck generally speaking you are of two distinct social classes: drilling or completions/workovers. The drilling side of the business goes around the clock. Completions hands get to go home at dark thirty and sleep in their own beds.

Old drilling hands, the ones that made $8 bucks an hour, will understand sleep deprivation very well. Today's drilling hands, the ones that make $38 bucks an hour, work two weeks on, two weeks off and sleep in quarters on locations, next to their rigs, that are air conditioned and often get their beds made every every morning, their meals cooked and their toilets cleaned. Its way different today than it was when I was a kid. The good news about being an old roughneck is that when your shift (tour/tower) was over you could go to a joint and drink some beers, which often helped sleeping in the shit holes we had to sleep in.

When it comes to oilfield motels, you get what you pay for. By that I mean bath towels, though washed that still look greasy, toilet paper thin enough to read a Halliburton Red Book through and sheets that would make your skin crawl. It was often a good idea when you first checked in to a room to pull the sheets off a bed to look for cooties but then you'd see the mattress had stains on it that looked like continents on a world map.

I chased a scrawny house cat out of a room one time, twice, and had a chicken snake as big a pup joint keep getting into my bathroom somehow. I learned eventually not to jump when I saw the son of a bitch and even gave it a name, but eventually asked for another room. I slept with cockroaches that came straight from the movie Jurassic Park and in South Texas once had to sleep in a dump that never got cooler than 80 degrees, with the covers pulled over my head, because scorpions crawled up the wall and across the ceiling to fall straight down in the bed. We've all woken up at night with calf cramps in our legs, try a scorpion sting on your butt cheeks. You'll come out of bed like you were shot out of a cannon, your hair standing straight up like Buckwheats.

Window units never worked, toilets never flushed, there was never any such thing as hot water and about the only thing you could get on the television, if they had one, was Tom and Jerry cartoons or preachers always trying to save your soul from the devil, which didn't bother me too much because I sometimes thought being a roughneck already gave me one foot in the door.

A drilling hand staying away from home would always have to wash his clothes in a laundry mat. The ramifications of that to washing machines can only be imagined and roughnecks always got very dirty looks from real people trying to get real clothes clean if they saw a roughneck in their mat. I got an ass eating from a very large Mexican woman one time 15 minutes long, in Spanish and English. I learned Spanish words I'd never heard before. I felt so bad washing my work clothes after that I'd wait till the wee hours of the morning to sneak in and sneak out. At least I could sleep an hour while my jeans and t-shirts were in the dryer.

When I started operating and drilling my own wells it got a little better, but it was then mostly no sleep at all. My record, I recall, was 4-5 hours in 4 days. Sometimes I would bump a plug and drive home at 3 AM in the morning and not wake up, it seemed, till I pulled in the driveway. I missed Christmas with my daughter the first two years of her life because I was logging or running casing.

If nothing more I hope this little bit of whining gives my readers some idea why I have such disdain for internet experts on social media, LinkedIn and Twitter phonies, and so called energy journalists who believe they understand and can predict the oilfield.

The ONLY way to know is to have had skin in the game, your own money risked, a piece of your very being out there in the mesquite, where snakes live.

You can never understand the oilfield unless you have lost sleep over it.

Happy Father's Day to roughneck dads everywhere, old and new, to good men that give a piece of themselves every day to the well being and security of their families. God Bless you.


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