|About the Book|
“Blowouts are mere complications for investors. Wry grins are concealed as heads are bowed in a moment of remembrance for the dead. A jackpot waits after Red Adair cleans up the mess...”Excerpt from “The Hobby Farmers,” a short story in the book, “Oil Field Trash and Other Garbage”There are no accurate historical records regarding the death tolls in the early years of oil drilling—an industry made in the USA. I suppose it would be safe to say that it would have been more dangerous then than it is now.Edwin Drake brought in the first well in Titusville Pennsylvania in 1859. At a depth of 69 feet, his well produced 400 gallons a day. Then a salt dome called Spindletop in Beaumont Texas ushered in the era of gushers in 1901. Flowing at a rate of 100,000 barrels a day—doubling all U.S. production—oil would never be measured in gallons again.The demand for crude was mainly lamp oil as Spindletop blew 150 feet into the east Texas sky. It was threatened briefly by electricity and the light bulb. Then mass production of Model Ts in 1908 by Henry Ford came to the rescue and a gold rush mentality ensued- the wells couldn’t be drilled fast enough—safety be damned. Wooden derricks sprouted like pigweed and workers flocked to the rigs. Fields were discovered around the country and even the depression couldn’t stop the industry.I worked on drilling rigs for eight years, starting in the boom year of 1981. Over 4,500 rigs were boring for gas and oil that year in the U.S. and experienced hands were scarce. Training programs were nonexistent and safety meetings were nothing more than a once a week, ten minute break to gulp down a few bologna sandwiches. If you made it a month without a lost time injury and remembered to sign the kill book at the end of your shifts, you were rewarded with a dozen pairs of gloves.The industry has evolved over the past 150 years but oil drilling is still by far the most dangerous profession in the U.S. It will never be failsafe- the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf is the latest example.Roughnecks are the front lines of the world’s energy industry—soldiers of fortune—hiring on for a hard earned, high risk paycheck. As you are reading this, one roughneck will die every five days on average—lives summed up by four lines in their hometown newspaper. Unlike oil, men are a renewable resource.I tried to cover the broad scope of the drilling business in my book—painting a portrait within the grasp of the public—a study into the extremely complex, obscure subculture known as Oil Field Trash. I detail the dry holes, the mediocre wells, the infrequent wild wells, and the wilder nights. It’s an in depth examination of life in the trenches of the oil industry: the genesis of how gas gets to the pumps and heat gets to your homes.The book is made up of seven short stories: compilations of firsthand situations and rumors that could have happened. The characters are a blend of myself and roughnecks that I met over the years, of legendary drillers, company men, and tool-pushers that we idolized. Who shared their sagas of drilling in Texas, Oklahoma, Africa and Saudi Arabia.“Uncle Stan” was the title of my first attempt at a short story about drilling for oil. It was a 1,200 word piece about breaking out as a worm, written in a Creative Writing class back in 1993. It was the bones of “Oil Field Trash,” the 31,000 word main story in the book, two decades in the making. The “Glossary” took on a life of its own—a novel within a novel at over 12,000 words.So, here they are: first person accounts of drilling for oil and gas in the Michigan basin, as journalists and geologists refer to it. Roughnecks just call it the patch.