The worm

Years ago I had the opportunity to work in the oil fields. I hired on to work as a roughneck. Now the term roughneck is a general term used for a lot of positions around a drilling rig, but the starting off position is “worm.” The worm does the really nasty hard brutal work around a drilling rig.

There is a reason for this toughness. Being a roughneck on an oil field rig is one of the most physically demanding occupations in the world, a lot of men quit on the first day, or they might last a week. The work is heavy; it seems like everything you touch weighs 100 pounds. As a result, the driller wants to know sooner rather than later if you have the heart for the job.

When I say heart for the job, size doesn’t factor in too greatly. Of course you must be physically fit but more than that you got to be tough. Tough of spirit and tough of heart. I have seen very large men quit, because they couldn’t handle the physical pain of adjusting themselves to the work.

On the first day I went on a drilling rig as a worm, the driller approached me and said “We’re gonna mud up.”

This term is used in drilling to mean you are going to mix up drilling mud used in the drilling procedure which is used to bring the cuttings up out of the well as well as stabilize the hole.

I said with a smile, “Let’s do this.”

He led me to the far side of the rig and beyond the mud pits, which were large rectangular, open top boxes made of steel and as large as freight cars. On the far side of the mud pits there was a small shed. Ten feet from the shed were pallets of powered drilling mud in 100 pound sacks. The driller grabbed one of these sacks and carried it into the shed. He threw the sack down on the table resting against the far side of the wall; the table was actually a hopper with water running through it. On the wall above the table was a knife on a chain. The driller grabbed the knife and split open the sack. As he fed the dry material into the hopper, the water took it away.

“You think you can do that?” he said.

“Sure,” I said.

“Good,” the driller replied. “I need one sack every three minutes.”

I asked him how many sacks he wanted. He said, “I’ll come get ya.”

He did six hours later.

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