He showed up at my house early last week, before seven o’clock. My wife hired him. He’s a painter. He had the white truck, the white shirt and the white pants. His glasses had paint specks. His tennis shoes had caught the drippings of a rainbow of colors.
He meant business. He had a white painter’s cap.
This guy’s about to spend a week in my house. He’s going to be in my bathroom, in my closet, in my kitchen and in my bedroom. My wife hired him, I just write the check at the end of the week.
I wanted to get to know him.
After all, I’ve got a collection of matchbooks in a goldfish bowl and a few old pens I really enjoy using. A book full of William Faulkner short stories. I don’t share that knowledge with just anybody.
We started talking. He used to work in the oilfield. We both had worked offshore.
The floodgates opened
Mind you, he’s on the clock and I’m paying. He’s got more time than I have money. He can paint later. .
If you don’t know, oilfield hands are a special breed. We’re members of the same club. We’ve been there. We share stories no one else can understand. We have a language of our own. Spinning chains, catheads, blocks and swivels, slips and elevators, tongs and subs. It’s a world we know. We’ve put our hands on cold steel and bored holes in the ground.
Cops talk to cops, doctors talk to doctors and lawyers talk to lawyers. Every occupation is its own barometer.
He and I shared a world of hard hats, steel toed boots, crazy tool pushers and wild drillers.
I went to college to get away from the oil rigs. That’s what my Dad wanted for me. But, he made a roughneck out of me anyhow. I spent twenty years wearing a tie every day.
When I hit fifty-five, I went back. Just wanted to smell the diesel, get a bit of drilling mud on me, listen to the brake squeal and watch three or four miles of pipe turning to the right.
My painter said he would go back in a heart beat. He said, “I miss it every day.”
I agree. It’s in my blood.
I’ve always wondered why I was a bit different than most other people. I think it’s my time spent on drilling rigs. I think it’s good and bad. Working ninety feet in the air, hanging by a safety line, pulling pipe back in the derrick changes a young man. Working twelve hours a day and you can’t go home at the end of a shift changes a young man.
Not to say we’re different than any other occupation. The guys in the military, the doctors, the cops, even the lawyers, they say the same.
They are brothers in the job. Old Roughnecks are brothers on a rig.
Please feel free to share. I welcome your comments and thoughts. Contact Mike Windham at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow my blog at mikewindham.com.