I’ve got a million friends who worked in the oilfield. We’re all part of a small world.
My father, my uncles, even my Grandfather worked on the drilling rigs. My first job out of high school was on a rig. The oil field helped me get an education.
For a lot of kids around home, a summer or two rough necking was a rite of passage. For some, that summer turned into a lifetime.
Dustin is one of those.
I met Dustin on a rig in the Persian Gulf. He was a twenty-four year old crane operator. He lived in Mississippi. Six feet tall and lanky.
Working on the rigs was the only real job he’d ever had. Dustin went offshore when he turned twenty-one.
Dustin was a keeper. He knew how to work. He started at the bottom, a roustabout. He moved up to Crane Operator. Later on, he made driller. He had his crew, they worked and he supervised.
He found the road to success.
For fourteen years, he was home a month, then gone a month. He had two families. One was his wife and two boys at home. His second family was on the rig, sixty miles offshore, in the middle of the Persian Gulf.
The rig work was good for him. He made some money, bought a lot of toys. He and his family did a lot of traveling. Travel is easy when you live out of a suitcase anyhow.
He never thought the world would stop.
The last time I saw Dustin, he was working at a fruit stand, selling water melons and cantaloupes. Making ends meet. The travel has stopped, he sold off his toys.
Life was like riding on a smooth highway with frequent flyer miles, a matching 401K and free health insurance. Now it’s like a gravel road with some washouts here and there.
“Is that you Mr. Mike?” he said, as I got out of my truck.
“Dustin! How are you doing? It’s been a while.” We shook hands.
“Selling melons right now.” And he pointed to a one-ton truck. It was full. We got these out of the fields this morning. “I got laid off last year. Fourteen years and a phone call. That was it.”
He paused for a moment, then introduced me to his wife. “Her family has some land, they farm and raise a few head of cattle. When I came home we plowed up another ten acres, fenced it off and started with some water melons and cantaloupes.”
You could hear the determination in his voice.
“It ain’t what it used to be. I don’t know if I’ll go back. For fourteen years, I never spent more than 26 days with my wife. I missed a lot with my boys. I coached a T-ball team for the first time this year. The money on the rig was good, but I think I can get by with what I’m making here at home.”
He’s still a keeper.
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