LOCATION: Kilgore, TX
I know it's hard to believe, but my mom swears that the first word I ever spoke was 'petroleum.' Considering where I was born and raised and what all the adults around me did for a living, I guess it's not that surprising.
I grew up in the heart of USA oil country. The largest concentration of derricks once stood right here in my Texas hometown, an area known as 'the world's richest acre.' Oil is part of this landscape like nowhere else on Earth. During the holidays, they even light up those derricks to look like Christmas trees.
I'm this family's fourth generation to work in oil. My great-grandfather worked on a standard metal derrick, and my grandfather was a well servicer in the 1930s. My father dug wells. I went with him to work starting when I was six years old, and I thought what he did was the coolest thing in the world. I still do.
When I was 18 I joined some friends to work on a well service rig. I bought my first pair of Red Wing boots and have stuck with Red Wings ever since. Whenever a well broke down, we showed up and got them producing again. It still amazes me how it's possible to locate and recover objects up to 10,000 feet down a wellbore using a basic mechanical tool.
I find this work similar to fishing on a lake. There's some luck involved, but it's mostly a matter of skill and getting a feel for things that only comes from experience. The big difference with this work is that you can't reel in your line and go home if you're getting skunked, because time is money. A well can easily lose $30,000 every day it's down. This means that we're on call 24/7, every day of the year. Your customers grow to depend on you, and they become very loyal when you earn their trust over time.
One of my longtime customers called me in a panic one night to tell me that a submersible pump needed replacing in one of his wells. I was asked to be on the clock until the job got done. It took 37 days, on about 1.5 hours of sleep per night. An ear infection had gotten worse while I worked, but I didn't stop to treat it. My eardrum ruptured two days after the job ended. Call it dedication or something else, but it's probably safe to say I gave that job everything I had. Including part of my hearing.
It takes a special person to do this work — and to be with people like us. I've been away from home for 50 days straight at times, and my wife Christi has always stepped up to raise the family and keep the household running. I am so thankful for all the sacrifices she's made over the years, because my career wouldn't have been possible without her. It takes entire families of hardworking people to keep this industry going.
THERE'S A STORY WORN INTO EVERY PAIR OF RED WINGS.
WE WANT TO HEAR YOURS.
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