Riggin’ Up Day 2

Texas is neither southern nor western. Texas is Texas ~Senator William Blakley

The derrick came in on Day 2. It took one more day to get everything rigged up and operational. I’ll post several photos in a slide show and then a smaller batch separately so you can click on them and take a closer look.

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The diagram below from Wikipedia shows the details of many of the components you see in these photos.

List of items

Simple diagram of a drilling rig and its basic operation

  1. Mud tank
  2. Shale shakers
  3. Suction line (mud pump)
  4. Mud pump
  5. Motor or power source
  6. Vibrating hose
  7. Draw-works
  8. Standpipe
  9. Kelly hose
  10. Goose-neck
  11. Traveling block
  12. Drill line
  13. Crown block
  14. Derrick
  15. Monkey board
  16. Stand (of drill pipe)
  17. Pipe rack (floor)
  18. Swivel (On newer rigs this may be replaced by a top drive)
  19. Kelly drive
  20. Rotary table
  21. Drill floor
  22. Bell nipple
  23. Blowout preventer (BOP) Annular type
  24. Blowout preventer (BOP) Pipe ram & blind ram
  25. Drill string
  26. Drill bit
  27. Casing head or Wellhead
  28. Flow line
  29. hook

The Hitching Went Without a Hitch!

This is our last night here in Lindeneau/Concrete/Westhoff/Smiley, Texas.

I’m writing this in the early hours of Monday morning. We’ve been subbing at a gate since the second week in November. We had a mini Thanksgiving vacation and then came back to the same rig. That ends today.

Scott (our FS) came by yesterday morning to tell Heidi that the gig is up and the regular gate guards will be here this morning. If you’ve been following Fork for a while, you know that we’ve had a few hitching up issues with the new 5th wheel. Heidi had developed a rather serious case of HUAD (hitching up anxiety disorder).

She woke me up at 4 yesterday afternoon so we could hitch up before dark. The last thing you want to be in this business is two women who can’t even handle their own RV!  I donned my I Do All My Own Stunts shirt and I’m happy to report that it took us exactly 8 minutes!  We’re all hitched up with no place to go and ready to roll! We’re lilting to the left again tonight but at least Heidi can set her HUAD aside and get some sleep, if all the blood doesn’t rush to her head. 🙂

I will, of course, work tonight and stay up until tomorrow night and try to get back on a day schedule.  Scott also said there’s no room in the inn Gate Guard park in Gonzales so we’ll head out to an RV park until another gate opens up.

We want to stay with Jamie, which means, we may have to wait a while. You just never know in the business do you? I don’t know if we’ll have a good internet connection or not, so I’m not sure when I’ll write again.

They’re putting a pipe line in right across from our RV. It’s been interesting to watch. I thought I’d share some photos.

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The guys start arriving around 5 a.m. I’ve slept through most of the action, but Heidi kindly took some pictures for me. I may not see it, but I feel it. It’s been a lot like living on a fault line. I keep dreaming of earthquakes. 🙂

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Since I don’t have a lot fun facts about the pipe line, I’ll add a few Texas quotes.

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Texas is neither southern nor western. Texas is Texas.  ~ Senator William Blakley


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No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right an keeps on a-comin. ~ Texas Ranger Captain W. J. McDonald

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Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called ‘walking”  ~ George W Bush

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They say California’s the big burrito; Texas is the big taco and Florida is the big tamale.  ~ Dan Rather

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Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.  ~ John Steinbeck

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I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world, the best land and the best prospects for health I ever saw, and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here. – Davey Crockett

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Be talkin to y’all soon. ‘Til then, Happy Trails!

It’s The Bee’s Knees!

Do you remember the expression, It’s the bee’s knees? Me, neither! 😉

OK, I know it from old movies, but I’ve never actually heard anyone use it, until yesterday.

I’ve done a bit of research on the bee’s knees. The Phrase Finder seems to have come up with the best explanation:

Bees carry pollen back to the hive in sacs on their legs. It is tempting to explain this phrase as alluding to the concentrated goodness to be found around a bee’s knee, but there’s no evidence to support this explanation.

There’s no profound reason to relate bees and knees other than the jaunty-sounding rhyme. In the 1920s it was fashionable to use nonsense terms to denote excellence – ‘the snake’s hips’, ‘the kipper’s knickers’, ‘the cat’s pajamas/whiskers’, ‘the monkey’s eyebrows’ and so on. Of these, the bee’s knees and the cat’s whiskers are the only ones to have stood the test of time.

The nonsense expression ‘the bee’s knees’ was taken up by the socialites of Roaring 20s America and added to the list of ‘excellent’ phrases.

Yesterday was a day of ‘excellent phrases’ here in Lindenau (which is where my phone thinks I am, even though I keep telling it I’m in Westhoff). I’d never heard of Lindenau. There aren’t any signs that say Lindenau.

Of course I was wrong. There is a Lindenau and I am in it. There just isn’t a town. Lindenau reported a population of 60 from the mid-1920s until the late 1960s, when it decreased to 50, the exact number it maintained for the next 40 years. It’s been 12 years since the last count. I’m not sure if Lindenau is still holding steady at 50 or not, but I Google mapped myself and that’s where I am.

Anyway, yesterday, here in Lindenau, we added several new catchy sayings of our own that I think the Phrase Finder might be interested in:

It’ just like Quiche on a  carpet!

Poor Heidi was carrying it outside to cool when she lost her grip…

It’s like a moth to a coffee cup.

I’m starting to get used to it, but I am learning to check before I swallow.

And finally there was that old familiar phrase about the bees. When I woke up yesterday evening (if you’re new to Fork, I work nights), I called out to Heidi.

Hey, what’s all over the toilet?

Oh, it’s just the bee’s knees.

I thought she was being 1920’s  funny. We’ve been at this site for exactly one month today and I haven’t seen a single bee. Then I looked up…

and then I looked down…

Yes, believe it! It really was the bee’s knees! Who knew?

Just when I thought Texas was running out of surprises! Isn’t that just the kipper’s knickers!

Year in Review Part 14 – A Night With Darth Vader

It’s been 8 months since I wrote this post early last May. Sadly, the wildfires did come to Texas and even with the rain, we’ve begun 2012 in a drought. The wind is whipping again tonight reminding me of the night Darth Vader came to Smiley.
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Way out here they have a name for wind and rain and fire
The rain is Tes,
the fire’s Joe,
and they call the wind Mariah

Mariah blows the stars around,
sets the clouds a’flyin’
Mariah makes the mountain sound
like folks was up there dyin’
There’s hasn’t been any sign of Tes for more than four months which is an invitation we all pray Joe continues to refuse. Mariah doesn’t need an invitation.
She’s a permanent resident.
If you Paint Your Own Wagon, you may Call the Wind Mariah.
Here in southern Texas, we just call her Fierce.
The wind is relentless in the flat lands, howling night and day.

The substance of the winds is too thin for human eyes…  ~John Muir

John Muir, the famous naturalist, clearly didn’t spend a lot of time in Texas. In Texas you can see the wind.

I used to think dirt devils were vacuum cleaners. Now I know they’re day time apparitions in the southern Texas sky. They swirl like mini-tornadoes, hiding only when I grab the camera.

With the temperature creeping up to almost 100 today, all who passed through the gate ate grit when they opened their windows. By night fall, everyone was wind whipped and weary.

The gate finally slowed down as midnight approached. As I reach for my coffee, one soft light flickers to the rhythmic beating of the wind. I turn the page. The RV sways like a doll’s house.

The empty over-stuffed chair begins to rock on its own. I can see the whites of Henry’s eyes.

The bell rings and my arm nearly flies off with the door as the wind races in. I step outside. No one’s there.

Henry’s ears stand straight up. I open the shades and turn off the flickering lamp. As I scoop up Henry, I hear the distinctive breathing in the dark. On this moonless night, Darth Vader has slipped into my living room.

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I slowly reach behind me and flip the light back on. The wind continues to cry through the door and the RV feels like a small ship on a rough sea. Henry remains on high alert.  I can’t see the invader.

I pick up my dropped book and read several chapters, tension building. Suddenly the wind stops completely. The dramatic stillness is eerie.

Then, he breathes again. This time I look up in time to see him. His raspy breath seeps out of the dredges of my coffee pot. I turn it off. He emits one final sigh and moan.

Darth Vader returns to his alternate universe just as the wind picks up, once again rattling the windows and beating at the door.

Year in Review Part 10 – A Short Recap of Texas Speak

OK, y’all are too funny (see how thoroughly acclimated I am now – I can say y’all (which can also be spelled ya’ ll)  just like a native Texan. 😀

Reading the comments on yesterday’s post, One Year of Sharing, was kind of like going to my own funeral, where everyone says only the nice things.  😀

It was great and I’m not even dead yet!  Thank you! It looks like it’s going to take me a month just to recap the year. This is just a little side post addressing the difficulties some Yankees find when first settling in the South.

While I’m pretty good with y’all, I”m still struggling to communicate. It’s gotten better than it was back in Tilden when I made Willie, who looked exactly like Danny Glover about 25 years ago, spell all (oil) and I asked the Toe (Tool) Pusher to spell truffles (Trend Files).

Then there were entire paragraphs that I missed:

I disremembered  zactly cept all that tawk near made yuar heya turn. Y ‘all might could jus say that ah dent felt lack fahtn, sewed ahd get outta thar lacka kay-yut with wangs.

In  Yankee speak that would be: I can’t remember exactly, except that all that talk could  almost make your hair turn white. The hair turning white was explained to me later. You could say that I didn’t feel like fighting so I got out of there like a cat with wings!

It’s really much more interesting to hear them tell it!

To complicate things, only half of our guys were from Texas. The other half were from Louisiana – which is an entirely different world of phonetic interpretations!

The easy part of Texas talk was the universal dropping of the g. I had no problems with walkin and talkin and riggin and swiggin. At first I thought the g was dropped as a type of conversational economy to get straight to the point. Nope. For starters, there wasn’t always a point, and secondly, little words are made bee-yug (big). Many one syllable words are turned into two: rig is ree-yug, cat (as in the sentence above) is kay-yut and I swear I’m the only person in Texas who talks fast.

There are words that are reversed like fill and feel. You fill good. You feel the truck with gas.

Our Texans seem to especially not like the letter i no matter what word it was in:

Ahma tell him that it were rangin (ringing)  and the welder is brangin (bringing) toes (tools) ta get at er. Hesa  fixin ta bah (buy) thangs (things) in town but nahn tahms (nine times) outa tan (ten), it’ll tay-yak em fowar (four) shots.

Just to be clear, these are smart guys. It isn’t that they couldn’t speak well, it’s just that I just didn’t know what they were saying. When I used to have to ask the guys to spell everything, not only did they think I was nuts, but it didn’t really help since I couldn’t understand their spelling much better than their talking. I finally just gave up and guessed. I was wrong a lot! You do develop an ear for it after a while. It helps a lot if there isn’t too much Copenhagen.

The communication problems cut both ways. They can’t understand me either. Take last night, for example. One of the guys asked me where the truck went (not where I went, but where the truck went) and I said:

Oh, I just went to Cuerro to get drugs. Really Debbie, did you just say that?

I need to learn to leave out the personal details, but if I really had to share, I could have said that I went to Walmart to pick up a prescription.  And I think they talk funny…

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain

Looks like it’s time to move this retelling of tales from Shiner to Smiley.  Don’t you just love all the happy names they give these little towns? It was in Smiley that our real adventures began. More on that soon!

Bad Moon Rising

Bad Moon Rising

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight,
Well, it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

~Creedence Clearwater Revival

Do you remember this CCR classic? I was 13 when Bad Moon Rising hit the charts in 1969. If you follow Fork, you know that I really love the moon (Good Night Moon, I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me etc…).

As a gate guard, working the night shift, the moon is my friend. Or so I thought.

To establish the setting, after 7 days in Smiley, my alien giant botanical plants continue to flourish. The temperature had finally dropped from 106 to a ‘cool’ 91 just after midnight. In this particular part of Texas it’s really humid, unlike up in the panhandle. The Lantern 17 guys who just moved down from there are really struggling with the humidity.

The moon is full and beautiful right now. The coyotes seem to engage in nightly ritual of approach avoidance behavior. The barking and howling comes near and then stops. A little while later, faintly in the distance, it picks back up. Stops. And then resumes, very near again.

Adding howling and humidity to the heat makes caliche clogging a little less appealing than I may have made it sound, although it is more practical, logistically, than Pole Dancing or Zumba. When the temperature dropped again to a cool 88 degrees around 1:30, I decided to get my clogging in early.

The last of the guys were back on site from their pilgrimage to the small WalMart and H.E.B.  in Gonzales. The coyotes were doing their distant howl so the timing seemed right.

I stepped outside and headed toward the gate. One at a time, these giant alien plant forms began to bend over and then rise back up. At first I thought I was just imagining it as I stood, transfixed, staring in the moonlight. Then they began to bend in pairs. Disappearing and suddenly springing up as the next set bowed.

It would have been a little less disconcerting if the motion had been one of retreat. But just like in a horror flick, whatever it was, seemed to be on a course that would end with me. At that point, having emotions that ran stronger than my curiosity, I began walking backwards toward the RV. I’ve seen Little Shop of Horrors. I know to never turn your back on animated plants.

When I backed into the little wooden table and Harvey, the not invisible Pooka, rattled to the ground, the plants froze in place. I left Harvey to keep his lateral sentinel watch, slipped (literally) into the RV, locked the door and explained to Henry that the door would remain locked until dawn so there would be no drinking from the water bowl on full moon nights between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m.

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Hot New Exercise Trends

Hot New Exercise Trends. If you’re working as a gate guard in anywhere in Texas, you know that any exercise you do (like going up and down the 3 steps into your RV 75 times a day) will be hot, if not trendy. Many of you have written, asking about my exercise routine. Before choosing the best program, I did some research. I had to eliminate a few as not currently practical for me.

These are the latest and greatest exercise trends in the US according to the Fitness Health Zone:

1. Pole Dancing

In the past few years a trend in fitness has taken over the nation and fitness clubs everywhere and this trend is pole dancing. Yes pole dancing! Private clubs and public gyms are offering pole dancing classes as a fitness class as well as private studios.

2. Zumba

The idea behind Zumba is you are doing different dance routines throughout the hour so you literally don’t realize how hard you are working or, in some cases, how much pain you are in.

3. Boot Camp

Boot camp is exactly what it sounds like. Boot Camp! It’s not just for the military anymore it has now invaded your gyms and workout facilities across the country. Boot camp can be run many different ways however one of the most common ways is for participants to grab a multitude of ‘props’ before class.

4. PX90

PX90 is the latest trend in fitness. PX90 is a series of DVDs that you purchase and do at home in your own time. Equipment for the PX90 workout program consists of a chin up bar, push up stand, push up bar, resistance bands, a yoga mat and yoga blocks among other items.

5. Spinning

While spinning has been around for decades it is now making huge breakthroughs into mainstream gyms as a very popular way to burn hundreds upon hundreds of calories.  There are many reasons spinning has finally made a breakthrough into the top 5 fitness programs in the country.

6. Caliche Clogging!

In the past few years, a trend in fitness has taken over the gate guarding world and drill sites everywhere and this trend is caliche clogging. Yes caliche clogging!

Caliche Clogging has been around for decades, but is making a huge breakthrough in farms and ranches all across Texas. This is a workout program you can do at home, anytime. With the oil industry requiring gate guards at the most remote of locations,  ankle-deep in caliche abounds – creating the perfect environment for the Caliche Clogging workout program, now sweeping across the state! As an added bonus, the CC routine is absolutely free!

Harkening back to those warm childhood memories of riding those poor ponies, plodding inhumanely in circles around a stanchion, today’s active gate guard briskly walks in a tight circles (staying inside the flood lights and remaining between the air hoses at all times). Caliche Clogging can be done many different ways,  however one of the most common ways is for participants to grab their pen and log sheets before leaving the RV. This multi-tasking exercise routine not only strengthens sinuses and calves but also increase hand-eye coordination as you record traffic while on the go.

The idea behind Caliche Clogging at night is that you are so busy walking in circles and recording traffic that you literally don’t realize how afraid you are or, in some cases, how much danger you are in.

OK, number 6 wasn’t actually in the article, but trendsetter that I am, I’m certain it’s just a question of time before the Fitness Health Zone sees its unique draw. As appealing as each of the first 5 may be, it’s hard to beat Caliche Clogging for a real test of endurance and courage.

Pray for Rain

Everywhere you look, the buzzards are circling. Not a good sign. I’m afraid to stand still for fear they might mistake me for something dead and delicious.

Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.  ~ John Updike

We’re getting precariously close. Today is officially our 35th straight triple digit day. According to one of the ranchers at the second-hand grocery store, in the ten or so miles between Nixon and Smiley, we’ve had 2.4 inches of rain in 11 months. Another said that’s an exaggeration – 2 tops.

I passed the chicken houses on my way to the post office. They’re silent except for the constant hum of the giant fans. The drought is hostile to all but my alien foliage.

In Austin, only watering by hand is permitted during the day under current Stage 1 rules. The next stage would further limit watering to once a week, shut down the city’s fountains and allow water to be served in restaurants only upon a customer’s request.  Water bills are running as high as electric bills for Austin residents, prompting the city utility service to initiate a summer extended plan. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2087489,00.html#ixzz1UhAo3Hui

There’s nothing left of the fields but dirt. Even the cactus are dying. Three summers ago, I left a city underwater. Cedar Rapids is still struggling to recover. I don’t know what it will take for Texas to recover. The ranchers said they’ve quit praying for rain. They’re praying for a hurricane. They said  that may be the only thing that can save them.

I’m not a Texan. My own daily gate guarding life is a little hotter and a little dustier than it would otherwise be. An inconvenience, not a devastation. But you can’t live in a community of people, even temporarily, without your heart breaking for their suffering and their loss. If you’re given to praying, would you pray for rain?

Alien Invasion

Beware the hobby that eats. ~ Benjamin Franklin

I woke up and looked out the window to find I was in the midst of an alien invasion. Smiley sounds like such a happy place, doesn’t it?  But then, don’t most really scary movies take place in cheerful sounding towns?

This is what I remember. Working all night. Packing in the dark. Rows of chicken houses. Bouncing and jarring on a road so rough it could shake your filings loose. Landing in a foreign land. Going to sleep, thinking I was already dreaming.

Waking up at 6 pm to blazing heat – 104 degrees – and an alien invasion of a botanical kind.

What are these creatures that surround us, knee-high, shoulder-high, some 6 feet high?

In the second worse drought in history, these diabolical botanical predators suck all of the moisture out of the ground and thrive on the demise of the gentle grasses and flowers.

At night they talk.

They sound like a gaggle of geese, like the rattle of snakes, like the howl of coyotes, like the voices of old men.

Beware thoughts that come in the night.  ~ William Least Heat-Moon

Rigging Up – A Pictorial (2)

After spending 3 hours trying to make a slide show, I’m giving up. I’m afraid you’ll have to keep on scrolling – which rhymes with rolling – which is what we’ll be doing this morning. After a month and a day with Lantern 3, we’ll be moving 10 miles to Smiley to re-join one of our former Company Men who’s bringing up Lantern 17, a horizontal drilling rig  from Louisiana.

Maybe we’ll stay with17 until we retire?  Hmm… When I went to bed yesterday morning, I didn’t know we were moving today so it’s not likely! You just never know in this business. 😀

We’ve been at this site for 4 days. I still have some interesting (I think) shots of rigging up here at Lantern 3, so I’ll continue to post them for the next few days.

Everyone  is lined up and waiting to unload, which didn’t happen for another day.

The whole process is, of course interesting to the locals. While no one (except the owners) is allowed inside the gate, we do get a lot who stop to watch from the road!

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I don’t know about you, but there’s something about the position this guy’s in that makes me kind of uncomfortable. He survived, though!

I believe this is called a ditch witch – JoJo – you can correct me if I’m wrong.

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The night ended with some real tired guys heading home. These three are characters. Jared (driving) is the son of a preacher back in Idaho. Cheyenne and Dakota (brothers) say their Momma watched too many westerns. 😀 Stay safe, guys. It was great fun getting to know you!

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They left as the next group arrived. A couple of guys are  from east Texas and the rest are from Arkansas. It’s a long commute to work  from Arkansas: 11 1/2 hours, which means they spend 2 of their 7 days off, driving.

More tomorrow.

All lit up but still down

All lit up but still down.