Monday, July 26, 2010


Today's picture was taken in 1944, and shows roughnecks "making a connection" on a rotary drilling rig in Southwest Oklahoma. Notice that two of the roughnecks are not wearing hard hats. The pipe coming out the rig floor is the drill stem. Each stem is about 30 feet long. So, after drilling each 30 feet, they have to lift the entire drill string, and put another section of pipe on. The large implements connected to the drill stem are the tongs. They are like enormous pipe wrenches. The end of the tongs are connected by chains to a motor. The "driller" operates the motor to pull the chains. The roughnecks keep the tongs on the drill stem. The driller and roughneck work the tongs together to either loosen or tighten the drill stem. It takes about 30 minutes to drill 30 feet, and so this operation has to be done a couple times an hour. When making a connection, there are lots of heavy objects moving around under a lot of force, and the roughnecks are right in the middle of it. As you can imagine, a very dangerous job.


  1. Yes, that was the first thing I noticed. No hard hats on 2 of them.
    And that is why there is an OSHA.
    Can you inagine how much the fine that the owner would face now days if they were caught without hard hats.

    Things still in the 100 degree range?
    Did you try the plastic tarp for some shade?

  2. Roger,
    Yes, I have tried the tarp trick and it works very well. The difference between 100 in the sun, and 100 in the shade is huge. I have also found that if I come in and drench my t-shirt in water every half hour, it makes things more bearable. Today we are working on the wet wall and sump system. That is going pretty smoothly so far. With a little luck, we will be ready to start putting the plexiglass on tomorrow.

  3. here's hoping that thing are in plumb and they fit together good.

  4. I had a cousin who was a rough neck back in the early fifties.
    They got the bit hung up and the driller caused the tower to collapse because he used too much power to try to unstick the drill stem. My cousin tried to run but the falling tower crushed him before he go to safety.

  5. Al: I'm sorry your cousin was killed in such a terrifying manner.

    Is drilling much safer now than in the 50's?

  6. Al, I'm sorry about your cousin.

    Mr. PJM, donning a wet t-shirt here wouldn't feel any different that wearing the one that was on. I LOVE dry heat.

    One time when I went through Texas the humidity changed right at the NM-TX line. In NM it was dry and nice (still hot) but as soon as we entered TX it was sultry and sticky.

    (That was just a result of a weather system in June 1973.)

  7. Is drilling any safer now? No - not by much. It's still a very dangerous job especially those who are on the bigger rigs that drill deeper. And apparently, offshore in deeper water with high pressures can be very very dangerous. And now I know what kind of engineer PJM was -- a petroleum engineer??? or did you just learn the ropes living in Texas?

  8. Yes, that black, stinky stuff made a lot of people rich overnight. It brought in all kinds of people, from everywhere. Lawyers, gamblers and workers and and cooks and everything else. They were looking to make money in the oil business.
    Of course Mr. Hughes got rich and left a bunch to his son, Howard.
    The Bushes were in on the oil deal
    and still are.
    I remember seeing the movie "GIANT"
    With James Dean, Rock Hudson , Elizabeth Taylor.I think that movie pretty much tells what I'm trying to say.

  9. Nether are they wearing hazmat suits, gloves and booties.

    I see people on the beaches around the gulf, gingerly picking up marble-sized tarballs with big shovels and I wonder if just maybe they have gone slightly overboard on safety.

    Or should I dress like that to change the oil or put gas in my car to be safe?


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