1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hard at Work and Play

Jack (BN)'s found an oil slick!

(W2W, 2008)

Hubby on Sunday kept his boss and his wife happy (you mean they aren't one and the same?) by negotiating a balance between work and play. First, he drove out to the rig early in the morning to pick up drilling samples and monitor the drilling progress. I will refer to these roughnecks as JBQs (Jack-Be-Quicks). They have a tough job to do and have to be quick on their feet and with their hands, or they are liable to lose some toes or fingers. They work eight hour shifts and during this current oil boom rarely have a day off except for the following reasons: they get sick, the rig they work on breaks down and needs repair, or they get time off for bad behavior (sent to jail). The last reason, sadly, accounts for more time off than any other one. I theorize that the nature of their work throws their home life out of balance and upsets the equilibrium of their Qi (energy). Drilling into Mother Earth somehow pits her yin against their yang, and their tension after work finds an outlet in barroom brawls or "domestic disturbances."

The JBQs work too hard, it seems, and the danger and resulting tension they face every day on the job sometimes boils over in reaction and spills onto the mundane things in life, like language. My husband knows what a word freak I am, and he has kindly consented to provide me with a set of colorful oil field terms he hears while at the rig as well as their meanings:

Blow the hole down: Drill fast!
Blowout: Gas or oil spews out because of underground pressure.
Bottom hole pressure: The underground gas pressure that gets measured at drilling completion.
Break out a joint: Separate joints of pipe from others.
Circulate bottoms up: Time required to get rock cuttings (samples) from the bottom of hole to the surface.
Gas to surface: Natural gas making its way to the surface through the drill pipe.
Going in the hole/Running in the hole: Lowering drill pipe into the bore hole.
Lost tools in hole: Losing a string of pipe.
Make a Trip: Coming all the way out of the hole to replace a drill bit.
Make up/Break Out: Twisting two pieces of pipe together or loosening them.
Mud up: Initiate use of drilling mud to condition the hole.
Nipple up: Weld two different sizes of pipe together.
No bottom hole recorded: No pressure in the formation.
Pumpjack: The equipment used to pump the oil to the surface after completion of the well drilling.
Strip log: The geologist's record of drilling time at each formation.
Stripping rubbers: Doughnut-like rings placed below the rotary table, used to strip the mud off the pipe when coming out of the hole to replace the bit or perform a drill-stem test.
Tight hole: All information on well is kept secret.
Tool pusher: The boss of the drillers. He makes sure the crew uses sufficient pipe "dope" and "trips" when needed (comes out of the hole to change the bit).
Twisted off: This term can mean either the torque of the drill rig twists the pipe off or the driller quits suddenly.

These pits hold the drilling mud, a mixture of bentonite clay (kitty litter), water, and various stabilizing chemicals, which circulates the rock cuttings from the bottom of the hole upwards. The JBQs "grab" samples of these cuttings and collect them in little bags for the geologist to evaluate for the presence of oil. The drilling "mud" or fluid is the lifeblood of the well. Drilling could not be accomplished without this circulatory system.

The draw works pictured here is the apparatus that allows for lowering and hoisting of drill pipe in and out of the hole. It also has brakes to put so many points of weight on the drill bit (or hold off weight).

Like a ship, the drill rig has a crow's nest, but in this case it's not for sighting land. Here, one of the JBQs stacks the pipe vertically in a rack when drilling is not yet completed but there is a need to remove the pipe from the hole, such as when for tripping for a bit or running a drill stem test.

All of the equipment for drilling is brought in on skids and set up within a matter of a couple of days. To the left of the picture you see the doghouse, where the driller monitors and controls the action of the drilling and also where the crew members take short breaks. The derrick in the center of the picture, of course, is where all the action and drama unfold. The blue structure on the right side is the water tank holding the water to be used for mixing with the mud chemicals. In the foreground are the pipe tubs (right) and one of the pipe racks.

This setup can be seen more and more frequently on various highways and byways throughout the southern part of Illinois.

After working at the rig for a couple of hours, hubby brought some balance back to the day by going on a hike with me to Giant City State Park. The temperature soared to nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit (mid 90s in the shade), but he never complained, at least not until I stopped moving at intervals along the trail to take pictures.

I know that I saw this plant blooming earlier in the spring. Now it seems to be putting on fruit. I really need to get a wildflower book for this area so I can identify plants like this one (hint).

Of course, this plant is easy to recognize as a blackberry vine. I found it growing right out of a rock along the trail.

You can't keep a good man down (on the ground). Hubby insisted on climbing up the slippery, moss-covered rock into a shallow cave.

Well, I'm not exactly a tree hugger, but I do find them to be excellent places to hold onto and keep one's balance when stumbling about a root-laden trail.

I like this perspective of the road from the trail, seen between two rocks that separated from each other during some cataclysmic event like an earthquake. This spot was one of the few cool places (literally) along the entire path.

The sign gently warns visitors to not remove or disturb anything found in the area. Footprints should be the only thing left behind after a visit.

Occasional rumbles could be heard while we were at the top of the trail, and we discovered that these noises came from motorcycles making their way through the park, undoubtedly on the way to visit some of the local wineries. We followed suit in our car after hiking, but not before we made a small detour to visit a place called Boskydell, south of Carbondale. I lived in this area with my parents for a couple of years while finishing up high school and met one of the sweetest ladies imaginable, who changed my life forever. Her name was Rose Lipe.

This group of dilapidated buildings is all that remains of a once well-kept farm that Rose owned and maintained until her death in 1995. We drove up the driveway, thinking that no one lived there anymore, only to be surprised by a young, bikini-clad woman peeking out from behind some weeds. The house looked uninhabitable, so I'm not sure what she was doing there.

If you click on the picture above, you will see proudly proclaimed that this barn was build by friends. Rose had many of them.

Rose meant a lot to me. She was my Sunday School teacher in this little one-room schoolhouse, my 4-H leader (we met here for some of our meetings), and a wonderful friend who taught me a lot about hard work, fun, faith, love, and happiness. She knew how to balance them all.


  1. Wow, what a wonderful (and educational) post. I love the way you tell the story of your comings and goings and add history, memory, sociological observations (about bad behavior of men in the oil drilling business) terms of the trade (what lovely euphemisms some of them make!) and pictures of your friend Rose's empty farm.
    The empty places tell so much about what is important to you, as do your lovely photos of your hike.
    Also, your writing is amazing! You think about what you observe and have a unique way of sharing that.

  2. Thank you, WS. Your compliment and the pleasure you find in reading my posts mean a great deal to me, especially today. I did not get very good news from the doctor today. He is referring me to a neurosurgeon. Que sera, sera!

  3. This was a very interesting and informative post, W2W. I am impressed that you included so many technical details; I get lost when my husband tries to explain anything mechanical to me.
    I'm not surprised that oil drilling is going on once again in southern Illinois. I can remember not that long ago driving an hour or so south of here and seeing the small oil wells--the ones that sort of look like a seesaw, for lack of a better description. I always thought that was kind of funny to see them in the middle of somebody's cornfield.

    I thought I left a comment on your last post, but apparently I didn't hit publish. My condolences on the loss of your aunt. And I do hope you get some better news from the doctor.

  4. Hi, Rose, and thanks again for your concern. Since I haven't been gainfully employed for a while nor able to attend school right now, I find myself thinking constantly about work. Writing about it seems to relieve some of the physical as well as emotional stress I've been feeling. At least I feel like I'm getting some answers to my question about what is really going on with my spine. The doctor I mentioned in my reply to WS is a chiropractor. He ordered an MRI which revealed not only the herniation of a disk but possibly also its rupture. The MD I visited a few weeks ago would not even do that for me. He basically told me to take two pills a day and call him later if things got worse. As I have long suspected (though never experienced for myself), we have disease management displacing true healthcare in this country.

  5. Wow, drilling looks like hot, hard work. I wrote my Master's thesis on congressional energy policy in Alaska. ARCO flew me up to the North Slope. Fascinating. With fuel prices soaring, I'm thinking more about oil and alternative fuels.

    I'm so sorry you are still in pain. Writing can be a good distraction.

  6. Sounds like you may have an idea for a novel buried somewhere in that thesis. Is your graduate degree in political science? Actually the pain is subsiding somewhat since I started receiving treatment from the chiropractor. They have been using ultrasound treatment, TENS, and recently began decompression therapy. The latter treatment makes me feel like a human rubber band being stretched. Thanks for visiting, Sarah.

  7. W2W,
    A neurosurgeon? Although, come to think of it, this makes perfect sense if there's pain your doctor can't fix. It must be in your head! That's so 20th century, but it gives a new and contemporary meaning to the word "hysterical".
    I hope you write more about the pain you suffer and the treatment you've prescribed for yourself. Writing is therapy, and besides, your lyrical writing also makes me feel better.
    I also hope you receive a clean bill of health soon.

  8. It's funny how the prefix "neuro-" which means "nerve" also does duty in the words neurotic, neurosis, and various other psychiatric terms. Wouldn't it be nice if I could just wish or think this spinal problem away? I'm not sure, but I think Vonnegut explored that idea of writing as therapy pretty thoroughly in Slaughter-house Five and (more recently) so did Jonathan Safran Foer in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I'd prefer to concentrate on the "walking" cure rather than the "talking" one. It seems like the more pragmatic and dynamic approach to a problem. Thank you, Aristotle! And thanks, WS, for sympathizing.

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