In college I worked for a drilling company to pay for school. We were in the Big Bend country of Texas. Whatever the word is after desolate, that’s the Big Bend. I worked with a driller who had brought his family with him to live in the desert southwest. We became close in a very short time. I had all of my meals with them, played with their 2 year old son, sat on the porch and drank beer with Rocky, my driller.
We worked 3 shifts on this site, Rocky and I had the 8am to 5pm shift. On this day we worked our shift, went back to our quarters (there was no motel, just an abandoned set of rooms we occupied…primitive) had dinner and went to bed. Rocky awakened me at 1 or 2 am. The graveyard shift couldn’t work. One of their crew had been seriously injured in a car wreck. So, off we went.
Working all night was different, but all the same things had to be done. Somewhere around first light we were pulling the drill stem (pipe) out of the hole. About 900+ feet of pipe at this point. We had only pulled a few lengths of pipe when it happened. There was no warning. Nothing to anticipate. Just react. Something slipped. It did not hold the pipe in place as we disconnected lengths and reconnected the tools to lift the drill stem from the hole. I was in the tower, 20+ feet off the drill floor. Rocky was on the drill floor handling the 2” steel cable spool that lifted the pipe from the hole.
When “it” slipped all hell broke loose for about 20 seconds. The rig was bounced with a terrible jolt as Rocky pulled on the spool brake to stop the cable which was attached to almost 900 feet of pipe. That jolt bent some very strong iron platforms like it was cardboard. The steel cable snapped, flew into the air and grazed my face. Only a grease mark. Another ¼” and my eye was gone.
I looked down and that’s when I saw Rocky. Bent over, holding his right hand, in obvious agony and pain. Not a word, not a whimper. He was a big, tough German. He told me to cut his glove off. I did. What I saw next has never left my memory. Rocky worked with his hands and that was at an end. I got him back to our quarters, his wife packed his hand in ice, they drove 90 miles to the nearest hospital. There is a lot more to tell you about this event. The lessons I’ve taken from it are numerous and significant.
But here’s where THE lesson came from that terrible day. I stayed with the rig and our quarters. It was a very rough country of folks down there. About 2 days later I had everything secured and I went to see Rocky. Somehow I felt I had made a mistake. I knew he couldn’t. Somehow I blamed myself, and not all of that feeling has left me even today. But Rocky assured me it was no one’s fault. “Just one of those things.” Then he told me the greatest lesson I believe I’ve had from such an event. He said, “Ed, what’s happened is done. No one’s to blame. But… it’s what YOU do next that counts.”
So, we unpack the debris, both literal and figuratively. And we do it for all events good or bad. Because what we do next will count for a long, long time. Whether it’s a change in our company, setting goals, changing ourselves, whatever. It’s what you do next that counts.