Archive for September, 2015

He Was There to Show Us How

September 19, 2015

Stories of inspiration are all around us. We know people, incidents that carry a great message, or maybe we’ve lived it. I don’t think we’ll ever get an overload of assurances that we can and should take the next step, keep on going, never quit.

I’m going to leave most of the story to the video attached here. There is some background you should have first. This is about a football player at the University of Texas in 1969, Freddie Steinmark. He was ‘undersized’ and would absolutely hit you like a block of granite. He achieved something on Coach Royal’s team that only one other football player ever achieved. He started as a sophomore. Coach Royal didn’t believe in starting them with no experience. The other player?…One of the greatest  linebackers in college history, Tommy Nobis. Made a pretty good mark in the  pros as well.

Freddie played in every game, every defensive down in UT’s undefeated, National Championship 1969 season. The last game was vs. Arkansas in early December in one of the most heralded college football games in history. That’s not my UT bias, it’s from national sportswriters. His left leg was bruised. He was limping before the game. It hurt. After the game they sent Freddie for further examinations. Then it was recommended he go the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston. Known for great medicine, especially treatment of cancer.

I’ll let his teammates pick it up from here. They speak for the entire Longhorn  Nation when they unveil their emotions about Freddie. Note the time line. Freddie played against Arkansas in early December, 1969, and the Cotton Bowl  game against Notre Dame was January 1, 1970. When you have watched the video… well I won’t have to tell you about the lessons. I had the great fortune to know Freddie, in a small way. I was not a teammate, so I can’t be in that club. He was quiet and soft spoken. Reserved and focused. Resolute in the values that governed his approach to life.  Inspiration? As we say in west Texas, Yep!

Here’s the link:


It’s What You Do Next That Counts: part 2

September 10, 2015


Several of you have asked what  the follow up is to this story. What did you do next? What happened? I will try to piece a few things together that I think will make sense and that you can use. Hopefully there is a worthy lesson here. Any story should have some value.

Honestly, I’ve never had to write it. I never wanted to re-live it. I didn’t think anyone really cared about it. Though I’ve never forgotten one grain of sand about that summer and the event, it’s been cozied away in a corner of my memory. I peek in less frequently now than I did in the ensuing 10 years of the event. But Rocky and his family are still there. The unbelievable noise and confusion of those 20 seconds still resound. The crushing pain I felt for Rocky and his family is a silent reminder.

After Rocky and his wife left to drive to Alpine to the hospital I returned to the rig, shut everything off and secured it. It was a shambles. I then drove to the nearest phone. Back then (1968)everything in that part of the world was miles and miles apart. From our quarters to the rig was 5 miles, the rig to a phone was another 3 miles. I first called the highway patrol, collect, to ask them to please find Rocky’s truck and escort it. I was crying like a baby. Then I called my boss in Austin, it was Saturday morning, called collect. I was crying even more. Then I called my parents in Midland, TX about 4 hours away, collect again. Still crying. I was a nineteen year old boy, not able to act very “grown up” for about 2 hours.

I pulled it together and 2 days later went to see Rocky. That’s when he gave me the advice: “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.”

What I do next, he said. It felt like a heavy load. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. But, I knew what he meant. I could quit and go home; gut it up and keep working; learn from the event; and more. There were several options. I knew I didn’t want to be on that rig any longer. So I returned to Austin and worked with the company in their well drilling and service business, on other rigs.  Since then the lessons from that summer and the actions to take have been numerous.

So, what lessons did I learn from that summer? I learned a lot about character from Rocky and his family. I saw a really tough and hard side of life in the people who inhabit the Big Bend. I enjoyed the stark beauty of the Big Bend country, still do. I learned there would be very few things life could throw my way that would compare to that summer. There would be very few things with which I had real difficulty dealing. In fact nothing has compared to that. It steeled something inside that allowed me to do some things that would have otherwise been very difficult.  I learned it’s ok to cry. Damn, I did a lot of that. I saw that you get up when you’ve been knocked down. I saw grace, strength and resilience in people and in a place that I thought maybe even the divine had forgotten.

Truly what I did next wasn’t very special. It’s been an accumulation of steps. And I am certain many of those steps were tempered by that summer. It was the old deal about one foot in front of the other. But, I now see the things that had surrounded me. I’m grateful for the people, the experience, for Rocky and his family, even for the geography. And I’m grateful I was spared that day. I was given an opportunity. A chance to see life and part of the world that doesn’t get a lot of exposure. Rocky, I hope what I did next has counted. Thank you.

It’s What You do Next that Counts

September 1, 2015

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.