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

I

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.

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