All in the Eyes

I awoke one morning, excruciating pain inside the lower right quadrant of my torso. It wasn’t a familiar feeling because I’d never had someone gouge my insides with an icepick, so you can imagine my concern. Kidney stone, they said at the hospital. See it all the time. I thought, Well, not from me you don’t. They gave me a shot of “Duck Dynasty” medicine after which I was happy, happy, happy, and sent me home. All turned out well, and I was good as used the following day.

During the course of all of this, after the stone passed out of my kidney releasing the fluid and the pressure and thus relieving the pain, I went to the pharmacy. Oh, I failed to mention, I lived in Saudi Arabia, so, it so happened, the place was full of Saudi women and an untold number of little kids. Saudi women of course wear, what appears to be at first glance, a large, black, plastic trash bag, covered head to toe. Anyway, I sat a respectable distance away, waiting for my name to be called, observing the goings on. Typical of Arab child-raising, the little girls sat, minding their Ps and Qs and the little boys ran amok. Boys and men pretty much do what they please and women not so much. Anyway, (again,) one kid ran up behind a woman, grabbed her black covering and jerked it up to inspect her shoes. Nope. Not mom. He sidled to the next one, lifted, inspected, and moved on to the next, until finally, the ruby slippers he’d been seeking.

Not one woman reacted to the kid’s query.

Okay, all of the above to get to masks. Took me years of living in the Middle East to grow accustomed to talking to people who covered their heads and faces. Men not women. Men. I talked to men. Can’t see their lips move or their expressions, and I was unable to gauge any emotions from a man’s eyes without the other indicators. I don’t remember when, but one day that changed when I recognized the evil intent of a man’s soul in one 10-second-long stare. (Another story.)

Last week I checked into a hotel at Raceland, Louisiana. Yes, I had on a mask, a scarf I had pulled up over my mouth and nose, and a cap. I went to my car for something and walked back toward the entrance. Another man was digging out bags from the back of a SUV. As I approached, the man turned. His face was covered in camo, topped with a matching cap. I said, “Hey Ricky.” He said, “Hey Dave.”

Had not seen Ricky in 5 years.

Recently went to the doc’s carrying my 6th kidney stone. He asked what he could do for me. I told him I had a kidney I wanted to donate to someone I don’t like.

Who’s Running the Asylum?

I was supposed to go to test prep this past week. They call it well control school, but it’s not a school anymore. I’ve mentioned this before and it’s still a sore spot with me. Don’t problem solve. Learn the answer to the test questions. Drives me nuts, or depending on who you ask, nuttier.

The industry regulators require us to attend 40 hours of instruction every two years. After 40 years on the rigs and attending school, real school, every year for the first 20 years, I’d rather have a root canal. I’ve selected a tooth I don’t like just in case that’s’ an option in the future.

The school said I could not attend because I was tested for COVID. I took two tests, and both were negative, but they would not allow me in the building unless I quarantined 14 days first. I tested again 3 days later and that one was negative.

Brilliant. What does that tell you about the tests? FYI – COVID tests are inaccurate 60% of the time.

We had a guy on the rig who tested negative before he arrived. He was tested on the rig and tested positive, which forced us to fly him off via MEDEVAC. Not cheap by the way. He was tested again that day and the result was negative. Guess what he’s doing? Yep. Quarantined 14 days to see if he gets sick. If he does show symptoms, he has to test negative twice with 60% inaccurate tests before he can return to work.

Just brilliant.

I’m on the rig now. We’re sailing west, southwest, at the ocean-eating pace of 7mph, trying to get on the west side of two approaching hurricanes. The west side is the weakest side of a hurricane, but not to be confused with docile or calm. Still formidable.

Everyone is masked up inside the living quarters unless seated at a table in the galley eating. The rig has a central air-conditioning system. Everyone here tested negative.

Again, brilliant.

Is the mask deal an IQ test? I can’t say much because I’m on a slow boat playing chicken with two hurricanes.

Don’t confuse the rioters who wear their masks with upstanding citizens trying to do their part during the pandemic. They’re running the asylum.

Stuff

I’ve seen stuff on the rigs over the years—dropped blocks, blowouts, smashed fingers, split skulls, and broken arms. Stuff. Lots of stuff. Never seen a lazy man get hurt, unless it was his feelings, or seen him for very long either. Lazy ones don’t last. It’s the good hands who are injured most often. Sometimes a man gets too close to his job and gets bit.

Seen stuff in the oceans too—whales, thousands of dauphins or porpoises traveling with purpose, sea snakes by the too-many-to-number or even guess at, whale sharks, one alligator and one turtle.

Bet you can’t say “sea snake” four times quickly without saying “snee snake.”

A whale shark is big as a whale, but it’s a fish that has gills and filters its food from the water.

I’ve seen many gators, but only one offshore. They’re freshwater creatures, and this particular beast was 200 hundred miles offshore and headed farther out to sea. Lost for sure.

It may be a surprise for you to hear that we employ whale watchers. That’s a profession, whale watching. Anytime seismic work is done with air guns, whale watchers are brought out to the rig to … watch for whales.

Now we have to watch for turtles, 24/7/365. Any sea turtles sighted in the moon pool, the opening in the middle of the ship where we do drilling stuff, must be reported. Until a month ago, I’d never seen a sea turtle. My wife asked me when she heard about the new requirement whether I’d seen one. Nope. Never have. Never say never. We named the little rascal Dale Earnhardt. He’s about a big as a large dinner plate and swims around and around to the left. I think his flippers are shorter on the left side.

The critter was reported to the proper authorities of course. They wanted to know if Dale appeared to be distressed. Now I ask ya … Distressed? They live in the ocean with sharks and whales and barracudas, and Dale comes and goes as he pleases.

I think I’d recognize a dead turtle, but a distressed turtle might slip by me.

I was on the bridge talking to the marine crew about Dale. What are the odds? New regs out and one shows up. As if he was planted, a secret agent sent to test our work ethics. During the conversation I mentioned that someone would have to attend turtle resuscitation class. (True story.) The regulators want someone on the rig who is trained to resuscitate turtles. Well that really got the comments flowing. Have to be lipless or carry lip guards, and turtles pull their heads inside so … and on and on. Then, one of the guys, who’d been conspicuously quiet, interrupted and said, “I’m qualified. I went to turtle resuscitation class.”

That’s some stuff there.

Nuts

Tuesday I travelled from Colorado to Louisiana via an airplane. The line to get through security at Denver International was nothing like I’d ever witnessed. Two (2), yes two, people waited in line when I approached. It took me longer to get through the particulars than it has since 9/11. Looked through my bag and scrutinized my tooth paste and squeezed the tube like I’d hidden a file inside. Finally satisfied, the masked person told me had the tube been full, he would have discarded it for me. Just about a quarter ounce under the limit.

Okay, so I went to the gate where I sat for an hour. Couldn’t people watch—one of my favorite past times. No people to watch. I don’t know how far you can see up and down the terminal, 200 yards or so in each direction. Bet I didn’t see 40 people at any one time. Most of them airport employees.

The 737 took 20 of us to New Orleans. That airport was a morgue. No pun intended.

Nuts.

My son-in-law left for Houston to be quarantined in a hotel with 80 or so of his rig crew 14 days ago. Can’t have any contact with his crew. No one. Meals delivered. Someone on his rig tested positive for the virus a couple of days ago, so now everyone on the rig is quarantined. The guys at the hotel are still there in case they finally get to go to work. Might be another 14 days before they crew change and work 28 days on the rig.

Nuts.

I know of another crew who will stay in a hotel 8 days then get on a boat in Fourchon, Louisiana, and sail 6 days to Trinidad to crew change and work 28 days.

Nuts.

Another rig crew quarantined 14 days before leaving for Guyana. Then they quarantined 14 days when they arrived and went to the rig and worked 28 days. They quarantined another 14 days before they could go to the airport to fly home.

Nuts.

Well, where is our country now? In the middle of the biggest fiasco in history. Why? Ask a million people and you’ll get a million answers and most of them will make sense.

Me, I think God is the only one who can close down 185 countries overnight. You might ask, “Why would He do that?” Maybe it’s because you can get an abortion but not get a sore tooth pulled, or a kidney stone removed, or a gall bladder removed, or a haircut.

I think He’s finally had enough.

The Children

Well, this virus is something to behold. Not the virus, but the worldwide reaction to it. Not something I would have thought I’d ever experience or witness in my lifetime. Is it all kneejerk? I guess we will see later than sooner. Much later from the way things are progressing.

Some months ago, I received a friend request from a woman who lives in Uganda. Are you familiar with the central African country? If not, that’s where a hijacked Israeli airliner ended up on the ground at the Entebbe airport. The infamous General Idi Amin was the president of the country at the time. Remember the movies “The Raid on Entebbe” or “7 Days in Entebbe?” The country was also the noted home of the two man-eating lions that reeked havoc on the Indian laborers working on a railroad bridge across the Tsavo River. That’s a movie too.

The raid by Israeli special forces to free the hostages was successful. Several hostages and one raider, the leader of the assault team, Yonatan Netanyahu were killed. Yes, Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother.

Okay, now you know. Back to the young lady. I accepted her request though I didn’t know her from Eve. Over time, her posts revealed her heart. Christian, positive, encouraging, her and her husband the caretakers of 54 orphaned kids. She has posted requests for prayers for the kids and, one day, for her husband who was beaten to within an inch of his life for his belongings. Recently she requested help to keep their place and feed the kids.

We corresponded and I learned her charges, 54 of them, not 53, don’t’ get to eat every day. Sometimes, yes, in times of plenty. Now, with the virus, they eat one meal a day, every other day. Rationing. Make sure they survive.

One meal a day, every other day, wouldn’t hurt my physique any. I might try it. I’ll let you know how that works.

One bug can sure jerk the reality back into the world.

Those kids in Uganda could use your help. Yes, take care of your own first, but consider these kids if the Lord puts them on your heart.

Share this Blog where you can.  Bless a kid with a meal below if you can. God bless you with patience and health during this madness.

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Motion is Lotion

During my teens and twenties, I would hit the ground running.

During my thirties and forties, I would hit and bounce up.

During my fifties and, now, my sixties, I just hit and bounce.

I don’t know what’s in store for my seventies and eighties, or even the rest of this day, other than I plan on living, but if I don’t, I’m prepared to go because I know the first person I’m going to meet after I pass from this world into the next is Jesus. And I’m going to thank Him.

So back to the bouncing part. All you youngsters won’t get it until you’re not youngsters any longer, and I can hear your “Ya, ya, ya” of whatever. I’m telling you. One of these days you’re going wake up and “Hoo, ahh, ouch,” yourself all the way into the restroom to tend to your particulars. And like me, you’re going to wonder what happened, and provided your memory hasn’t faded along with everything else on your body, you’ll remember this rambling.

A doctor told a friend, “motion is lotion.” A good adage.

Don’t believe it?

Ever had someone tell you, “I can’t talk right now. I’m old and my jaws are sore?”

 

Another View

“Dances With Wolves”—I’ve seen the movie a dozen times. One of my favorite scenes is when the muleskinner walked up to John Dum-bear who is crouched next to a human skeleton. The skinner said, “Someone back home is wondering, ‘why don’t he write?’”

I’ve been wondering the same thing about myself.

The past few months have been nuts. Not saying I’m nuts, but opinions vary.

I made a trip to Singapore the first week of November to look at a rig. I’ve been to Singapore a dozen times and I’ve seen a plethora of rigs, so I volunteered to stay home and have a root canal. Even picked the victim. The tooth was fine, but I figured it was the best one to numb for the procedure so I wouldn’t slobber all over myself or look like I had a stroke afterward. My boss had more votes than I did, so off I went.

IMG_3045

Singapore is quite the place. The country is trapped between Malaysia and the ocean. Their only way to grow is to either go up, down (underground,) or out to sea. They call it reclaimed land, but it’s actually dirt they purchase and haul in by ship from nearby countries to fill in and push back the ocean so they can build. I never heard real estate prices mentioned, but I would not be surprise if the land sold by the square inch.

I saw a 15,000-ton bridge crane at the shipyard. That’s 30 million pounds. I’m used to seeing and working with large ships and equipment. This thing was huge. Just huge. The sight gave me the urge to see the machine that made the crane. It’s pictured below.

Automobiles can be registered for road use for a period of 10 years, max. There are no old cars on the road. Unless 10 is old. One guy I heard mentioned had an assortment of Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Lamborghinis parked on the street in front of his house. Could not drive a one of them. Too old.

IMG_3044

Been on a toll road lately? Every road in Singapore is a toll road. Every auto has a bar code on the windscreen. The owner is charged by the kilometer.

FYI – Singapore is halfway around the world. Took 44-forevers to get there which equates to 30 hours of flying, airports and general misery. Took 30 to return too. I was gone six days, so not much time on the ground, and Singapore is 14 hours ahead of Mountain Time. By the time I arrived home I didn’t know what month it was.

The news mentions people who believe the earth is flat. If that’s the case, then what’s on the bottom of the earth? There’s a reason people say, “I’m going to fly around …”

And global warming? We’re responsible? Humans? If you’re inclined to believe such things, but have never taken a voyage across one of our vast oceans, I recommend that you add that to your bucket list. Your views about our abilities to alter our environment may change.

Now I ask you too. 7 billion people on the planet. 325 million, roughly 4.5% of the earth’s population, are Americans, and they’re responsible for all the pollution in the world?

A Double Life

Rig type units lead double lives. We have the one we live at home with our families and the one we live when on the rig. The latter life is lived away from our families, for our families. Yes, it’s rough, crazy sometimes, and at times the pain makes you question whether the money is worth it. It’s funny too. Rig life is linked to family life, but family life is not linked to rig life. Most of us try to leave the rig on the rig when we go home.

Marriages last longer.

Life goes on when we’re out here in our closed little world. A couple of weeks ago one of my men lost his brother. He got a special helicopter just as quickly as the pilots could get spooled up and off the ground to come get him.

Two days ago a man received news that his son was killed in an automobile accident. The man lived in Mexico—the old one not the new one. He does not speak English. His supervisor brought him into my office and translated his thanks to me for getting him a special chopper. We shook hands and hugged, and he cried. I cried. For just a moment, we spoke the same language.

Several months ago I began working out in preparation for a sheep hunt in Alaska.  These hunts are very demanding and frankly not fun if you’re not in good shape. Having said that, there is no way of determining how good a shape you’re in until you go on a sheep hunt, so …  This next Friday I’m going to find out. Anyway, at home, in that life, I would leave the house just after five every morning with my backpack and walk 30 minutes away, then turn around and head home. For my other life on the rig, I purchased a weight vest to walk with. This morning my mud engineer walked into my office. He looked at the vest hanging on the arm of a chair, picked up one corner and let it fall. “This is a suicide vest. Just takes longer.”

Good humor.

Tuesday afternoon, I’m done with the vest, I’m going to give it someone I don’t like.

Man: an angel

I’m working on a manuscript for a friend who served as a combat medic, four tours, two in in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. This is a non-fiction story, so to familiarize myself, I researched how improvements in medical care and the presence of a medic affected to mortality rate during combat. I looked at all of our conflicts, all the way back to the Revolutionary War. If a space is blank, then no record exists. Notice the disparity in battle deaths and other deaths.

Just food for thought. Ref – American War and Military Operations Casualties: List and Statistics

# Serving    Total Deaths    In Battle   Other Deaths    Wounded

  • Revolution                              4435              4435                                       6188
  • War of 1812     286,730         2260              2260                                       4505
  • Mexican War      78,718        13,283           1733              11,550             4152
  • Civil War           2,213,363     364,511       140,414          224,097           281,881
  • (Union only)
  • Spanish-US     306,760           2446              385                  2061               1662
  • WWI            4,734,991          116,516        53,402            63,114               204,002
  • WWII          16,112,556        405,399        291,557          113,842              670,846
  • Kore             5,720,000           36,574           33,739             2835                 103,284
  • Vietnam      8,744,000           58,220           47,434           10,786                303,644

Are you wondering? Me too. Some were fought horseback and afoot, including WWI when the world was only 2% mechanized. The world geared up for WWII. We were 98% mechanized.

Do you know why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor? Where was Erwin Rommel going in north Africa? Why did Hitler invade Poland and make a beeline for the Baku?

OIL!

I’m aged, (but not too ripe yet,) and as young man who had to register for the draft right at the end of the Vietnam War, I heard protesters chant (they chanted back then) about the white man forcing the black man to go to Vietnam to die for him.

Vietnam Total deaths = 58,220.    Black = 7243    White = 49,826   Other = 1146

What does all of this have to do with medics? Heck I don’t know.

Michael Shaara wrote “Killer Angels.” Won the Pulitzer. It’s about the Battle of Gettysburg. Brilliant.

Man is an angel, but he’s the “Killer Angel.”

 

Humility

Job duties had me running on 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night for the past few days. Last night, I retired at 9:00, relatively confident that “duty” would let me sleep until 4:30. Somewhere in the sleep process the rig phone in my room rang. I answered a still wet shower shoe, a pair of Crocks, a TV remote and my reading glasses before I found the receiver. The clock displayed 9:40.

The other day I told a young lady she should refrain from using the word sucks. Vacuum was more appropriate. Forty minutes of sleep pulls a heavy vacuum.

Been listening to some of our political discourse. Immigrants, illegal immigrants, socialism, give-me, give-me, give-me. My goodness. Get a job, Spanky. Better yet, get a pair of gloves and get you some drilling rig. Twelve hours on deck or pulling slips on the floor in 95-degree heat and 98% humility will test your mettle. Notice the word after 98%. It’s applicable.

Speaking of humility.

Uri was born in Cuba. His momma loved the Russians—mostly KGB and military advisers—who came there in the 50s and 60s, thus his name. He was 18 and had had a belly full of communism. One night he and his best friend and their girlfriends shared a bottle of rum and decided they’d flee to the US. Over the next couple of months they pieced together a raft consisting four 55-gallon drums held together by re-bar and decked with wood. They ferried the components to the coast on their bicycles in the dark of the night and hid them in the jungle. Then again, after another bottle of courage, they pedaled to the coast, assembled their boat, and set sail. The four of them floated on the ocean waves at the mercy of the wind and currents and God for 17 days, surviving on peanut butter. Uri spent 2 years in a Florida prison. That was forty years ago. He runs a commercial dive company and has not eaten peanut butter since.

Rene’ was 17 in 1977. He was also Cuban. The Cuban coastguard turned him back the first three times he tried to float his way to the US mainland. The fourth time he had it figured out. He lashed three large tractor inner tubes together and decked them with wood. He mounted a tree limb onto the decking and sheeted it with a couple of blankets. Even had a tiller. Must have worked well because he had to weight down the backend with rocks to keep the wind from capsizing his craft. Ten souls on various contraptions pushed out into a small river near where he lived late one night and were carried to the coast and out to sea. Rene’ ran his craft solo. Three days later, only three of them made landfall. Rene’ went to school and earned a degree in computer science and went to work at Ford Motor Company in Detroit designing cars. When he was laid off, he moved to the Gulf coast and got a job in the oilfield.

Of the three that made it to land, only Rene’ survives. Poor decisions regarding the drug trade and the use of drugs took the other two. Three days at sea on a boat floated by Firestone rubber cured Rene’ of his thirst for coconut juice. I mentioned Rene WAS Cuban. Now he’s American. Just ask him.

I have not seen Uri in several years, but I’ll bet money he’s doing just fine. Rene’ is out here with me right now, making a hand.