What image do you see when you hear the word roughneck? Do you imagine a lanky, snuff-dipping, slow-walking, slow-thinking hillbilly village looking guy in filthy coveralls with the pant legs stuffed into the top of his steel-toed boots? Or maybe you think of a man with a PHD, a pair of Post Hole Diggers.
John worked as fast as he walked and talked, like a tortoise, but he was steady. He was six feet, one inch tall, chubby, slumped at the shoulders, and quiet as a titmouse. Rumor spread that the rig had lost the contract. I asked John about his future plans if he got laid off. He expressed serious reservations about the alternative to his current job, mopping the decks and painting every day, but said if he had to, he’d go back to his old position at SMU, as a professor of microbiology.
Brad was chubby, too, and old enough that I called him Sir. He was steady and rarely said anything related to his personal life. I worked with him a year before I found out he flew F-4 Phantoms in the skies of North Vietnam. He has a degree in aeronautics and can still, today, fly just about anything with wings.
Cade pulls slips and talks about surgeries. Six months ago he worked as an O.R. nurse.
Roy has a degree in English Lit. Jeff has a degree in History. Frank and Sam have degrees in economics and finance. Frank sold a Chrysler dealership and swore to never touch a briefcase or wear a suit and tie ever again.
If someone told me they knew the Pope. I’d say “So what, I know Karl,” a brilliant mind with 3 degrees in aeronautical space engineering. In fact, I relieved Karl one day, not long ago, on the rig floor.
I told my elderly mom I relieved a rocket scientist. The next morning at bingo, she told Ethel, “My son relieved a rocket scientist.”
Betty leaned in and asked Ethel what Mom said and Ethel whispered, “Polly’s son is a rocket scientist.”
Mona asked Betty to repeat what Ethel said and she whispered, “Polly’s son works for NASA.”
Ellie tapped Mona’s elbow and asked what all the whispering was about. Mona shrugged and said, “It’s nothing. Polly son works at the NAPA store.”
Ellie said, “Good, maybe he can get me a deal on a set of windshield wipers for my car!”