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.

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