Essay Gives Glimpse into Oil Worker's Life Through the Years

Roughnecks on a drilling rig
An excellent essay appears on the website, and gives a really interesting and enjoyable look at oil work in Louisiana through the years.  Here is an excerpt which gives insight into the chain of command on an oil rig:

Perhaps no industry has affected Louisiana so profoundly as the oil business. Besides providing jobs and filling the state's coffers (at least during boom times), oil production has spurred economic development and road building in many sections of Louisiana which were previously quite isolated--especially the south central and southwestern Cajun and Creole parishes. Such development, with its accompanying influx of mainstream American culture, increased pressures to assimilate and speak English that already existed in these areas.

Fortunately, however, the past 15 years have seen such ethnocentric attitudes replaced by pride. Today, Cajun/Creole language, music and folklore are finally treated as cherished cultural resources, even as their home turf has been thoroughly modernized.
While the advent of the oil industry helped stimulate such modernization, and thus threatened the region's rich folk culture, the industry is rich in folklore in its own right. One aspect of oilfield lore consists of highly technical work jargon. A gauge of such complexity is the fact that an industry book entitled A Dictionary of Petroleum Terms (University of Texas, 1976) contains nearly 200 entries in its "A" section alone. Yet there is also a significant body of oilfield folklore which can be understood and appreciated by those who do not have oilfield experience. Some of this latter body of lore is oilfield-specific, while other terms and traditions may frequently be found outside of the industry as well.
Certain industry-specific terms such as job titles are often encountered by the public, in the course of reading or watching the news, or perusing classified employment ads. John Vidrine--a Mamou native who now resides in Lafayette, and works offshore in the dual capacity of medic and materials manager--explains the industry's various job descriptions, and the pecking order which accompanies them. "On the bottom of the ladder you have what you call a roustabout, who runs around and does everything that nobody else wants to do. He's a 'grunt.' He unloads and stacks pipe, mops, cleans, paints, that kind of thing." Crawford Vincent of Lake Charles, a former guitarist with the Cajun Swing band, the Hackberry Ramblers, worked as a roustabout in the 1940s, and describes it succinctly as "you do what you're told, and plus!"
"After roustabouts," Vidrine continues, "you have the floorman, who is also known as a roughneck. They work the actual drilling floor on the rigs, and make up or break up the pipe. Their job is probably the most dangerous. There was, and still is, a macho stigma attached to that job--some of the old-timers especially might sort of be proud of having lost a finger or whatever. The description of a typical roughneck or roustabout used to be that he weighed 250 pounds or more, that at least three-quarters of that was located above his belt-line, and that he used a two-inch bull-plug for a hard-hat. In other words, he was a pin-head, and the job called for all brawn and no brains, which really isn't true."
"You can't go on to any promotion," Vidrine explains, "unless you work on the drilling floor. After floorman or roughneck, the next job would be a mud man. He follows the orders of the mud engineer in preparing the drilling mud--that's a fluid mixture which is used to equalize the pressure when you're drilling a well, so that it doesn't collapse. The next highest job is derrickman--and they work about 80 feet up in the air, too, standing on a small platform called the monkey board. Then the driller is above the derrickman--he operates the equipment and monitors everything that's going on. After the driller is the top job, toolpusher. The toolpusher is the overseer of the entire job. Sometimes he's called the rig manager, and he has the same authority as the master of the vessel on a boat. He has to work in cooperation with the company man, who represents whichever oil company has hired the rig to drill for them. There are other jobs, too, in maintenance, for instance, but those are the main ones."

Read the entire article by clicking on this link:

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