"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Current Oil Boom


     In the northwest part of Oklahoma we have been in the grip of a huge oil boom for the past four or five years. We have had these booms several times since the turn of the century…oops..I mean the turn of the…uhhh…since the early 1900s. I keep forgetting that we have flown past the 2000 and are now in another century AND another millennium. Crazy stuff!!  My danced around point is this: oil booms come and go with some regularity around here.
      An oil boom means lots of oil companies racing around leasing up all the mineral rights they can get their hands on, as fast as they can, so no one else can get them.  There are bidding wars, there are shady deals, there are underhanded shenanigans, there are always neighbors talking to each other to make sure they're all getting the highest dollar they can get for the rights to drill on, and under, the land they own.

Oil trucks, company pickups, trucks hauling bull dozers and back hoes rumble past, moving from one location to the next.  Trucks hauling shale, gravel and pipes roar past, throwing dust into the air so often that it hangs there day after day at times.  I haven't hung clothes on the line more than four times in the past four years because of the dust.  What would be the point?
     Lighted derricks sprout from the flat land and stand shining through the nights, with mud and oil spattered men scurrying around the base, in and out of trailers, standing around in hard hatted groups, talking about how this one is going.  When it's time to frack the well, big blue or red tank trucks come in and surround the bore hole like bees in a swarm, even one snugged up as close as it can get. Then the roaring and growling begins and continues until the rock formations surrounding the bore hole have been shattered to let the oil and gas out.  Then, overnight, the entire outfit is taken apart, loaded back onto the trucks and hauled away to the next place on the list.  It's startling how quickly an entire location can be deserted. Then a different crew hauls in the big storage tanks and the pumping units and those rise up like miniature grain elevators.  
        All those jobs and the boost to the economy that comes with them, on many levels, and the check that eventually comes in the mail to the company and to the mineral owners are the most obvious effects of the boom.  The noise, the shaking of the earth, the dirty air, the depletion of the water reserves in the area, and oil spills, gas plumes burning in the night sky at times, water pipes of all shapes and sizes running alongside most roadways, are also effects, having a great effect on the land and the people who live here.  The little towns are leasing every available rental, apartment, and extra room to the workers and most towns have quickly built low rent motels to cash in on some of the gravy train.
     When you walk into any gas station in the region it is full of men who are hot and dirty, greasy, tired, hungry and generally looking and talking mighty rough. It is not a place for the faint of heart Personal hygiene is not anywhere on the list of priorities on a well site, why would they bother?  Drilling for oil is a filthy, exhausting job and no one has time to bathe, shave, get a haircut or wash themselves or anything they are wearing.  I think this is what the West might have looked like back in the mid 1800s, the cowboy days.  When we were watching all those westerns back in the 1960s, the cowboys were spick and span, rarely had a speck of dust on them anywhere, except for the bag guys who looked pretty wild and wooly.  I think everyone probably looked, and smelled, pretty wild and wooly if the truth were told. 
        (An aside): My four year young grandson walked up to me the other day and said, "Smell my pits, grandma. I smell like a man." Come to find out he had used his dad's deodorant that morning, trying to be just like daddy.  Isn't that interesting.  No, dear, that is not what a man smells like in his natural state, but I'll agree I like the smell of soap and deodorant better than the smell of a two week unwashed, hard working, sweaty male any day.  
       I'm writing down these observations about the current oil boom because I know that it too will pass, as they all have, and then things will be different once again, since everything is constantly changing.  Cycles upon cycles in which we live and move, assessing, adjusting, scrabbling for a foothold and a leg up, keeping on, dealing with what comes out way, one day…one decade…at a time.

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