Jump to content


Sign in to follow this  

(Moved from Tinker DG) A Christmas Story.

Recommended Posts

Since this is a story, I could begin it with "once upon a time", but I won't.  We're all big kids here, so I'll just dive right in.


This took place many, many Christmas's ago in a land totally deprived of any snow.  A sad, dreary place for someone who had always had snow for Christmas.  I actually considered at one point that I should hop onto my Harley and head north until I found some snow.  I knew that if I stayed in Louisiana for the holidays that the only snow I would see would be remnants of cocaine in the mustaches of the musicians at the local strip joint.


When I graduated from high school in 1972, the Vietnam war was the largest employer of young men with no college or real work experience.  That was not my job of choice.  I bummed around for a while and eventually learned from a couple of cousins that they were making very good money by working the offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.  Thirty days on, thirty days off.  Free room and board while you were working.  Eight hours on, eight hours off.  Lots of boredom.  We didn't have satellite TV or even VCRs.  A couple of the guys had some 8mm dirty movies but even those got old after a while.  For safety and productivity reasons, no booze on the rig.  It took some effort on the part of my cousins and the luck of one of the hands getting a broken toe to get me hired on as a chain thrower.  Since I didn't have experience I didn't make as much money as the other guys, but it beat Vietnam.


July and August were killers.  Even with the constant breeze skimming the Gulf waters, the heat and humidity were almost unbearable.  The work was hard.  It was somewhat cooler during the night shift, but it never seemed comfortable for someone from Michigan.  September brought a little relief, as did the 30 day off stretches that passed by far too quickly.  I know.  What does all of this have to do with Christmas.  Be patient...I'm getting there.


Purely by accident, I became friends with one of the other roughnecks who was on the same rotation schedule as me.  We shared a common love of playing guitar and singing.  Ballads.  Protest songs.  Beatles.  We even did some country stuff...mainly Johnny Horton songs.  During our off shift that we didn't sleep, we'd get cleaned up then take our flat tops up to the helicopter pad to play and sing where we wouldn't bother anybody.  It helped pass the time.  He learned from me and I from him.  With all due modesty, after a while we were getting pretty good.


During one of our rest cycles, we were in the small town where we always stayed when not on the rig.  John and I were both staying at a small Inn called the Sailor's Knot.  Or maybe you'd call it a really big bar with rooms for rent.  It was a hangout for the locals who were mainly rednecks.  I don't recall how, but somehow John and I ended up on stage performing some of our stuff (I barely remember it).  The tavern owner contacted us when we had sobered up and asked if we would consider playing and singing every Friday and Saturday night that we were ashore.  It didn't take us long to agree.  Extra cash.  Something to do.  Girls.  Free drinks.  Sure...we'd love to.


That was probably late September or early October.  John and I "worked at the Knot" as agreed and even put on some shows for free during the week just to kill time.  We started to develop a small fan base and even had a couple of "groopies" to party with.    Life was good.  We continued through October and November.  Come December, the weather finally became tolerable which meant that the locals were all huddled inside their homes to try to stay warm.  This was about the time that I thought about taking the next 30 day rotation to ride toward home.  That never happened.


During our next cycle on the rig one of the hands whose last name I can't for the life of me remember (everybody called him "Stinky Sam" or just plain "stinky" for reasons that I won't torture you with) somehow got a leg caught between two stands of drill pipe.  In cases like that, the leg ALWAYS loses.  Stinky had to be flown to the hospital for emergency surgery.  He still had eighteen days of his rotation cycle left to do when it came time for me to go ashore.  I hated the thought of another eighteen days working but it paid double the normal scale and I was promised an additional eighteen days ashore on top of it.  Given those conditions, I could fly home shortly after New Years, rent a car, and visit all of my friends and family.  I agreed to cover for Stinky.


Christmas came and went.  John went to town without me at the normal time.  When my extra eighteen days were up, I went to the Knot to see him before I headed north.  He wasn't there.  Slim, the tavern owner, said that one night John had been performing solo when a group of strangers came in and sat down for a drink.  They liked what they heard from John and introduced themselves as music producers from Nashville.  One thing lead to another and soon John was joining them with a guaranteed recording contract firmly in his grasp.  I thanked the tavern owner, hopped onto my Harley and headed for the airport.  I was happy for John, but at the same time I was mad at Stinky.  Had I not had to cover for him, I might be on my way to Nashville, too.  Oh, well.  Wasn't meant to be.


To this day I still doubt that Johnny Cash ever worked another rig.







It was all a lie.

I've never stepped foot on an off shore rig.

All of the above was purely for entertainment purposes only.

Hope you enjoyed it and can find it in your heart to forgive me.



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

    You know Gramps, if you wrote a story about you being an alien and will take over the world with nothing but a tuna sandwhich, I would still believe it! By the way, when you do, I get half the rights. :D

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I actually "borrowed" this story.  It was pulled on me when I was young and gullible and everyone knew who Johnny Cash was.  It's still fun.  :D

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...