Water Well Journal

December 2015

Water Well Journal

Issue link: http://read.dmtmag.com/i/608970

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Page 46 of 89

T hose of you who have read Engineering Your Business since I began writing it know I occasionally like to author a column about some of the adventures—and misadventures—I have experienced over the years as well as subjects that may be interesting but not long enough to warrant a full column. Some are work-related and others are personally oriented. I will cover both areas this month in a column I have called "Potpourri." This is my third one and I hope you find it of in- terest. By the way, the first two ran in Water Well Journal's December 2003 and December 2006 issues. Finding the Sweet Spot My interest in the water well industry goes back to my youth—in fact, my early youth. Although I have written be- fore about my early years working in the business, specifically my teen and somewhat older years, there is actually honest to goodness well drilling activity that predates my so-called official employment days. This series of adventures goes back to when I was 8 or 9 years old. During this time, I had been with my father on nu- merous occasions on a cable tool and fancied myself as a bona fide well driller in training. Unfortunately, I was just not quite old enough for the others around me to agree and let me have my own rig. My father finally decided to fulfill one of my wishes dur- ing one of my summer breaks from school. He took me to a job site so I could experience the thrill of actually seeing the new rotary drill rig he had recently purchased in action. I accompanied him and his helper to a site that involved the use of a mud rotary rig. In our region of the Mid- Willamette Valley of Oregon during the mid-1960s, where unconsolidated formations of sand and gravel and clay in shallow formations were still the primary aquifers, the most common method of water well drilling still used the familiar and safe but slow cable tool method although air rotary was making strong inroads. My father, originally an oil well driller in California for Shell Oil, had learned the basics of well drilling working on a mud rotary around Bakersfield during the late 1950s and be- lieved he could eventually adopt this method for water wells when he and my mother moved to Oregon. Although he, too, began drilling in Oregon using a small two-line cable tool rig, a Speedstar Model 240, he decided to return to his original training and purchase a mud rotary to gain faster production by the mid-1960s. He located a used Western Model 1000 mud rotary from a former oil well wild- cat driller in California. By the time he relocated it to Oregon and had had a few months of working with it, he had regained the lost touch he had once enjoyed. He became quite proficient in drilling water wells as small as 6 inches in diameter with it. When the day finally came for me to go with him on one bright July morning, all I could visualize was lying around the rig all day in the sun, stopping for my sumptuous sack lunch my mom had made, and getting to watch him and his helper produce a new well. Upon arrival on the well site, a local commercial producer of sand and gravel, I witnessed a sight I still get a thrill from seeing: An upright drill rig mast protruding into the air ready to tackle the day's job. The morning air was crisp with a mild amount of mist. I had yet to experience the warm sensation of that first cup of coffee on a cold work site, one of my other enduring future memories. But the smell from my father's cup has stayed with me all these intervening years nonetheless. After traveling to the site and bundling out of the Ford F-250 pickup, I began to search out my spot for the upcoming day, a comfortable place in the grass where I could witness the activity of the drilling rig, but remain far enough away to stay safe and not get yelled at. As I began my search for this sweet spot, my father grabbed my arm and with a slight tug handed me a spade shovel and told me, "You're now the assistant helper on this rig, responsible for keeping the mud pit cleaned while we drill." So for the next six hours or so, I shoveled about 50 pounds of drill cuttings and water at a time from the settled end of a steel mud trough and dumped them on the ground. To top everything off and make sure this would be a day I would never forget, the well we were drilling was a 12-inch-diameter hole. Do you have any concept how hard an 8- or 9-year-old kid has to work to shovel out the equivalent of a 12-inch-diameter hole every few minutes? By the end of the day I was plain exhausted and any thought of becoming a well driller was safely destroyed. Until the next day, that is. ED BUTTS, PE, CPI ENGINEERING YOUR BUSINESS POTPOURRI — PART 3 Let's close the year with a variety of topics. 44 December 2015 WWJ waterwelljournal.com My interest in the water well industry goes back to my youth— in fact, my early youth . POTPOURRI continues on page 46

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