The last day began like the day before. The sun lined the mountains to the East as we finished our coffees. I finished my coffee. Todd finished his eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits, gravy, and coffee. Todd’s pulling the rope on the bucket – he needs lots of ballast. The first hole of the day slipped into the ground like it was made of warm butter it took us less than an hour and a half. We were rolling.
“We should drill an extra hole here and take it with us,” Todd retold an old driller’s joke. Most old driller’s jokes aren’t very funny but they help pass the time. Our next site was a little different, three holes, close together, at the end of a two-story group of twenty apartments. It took a while to get past all the parked cars. We had a skip loader on hand to move dirt out of our way as we drilled, most of the dirt would need to be hauled away. The skip loader operator had a dump truck. The first hole went well, no records were set but we had fun. Todd had a way of keeping things light and he was the best rope puller – possibly in the world. The first day with Todd on the job I told him to brace his feet and pull as hard as he could on the rope that swung the bucket. I always told rope pullers that. The first bucket full, the first swing, the dirt dumped at Todd’s feet.
“How’s that?” he asked.
“Good.” The bucket filled again. Todd, now with the recently added mound of dirt to stabilize his feet pulled me clean off the drilling table! This had never happened before. I fell to the ground and Todd let the bucket swing over my head and rest gently on the edge of the drilling table. His grin suggested he knew exactly what he had done but I could only be amazed. Todd had worked most of his life as an auto mechanic and apparently this gives you amazing arms!
“How’s that?” he asked.
“It’s never been done before,” I answered, while brushing dirt off my pants and forearms “Pull as hard as you can without pulling me off the table,” a request I had never thought of making, Todd just grinned again, he had made his point.
The space behind the apartments was tight and second hole destroyed an unknown apartment dweller’s hidden marijuana patch but other than that nothing unusual happened. It was late enough to go home but we wanted to at least set-up on the third hole, if we drilled down the first three feet or more the drilling bucket could be left in the hole and we wouldn’t have to fold up the mast. We backed the truck to within six feet of a six-foot tall chain link fence and started the drilling process. The plan was to take out about three buckets, leave the bucket in the hole, and go home for the night. The next day, after my coffee and Todd’s breakfast we would finish it up. The third bucket came out of the hole. I pulled myself onto the drilling table with one hand on the top rim of the bucket. Todd hooked the bucket and gave it a little push. And then I pushed and he pulled until I was about to release the latch that opened the bottom of the bucket. The one-inch round length of steel welded to the top of the Kelly bar, the same one-inch length of steel that also screws into a swivel, the swivel that ended in a loop of steel that connects to the wench’s cable, that one-inch round short piece of steel, it broke. I do not know what took place in Todd’s mind but he had a better view of what was happening. At first I thought he was just pulling me off of the drilling table again. But the bucket was going straight out and not following its arc. Todd kept pulling, not only pulling the bucket out but pulling it away from the back of the drill rig giving me a place to land. I rolled under the truck’s axle between the back wheels. The top rail of the chain link fence six foot behind the table was hit so hard and fast that it tightly wrapped three sides of the Kelly bar. The Kelly hit the drilling table and put cracks in the steel supports that held it to the truck frame. I thanked Todd for continuing to pull the rope and giving me the split second needed to find shelter. Repairs were made in the next few days. Holes continued to be drilled for a short time. But this was the last day drilling was fun and pipe lying jobs started to take the place of drilling holes. The drill was sold to someone in Mexico – hopefully they parted it out or sold it for scrap. I really believe the fact that I can walk without a limp or even walk at all is due to Todd slightly adjusting the direction of the falling Kelly bar and pulling as hard as he could. Thirty years have passed. The construction business was left behind twenty years ago, but I would like to say, once more, thank-you Todd.