Working and Sleeping and not much else |

Working and Sleeping and not much else

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

PARACHUTE, Colorado ” Kevin Eastman loves the intensity, the adrenaline rush and the danger of imminent death in drilling rig work.

Connecting or disconnecting heavy pieces of pipe as they come into or out of the ground could snap off a finger, or worse. He takes some pride in doing a physically demanding job not everyone can do.

“Close your eyes for a second and boom ” you’re gone,” he said.

Then there’s making more than $75,000 a year to start on a rig. The hours are long, but many drillers only work during about half the days in a year.

A former welder, Eastman’s been working on the drill rig for about six years. After past substance abuse led him to jail, he said, drilling work was the only well-paying profession left for someone with a felony conviction. But he’s clean now.

He said his five-man crew is closer-knit than the family he grew up in.

His crew works at a rig between Parachute and Rifle. They generally work 12-hour shifts for seven days then get seven days off. When they’re on, the five guys stay at a three-bedroom, two-bathroom River Manor apartment in Parachute that a drilling contractor has rented for its workers.

“It’s no problem having two guys sleeping in the same room on twin beds because we work together,” he said. “We’re very fond of each other. We help each other out with domestic problems ” financial needs.”

Some roughnecks spend more time with coworkers than people do with spouses. They go to bed together, eat together, ride to work together and even spend time off together. With a good crew it creates strong bonds. A bad crew can be a living hell.

“That’s what keeps me in this field. I love it,” Eastman said. “We get back to the apartment and we talk about the day, what’s going to happen tomorrow. For us and our crew it’s a real good bonding time. We all get on the same page. It creates a real congruency.”

Eastman hopes to buy a house near Parachute. Driving home to Phoenix on days off, experiencing “road lag” then driving back to the rig five days later created a lot of stress, Eastman said. He and his wife recently decided to separate.

She said, “I didn’t marry you so you can be gone.” Eastman said, “I can’t give this up. This is what I love. It’s a part of me.”

Working on a drill rig tests one’s mettle every day. It’s the ups and the downs that create the bonds.

“You meet these tests with your fellow human beings and you overcome them and that creates a bond,” he said. “And then the failures, sometimes no matter how hard everyone is pulling things go wrong. You stay beside each other in the trenches. You can’t stop. You can’t walk away. Through the ups and the downs, that’s what creates such a tight crew.”

Eastman knows others aren’t as lucky. He’s worked for different companies and on different crews and he knows many drill rig workers aren’t strangers to substance abuse.

“A lot of the guys they work so hard so they party too hard,” he said.

He’s seen people lose jobs over it and he’s picked up shifts from people who got arrested. He said it’s rare that two people will be on the same crew for more than a year.

But his crew has been together for about six years, starting in Wyoming. They followed the rig to Colorado in August 2006. Eastman said they have two more years of work planned on the valley floor, five more years “up top” on the Roan Plateau and then he’ll probably follow the rig to North Dakota.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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