Roughnecks And Oilfields 'Boom or Bust'

Oil and Gas drilling has seen its ups and downs through the years. The phrase "Boom or Bust"must originate with the drilling industry,  because things are either always balls to the wall going fast or so slow that workers are having to sell everything they have acquired just to survive.

Roughnecks have always been a resilient people willing to give a hard days work for a good days pay. Tough oilfield work has always attracted men from all walks of life. College educated professionals as well as felons and ex cons all working together on rig floors to get the job done.

Fat paychecks in their pockets and 2 weeks off each month, Roughneck's that work hard often play hard too. You can find single young men with pockets full of cash from drilling operations in boom-town bars spending their hard-earned money faster than they can make a set of tongs bite, always thinking the supply of cash for hard work will never end! The first Boom/Bust downturn always surprises these young men who have lived week to week thinking the fountain of cash would never stop flowing.

Other Roughnecks choose to make long-term investments in expensive homes and Harley's, even boats, expensive pick up trucks and four wheelers thinking that their long-term financial commitments can be met on the drilling rig year after year. These hands are just as shocked when the bottom falls out and banks are knocking on their door. Most  items are sold or repossessed while trying to hold onto the home with a meager income received temporarily from oilfield unemployment checks.

Some Roughnecks get so discouraged that they never return to oilfield work. Others quickly learn to live within their means, saving during the good times so that they can survive lean times.  Oilfield veteran's always know there will be another "Bust". Experienced hands work hard during the good times, always being dependable and making a name for themselves on  drilling rigs so that when  times get lean their efforts are remembered and they are  last in a long line of layoffs.

Experienced Roughnecks know that someday again Toolpushers will be Drillers and Drillers will again be pulling slips just to keep roughnecking dollars coming in. The "Boom/Bust" oilfield cycle continues.

Communities are also impacted by booms in our drilling industry. Some locals welcome the influx of workers and their large disposable incomes as it means increased profits for their business. Housing becomes scarce. Monthly rental rates rise to unheard of the extremes with often just a basic bed & plumbing costing outrageous rates. These locals  seek to capitalize off the basic needs of oilfield workers often raising local rates on most everything in the community so local non-oilfield employed people find the basic necessities no longer affordable. These "left out" locals often become bitter with hatred, blaming the oilfield worker for all that is no longer affordable to them.The blame is seldom placed on the price gouging greed of the locals. Identifying these workers as"Oilfield Trash", the name is branded to all oil workers who enter the community. The bigger the boom the greater the hate.

Communities also suffer in other ways. Long standing local "pecking orders" of wealth are turned upside down. Families noted in the area for decades because of their wealth and stature having maybe a million dollars to their net worth are often tossed from their roost by dirt poor farmers that have struggled their entire life just to keep their family farms. Many of these common farmers lease their acreage to producers for amounts that make them millionaires overnight with additional royalty checks pouring in on regular basis that dwarf the local aristocrats wealth. Families previously at the top of the "local pecking order" also feel resentful and soon even the farmers that leased their mineral rights are branded  as "Oilfield Trash". 

The Boom and Bust cycle has been repeated over and over with everyone associated with oil and gas riding high during the good economic times-but there are busts and they always come. Busts are always associated with nationwide economics and recessions.  Any down trend in the economy always signals less use of oil and gas, market prices soon reflect this. As the price of a barrel of oil plummets, drilling comes to a screeching halt, catching most new to oil and gas drilling off-guard. Just like the Roughneck that made long-term investments in extravagant items-many businesses find out they went to far into long-term debt or expanded their business to quickly. Soon many businesses find out they cannot meet their monthly expenses as account receivables dry up and many of their customer's become "Slow Pay" or "No Pay". Banks take possession of buildings and equipment and liquidate for a fraction of  property worth, strapping the  former owner with liens and judgements for life. Busy oilfield industrial parks that sprang up over night now set vacant and overgrown in weeds.

Other supporting businesses like food and lodging also suffer. Hotels and Motels unable to rent  the rooms required to meet debt obligations are lost to debtors. Once expensive franchise businesses drop the name and become "Mom & Pop independents overnight or close completely. Restaurants and nightclubs once filled with patrons spending the endless supply of oilfield money dry up overnight.

 Lines at the local unemployment office grow with many arriving in the predawn hours to get a place in line to file for benefits that will keep them afloat a little longer. 

The weak are weeded out and in time the survivors make it back on top, only now a little wiser with less appetite for the short-term happiness that blowing a pocket full of cash each week brings.

I am thankful this holiday season for the current oil & gas drilling boom, for the oil industry that allows me to provide for my family & for the friends, members and customers that continue to support us. I thank each of you.

Wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving & Holiday Season!

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