Involvement in the Oil Industry
Steve got his start in the oil business after a July 1947 hailstorm destroyed his crop. There was an oil well being serviced one and a half miles west of his house. He got a job as a roughneck with Mirakle and Wright for 90 cents an hour. It took three men to run the service rig. The wells sent up a lot of oil and you couldn't dodge it, so you'd get covered with oil from head to toe. At the end of the day, you'd need two or three gallons of gas to wash off.
After a couple months, he was offered a job operating a rig at $1.40 an hour. He accepted the job and worked as an operator for two years. He worked at Blackfoot, Lone Rock and Unity. He recalls that in the winter you had to ship the rig by freight train, there was no snowploughing of country roads done at that time.
Steve then went to Wainwright in 1949 and started working with Husky as an operator. He also worked for Jansen who had an old rig on a truck. You had to run the motor to operate the rig. The wheels were driven by chain and you had to crank it to get it started. After that he worked for Bob Stewart at Star Servicing. He worked in Public Relations for the company and went around checking on rigs. He worked with the company for two years before buying his own service rig, a Bucyrus. At one point he worked for 36 hours non-stop and he decided it was time to get out of the business. He sold his rig in '56-'57.
After he sold his service rig, he got involved with Pollards who had a service rig. Then in '68-'69 he gave it up completely.
When he first got involved all the work was done by hand. At that time they didn't have the equipment. There were no government inspectors. You were responsible for the upkeep of your rig.
To deal with the saltwater, oil and sand, two 30' x 15' pits were dug. Mud went into one and light water into the other. Overflow oil was burned, buried or else hauled off. There were no disposal regulations.
Steve remembers when there were no hydraulics on the service rigs - except for the motor. He recalls settling rigs upright using cables.