Tell us a little bit about yourself (hometown, family, job, hobbies, etc.)

I didn’t have what would most would consider a normal childhood. My parents separated when I was really young, so I bounced around a lot and went to a different school every year. In my late teens I settled in the Houston area, in the town of Deer Park.

When I was sixteen years old, I begged my stepfather to get me a summer job working on blowout preventers. He was hesitant at first - I guess he didn’t want to stick his neck out - but he finally agreed. All summer long, I was covered in grease and Never-Seize, six days a week, ten- to twelve-hours a day. While my friends were out goofing off, I was learning a skill, making $8.00 an hour. Believe it or not, I still inspect and test BOPs at this facility from time to time. My current employer uses them as a vendor for repairs and re-certification.

After that first summer job, I went from building BOPS (blowout prevention systems) to building rigs in the yards around Houston, eventually working my way into field service on land and offshore rigs all over the world. It was a grueling schedule, and I got tired of being gone 300+ days a year, so I stepped away from the service side. I used my experience to settle in with a drilling contractor as a mechanical SME (Subject Matter Expert).

In my current role, I am the Global Manager of Planned Maintenance for an international drilling and well construction/intervention company. My primary focus is equipment reliability, asset integrity and most of all, personnel and environmental safety.

I have four kids, a girl and three boys. I like to hunt, fish and shoot three-gun competitions and sporting clays. I also refinish firearms and do some woodworking on the side.

What's it like living and working on an oil rig?

Working on the rig is fun. Yes, it is hard work and long hours, and sometimes things don’t go as planned, but the guys you work with make up for it. If you have a good crew that gels together, it’s an extended family, even a brotherhood.

I have worked with men and women from around the world, and I've noticed that beyond politics, race, religion, etc., we all have the same goals, wants, and needs. When you can sit down and share a meal across from someone that barely speaks your language, in a country that despises America, and talk about your goals and aspirations for yourself and your family, it will change you as a person.

On land rigs, you eat and sleep at a camp. Depending on the location, the camp may be a few meters from the wellhead or can be hundreds of meters away. Offshore rigs are laid out differently. Most offshore rigs are essentially giant hotels. These massive structures have pretty much every convenience you could want: gym, basketball court, movie rooms, saunas, and a giant mess hall/cafeteria with everything imaginable to eat. The food on these rigs is second-to-none. When you're out on a hitch anywhere from 21-28 days at a time, a bad cook doesn’t last long. I have personally seen a rig manager send a cook home on the evening chopper after only one meal.

Speaking of food, I remember putting together rigs on the North Slope back in 2010/2011. It was the coldest winter on record: minus-53 degrees for days on end. Despite the uncomfortable environment, the food at this location was amazing. The guys would come on the start of their hitch and drop $20.00 into a betting pool, then go weigh themselves. Whoever gained the most weight in twenty-one days won the pot. Some guys took the challenge too far and would end up having to wear coveralls home because their street clothes no longer fit.

I have also seen the scale go in the opposite direction. There’s nothing like being on a rig overseas for days on end and sitting down for a delicious meal in the chow hall, only to have the area superintendent ask if you have been eating the meat. Come to find out, horse and camel meat is more common than beef in some parts of the world. Luckily I had a five-pound tub of whey protein with me on that trip. When I hit the airport in Amsterdam, I pigged out at Sbarro's pizza and Burger King. After my 28 day hitch, I still wound up losing 27 pounds.

What was the most dangerous situation you've been in?

Probably Venezuela in 2007. I was sent down there to go look at some rigs that were coming up for sale, and the company I was with was looking at acquiring them. The location was right along the border with Colombia, and in those days, FARC was known for kidnapping people and holding them for ransom. We had been traveling for a few hours outside of a city call Maracaibo when the car came to a stop. In broken English, the driver ordered us to get out. He made a call, and a few minutes later, two Suburbans pull up and men with AK-47s get out. They hand me and my associate bulletproof vests and pile us in the Suburbans to continue the trip. Since the job site was on the border of Colombia, there was a risk of FARC raiding the rig at night to steal the food from the galley freezers and take diesel fuel. There was armed security at the rig site, but honestly, I feel more like they were armed eyewitnesses.

How plausible are the characters and storyline in BEAST?

The scenarios in the book were based on events that could actually happen. When given the opportunity to write with Mark Carver, I wanted to make sure the situations and circumstances were plausible and rooted in fact. I hate sitting down to watch a movie and the inaccuracies or depictions of how things work irritate me to the point I have to turn the program off.

The characters in BEAST are mashups of actual people I have worked with throughout my thirty-year career in O&G. You have the grizzled old man that’s been there for what seems like a hundred years and knows everything, and you have the young, feisty go-getter that trying to make a name for himself. You have the new FOB (Fresh off the Boat) guys that think they know everything and realize very quickly that they don't. Laughter is key to a good crew; guys that can laugh and joke about things makes your hitch go by faster. Even in the worst of conditions, a good joke or basic trash-talk takes the edge off. The banter between the guys is every day from sun up to sun down. Someone is talking trash, laughing, reading the Bible, while someone else in the corner is getting dressed down by their significant other on the phone.

Hazardous areas on a rig are abundant. Someone who is not familiar with a rig wouldn't even realize the danger surrounding them. There are hazardous classification zones for different areas of the rig, from the rig floor to the mud pits and everything in between. The electrical equipment in these zones has to be 100% sealed from the atmosphere; one arc of an electrical contactor could cause a explosion that could quickly envelop the entire rig. Even though the structure is made of steel, you are sitting on 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel, as well as thousands of gallons of oil and other hydrocarbons (greases, solvents, welding gases etc.). And aside from the dangers from fire and explosions, there are countless places where slips, trips, and falls could easily take a life, which means plenty of material for a gripping story.

What do you want to average person to understand about the challenges and rewards of the oil drilling world?

Working on a rig is hard. The physical labor, kicking in the slips, breaking connections, and racking back pipe are all hard on your body. The mental drain comes from missing loved ones back home, missing your wife, your kids, your dog. You miss a lot of first words, first steps, first ball games, first days of school. You miss holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and even funerals. It’s hard when you can’t say good bye.

Being away weeks at a time takes a toll on relationships. Most marriages that take place prior to the spouse working on the rigs don’t last very long. You have to be strong couple. I was lucky - before my wife and I got married, she knew what I did, what the life demanded. We often joke that whatever anniversary we are celebrating, we were really only physically together for half that year since I was on a rig somewhere else during the other half.

People are sometimes envious when they see the things I have acquired, the vacations I have taken with my family, the vehicles we drive, the stuff we do for fun. I often hear, "Must be a nice gig," and it sure is. But make no mistake, it is far from easy. When I'm on the rig, I get up everyday at 5:00am, and I work twelve-hour shifts from 6:00am to 6:00pm. After a shower and a bite to eat, I'll make a quick call home to talk to the family. I'll settle in to bed around 9:00pm and flip and flop until I finally fall asleep, only to wake up at 5:00am to do it all over again for the next 28 days. There are no weekends, no days off until the hitch is finished.

This life is hard, but it is also very rewarding, I am compensated very well and I get to travel around the world. After 30 years of doing this job, a day hasn't gone by that I did not want to get out of bed to go to work. I absolutely love what I do and the people I have had the opportunity to work with.


is available in ebook and paperback from The Crossover Alliance.