I moved to Ardmore, Oklahoma, just for something new and different… Away from home, Okla. City, and stretching the umbilical cord where it wasn’t so easy to run home to momma for a good meal. I had been doing custom picture framing for ten years and I thought it would be a snap to get a job. Shows how naive I was in my early thirties. Ardmore was probably a tenth the size of OKC if that, at the time. There were two frame shops in town, both were family run and neither needed help. Undeterred in my hunt for a job, I went to the state employment agency and filled out my info. It was only a couple of days and a lady at the employment agency gave me a call and asked if I’d ever thought about working outside. This was in April of the year so it wasn’t hot yet and I was 30+ years younger and so I told her I hadn’t thought about it but that wouldn’t be a problem. So she sat me up with an interview the next day with a supervisor with Atlantic Richfield Oil Company to do roustabout work. I didn’t know what a roustabout did but I was game and it paid probably double what I could have made custom framing.
Now, just as a reminder, back then, I was 5’9” and maybe 120 pounds. Skinny Minnie. I go in for my interview, dressed in nice casual wear. When I walked into the gentleman’s office he stood up and greeted me, they did nice things like that back then. He looked at me and said that, frankly, he wasn’t sure that job would be for me. I asked why and he said that there was some heavy lifting and it could be dirty work and he asked if I had any idea of how much I could lift. I told him probably 100 pounds depending on how it was packaged. I also told him that I would be able to tell him before anybody else could if the work was too heavy for me. I had had two hernia surgeries and I didn’t want to do that again, so based on my positivity, he hired me to be a roustabout in the oil patch.
Layers in the winter. But I always wore my small loop earrings. You see, this was at the start of equal opportunity employment and ARCO (Atlantic Richfield Oil Company) needed to hire a woman to meet the e.o.e. ruling. So I was the first woman that they had hired out in the field out of the Ardmore area. I’m working on a pulling unit here.
We rotated around with different jobs, the pulling unit, there were two wench trucks and the gang pusher, kind of like the foreman in the field. Essentially, roustabouts do the maintenance work out in the oil field. We didn’t do any drilling so the work, while it could be dangerous, was not nearly as dangerous as a drilling rig.
The one thing that everyone answered the call on was leaks. If the pumper spotted a leak in a line, everyone who was working at the time, usually about ten of us, went to wherever the leak was found to see what needed to be done. Being a small field, when we had leaks the company would call out independent backhoe operators if it was more than just us being able to shovel out to expose and find the leak. They also called out vacuum truck drivers to suck up the water and oil.
We were out on a leak a couple of months after I started working and the hole had to be dug by the back hoe. We were waiting on parts to do the repair and I went over to talk say hi to the fellow that drove the vacuum truck. I’d met him before and he was a nice guy. He was talking to the backhoe driver and when I started towards them, the backhoe driver, whom they called Chief, was looking down at the ground, almost digging his toes in like he was embarrassed. Pool, the vacuum truck driver was grinning like a possum… With kind of a questioning look at him I introduced myself to Chief and he just blurted out, “I didn’t know you was a woman and I told Pool you must be the meanest son of a bitch in the field to be as scrawny as you are and wear earrings out here and live!”
It was a great job. I worked there for 2 and a half years before I moved back to OKC and went to work for UPS. And I still have friends around who knew me back then that occasionally will still tease me about being the meanest little s.o.b. in the patch.