Thursday, November 22, 2007

On May 30, 1984, I was standing with three students on the floor of a training rig at Lafayette, Louisiana. They were vocational education students, learning how to engage the kelly and do whatever is done on oil rigs, most of it dangerous. They were the sons and grandsons of career roughnecks and knew a little about unemployment. At the time, it was synonymous with being in the oil business.
Practicing to drill a hole in the ground, everybody was occupied with something else on this day. One of the students popped the lens out of a welder's safety helmet he had brought from the shop. He held it up to the sun and looked through it. He passed it around among the small group on the training rig. Each student took a turn looking through the glass. The sun and the moon were lining up for an event that only happens every 24 years. It's noontime but twilight comes quick, a cataclysmic astronomical event that's briefer than a coffee break. A total eclipse of the sun.
Are we due for another total eclipse next year? It might come and go real fast, but the oil business takes its sweet old cyclical time. Almost a quarter century after the roughnecks were training for jobs that might never come, fuel oil is in another phase of its demand. As in, almost $100 per barrel of crude. Stocks in offshore drilling companies are soaring, along with the price of automobile fuel and heating oil.
Back then in Mississippi, a petroleum geologist was working on his back-up career-- writing. Another career that rises and falls. Now he is known as a writer and we have Oil Notes by Rick Bass in our store, a scarce copy autographed by its author.

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