Posted on January 4, 2019
by Steve Janowick

I used to sling 50-pound water bottles out of a truck all day for my job.

I thought I was a real tough guy.  I was a man! 200 bottles a day (that’s 10k pounds!) while maneuvering a rickety box-truck through Baltimore’s narrow, mean streets.  100-degree afternoons drenched in sweat and zero-degree mornings when I literally couldn’t feel a single extremity on my body. All while enduring my flaming sore muscles and very stressed spine.  A million things could go wrong during each workday, and often did.

It was by far the most physically (and sometimes mentally) challenging job I ever had.  But as much of a ball breaker as it was, and for as little pay as I received, I still felt more alive doing it than any other job before or since.  In my humble opinion, there wasn’t another occupation that pushed a man more to his limits than this.

That was until my eyes watched a recent Facebook video.

With their clean, white coats and toothy smiles, the chemist and engineer get all the love whenever there’s a gasoline commercial on the television.  They’ll show them holding a test tube or spouting off about the latest additive for your tank. They are the faces out in front for all the big players.  But without this guy, there’d be no oil to make the gas in the first place.  In fact, there’d be a lot of nothing without this guy.  The ‘machine’ would literally cease to run.

The roughneck earns his name honestly.  His hands aren’t just dirty. They’re like two pieces of weathered granite forged from years of extracting our life blood from the earth’s arteries.  The video I saw was of one single man. He was manipulating huge, bulky, clunky pieces of metal like a maestro. To my untrained eyes it looked like total madness.  Like choreographed chaos. Spinning and jumping and wrenching from one moving apparatus to another. Fluids of all sorts were spewing in all directions-including in his face.  Out on the open sea, on a massive stationary rig that’s exposed to all the elements, he looked like he was doing the work of five men. Brute strength, precision, stamina: his were all being put to the test in this clip, like I’d never seen before.

There’s something about very hard, physical work that speaks to the soul of a man (most men at least). It stimulates his dormant, caveman instincts. We all have it in our genetic codes to do it, but I’d argue that there’s very few of us out there that could endure the work of the roughneck.  He’s a different breed, and I know I’m certainly not one of them! My bottle humping job was tough, but it was child’s play juxtaposed with this.

So, the next time you feel like bitching about your stiff neck or sore wrist from too many hours at the office, why not refrain?  Because there’s a guy out there right now, somewhere on a rig, risking his life and killing his body…

So, you can start your car and turn your lights on every day.

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