Brian Crossman is a partner in Estevan-based Independent Well Servicing.
Every fall, there used to be a wonderful event, right around deer hunting season. It was known as the Deer-B-Que.
With the fall weather, the leaves turning and the inevitable end of the year, I start to think about the way things used to be. (Yeah, and I’m getting old, too, so there’s that.) Working on the rig was better, as the summer heat had subsided, and I’ve always preferred working in the cooler weather over the hot summer. The memories of eating field suppers during combining season come to mind as well. What a great time to be alive in the fall. (I’m trying hard not to think about the really cold weather coming.) Seeing the deer running was always enjoyable, except when they jump out in front of your crew truck on the way home. (A total of six met their demise from the front of trucks I was driving. I can’t remember how many I’ve seen as a passenger.)
Anyway, back to the Deer-B-Que. Back in the day, there was an oilfield supply company/pump shop that operated in several regions of Western Canada: C.E. Franklin Supply. It was a solid company with a great reputation, mostly because of the great people who worked there. These guys got things done, the same way all the other companies did. They were fast, efficient and they always answered the phone no matter what time we called. I remember dropping off insert pumps at 10 at night, and the pump was ready the next day for 6 a.m. – clean, wrapped up, tagged and ready to go. These guys, along with the rest of the oilpatch, got shit done.
I was talking to my good friend Chris Young, who worked in the pump shop at C.E. Franklin back in the day. He worked his way up the chain so far that he is now the manager for Swift Supply here in Estevan. Chris is also one of the funniest guys I know. He always has a joke ready, unless you want a clean joke. Good luck with that.
We were reminiscing about the old days and the Deer-B-Que. What would happen is the good people at C.E. would get some of the local oilpatch guys who also hunted to save some of the harvest for the Deer-B-Que. It was then announced the night the event was to take place. They rounded up all the sides to go along with the delicious deer chops and sausage that they cooked up and served. There were potatoes, beans, buns, salads and maybe even a beer or two (or three). They had prizes, games and the Calgary folks would make it out, all dressed up nice. It was like a big Thanksgiving party for the oilpatch.
I remember my first time attending the Deer-B-Que. I was a roughneck on Badge Rig 5 and we came into town quite late. We had heard about the party, but didn’t think guys like us would be allowed to attend. (By guys like us, I mean roughnecks who probably smelled pretty bad.) We dropped off the pump on the rack outside and one of the cooks outside told us to “get the hell in there” and have some food. We all looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, said, “why not?” and in we went.
I remember thinking as I walked in, “We are maybe out of our element in here.” We had our winter boots on, still grubby from the rig and probably smelling like a monkey’s wedding. Damned if we weren’t welcomed right in, handed a beer and told to grab a plate and dish up some food. It was a roughneck’s dream ‑ hot food, cold beer, people being nice to us. What the heck? People were coming up to us and asking who we worked for and thanking us for coming. It was surreal for rig hands in their early 20s. The generosity of the guys who bagged the deer and all the people who set it all up still make me smile 35 years later.
The Deer-B-Que was a yearly event for many, many years. I missed a few due to work commitments, but if I had even a small chance, I’d move heaven and Earth to attend. We even donated prizes and swag to the event. It would be great to have this event again.
This is just one of the many events that give the oilpatch that close-knit “family” feel. The OTS bonspiels, golf tournaments and now the skeet shoot have always played a big part in this. We get together and compete a bit, have a few beers (maybe a few more) and relax a bit after working our asses off. Along with these “sanctioned” events, there was the Deer-B-Que and many other “stop in for a drink and a gift” in the days leading up to Christmas. (Many work trucks were left at shops overnight, and recovered the next morning.)
The current state of the energy industry, pummeled by low commodity prices, lack of vision from the federal government, challenges of finding young talent to grab the reins and numerous other obstacles, not to mention COVID, have made our lives interesting. The ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” seems an appropriate to the situation.
It is these events that bring us together, not only as industry peers, but as people; people with many common threads connecting them – our work, our children in school and sports, our wives and husbands, family and friends. So, when we get together at events such as we did at the Deer-B-Que, it is a chance to be among “family.” Our family. The energy industry family. From roughneck, all the way the CEO, we are a big band of brothers and sisters. (We don’t always get along, but yeah, we are.) So, the next time you have a chance to attend any, and I mean any, industry get-together, go. Just go and be with your big, awesome family. Perhaps it’s a little dysfunctional, (we put the “fun” in dysfunctional) but a family nonetheless. See ya’ll at the next event.
Brian Crossman is a partner at Independent Well Servicing, and really hopes we have a Deer-B-Que again, soon, real soon.