Claim: Fired oil rig worker gains revenge on former bosses by dropping a piece of equipment in the well.
Example: [Fields, 1974]
There was an old boy that fooled around and kicked a twelve-pound hammer. They were sitting around the hole with the top off of it, and he stumbled or fell or something and kicked it off in the hole.
They couldn’t drill it up for sidetrack it or fish for it, and they messed with it for days, and they finally caught the thing and got it back to the surface.
And this had cost them maybe two weeks fishing time, a lot of work when they should have had the well completed and been gone.
As quick as they got it out of the hole, the toolpusher told him, ‘Well, we just don’t need your kind around here anymore.’
The guy said, ‘Well, then I guess I don’t need this anymore,’ and kicked the sledge hammer back in the hole.
Origins: Print sightings of this legend go back to 1974, but folks recall hearing it in the early 1960s. If lore were to be believed, this incident has played out at
every oil field you could think to name: East Texas, Alberta, Alaska, an offshore rig near the east coast of Canada, eastern Venezuela, and in the Gulf of Mexico, for instance. What gets dropped in the hole changes too: Hammers, sledge hammers, and wrenches are the instruments of sabotage in various tellings.
The life of an oil rig worker is not easy. The work is brutal, the hours are long, and oil has this peculiar habit of seemingly gushing up only in the most godforsaken spots imaginable. This isolation means that at the end of the day a roughneck often has limited opportunity to blow off steam. Stories about revenge on the folks they work for provide a much-needed vent; release comes from the notion that no matter how hard things are here, some bugger somewhere got a bit of his own back. This imaginary act of retribution thus becomes everyone’s pride restorer.
A similar tale of workplace retribution comes from the high seas. Once again, an aggrieved worker deals his higher up a smart one across the nose by using the very piece of equipment that got him into trouble as his instrument of revenge:
A seaman who was steering the ocean liner Queen Mary across the Atlantic got bored one day and carved his initials on the wooden steering wheel. When the captain saw this, he ordered the seaman to pay for a new wheel. The seaman did as he was ordered, but after he paid for the wheel he stated that now it was his, and he disconnected it and took it to his cabin. The ship was helpless in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and they had to beg the seaman for the wheel so they could bring the ship into port.
A seaman who was steering the ocean liner Queen Mary across the Atlantic got bored one day and carved his initials on the wooden steering wheel. When the captain saw this, he ordered the seaman to pay for a new wheel.
The seaman did as he was ordered, but after he paid for the wheel he stated that now it was his, and he disconnected it and took it to his cabin. The ship was helpless in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and they had to beg the seaman for the wheel so they could bring the ship into port.
As enjoyable as such imaginings are, this one is more fable than fact. Methinks any captain worthy of his old saltitude wouldn’t have a problem in breaking down that cabin door, taking back the wheel, and tossing the now less-than-able bodied seaman in the brig.
Barbara “brigging rights” Mikkelson
Last updated: 21 April 2011
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Baby Train. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. ISBN 0-393-31208-9 (p. 163-165). Brunvand, Jan Harold. Too Good to Be True. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. ISBN 0-393-04734-2 (pp. 274, 276-277).
Also told in:
The Big Book of Urban Legends. New York: Paradox Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56389-165-4 (p. 181).