Pullin' It Wet


In the well fixin' business there are a host of reasons to have to pull a 'wet string' of production tubing; basically the bottom of the pipe is plugged up and fluid in it won't drain out. When that column of fluid is oil, it's a stinking mess. The big boys with lots of money will perforate the tubing as low as they can and wait hours to let it drain out; others will swab that fluid out before they pull it wet. The damn oil field now days is full of weenies afraid to get dirty. Stripper well hands actually trying to make money can't afford to do any of that shit. So, we just pull it wet.


If the tubing is full of fresh displacement water on an August afternoon when its 110 degrees and every piece of iron you pick up will give you a 3rd degree burn, pulling a wet string is not so bad. It cools things down a bit. In the photo above the tong operator has backed the connection out and the rig operator is picking up on the joint to be laid down. There is still left hand torque in that overlying joint and the sudden discharge of fluid makes a neat swirling effect.


Everybody involved in pulling a wet string generally gets soaked, from top to bottom; even your boots will fill up with water. I took a three month stint on a workover rig in W. Texas once when I was a kid and the tong operator I worked with on this rig was, I'm guessing, in his early 60's and a tough son of a bitch. Whenever we'd pull a wet string I could not help but look over at this fella and notice his boots were never full of water. It struck me as odd, and sort of pissed me off, but this was not the sort of dude you engaged in small talk with. I think he'd spent time in prison for some bad stuff and I never wanted to take the chance that "bad stuff" was on another roughneck. The only time this man ever spoke was when we were doing tubing tallies and then it was only because he was in charge of the smart end of the tape.


So one day we are actually getting to eat lunch, under a mesquite tree, and this guy is leaned back with legs stretched out eating his baloney sandwich. I happened to notice the bottom of his boots had two big, perfectly round holes drilled in them.


"Drain holes," he grunted.


Mystery solved.