Boots On a Fence Post



Forgive me for dragging me mum into this. That is her on the left. It's a scorching hot day in late August, 1951, she is on a well location with my dad, tin hard hat, sleeves rolled up... and very, very pregnant.


The next day I was born. I have been in the oilfield ever since. Its all I have ever known.


This is important only because this coming week I am going to drill my last well as a licensed operator in the great State of Texas. Stick a fork in me. I'm done.

Deep, shallow, oily, gassy, sandy, rocky, vertical, horizontal; most were good, some not so good, some geological successes but pipeline failures..some absolute disasters that almost broke my back. Countless sleepless nights, hard manual labor in the freezing rain, endless highways from rig to rig that never ended. Ulcers, anxiety, stress to choke a tall horse. Over 300 I should think in the last fifty years, all with my own money involved, every last one of them received my undivided attention.


I think often that is was not me that found the oil and gas business to spend a lifetime in, it found me. I took the responsibility seriously.


It's all over now; thank God.


I'm tired of the fight.


Never quit; not ever, even in the darkest moments. I put the safety and well being of others before me; nobody ever got hurt on my watch. I told the truth; always to myself. Nobody that ever worked for me did anything I did not do alongside them, they were paid when they needed to be paid, and they had my respect. I always did what I said I would do...because I said it. I come from good stock.


The oil business taught me humility and to rely on my instincts, to believe in myself and that hard work counted. I can't think of a harder way to make a living. It's dark down there and hard to see. I was right sometimes.


I am good with all this, my life's work is in good hands. My family and my employees families are all set. We did it together.


I now want to watch fat trout slurp dry flies on clear, cold streams that flow endlessly from their origins to unknown places.


That's life, isn't it?


Boots on a fence post is a Texas thing and I am Texan through and true.

~Mike Shellman