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Keep It Turnin' to the Right

Roy Jerden Avatar Roy Jerden - LIFETIME Premium Member Roy Jerden - Premium MemberPremium Member Send Soup Mail Go to Poets Blog Block poet from commenting on your poetry

Below is the poem entitled Keep It Turnin' to the Right which was written by poet Roy Jerden. Please feel free to comment on this poem. However, please remember, PoetrySoup is a place of encouragement and growth.

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My grandfather and father worked as roughnecks and drillers in the West Texas oil fields way back when it was rough and dangerous work. This poem is dedicated to them. The oilfield slang and terminology is pretty unique so I have included a partial glossary and a link below.

"Keep it turnin' to the right" is a phrase used to mean "be efficient and don't stop the drilling if not necessary". Time is money. Oil rigs drill continuously 24X7 until they either have to add more pipe to the drillstring (the bit and the 30' joints of pipe), change bits, or have a problem.
A "weevil" or "worm" is a green hand and is given the hardest, dirtiest jobs on the rig with close supervision until they are "broke out"(experienced enough to work on their own). They usually go through a period of hazing by the other roughnecks to see if they are man enough for the job or will quit. Tricks are commonly played. One of the most common tricks on a new worm is to send them to get the key for the vee door. The vee door is the upside down V-shaped opening in one side of the derrick that enables long pipes and tools to be lifted into the interior of the derrick. It's not a door and has no key. The possum belly is a metal container that receives the flow of drilling fluid. It's also southern slang for a fat guy with a protruding hairy belly and a short T-shirt. Sort of a reverse half-moon if you get my drift. But that's a topic for another poem.

West Texas lingo: "Caliche" is a sedimentary rock, a hardened deposit of calcium carbonate. Caliche occurs worldwide, generally in arid or semiarid regions. Caliche is also known as hardpan. It forms a significant portion of the surface in West Texas. "Forty-two" also known as Texas 42, is a trick-taking game like bridge played with a standard set of double six dominoes. A "norther" or "blue norther" refers to a swift-moving cold front marked by a dark, blue- black sky with strong wintery winds from the northwest or north.

All bad grammar is intentional. "Oilfield Trash" is not a pejorative term.

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Keep It Turnin' to the Right

Oklahoma cowboy, tough coal miner’s son
Born in Henryetta, south of Tulsa some
Raised by daddy’s momma, taught him wrong from right
Daddy taught him ropin’, taught him how to fight
Herding made no money, its stock was really down
Mamaw feeling poorly, dad mining at Old Town
Seventeenth of December, in the year of twenty-nine
Dad was shoring timber, 9th west entry of the mine
The gas ignited close to him, he never smelt its breath
It belched fire and thunder, and everlasting death
Sixty-one they counted, who wouldn’t see the sun
Twenty-five weren't recognized, they buried them as one
On that fatal Tuesday, the boy became a man
Had to make a living, had to have a plan
Heard about the oil patch, got a chance to try it
Drill the earth for all she’s worth; just keep it turnin' to the right

Some they called him weevil, some they called him worm
Some they wouldn't speak to him, figgered he was just short term
They told him "Open up that vee door; go to get the key
It's in the possum belly, in doghouse number three"

Took his turns at floor hand, at first a little green
Became the fastest broke out hand the driller ever seen
Morning tour, evening tour, working day and night
Drilled the earth for all she's worth, kept it turnin' to the right

The driller called him partner; the pusher called him son
The other roughnecks shook his hand, and took him in as one
Got up on the monkeyboard; learned to spin the chain
Pumped that mud and shed his blood, and worked right through the pain

On a bitter frosty evening tour, in a cold December snow
He saw derricks lit like Christmas trees in the distance far below
He saw the fairyland of the refinery, shining through the night
He saw Mother Earth and the universe, all turning to the right

He got a job as driller, to West Texas he would go
A boomtown named McCamey, southwest of Angelo
Hired a shack from Pansy, put money in the bank
Drove his pickup out of town, seen the million barrel tank

The oil patch was a hard life, moving all the time
But he saved a lot of money, didn't waste a dime
Morning tour, evening tour, working day and night
Drilled the earth for all she's worth, kept it turnin' to the right

Sent his kids to college, working through the years
One became a teacher, the others engineers
He hung up his hardhat; he shed his steel-toed shoes
Then one day he passed away; he'd finally paid his dues

Made it to the Pearly Gates; they handed him his wings
Handed 'em right back to them; said "I don't need these things.
I want to do some drilling. That's my heavenly plan."
They said "Go talk to the Devil then, cause he's the company man."

Old Scratch needed hellfire; he always come up short
Too many bankers and lawyers and others of that sort
When he heard they had a driller, he jumped up with delight
He danced a jig, "You've got your rig. Keep it turnin' to the right."

Now he drills for hellfire; in the derrick he's got Jake
Buck and Sam on the platform; Sonny's on the brake
They all grin like demons; they're all where they belong
Doing what they love to do, they sing their roughneck song

"We all eat caliche and sniff the devil's brew
Play dominos with Satan and whip him at forty-two
Work all day on Sunday and honky-tonk all night
We're oilfield trash and we'll take cash to keep it turnin' to the right

We all love West Texas; it's like the Promised Land
Horny toads and rocky roads, and even dunes of sand
Dust storms every morning, northers every night
We get tans and freeze our cans to keep it turnin' to the right"

The lingo used around the rig you won't hear much in church
It'll curl your hair and make you stare and leave you in the lurch
So close your eyes and realize it's gonna get much worse
Drink your beers and plug your ears; here comes the final verse

"We p*ss longneck Lone Stars; we f*rt Frito pie
Give us ****, and we will spit some Red Man in your eye
Don't **** with us, or we will cuss and bring you to the fight
We're low class, but we kick *** to keep it turning to the right"

Click "About this poem" above the title to see the notes.

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  1. Date: 3/30/2013 11:14:00 AM
    Roy, I bet you know where the rat hole is.... I spent some of my younger days as a salesman peddling supplies to the Drilling and production sites. Chasing rigs, both alone and with oil field supply store hands, was a real adventure. I really liked this Saga of the oil patch. Thanks, Roy, for the memories.... Something inside me just wants to "Keep Turnin' To The Right."

    Jerden Avatar Roy Jerden
    Date: 3/30/2013 12:20:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Jake, you're probably one of the few here who can really "get" this poem based on both background and maybe age, I think. It's really a hit at some of the oilfield drilling Facebook pages though, where they know the work, and even something about old school drilling. Thanks for the nice comments.
  1. Date: 2/15/2013 5:04:00 PM
    Roy, hope you are well... stopping by to say HI!:-) Congratulations with your featured poem of the week. Always~ PD"

  1. Date: 2/14/2013 1:48:00 AM
    YOU ARE SOOOO Brilliant!!

    Jerden Avatar Roy Jerden
    Date: 2/14/2013 6:20:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Thanks, Frank! This one likely resonates to a limited audience due to the subject matter. It was the first poem I wrote after a 50 year hiatus and was the one that got my poetry engine re-started.
  1. Date: 11/29/2012 12:25:00 PM
    It was long..Sara

  1. Date: 11/19/2012 9:33:00 PM
    Enjoyed 1 and 2!!! A whole bunch!