Okay so, when I was a soldier in the Army and I had to finally sit down to do the scads of paperwork required to do the job I was doing – you know material data sheets, truck maintenance schedules called 24s, training schedules, you get the picture – awful stuff, I would do almost anything to avoid it.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I took all this very seriously.

First, I’d get myself all situated in my squeaky Army chair, play on the computer, reorganize my desk, steal the stapler from my boss, Master Sgt. Hefner’s desk (this drove him nuts), chase an annoying fly down to the supply section with a rolled up field manual and even make some coffee.

Then I take a look at the clock and then it’s chow time (this is what we call lunch in the Army). I’ll do it after chow, right?

After chow, the Colonel calls me into his office and asks me, “Where are this month’s 24s?” The Colonel has cold, steely blue eyes and they scare me. I do this thing he calls “vapor-locking”. Then he yells at me. “Sgt. Van Horn, don’t vapor lock!” I say, “Yes sir! Just getting them done sir,” I chirp as a bead of sweat rolls down my forehead.

Now, it’s important to understand that unless you drew parts to fix a vehicle, a DA form 2404 can be what we in the Army called pencil – well, you know – whipped. But the mileage form, which goes along with the 24s our command expected, not so much. Each month I told myself, “I’m going to start keeping that every day.”

Yeah right, whatever.

It was always easier in the moment to jot something down on a little scrap of paper and tell myself, “I’ll transfer it later to the book”.  Of course, then there are 20 scraps of paper and you really can’t find them all and then it’s down to creatively filling out those forms. That should make you tax payers so proud.

Okay, so it was like 1999 and time for my yearly evaluation known as an Enlisted Evaluation Report (EER). I stand before 1stSgt. Moreno’s desk as he taps his pen on the place where I signed the form acknowledging that I had seen and agreed with the evaluation. In the Army, a perfect EER was when you got all 5s. That meant you walked on water.

Most of us got one or two 4s and mostly 3s because…well, it’s the Army and no one is that good. There I stood looking at my nearly perfect evaluation with mostly 4s but one box that was marked with an evil 2.

Getting a 2 is like getting a needs improvement in the first grade. There was a comment in the box explaining the poor mark. It read, “Sgt. Van Horn is exemplary, heroic even in the field. But when it comes to completing assigned paperwork, she falls seriously short of the military’s standards.”

I’d like to tell you I have changed. That, when I got into the oilfield, that somehow I became all that I can be, so-to-speak, regarding paperwork. Nope.

This week enjoy: “Panic mode” – stories about real pumpers, including me who put off till tomorrow what we should have done yesterday.

Panic Mode

I had kind of decided to go through the Lease Pumper’s Handbook chapter by chapter. But in the first chapters, aside from mentioning that you will need a pencil and an ability to record production on each well location, it really doesn’t talk specifically about this most time consuming of all tasks you will perform daily. I felt this was important to sort of bring up, you know. Call your attention to it.

So I’ll just say it: You should do books daily and frankly moment by moment if you can. If you are a company pumper it is likely the company will expect your books from the previous day to be completed by sometime the next morning. So you need to leave enough time in your workday to make sure this is done or get to work a little early to get them completed the next morning if that is permitted.

But contract pumpers often wait and do their books at the end of the month, which I have a tendency to do when performing services on contract wells. To be clear again…it’s not because this is better, it’s because I can and there are parts of me that really aren’t very disciplined. I know, this probably surprises you.

I know one former pumper, let’s call him “Jeff Jones” who eventually was released to find his happiness somewhere else because he simply could not force himself to do his books and then when he finally did, he turned in numbers that did not add up to a little system run by gas collection companies called integration. Ahhhh, the joys of integration…

Once integration numbers are reported from gas collection companies straight to the desk of none other than your boss, he/she has a pretty good idea of what you have been up to all month long. If you are 30 or 50 MCF off for the month you will be fine. Anyone can miss it by that much.

But this fellow Jeff; well, he was 963 MCF off on one of his wells for the month and the rest weren’t too all-fired better. It became clear that he was performing his well checks by what we affectionately refer to as the “boiler house” guessing method.

Pumper Panic Onset / "Boiler House" guessing method...

“Boiler House” guessing method…

Now, we knew this guy was, indeed, going to his wells. We asked him, what’s up. He said he would try and remember the numbers and then he’d mean to write them down but sometimes he’d forget because, maybe the phone would ring when he got in his truck or whatever. Then he’d forget.

Before long, he’d forgotten to write down 30 days of those numbers and he’d write what he could remember.

Last I heard Jeff is in California now. I think he’s a model. No kidding.

And then there is my best friend. She is a much respected lease operator in the Panhandle and has been for 35 years. We call her Evi-Jen Donkey Hair. That’s her nickname because…well that’s another story. Evi-Jen Donkey Hair does her books monthly between the 1st and the 15th .

It is a monthly bitch-fest between us when instead of going to meet our friends at the neighborhood pub for a burger and beer, we are at home type, type, typing out these tedious, oh so awful books. We get on the phone together because, well, we have no other friends and we have these weird conversations that go like this;

Me: “Did you see the…uh,” Tap, tap, tap, tap tap tap.

Her: “Yeah. I uh…” tap, tap, tap tap, tap. “Got there late though and missed the…uh…Dammit now, where’s that run ticket?”

Me: “What I heard was that Stacy was there and she, uh… Uh, hang on a second.”Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. “I don’t know, did you leave it in your truck?”

Her: “You say she got in your truck?”

Me: “No! Your run ticket. Did you leave your run ticket in your truck?” Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.” There is complete silence on the line for more than one minute – Just the steady taping on computer keys.

Her: “What run ticket?”

Me: “The one you lost.”

Her: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Me: “Me neither.”

So this brings me to what I really want to talk about.

I know, finally, right!?

There are all kinds of production information gathering systems out there. You can work from a simple paper book system where you fax the numbers at the end of each day to systems like Field Direct.

Field Direct is a computer program that has already established coefficients set up into it so that it “knows” that the oil stock tank you have is an upright 300 barrel tank and so when you add the gauge levels every day it automatically calculates how much oil in barrels you made overnight or from week to week if it is a minimally producing well. But the truth is Field Direct is really anything but direct. The system does freaky things if you have to show negative oil or fluids and it takes an administrator to un-screw it up.

Now, I don’t know much about Greasebook because we didn’t have anything that cool where I come from and frankly I really am not paid to advertise their stuff. But the reality is, if you can use a phone, which you already pretty much have stuck to your face all day to do your job, I’m thinkin’ it’s a win-win right?

Add to that, I know that it enables you to capture and keep track of those tickets which goes a long way into making things simpler and cutting down on the nonsense conversations that seem to define my conversations with my best friend.

So, the moral of the story is, don’t procrastinate. The time to change is now. Not when you are my age and things are pretty, well, static.

And you are pumpers, so you know what static means.

– Rachael Van Horn

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