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Birth Of An Oil Sucking Entity We Call Jack

June 12, 2011 1 comment

I’ve been at this new stage of my life for nearly three years now, going from muck raking to muck smoothing.

The transition hasn’t been easy, but it has been interesting, to say the least.

Ever wonder how those ubiquitous pump jacks appear in the middle of nowhere? I’ve seen it before, but still find it interesting that once the well has been drilled, and the site prepared, it takes only a few hours to set up the pumps in the remotest of locations.

I thought some of my friends might be interested as well. So, with apologies to my good friend Larry Powell, here’s a little visual essay of the process:

1. The well has been drilled, mats placed down over the mud, and the pump jack location has been levelled. Waiting for the equipment to arrive:

2. Picker truck (truck with a crane) arrives, pulling a trailer with its load of two concrete pads, to be used as a base for the pump jack. Note, it has three drive axles, and can get into and out of most locations with minimum towing required. On this day, he required just a short tug to make it around the corner onto the road leading into the lease.

After unloading the concrete pads, the same unit will be used to unload the next truck, and help assemble the jack.

Picker truck arrives right on time.

3. Second truck backs in, carrying the pump jack pieces. Some of it will be assembled right there on the trailer, and then hoisted into place on the other side of the picker truck.

The second flatbed trailer arrives, with pumpjack pieces ready for assembly.

4. Three hours and six minutes later, assembly is complete, and everybody is gone.

Not quite ready to begin pumping, though. Storage tanks will be installed in a couple of days, to receive the steady of flow from the new well. Eventually, it will be shipped to a refinery, and the next thing you know, you’ll be burning litres of gasoline from sites like this, at $1.30 a pop, give or take a dime or two.

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SHADOWY RODENTS

January 28, 2011 1 comment

Hoaxters come in all shapes and sizes

Groundhog Day is just around the corner, and once again, you can bet your pay check there will be stories about it on Saskatchewan’s news media.

I’m really not trying to blow the lid off the hoaxes perpetrated on the public by Wiarton Willie and his American cousin, Punxsutawney Phil.

It’s not that I’ve had it up to here with these rodents leading self-respecting Canadians (and one or two Americans) down the garden path. I just question why the news media in this wintery province would even pay attention.

When I was picking stories for my broadcasts, I avoided the usual Groundhog guff, except for that time in the ’90’s when the good folks of Wiarton, Ontario, opened up the den to discover Willie was toast. The furry creature had entered permanent hibernation sometime in the weeks before February 2nd. Now, that was news!

My God, Groundhog Day is so entrenched, Hollywood has even made a movie about it. I have to admit, it’s a great movie, one I’ve watched over and over again.

But really, folks, what’s all the fuss about?

I sense that nothing else ever happens on February second, because that is all you see on the news that day. The groundhog saw his shadow! Oops, no he didn’t.

OK, so it’s good fun for the media to pick up on the story in Southern Ontario or in the U-S, but I question the relevance here in Saskatchewan, where we would give anything to have just six more weeks of winter.

One last thing, I’ve read that the only things that will lure groundhogs from their dens are sex and food. But really, who wouldn’t get up for pancakes and a romp in the hay?

Surely, we can come up with another use for the woodchuck, and focus our news reporting on something a little more relevant to our region.

Categories: Uncategorized

COUNTRIFICATION – PART LAST

November 14, 2010 Leave a comment

The late Peter Gzowski, host of Morningside, my favourite CBC Radio program of all time, once asked a bilingual guest what language she dreams in.

Of all the interesting questions asked by Gzowski over the years, this one has always stayed with me. Without reading any dream analysis self-help books, I understand that as much as anything, dreams can go along way to defining who we really are.

I’ve been away from my former life for more than two years now, retiring from CBC and moving to a tiny village 125 kilometres from the bustling city of Regina, Saskatchewan. (Note to Torontonians: Size isn’t everything..Regina can bustle with the best of them!)

While still toiling in my previous occupation, and for most of the time after leaving, I had been plagued by a recurring dream – missing deadlines.

Details varied, but the theme was always the same. I would walk into a studio, a mere seconds before I was due to go on the air, and realize I had not prepared any news copy. I would have to either wing it, or leave it to Charlie in Master Control, who, after realizing I wasn’t ready, would switch to a network newscast instead.

Even after retirement and moving to my new life, driving a tractor in the oilfields of Southeast Saskatchewan, those dreams stayed with me.  It’s probably no coincidence that I was still listening to radio with a critical ear, and getting agitated over some of the things I would hear.

But lately, something has happened. I cannot truly say my dreams consist of playing in the mud and the snow (‘wet’ dreams?), but they no longer deal with missing dreaded deadlines.

Who I am has now been re-defined. It hasn’t been easy, giving up one lifestyle for one so completely different.

When I made the decision to retire, I did so with the full realization that I would not be heading so soon to a rocking chair, that I still had many more years of working ahead of me. Once I got into that new role, though, I didn’t fully release my grip on the past. I thought of myself as a retired broadcaster, dabbling in a new rural lifestyle.

Now, I’m a country resident with a job in the oilfields, and when the radio or television is on, I can be engaged as a listener or viewer, not an editor. If I hear or see something I might have done differently, I only shrug, and wonder what job Ralph will be sending me on tomorrow.

The deadline dreams are gone, and so far haven’t been replaced by anything noteworthy, not even the Saskatchewan Roughriders winning a Grey Cup. I guess that falls more into the category of wishful thinking, but that’s for another posting.

Categories: Uncategorized

A BLOG ABOUT BLOGGING

October 23, 2010 Leave a comment

The final chapter of my first year in broadcasting (14 months, but, as a Roughrider fan, I have license to be loose with numbers) has now been posted.

Ancient document discovered in underwear drawer

The idea to write about that period in my life came upon the discovery of a hand-written list when I pulled my last clean pair of underwear out of the drawer.

I’m pretty sure that trip down memory lane would have been much easier, if I had started writing at the time I wrote the list and laundered that garment, some 30 years ago.

Ironically, after deciding to embark on the project, I misplaced the list again, and so relied totally on memory.

Thinking it might be interesting to link to the actual page, I searched through the mess in my office, and found it again.

That explains why some topics got missed in ‘ONE MOMENT, PLEASE‘. Sadly, my legions of faithful readers will never get to know what was behind ‘X-mas party and Cheryl’, or ‘Harv and Linda and Pat and Sandy and Dwight.’

Some things are better left-unsaid until after the author is dead and gone.

Categories: Uncategorized

Dining Habits

October 17, 2010 2 comments

If you’ve ever wondered what makes a nun happy, may I suggest a trip to Southeast Saskatchewan?

Forget, (pronounced for – ZHAY) population 40, sits amid oil pumpjacks and dusty roads, just off highway 13, about an hour and forty-five minutes southeast of Regina.

There are many gems in this tiny village, not the least of which is the Happy Nun Cafe.

Now, I’m no food critic, but I know what I like, as evidenced by my girth. I think the owners, Don and Shannon Shokatko are selling themselves short by calling the place a ‘cafe’. It’s elegant dining, and nothing less.

They are open only from Friday to Sunday, but what they offer is excellent food, and, often, live entertainment, with the likes of Ken Hamm, Jack Semple, Big Dave McLean, just to name a few.

Diana and I live just half an hour away, and I must say we don’t get there enough.

Last night was perhaps our third or fourth visit in the last two years. We weren’t there on a live entertainment night, so we had to just settle on the food. We dined on an appetizer of carmelized onion dip, served with kettle chips. This was followed by baby backribs, roasted potatoes and home-made baked beans and coleslaw, along with a home-made rosemary bun, and  tasty organic green salad with honey mustard vinaigrette and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

There are always only three entrees to chose from, and one is always a vegetarian dish.

Just as important as the food is the ambience, and the experience itself. The Happy Nun is located in a re-furbished community hall. There is a stage for the live acts, hardwood floors, and shelves filled with hard-covered books, ranging from classics from Charles Dickens to klunkers from Clive Cussler.

The same couple also owns and runs the Ananda Arthouse, next door in a former Roman Catholic rectory.  It should come as no surprise, then, that Saskatchewan artwork hangs on the walls, in keeping with the Nun’s philosophy of promoting local culture and food.

They were also one of the driving forces behind Forget’s annual summer arts festival, a festival which, sadly, came to an end a year ago. I believe it was just too much work by too few people to keep the festival going.

As for what keeps nuns happy? The answer is there, also on the walls. Old black and white photographs of nuns doing what the rest of us like to do, water skiing, fishing, and wading at the beach.

Tempest in a C-Cup

October 2, 2010 Leave a comment

I like Henry Burris. Always did, always will.

The poor guy was villified when he jumped ship, going from the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the Calgary Stampeders for a more lucrative contract. The fact he wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Rider GM Roy Shivers at the time was also a factor. Burris was doing the best he could for his family when he left. Who can fault him for that? Apparently, the answer is, many can.

My estimation of the man grew even more in the good-natured and mature way in which he responded to his critics back in Saskatchewan.

Burris isn’t the only non-Rider I can say I admire. People like Anthony Calvillo and, yes, even Stevie Baggs are on the list. I know none of these guys personally, but have read about the kind of things they do, on and off the field, in support of their local communities.

So when one of them shows up in photos wearing a bra, accompanied by a woman, not his wife, whose shirt is also noticeably absent, questions are raised.

I want to believe Henry Burris when he explains that it was a birthday prank, that the other woman is a friend’s wife, and that his wife is not only aware of the photos, but is OK with them. It’s probably true.

The question is, should ‘probably’ be good enough for the news media? Apparently, it is. Journalists ranging from Ian Busby of the Calgary Sun, to Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader Post appear to have unquestioningly accepted the explanation.

They aren’t the only ones. From what I have read, the birthday prank explanation has been pretty much universally accepted.

So I’m wondering, if the same standard of journalism existed south of the border, would we be convinced to this day that Tiger Woods’ injuries were sustained by a high-speed boreal collision in his driveway?

Or, should we even care?

Categories: Uncategorized

COMING SOON…

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

On August 1st, 1971, JC Penny adopted Helvetica as the font for it’s company logo. Also, I began the first of my 38 years in broadcasting.

Once I decide which of the two is the least boring, I will begin posting new articles here on SPIN.

Stay tuned.

Categories: Uncategorized
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