May 30, 1991. A high school student made a routine delivery run for a machine shop in Laredo, TX. The delivery took him to a nearby oil rig – the same type of rig his father and grandfather had both worked on for years. To Brannon’s surprise, this would be the day he followed in their footsteps. In desperate need of an extra set of hands, the rig’s crew recruited him to pitch in. It would be hours before he returned home, exhausted but exhilarated.
What started as a part-time job to earn extra cash became his way out of a small town. But more than a way out, it became a nearly 30 year career that has taken Brannon around the world in pursuit of the American Dream.
Today, as a lead hand for directional drillers, Brannon starts his day at 4 am. Even though his shift doesn’t start until 6 am, he’s up and ready to go early, ensuring there’s ample time to go over reports from the night shift and double check the day’s well plans. After the morning briefing and safety meeting, Brannon heads up to the doghouse, laptop in tow. For the next 12 hours he guides the bit and troubleshoots issues as they come up – and in almost 30 years, he’s dealt with nearly every issue you could imagine. Everything from basic tool failure or lost power to major incidents like tornados or the eight blow outs he’s worked through.
“If everybody has their head … screwed on tight, you’re going to be alright… As long as we can stay above ground and vertical, we’re good. Go home with the same amount of fingers and toes that we came out with [and] we’re doing outstanding.”
Over the years, his initial excitement and exhaustion has never waned. Brannon typically bounces from one rig to the next, staying on-hitch for 90-100 days straight. He credits the changing scenery and the technical challenges as the things that get him out of bed each morning.
“I love what I do with a passion. No matter the sad days or the good days … I’ve got to see parts of the world … that a lot of everyday folks can’t afford to go check out. [And] the fact that I can take a [drill] bit that is eight and a half inches around and reach out there two, three miles sideways and hit a target … I think that is the coolest thing since sliced bread.”
With so much time on the job, one might incorrectly assume Brannon crashes when he rolls back into his Texas hill country home. But to Brannon, idle hands are the devil’s playthings. When he’s home, he’s constantly staying busy – from restoring classic tractors or bowhunting with his daughter, to volunteering for Masonic community events or working with his wife serving local veterans and orphans. “I try to help out in the community,” Brannon says, “we take away enough from it. Hell, we can afford to put a little bit back.”
When asked how he and his wife, who he affectionately calls Ms. Shei, handle 100 days apart, Brannon runs down a typical last day before a new hitch. The two of them grab a bite to eat before heading to the grocery store where he helps her stock up on enough heavy, bulk items to last a while. Then, on the way home, as the sun sets, he stops on the side of the road and the two of them dance in the light of his truck’s headlights as night falls – a tradition going back to the beginning of their relationship. “[It was our] second date, we were going down I-10, headed to supper,” Brannon remembers, “there was a Charlie Robison song playing on the radio, and I cranked that SOB up, dragged her out [of the truck], and we danced in the headlights, right down the side of Interstate 10.”
Though Brannon may never refer to himself as a romantic, he would certainly refer to himself as a man of principles. “We’re professionals. It doesn’t matter if we have a degree or not. A degree don’t make the man. How a man conducts himself means everything,” Brannon continues, “It doesn’t matter if [oil is] $100 a barrel or $10 a barrel. Anytime you step foot on a location, you bring your A game. It doesn’t matter, because that customer is paying for the very best service you can provide.”
In early 2019, Brannon’s principles lead him to realize it was time for a change. His employer at the time was growing rapidly and bringing on big investors. Brannon and his crew felt more like numbers on a spreadsheet than valued team members, and it quickly became evident that it was time to part ways. He called his dad, who is still an active oilfield consultant, and let him know. Brannon’s dad gave him the number for RigUp, saying, “Give these guys a call, get your name in the hat – let’s get you going.” After a quick call, Brannon hopped online and built out his RigUp profile. “I mean, it’s a no brainer, user friendly. I like the hell out of it. And they got me set up and first chance they could get me out on job, they got me out there,” remembers Brannon.
Since switching to RigUp, Brannon has taken advantage of our fast, flexible payment options and the access to more opportunities that RigUp provides. “[RigUp] deals with quality companies. They deal with companies that are established and they’re no nonsense. And that’s what I appreciate. It takes the worry factor out of it,” Brannon continues, “[RigUp is] somebody in my corner, somebody that’s there to fight for me. Somebody looking after me.”
With such a busy schedule off-hitch, RigUp has made going home and being fully engaged with his family and hobbies that much easier. “I don’t have to spend my day hunting and looking for a job,” Brannon relates, “it just frees me up to enjoy life a little bit more.”