This was a submission from one of our former authors known as The NutShale:
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
The Oil & Gas Road
The Oil & Gas Road (“O&G Road”) is the best damn road on the planet. It is not the “Silk Road” linking cultures and ideas, it’s no Roman engineered masterpiece that stands the tests of thousands of years, it’s simpler, dirtier, dustier, greedier, and more native than both of those roads. Simply put, the O&G Road is the modern Texas oil industry that rose out of the Texas landscape and is built on the state’s complex land history. Other states too, big shoutout to Oklahoma and New Mexico, but Texas is HQ.
I always imagine the early Texas oil barons or royalty and lease flippers to be the lions Mr. Durant speaks about in this Hell on Wheels speech. It’s so American, we win, we always fucking win. While watching, just substitute O&G Road for railroad and you’re all set. Next, go watch the miniseries “The Son” with a bottle of bourbon in one hand and a Sheriff’s Deed from long ago in the other.
To each modern landman, the O&G Road is an individual life journey that for so many of us we never could have predicted we’d be on. The unpredictability of remaining on the O&G Road is what makes the road so endearing. For those that have been bitten by the lifestyle and have it in your bloodstream, you’ll never leave it, and not because the mortgage demands money, but because life away from the O&G Road is unimaginable. Some get rich, some go broke, others stay on in any manner they can. The road is a calling to us.
If I asked any landman who stuck it out in this industry and who is still working in this industry “how they got into this industry?”, they wouldn’t have some wishy-washy hee-haw answer for you, they’d know because that’s the day/week/month/bar visit/conversation/first contract job that changed their lives. Some for the better, some for the worse, but that moment changed lives, because once you get into this industry, or onto the O&G Road, you either wash out because you didn’t get bit hard enough, or you hack it, and you stay on.
For those landmen that have stayed on and are staying on the O&G Road, you’re either unemployed, blessedly employed, kind of employed, wishing you were employed, whatever, you’re not leaving the road, you’re on the road or looking for another option to stay on the road. And let’s all be very clear, “employed” means drawing a damn paycheck, contract or W-2 doesn’t matter, so long as it’s cash.
There are a few truths about this industry we are a part of that need to be laid out:
- It’s big
- It’s big
- It’s big
The money is big. The data is big. The scale is big. The metal is big. The stories are big. The companies are big. The oil is big. People’s names who have made it are big. The Land is big. Everything is big, except us, the readers, and the author, we are all very small, everybody save for a few titans are all small people trying to hack it on a road that emerges from the fog of Texas history. For landmen, that road was paved by surveyors to the tune of “Three Dollars per Mile” in many cases (read this book). One Patent, one Spanish Land Grant, one deed, one League, one porcione, one lease, one Deed of Trust, one assignment and on and on at a time.
Being a landman today is like being one of the poor bastards holding a musket at the front of the line in the Napoleonic age. When oil prices crash or your company gets sold and the musket balls start flying, your ass is typically grass. Survival is the nature of this industry and being stuck as a small piece in a big game means nobody sheds a tear when you get shitcanned or tossed off the boat, because big money and big data and big oil don’t have time for feelings. Which is why the last decade has been such a roller coaster ride for so many of us. Oil and natty gas needed a lot of us, and then fired a lot of us. Rinse and repeat.
The last 24 months have been particularly bruising (fuck you China), and anybody still pulling a paycheck needs to be damn proud. The Texas consolidation is immense, big company banners are going down across the battlefield. Some flags are getting bigger but left in the carnage of consolidation are jobs and livelihoods. Survival is all that matters.
The Old guard
Napoleon called his Old Guard “The Grumblers” because among other reasons (like being the best of the best) they’d seen so much shit that they were allowed to grouse about anything that bothered them. For all the salty landmen still hanging around, we’ve been through too much shit, seen too much shit, to give a shit about much in this industry. Again, survival is all that matters. We live it because we love it. Our badge of honor is still being in this industry, either riding for the brand under a flag that’s still flying or by simply staying alive on the battlefield. So, slam a beer into an old faithful koozie and drink that ice cold barley soda deep, you’re still alive proud soldier and you’ve earned it.
What does the future hold? Who the fuck knows, but that’s the magic right there, nothing is predictable on the O&G Road, it’s dirty and real and perilous, and you make your own luck. Wear survival as a badge of honor, because as Mr. Durant states, “this business is not for the weak of heart, it’s a thorny brutal affair” and salty landmen are survivors.
Rock on Oil and Gas.