ROUGHNECKING IT: Or, Life in the Overthrust by

ROUGHNECKING IT: Or, Life in the Overthrust

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Nicely varied, mostly lightweight glimpses--first-person-journalist style--of some New West mores: Williamson spent a fair piece of time in Kemmerer, Wyoming, hanging out with the ""worms"" and other oil-rig workers who are part of the recent Energy Boom out there. (The ""Overthrust Belt"" is the new hot zone--a strip running from Alaska to South America--for oil exploration.) Williamson's primary chum is rig-worker Sam, one of the few non-cowboys at Ban field Rig 20--a Vietnam vet and onetime Easterner whose wife and daughters have mixed feelings about staying on year after year in Wyoming, living at the sterile, tacky Ritz Apartments. We see Sam doing some daredevil stuff on the rig (""This is my world! . . . Fuck those squirrels down there. You never seen me trip pipe before--you're goin to be fascinated!""). But, with lots of $11.00/hour just-sitting-around, the focus is more on leisure pursuits: pot, booze, raunchy riding-around, gun-buying, and deer-hunting. (""I ain't leavin Wyomin without gettin me an elk."") Then comes a more neutral-toned digression: a sturdy report, with post-mortem interviews, from the trial of Ed Cantrell, Public Safety Director for Rock Springs, Wyo.--accused of murdering an allegedly corrupt narcotics agent. (Cantrell, with a self-defense plea and legendary lawyer Gerry Spence, is acquitted.) After that, we're back with the oil guys again: Williamson accompanies Sam's daughter Carrie to the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest; he looks around town at Christmas time (including a grim strip joint). There's a trip to Salt Lake City--where Williamson does the Mormon guided tours and sets himself up to be pursued and proselytized by a pair of Elders. (They'll eventually give up: ""'We've already got so many bad members,' he explained, 'we don't need any more.'"") And finally, in Kemmerer again, Williamson goes snowmobiling, sees the rig in real action at last, talks to an environment-minded County Commissioner, witnesses a minor flood . . . and watches as Sam's family gets ready to move to a trailer, their back-East plans seemingly shelved. The half-way viewpoint here isn't totally satisfactory: Williamson is neither a personally vivid, thoroughly involved sojourner à la Hunter Thompson nor an effectively objective observer. And the rauncho-macho early sections are likely to turn quite a few readers off. But, if less engaging or cohesive than Williamson's Block Island visit (Saltbound, 1980), this is solid, smart, miscellaneous journalism in the down-to-earth, conversation-heavy mode.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster