An honest and sometimes amusing account of how an LSU football player walked away from a promising athletic career to become part of an elite group, Oil Field Trash.
Dickey Matherne was raised in Southeast Louisiana, a true coonass with remarkable athletic skill who left the game to become one of the most successful offshore oil field workers in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricanes, blow-out's and tragedy in the gulf, plus the story of personal betrayal all were part of what made him iron assed.
Every story in the book is based on actual events but some details may be lost or embellished in the translation.
One summer I was working as company man on Booker Rig 750. We had got a contract with Shell to go work on one of their old platformsright out of Eugene Island.
We got the rig set up on the platform which had an old abandoned building sitting on it but there was still room enough we loaded our living quarters and the rig alongside without being too
crowded. Shell had contracted us to do a workover and sidetrack so we had some long days ahead of us.
Everyone was working the day shift, from can to can’t. All hands were working eighteen hours nonstop, and since we didn’t have a night crew I
would assign one of the hands to keep watch at night just to make sure there was not a problem with the generators and to keep an eye out for any kind of problem that might cause a fire on the
Whoever was on night duty, or fire duty, would go to bed during the day and didn’t have to work the next eighteen hours.
The night watch would last only six hours so it was a pretty easy shift. There was no real labor involved, the night man just had to stay awake.
Six hours was a lot easier than eighteen but still, most of the rig hands preferred to work days. Those six hours from 11 pm to 5 am were
lonely and felt more like eighteen hours than less.
We had been out on the old Shell platform for a few days and Hammer Head (Eric Lasseigne)had been assigned the night watch.
Hammer is was a big ole boy, strong as a bull and I knew he would do his job and not go find a place to sneak a nap. Night watch was not what Hammer wanted. He preferred to be in the mix
with the other guys and he was a hard worker.
But he was dependable and I knew he would do his job and the next hitch some other hand would take over the night watch.
Everyone went to bed about 11 pm and we all got up at 5 am to start another eighteen hour shift, but that particular morning we didn’t see Hammer anywhere.
Which was odd because he always met me at the office as soon as I got up and then he would spend three or four hours working with the other hands before he would go to bed, even though he didn’t have to. There wasn’t a lazy bone in that boy! After sleeping about eight hours he was back up and working again until the others knocked off for dinner and bed.
I was a little puzzled that he wasn’t already in the office telling me how things went, like he always did.
I hollered out at Hilary Gaspard and the other guys to see where the hell Hammer was hiding and told them to throw his ass overboard if they
found him sleeping.
I walked out of the office and headed to the kitchen to catch a bite before things got too busy.
I could see some of the guys, crowding around the galley door. They all had the same idea, some coffee and breakfast before starting another long
The closer I got I could hear them hollering.
“Open the door Hammer Head!”
They were slapping the door and bumping steel toed boots against it.
“Come on Hammer, let us in!”
“C’mon chicken shit! Open the door!”
I walked up to the galley and I could see Hammer’s face through the small window in the door and I knew instantly, this was not a joke. That boy looked white as a sheet, a look I had never seen on his face, ever.
Something was wrong and whatever it was, it had that boy so rattled he was having trouble getting the galley door unlocked.
Hammer finally got the door opened and stood back as the hands crowded past him.
Most of them thought Hammer had just been aggravating them, which he was known to do on occasion, and they were giving him hell.
Those of us who knew Hammer better knew it was not a case of aggravation.
We knew when Hammer was having fun, it
showed all over his face and he would belaughing, grinning from ear to ear.
Hammer wasn’t grinning. Not even a little. He was just quiet, too quiet.
Hammer finally told us that during the early hours of the morning he had taken a walk around the rig, just killing time and out of plain boredom
he had walked over toward the old building that was on the platform.
The same thing he had done the previous
nights he was on watch
The old building was the abandoned sleeping quarters left from years before. None of us ever went in there because there was no need, there
was nothing in there. The building wasn’t being used. It was just sitting there vacant.
Hammer was so upset he couldn’t talk without stuttering.
He told us that during his walk around the platform, around 1:30 to 2 o’clock that morning he had gone close to the abandoned building, as usual. He just passed close to it as he made a
routine round between the structures on the platform.
He told us he was about ten, maybe fifteen feet from the abandoned building and this time a movement in an upper window caught his eye and he turned to look up
“Mista Dickey, there was a man up there, a man looking right at me!”
Hammer wasn’t pulling my leg. He wasn’t lying and he sure wasn’t joking. He was serious.
Whether it was a shadow or a reflection, Hammer had seen something.
I knew Hammer had seen something but I
knew better than to fuel his imagination.
“Hell Hammer, you musta been sleep walking!”
I told him with the idea of playing down the situation, to just explain it away and to calm him down because he was still pretty agitated.
“No Mista Dickey!” he insisted. “It was a man but not one I ever seen before!”
Hammer was convinced about what he saw and he wasn’t going to be talked out of it. Those of us who knew Hammer knew he was telling us the truth, that he did see something. We didn’t know
what he had seen but we knew it was something that scared him, and Hammer was not scared of much.
I continued giving him a hard time, telling him he just saw his own reflection and he’d forgot how damned ugly he really was.
The more I tried to make light of the incident, the more Hammer stuttered his insistence that he saw a man, a ghost. There was no changing his mind about what he might have seen or to explain away the incident, and he wasn’t seeing any humor concerning the matter, regardless what any of us said.
The stuttering alone was pretty convincing because Hammer doesn’t stutter unless he is highly excited, or just madder than hell.
He told us after seeing the man in the upper window he turned and ran like hell back across the platform and locked himself inside the galley to wait for daylight.
“It was a ghost Mista Dickey.” He kept
insisting. “It was a ghost!”
Eventually, Hilary took Hammer and some of the guys and they went over to the abandoned building, determined to find what had scared Hammer. They had been friends most of their lives and Hilary wanted to find something that
could explain away the apparition which had scared the shit out of Hammer.
The guys later said that when they entered the old building they experienced a weird feeling, a
chill down the spine that caused the freesons to raise up on their arms as soon as they entered the oddly cool interior.
A metal building setting in the bare sun out in the Gulf of Mexico on a hot summer day is never cool, ever.
They saw nothing to explain what could have caused Hammer to see something in the window.
They all said they felt very uneasy the whole time they were in the building and kept saying the old building was cooler than our much newer
air conditioned living quarters.
“That ain’t right.”
Everyone was uneasy.
“Mista Dickey, no way Hammer could see his reflection even.”
They had checked that out as well and there was no way Hammer could have seen his own reflection, no way in hell. They insisted Hammer would have to be fifteen feet tall to catch his own reflection in that window.
“Dammit Hilary! Hammer probably saw a flash of light from God knows where!”
“NO!” Hammer just would not give it up.
“I see his eyes, looking down, looking right at me!”
I didn’t go check the building that day because in my mind to do that would only keep the story going and it needed to stop.
All I could do was tell the hands to leave it alone.
After Hammer went to bed I told the hands it
was nothing more than Hammer being scared of his own damned shadow and for them to stop talking about it because it was only going to make things a lot worse for Hammer on the next night watch.
They did pretty much drop the subject, at least around me, but it sure didn’t stop them from looking towards that window from time to time,
each wondering what Hammer really did see that dark night.
A few days later I did go into the old building but I can’t say that I sensed anything unusual.
For the rest of the hitch, Hilary and some of the other hands who knew Hammer well took turns getting up and walking around the platform. Nothing was said but they made sure Hammer
wasn’t alone for the six hours of his watch.
Later we learned that before Hammer had
seen the man in the upper window, two other rig
hands from different crews and on two separate occasion’s had seen a man looking down from the same upper window of the abandoned living
One of the men had tripped over a hose in his haste to get away. He tripped, fell and either broke or sprained an ankle.
None of us had heard the stories until much later, after the incident with Hammer. We also heard later a story about a company man who had
died inside the living quarters, before it had been abandoned.
This is the only time I have told the story but I will say; we were all glad to get the job completed, to get our rig and living quarters off that platform and move to a different location.