The Subculture of Alberta and the Oilfield

If you live in Canada, chances are you know someone who has worked in the oil and gas industry. Fathers, uncles, brothers, boyfriends, etc. Some have been working there for years, others will go and do their “time”, make enough money and vow never to return. Anyone returning from the “patch”, will always have outlandish tales to regale their friends and family with.

Until you have witnessed it with your very eyes, you will never quite understand the oilfield. With contrast to the larger culture across Canada, the pipeline subculture is not openly known unless you are within the circle of the workers. You have heard the stories but you probably couldn’t differentiate between a pipeline, tar sands, and a rig. You probably call anyone who works in the oil and gas industry a “rig pig”. Although inaccurate, you are pretty close with that description. The industry is generally composed of rough, tough, rugged men. They drink, smoke, fight and swear worse than a sailor. They are known to frequent strip clubs or date the odd dancer. If you are lucky enough as my brother was, he inspired one dancer and she dedicate her stage name to him. Messed up? Of course. But that’s the how it goes when you are a migratory worker and hop from small town to small town or for the less fortunate, stationed in an isolated camp, hours from anything. A normal lifestyle is unheard of. It is an industry of sacrifice, whether that be the time away from your family/friends, dealing with the biggest assholes you could fathom, the quality of life for the time during your shift or the harsh climate you endure. Let’s not even address the state of your complexion and cuticles after grinding seams for 12 hours. Those who choose to work in the oilfield, do it for the money, nothing else.

 

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