Slope Mined: What I Learned
Words / Cody Liska
Photos / Jake Liska, Matt Wild
I always thought that to work on the North Slope meant to work in Wild West conditions. Whiskey and drugs and brothels filled with muddy Al Swearengens and Dan Doritys. That bumps of cocaine was a roughneck’s midnight oil and Good Time Girls were his comfort. Man camps full of solemn, mustached men in overalls and brimmed hats, all of which were covered in crude oil. And wooden oil derricks signaled payday by spitting black gold 30 feet in the air.
I was full of shit.
My buddy Adam Eldred is a floorhand on the Slope and he told me that if someone yells “ravens on the wind wall,” you don’t want to be on the rig floor. If you are, you’re a Worm and ravens eat worms. And the last thing you want to be called on the North Slope is a Worm.
“No matter who you work for up there, that’s what you call the greenhorns: Worm or Wormy,” Jake Liska says. My brother Jake was a roughneck for 7 years. At one point or another he worked as a floorhand, a pittwatcher, and a derrickman. “Other terms are like fuckhead or dumbshit.”
Jake Liska //