Seismic Helicopter

by Randall Sowa

If helicopters had been alive in the 1849 California Gold Rush then the parallel reality of what occurred in the Rocky Mountain Seismic Boom of the 1980's could be paired as Historic DejaVu. But only a lot more fun.

In the oil and gas exploration business, aka seismic, the prospectors are known as Juggies, being named after the geophones, or "Jugs" that they spike into the earth with the heel of a Vasque or Northface hiking boot. "Portable" jobs can not be accessed by four wheel drive vehicles so the Helicopter Industry becomes the prospectors pack mule. With that connection, a difficult earth-bound job is given a high octane shot of fun. Let the hovering begin.

Maggot John lived in a converted Ex-Post Office delivery truck complete with the steering wheel on the English side of things. He took his name from a notorious Missoula, Montana rugby team of which he was a lifetime member. He generally slept in the National Forest down along the Snake, a few miles outside of town.

The ex-marine helicopter mechanic slept with his dog Bogart in the back of his 1972 Chevy Blazer. Called it the mobile doghouse. Bogart was born in Iran and had traveled in the Blazer from New England to Central America and all the way North into Canada, with stints on the West Coast of California and the desert of Arizona. He was a road dog. The ex-marine driver was a road scholar.

Seismic helicopter

Vic, that's it, Vic slept in an empty U-Haul box truck behind the Conoco where the helicopters roosted each night. He'd lay cable all day, party with buddies at night, cook on a backpacking stove, listen to music. It was a home compared to the often-unfavorable Wyoming weather just outside its aluminum skin. Each morning Vic would roll up the back door of that great orange container, breath in the pre-dawn still chill and try to make the only cafe in town before the first-light rush would hit. The rush at the cafe often depended on the success of the previous night's partying.

Being a Juggie in Star Valley Wyoming during the 1980's was nothing less than knowing, without a doubt, that you were working in the belly of the seismic beast-sharing an historic time in place with dozens of other crews and hundreds upon hundreds of hard-core, uphill lugging, dynamite sniffing, half crazed nature freaks with a passion for most things loud, dangerous and beyond convention. These guys rode helicopters to work each day. In the mountains, the LZ's are not plentiful. The winds forever changing and blowing up your ass when you could honestly use a little headwind, and the odds of cheating death are definitely in the favor of the dealer. The thrill of the Juggies dangerous choice of summer employment was notarized by the fact that they were getting paid to work outdoors in some of the most inhospitable terrain along the Western Overthrust where they neck-rolled 90 pound cable on 60 degree slopes, enduring the elements from dark-thirty to dark-thirty every day that was suitable for flying.

Seismic helicopter

They played with explosives, prima-cord and challenged the afternoon thunderstorms. They boarded helicopters by leaping from boulders in river canyons to the skid-a maneuver called a "toe-in", slept on the rocks waiting on temperamental computer malfunctions in the Doghouse and, in the course of a few weeks, would either bond an adventurous respect for their pilot's ability to thrill and scare them-yet always be in control of the machine, his luck, and their lives. Or be with a driver who didn't jive with the chemistry of the day and spend the contract being more scared than thrilled. Still, better than minimum wage back home and excitement to last a lifetime.

America needed oil and the Big Boys had government money to go looking for it. Star Valley was one of the hot spots with competing crews 'shooting' line upon overlapping line, summer after summer, with guarded data dissected and scrutinized by geologists as though it were a National Security Confidential file. Expensive numbers. Seismic companies were of all flavors. Huge outfits like the French CGG, and SPX, all the way to smaller mom and pop companies like Rocky Mountain Geophysical-run by an energetic, sawed off dynamo co-owner called Shorty.

The whole industry was in motion at all times. Forever moving to the end of the line. Moving base camp, new LZ's each day, new motels, campgrounds. Living in the city park. Behind the bar. In the motel parking lot. A day off to wash clothes and party in the sunshine was a rare luxury. Dawn to dusk. Miss morning call and you are down the road. One strike and you're out. Guys would show up for morning assignments in all states of ill repair. Seems, if you were half-cocked, could walk and see relatively straight then there was never a problem. Notorious Juggie bars like Jeeps in Alpine Junction, Wyoming; Pioneer in Choteau, Montana; Railhead in Montpelier, Idaho; The Mint in Townsend, Montana; or The Rusty Nail in Red Lodge, Montana all had a tolerance for the rowdy and predictably wild nights that summer seismic seasons provided. Every night was a Saturday and the only trouble was knowing when to realize last call.

A twenty-two man jug crew was about average for a portable job. Tough individuals: Mostly in their early twenties, often wiry, industrious and, of necessity, self sufficient since the largest part of their days required dealing with an out-of control production quota, sensitive equipment that had to be repaired with elk shit and a Swiss Army Knife, elements of nature that are forever inventive-like snow, rain, and 80 degree sun-all in the same afternoon. Not to mention the wind! Or crossing the rivers. Or having a chopper pilot dispatch a cable bag from the carousel at the end of a hundred foot long-line and to watch the orange weighted bastard slide 400 feet downslope-knowing that the next half hour will be hell as you have to mule the bag back to where it started its journey.

Seismic helicopter

At daybreak, if it wasn't raining or windy, the lucky minority got to fly to the 'line'. Few things as breathtaking as lifting off from the morning staging area, whether it was in downtown Afton, Wyoming or from the 'office' motel parking lot on the edge of town next to the Raven Drive Inn. All sense of the prior night's now vaguely recalled-the helicopter rose like a yo-yo on a magical string to the top of the first ridge for a view as unbelievable as yesterdays unbelievable views. That feeling-of being in those canyons, cheating the ever changing winds, and hovering on a thread day in and day out enforced a bond on each seismic crew that surpassed anything that an employer could ever mandate. Guys lived for this thrill. A hangover casualty would often sober up for the event.

Like no other better way or place in time could you spend getting to work. And crews that were comfortable with their pilot often requested and were given some of the best rotor rides that Shell or Texaco money could buy. A hard driven crew never lacked testosterone, opinion or attitudes, but an able mountain long-line pilot could hush a load of passengers so that humility and respect of the fearful edge is all that could be heard in anyone's headset. Silence swallowed in gasps. The whine from the transmission, the whop from the main blades, the insidious roar of a turbine and the constant motion of the lateral vibration. Hearts alive and pounding blood from toe to temple. And then someone would break squelch over the intercom and say, "Bitchin', righteously bitchin'."

A perfect ride to start the day.

The long low angles of morning sun would strafe from ridge to ridge leaving the dark green shadows of deep canyons cold and damp until mid-day sun could force steam from the mossy deadfall. The view from those heights seemed to stretch all the way into Colorado. Then the machine would drop down into the forest to a hover hole where the dream portion of the day would end.

Front crew laying out new cable, phones and sticks; head linesman troubleshooting two miles of evolving cables; powdermen stringing prima-cord and placing dynamite; shooters making the shot 'hot' and then violating the earthly quiet of the wide open out of doors with a 90 pound blast of shockwave that would thunder through the backcountry and ricochet from ridge to ridge trying to find its way out of the canyon and down some river valley to finally dissipate in a fifth generation farmers alfalfa field. There's the backcrew picking up the equipment, loading it in bags while the runner carries them all to one location then calling the chopper in to fly it all forward on a 12 hook carousel. And there's the trashman cleaning up the un-natural debris of destruction and the observer orchestrating the production from the recorder or "doghouse". The helicopter was the mule and taxi.

The operation was as successful as the pilot and machine were capable. Twelve hour days looking over the side of the aircraft flying a hundred foot long-line in and out of trees, always with minimum fuel on board. Then it is back to the LZ to move surveyors, pick up observer, over the ridge for the fortieth time, pick up dynamite at the magazine, shut down for weather, move doghouse, get fuel, wake mechanic sleeping under fuel truck to fix Forest Service radio, watch external torque gage as the whirling beast overtorques trying to lift a load upslope into a prevailing hurricane that unfortunately quits blowing as soon as the collective begins its steady rise into the armpit. White knuckle fever from gripping the cyclic. Gin and tonic most evenings.

A cadre of pilots who in the first few days on a crew, would be given a name that lasted their tenure : Yosemite Sam who could polish off a fifth of Green Label Jack on a given evening; Mother Goose brought his name from Viet Nam where he famously never left anyone behind; Captain Blueberry who, besides being a first rate long-liner, unfortunately lived up to his name; The Wop-in-the-chop; Captain Tom who thought he was still in the Army. Then there was Mullett and Homeless Fred, and Gunner, a Lama driver (who bought two sets of main rotor blades in a single week 'cause of tall trees). There was Dave the Narc; and Filthy Phil, a one eyed long-line Wizard who liked working portable drills and could generally have his pick of crews. He was probably one of the steadiest hooks in the Rocky Mountain West of 20 years past and claimed his English Spaniel had more hours in a cockpit than most pilots. He and his wife generally lived in a 1950's travel trailer parked out in the woods or behind some motel. What about Quiet Vic, a logging pilot who practiced Zen with his helicopter and cherished the opportunity of lifting heavy loads-to the point of having the doors removed and dieting all summer to increase his machines useful load.

Settling with power was the Grim Reaper of mountain flying and density altitude the shadowy accomplice that made it all possible. Within the ranks of all jug crews there were experienced veterans who had either gone down in an aircraft or else had friends from previous campaigns who had. It was not uncommon at all to have had first hand experience with fatalities. Star Valley, Wyoming was only one example of hot seismic zones throughout the late Seventies and early Eighties. Wrecked carcasses of Allouettes, Lamas, Bell 212's, Long Rangers, Surplus 204's and 205's, A-Stars, aka Aerosplats, and occasional Hughes 500's would regularly be trailered out in sad states of twisted carnage for reconstructive surgery during the off season. Machines of nine lives.

Rock City, Wyoming became Rocket City and was forever changed by the onslaught of oil and gas in that its traditional valued lifestyle busted at the seams and the Wild West was alive again. There were interminable fistfights, shootings, lack of housing, lack of water, dirty politics, topless clubs, abundant drug trafficking and lots of money rolling in and through town. Or Gillette, Wyoming; or the tiny town of Kemmerer, Wyoming with its two motels and 30 knot constant winds; Big Pine; Pinedale; and Smoot with its sole campground at the base of an awesome mountain over-run for the entire summer by young men and a few women all working on seismic crews. There were mostly tents but, not uncommonly, there were a few individuals who would dump a camper off the back of a pickup and plug in a power cord, a water hose and build a fire ring in front of the door for when company came to party. Which was fairly constant and always after dark and being in Wyoming there would generally be fireworks involved.

There was one individual, in fact, who was mentioned in a Rolling Stone article of the day. He bought an entire bedroom and living room of furnishings in Rock City, hauled it out to the prairie near the rig on which he was employed and set it around on the open ground-a house with no roof and no walls-and lived there until it was time in the Fall for the snow to blow and college to begin. Drove off and left the wretched mess to the prairie dogs and antelope never thinking twice that the whole idea might be just a little odd.

A young man, hard-working as a basic bust-ass laborer, could easily clear 50 thousand 1980 dollars a season if he worked on a rig unless, of course, drugs complicated the equation. Juggies themselves were a basic cross section of young post-Disco America who didn't work on rigs and, therefore, generally made minimum wage. The Seattle Grunge era had begun, English Punk was on the charts and 'alternative' was the young non-status quo. The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Misfits, The Clash, Iggy Pop and similar groups came out of the basements and into a quasi-mainstream listening audience. Stevie Ray Vaughn was re-defining East Texas Blues to a generation that didn't listen to John Mayal or Eric Clapton.

And these guys-hauling dynamite from the Moab, Utah desert mesas and canyons up the spine of the Rocky Mountains all the way to Pole Bridge, Montana were a microcosm of this change in societal attitudes. A mix of individuals as diverse as the layers of the Grand Canyon, joined in a non-organized brotherhood of impossible living and working conditions, coaxed by a few incentives in the form of 'shot bonus', per diem, and the radical fact that they were active and equal participants in some of the least regulated and most thrilling helicopter operations that have ever existed on the North American Continent. A time and place where a soaking wet bone tired ex-city dweller from Minneapolis could end the day's work with a hammerhead stall over the A&W Root Beer Stand. Or a pair of Bell Long Rangers could blow out of Townsend, Montana in tandem formation just above the deck of the main drag-as the local Highway Patrolman jots down their tail numbers. The guys flying always got the loudest last laugh.

Randall Sowa is the founder of, a helicopter mechanic, and a former Juggie. This is what he has to say about his online store:

"Throughout the 1980's NORIDER Shirts serviced helicopters on various seismic campaigns up and down the Rocky Mountains, and in 1982 began selling original limited helicopter silkscreen shirts from the back of a 1500 gallon, F-600 Jet-A fuel tanker. This collection of shirt-art was an instant hit with the Juggies, especially on payday. And by a stroke of inconceivable fate with the release in 2005, and instant popularity of the movie, Napoleon Dynamite, this screen collection of vintage art has been pulled from the obscurity it probably deserves and onto the backs of helicopter aficionados and young movie junkies from Yukon Territory to Tierra del Fuego. "

User Contributed Notes

Brent The B Man Gardner ( Washington D.C. )
I was a juggie with CGG from 1977-1979 with the infamous Crew 13. At the time we once did 150 shots in a dark to dark shift. We had a t-shirt with a picture of a Lama with a long line on top was Crew-13 and on the bottom it said, We do lines for a living. During the summer of 77 we did over 400 miles of seismic line. I had enough money at the time that I had an apt in both Jackson Hole and Park City. One of my good friends was Todd Ferris. We had a lady on our crew her name was Dede Bledsoe. I twisted in 1979 and moved to Las Vegas. The B-Man nickname came from a Budwieser commercial given to me by Todd Ferris. We did a lot of work in the Uintas. When ever I hear the Warren Zevon song Lawyers,Guns and Money I think of Crew -13. A wonderful time!

Phil ( New Zealand )
Thats Rock Springs, not Rock City! Worked on CGG 08, the dope-smokingest crew on the overthurst belt. 110 shots, summer, 1981.

Bobby Riggins ( Idaho )
CGG 01 was also there, I was the JO. What a blast

Cecilia Myrick ( Star valley, Wyoming )
Wow, is all I can say.Mile Hi Exploration P-22,P-8,P-11,Seiscom Delta,CGG.I have to brag a bit,I worked with some of the Heavy Weights like Crazy Diane Lee, That F#$@^*$ Ruth,Johnny Ledoux,Steve Parker,Barry Snyder-RIP,Laura Noble,Dave Roberts, Mark Fenninwald, John Welty, Sue Paine,Clyde & Sue Gaellgos,Tommy Butler,Johnny LePinflag,Bede & Hacksaw Querry,Rick Iverson,Dusty Trails,So many more. Pilots included Doug Farfel,Dennis Howard,Both Continental and Rocky Mountain Helicopter.Seeking thrills to this day and ready to grab a crew if I can, Colorado has an upcoming campaign I dont know if it is portable or not.From Afton,Cokeville,Kemmerer, Lake Viva La Rotten, Commissary Ridge, Cody, Carter Mountain, Driggs and Victor Idaho,Kalispell and Libby Montana to Hayden,Colorado.I would not ever trade it for any other job in the world .Thank you for sharing Flying KIWIS and JUGGIES.SALUTE.

Paul ( Happy harrys cowboy bar )
Mile high had Abe mayhem. The big boss made the payroll every other week for the hot shot pay in cash. Backed it up with \the colonel\. Everyone armed to the teeth. If you had friends at the lz you could get beer delivered with the water run. Circle star. Millionire cowboy bar on weather days \check your guns at the door\. Afton wy. Sleazy dog saloon.big mike Snyder. Anyway. Back to real life here 30+ years later!!

Wayne Drobnis ( New Jersey )
For those of you who knew Butler he passed on in 2009. Reading these stories make me realize those were the best 10 years of my life.

Mark Zepeda ( Arizona )
I worked CGG 517 in the early eighties out of Jackson Hole...did nearly every place listed here in this article and more. mostly avalanche control, survey,front crew, back crew, cord crew. Stickman always sucked nukage and you only got that job on the morning game plan if you had realy screwed up. The best pilots on earth....Rex Morgan- Lama, Bob McCleave- Lama, Jim Hill- Hughes 500D Zdenek, Dexter, Larry, Jay, Mike miller, Sheridan, Moynahan, too many to list. Good, good times. All Oui Ask Is That You Run CGG 517

Craig Byrne ( middletown, ca )
i have tears in my eyes, as I read. Im now 53 yrs old, not over the hill yet. reading the above, brought memories flooding from my brain pan as my youth came in waves of emotions of smells, color, sounds, of powder burning, ships flying. drillers calling move my drill first, no mine, i was done first. the smell of jet-a burning, still brings me back. I started in seismic work out of high school in 77. I worked for united geophysical for a year 77-78. took a year off. nov. 79 started w/ helidrill in heber city ut my buddy ben lee got me back into it. keith burgess from yanton south dekoda aka (big bird w/ united geo. spiffy w/ helidrill) was foreman @ helidrill. I was 21 then. pilots like doug farfel, walt tausch,pete rosepepp, skip fisk, we barrowed a pilot,filthy phil, in victor id. our pilots time out, so we could continue moving drills and punching hole in the overthrust belt. he moved them as good as any of our pilots. that night I met him at the bar, dont remember the bar, told him nice job. as Im having a beer w/ him, I notice one of his eyes wasnt quite keepin up with the other eye. this kinda concerned me. being the guy catching the drills tomorrow morning. I said phil am I having eye problems or are you. he said no, your fine, so are mine, most of them. that had to be one of the finest eye god ever put in a man. to longline drills into the forest, a hundred-fifty feet over a human being, me! and not squish em was flying at its best. many memories i love them all. most of all my wife i met at helidrill. married 28 yrs. deborah merayo. anyone reading this, is probably a juggie or a driller or a shooter, love you all craig byrne united geophysical crew 453/ helidrill crews 12/crew 14

Rubyinthedust ( Pa )
Does anyone remember the juggies that worked and played in bondurant Wyoming in 1979 or 1980 battle mountain bar

Dan fritz ( Alpine )
1983. Cgg 512 Kemmer 268 shots that day bonus time Skip cheevers shooter me on the power crew

Jeff Mackey ( Grand jct, co )
Funny here it is oct 1 2012 and we are heli drilling right outside Moab as I speak, From my I pad linked to my I phone as a hot spot with a booster, 15 miles north of dead horse point.

Dennis Page ( Idaho )
78 to 84 from Nodak to the artic ocean and everywhere in between. So many crews,so much fun with so little time. Stick to selling T-shirts,not writing 2nd hand stories.It was an education in people,good & bad and one hell of a ride

Eric mcnaughton ( Mesa,an )
I too worked for first mountain geo the Heli-drill. Did a lot of work out of Morgan,Ut,Heber City and Richfield . I drilled holes. They called me bungicord cause I would hook a bungicord cord to the drill motor when I was stuck.Which was usually most of the time. Charles Hignight truly was a leader in the portable drill. I remember Spiffy running the show. Went to Canada for the summer. What great memories of being in the mountains Eric Mc Naughton

SurveyDan ( California )
An excellent description of the life in portable seismic. I started as a juggie in 1979, ended up surveying and laying out thousands of pin-flagged lines all over Wyoming, Dakotas, Utah, Montana on the reservation. We tore up motel rooms, fought and defended each other in bars. Rock Springs was nightmare technicolor madness at the height of the boomtime, and the powder monkeys got addicted to their own adrenaline. In a way it was the last wild frontier on the continent.

Andrew ( Johannesburg, South Africa )
Good to stumble upon this page. There used to be a juggie blog but it disappeared soon after the web editor passed away, along with all the great content (including many many photos). I worked portable with Shell in Star Valley, Wyo. in 1981, sleeping like most everyone else at the KOA campground in Afton; with CGG briefly from the muddy campground in Lake Viva Naughton; with some other crew with the LZ being in Hoback Junction when I lived in Jackson, with CGG in Roundup, MT and Reliable Exploration in Sydney, MT. Loved the Lamas and Alouettes. We had gutsy and superb pilots. I was in super shape, carrying jugs and 100-pound cable up and down mountains. Regards, Andrew

Steve Houston ( Aurora Colo. )
Best time of my life 82-86 Afton wyo. lamas, alouettes, Hughes 500D Are hughes pilot jeff was killed on thane curve. what an amazing piolt. Abe party mgr. daryel observer, Randy Lampy, Jeff Crabtree, John Laduex the winner of 7 golden spikes and one dumb sun of a bitch, Ruth the topless juggie. Never forget the combat rides, Hammerheads, and toe ins. I started out as a juggie, then powder pig,loved blowing up that dynamight. I did it all truck crews, vibe crews, shot hole, to surface charges. Boo Ya.

Tom (ace) Mayes ( Ks. )
Good Stories,,,started out with Sefel in Panguitch Utah Aug 1980,jumped over to GSI then to Daniels,,Hit every state West of Kansas except Oregon and Washington!Had the time of my Life! (notables were) Vegas,Ely Nv ,Bakersfield,Lodi Ca,Craig Co,Rock Springs,Wheatland,Evanston,Pinedale,Greybull Wyo,Billings,Broadus,Glasgow,Wolfpoint,Bozeman Mt,Wickenberg Az,I know I have missed some,,out of all the People I met,I have only been able to find one person! Tom (ACE) Mayes

Craig Ritschel ( Pennsylvania )
Western and Northern Geophysical owned 13 great years of my life. Coke ville, Montpelier, Kemmerer, Red Bluff, Willows, Coalville, Susitna River Basin, Kenia Penninsula, Deadhorse, Evanston, Chotou, East Glacier, Bozeman, Bear River Service, Duschesne, Price, Craig, Hayden, Steamboat, Ely and about 50 more stops.....did I mention Baggs? Hawkins and Powers John Moberly, Dan Hawkins, Matt Cofee, Tommy Rodman Kirshner, Lama Dave, Phil, ASI, Rocky Mt, and our friends in Salt Lake. 300 ft. Long lines in Coos Bay with Matt, Dolly and Lorraine Lamas:). Great times in great places in too many places with too many friends to mention. By the grace of God, I survived to tell the stories.

Dave Seaton ( Oroville, Ca. )
Great times......I worked for the infamous Larry (Shorty) Swanson mentioned in the article before he started Rocky Mountain Geophysical. Started in 1979. Continued Doodlebugging until 1989. I did everything there was to do in the field. Started as a jughand ended up being an Observer. All in all....those were the greatest days of my life. Really miss it.

Perry fosse ( Dillon Montana )
I worked for Seis-port Exploration from 1979-86 on a Down hole drill crew we used all types of Helicopters(Lamas,Bell 214,212,205,204 hughs 500D,500C i could on and on) None of drills had wheels so everything was moved thru the air. We worked with a lot of different companies and i met a lot of great helicopter pilots during that time.It was a great time and will never forget that time in my life.

Zdenek Blabla / Zel ( now Arizona orig Czechoslovak )
CGG 022 and CGG 017 were my home for almost 5 years from 1981(?) Got into USA as an emigrant from Czechoslovakia. First job washing dishes in Poconos and then hitchhiking to WY where I got this Job Hired by Pierre Warner in Jackson and then had to be at the LZ next day in Alpine. I hitchhiked and walk over night about 35 miles to be there. Then Lama pick me up and took be to Afton for breefing. They trained me on job. Great people. It was a great Adventure. Now almost 62 still believe it was THE Best time of my life. The article brought up great memories. I am glad Iv been there. Mainly surveyor, Survey helper and chain crew. Shooting avalanches (major fun). But also back crew, front crew and trash man and shot. All over Overtrust belt from Southern Utah to Central Montana.

Cameron Slater ( Michigan )
CGG 0508 Rockies and Alaska.

Greg Merz ( Minneapolis )
Great to stumble on this page. I worked for Shorty Swanson and Ron Fuchs of Rocky Mountain Geophysical for 2-1/2 years all over Montana, Wyoming and some Idaho. We shot a huge truck based trace in Dawson County, MT over 18 months and then got a chance to go portable in Cokeville, WY. These stories and especially the pictures of the ASI Long Rangers bring back a lot of great memories. We worked our asses off but enjoyed what we were doing.

Beach ( Wisconsin-Norcal )
I was in Afton in 1980, SSC, worked out at Smith Branch. Camped at Swift Creek, and occasionally at the Corral. Valley Vineyard, and Cowboy Harrys was the hangout. Started on a layout crew, then took the capper job on the shooting crew, loved it, plus I got to hang out with two chicks all day. Wonder whatever happened to them. Donna? What an adventure

Turk ( Florida )
CGG, Mile High, Seiscom Delta, Western Geo, Sefel. Worked up and down the overthrust and Alaska. Before becoming a Merchant Seaman for 15 years it was all a great time but so is family life now. I stopped telling stories most people think Im making it up. ..Sorry to hear about Butler

W. Louis Killius ( Rockport TX. )
What a life experience, 1977-1986, AND RIDE TO WORK IN A HELICOPTER, its faster.

John Slim Rueter ( Grand Canyon, AZ )
It was a great experience. CGG, Mile Hi, Sefel, some others i forgot. From Texas, the Rockies, to Alaska and the Artic. Hello out there to everyone and thanks for the good times. Great site!

whiskeynovember ( san antonio )
Mid seventies CGG 09 portable started in Driggs; cant remember where it all ended. Little Joe, Dead-Eye Phil best Lama jockeys a backcrewman could ever want. Did time in the mag, too many 48 hour dynamite headaches. Best part was working the Unitas in winter on snow shoes. 12k elevation. Great rides: took the doors off the Lama and filled it with shots, clipped in and hung out on the skids dropping bags of powder into the snow on the line. Big, big bucks that day. Only one guy died. RIP, dude, whoever you were you were good while you lasted.

Mickie ( Salt Lake City UT )
I worked for Helidrill In, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho and loved the experience. I was first a drillers helper and then become the field accountant. My Beau was a driller and I was a helper but not on his line of course., Lots of fun in those years saw majestic untouched beautiful country. Great times and wonderful memories. Im 57 now and miss the freedom, being young and life was much easier. Best part was the people and those amazing lama helicopter rides.

Larry Bright ( Grand Junction, Colorado )
Id seismic many years, loved it, petty ray northern westernt

Neil Rutt ( Jackson Hole Wyoming )
Worked back crew, shooters helper, shooter, head linesman, observer. Shot the lines for the GettybOil well, south of Jackson Hole. Did portable, vibroseis, and shot hole. Worked with the first 500 channel USB RECORDER for Exxon. Wonderful time as a young single guy!!! Im 60 now!

Lenny lande ( Missoula mt.59802 )
I worked for Seis port exploration from Canada started in Salina Ut in 1981 First party manager Rick porteous the Richrd mick micke jim stillborn Kevin corlett lots of heli miles with Rocky mt airservises interntnl

Mike ( Massachusetts )
Worked on a portable crew with SPX during 1981-82. Drove from Ft. Collins to Salina with my good pal Bill (may he RIP) to meet with a coke head, Uzi totting party manager. Some hellacious times, learned a lot of valuable lessons like never piss your pilot off in a tight canyon or run with blasting caps in your pocket. Felt like a cat with 9 lives and definitely cashed a few in. Did 250 shots in the Paradox Valley near Moab one day if I recall. Had the world by the balls, spent weather days drinking and skiing in Telluride. Crew worked out of Coalville but lived in Park City and joined more private clubs than I can remember. So many surreal places in such a short time. Shot some lines in a 100 square mile track of land in northern Utah that was supposedly owned by a guy in Hong Kong that should have been a national park – moose, elk, deer, and bald eagles drinking together at the same beaver pond. Sat on a ridge at about 10,000 feet on a sunny day and watched one storm system after another roll up a valley with fossilized sea shells all around me. Ate lunch on a petrified log sticking out of the side of a hill in the middle of BFE and saw an Anasazi arrowhead on the ground next to me. While the mental images remain, the memories are starting to fade. One of the best times of my life.

Juggie bear Davidson ( Costa rica )
I started In 77 with crew CGG06 the reverand LSDwhit Morris was then J O, Pat Smith trouble shooter,J P Lacrow was our beloved frog PM. Then to the moose range in Alaska With mile high exploration. UMIAT to kaparik on the slope to the San Martin in peru. Hosed again johnnie ladeux, where ever you are!

LindaB ( Pinedale )
Worked for GSI and CGG 81-86 crews 508, 501, 512: totally portable. Great job, great memories. Front crew (all women!), back crew, capper, cord crew, survey crew. Alpine, Park City, Pinedale, Kemmerer, Bear Lake, Logan, Smoot, Bondurant , so many more. Flying just feet over Bear Lake, landing at the coffee shop in Dell to pick up fresh donuts, riding the hook, flying the Bell, death spirals in the Lama, glissading, snowshoeing, camping 40 miles down the Greys River road, living the vagabond life, young and strong. Got pulled off a cliff and onto the hook by a hero pilot. Good to hear from all of you old juggies. Glad youre out there still.

Chuck Sollars ( Minnesoto )
I showed up every morning at the LZ in Circle Montana for 2 weeks fresh out of the Marines hoping someone wouldnt show up for work because of the previous nights bar hopping. I finally was hired at 0600 and flew out to the line with Heli Drill and was treated to my first hammerhead from Lama Dave, out best pilot and a viet name vet. Worked for 2 years in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and some swamp buggy work in Oklahoma. What a thrilling adventure that I will never forget. Made a ton of money, but spent it like a drunken sailor. Those were the days!

Rick Theis ( Denver, CO )
Seis-Port, SPX - At age 20 decided to skip a year of college. Drove all night in late August 1979 to Medora North Dakota in the back of aqua-green 1970 Mustang with Chatty Crane, Jim Wilmot and Dean Ross (RIP). Joined SPXs first drill crew. Hired by Doug Newman and Doug Klack who purchased their drills from Helidrill. Rocky Mountain Helicopters - pilots were Charlie Blaze (30k plus rotor wing hours! I could two pages with heli stories of just Charlie) and Vern Sanders (skilled and cool). Walked the Bad Lands back and forth as fall passed into winter - then froze. Met Perry (above) when he showed up in Medora (running from the law I think). Moved to Dickenson, then took a crew to Coalville and lived in a camp (Mike above), then Salina and Blanding. Went back to school but spent summers in Logan, Mena, AR. Finished school and went back again -Evanston and Rifle. Nearly 40 years ago now.... the wife of 25 years gets a bit tired of the stories I think. I loved working outside and the flying the most.

Duane Smallwood ( Alpine, wyo )
First of all I want is the best job I’ve ever had, Working through the mountains after being dropped off by helicopter if it was in the of the summer or 15 foot a snow in the Rocky Mountains, I started in 1976 with CGG at Hoback Junction by Battle Mountain I was on back crew Rollin cables all day sun up to sundown until I came across the first helicopter portable drill Proto type on a trailer that was being tested, the driller at the time was Keith and the mechanic was Don Olson, so i Decided to stop and see what all the commotion was about, I was quite good at rolling cables, i used to jog and roll cables so I was quite far ahead of the Jugs I needless to say within three days I was talking with Charles Hignite and on the crew that first started the helicopter portable drills, I was sent to West Minister Colorado to start building drills and baskets they only had one drill at the time, so myself, Louis, kieth, Don Olson started building drills in a shop in Colorado. The first drills were Quite Primitive, had Porsche engines with an air screw and a jackhammer we would drill 2.5inch holes and only went 30 feet And would basicly pour up to 30 pounds of nitropel And fill the rest of the hole with gravel and Leave the cap Wire hanging out The top of the whole and we would have to record the location of the hole with Compass to the flag number of the line. After we built four or five drills I was sent to I was Nephi After around six months or so Charles Hignite gave me a crew to run, at that time it was called Comanche drilling, it wasn’t until years later that it was called helidrl and or hignight. For the first six months or so I was the crew that Charles sent people to learn how to drill and they were sent to other crews, I loved working with the llamas and 214 helicopters but my favorite was the super puma, it would pick up the whole drill and all the supplies at once, what a beast of a Machine you knew you were under a helicopter when you were working with it. I worked with many of good people that became friends and many pilots from Rocky Mountain helicopters in fact I got to know them so well they would let me take the stick and fly and I had to privilege landing a 214 bell behind yesterday’s cafe in ID and Many hours in a lama hovering while Dave Fitz Patrick throughout caps and supplies to the drillers. Man, those were the days !!! I rolled cables for a couple years, then a driller to a formen and then a supervisor. The earlier days when you needed to get to the top of the mountain i used to ride on the headache ball and grab the cable of the long line and be lifted to the top of the mountain, Man that was the Ultimate rush! I miss those adrenaline days, to all my seismic friends, it was great to meet you. Rolled cables, Picked up jugs, was a shooter, Played in the doghouse, a line Coordinator, a drller, a foreman And a supervisor. I am so glad and privileged of being a doodle bugger. Working/ playing experiencing the thrush belt/ o the storys that can be told all the mountains of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Idaho,. 1976 to 84 Ring the bell at liquor in the front and poker in the rear.

Roy Cuellar ( Boise )
Working for Seis Com Delta, and MileHi Exploration is how I financed my own flight training that led to my career in aviation. After the seismic boom slowed down I joined the Army Reserve and became a helicopter pilot. Great pilots like Steve Daniels, Duane Smoots, Mark Kuno, and Floyd Kerjstadt (sp?) gave me continual encouragement and inspiration to go for it. The freezing temperatures in Kemerer and boiling temperatures in Rexburg all payed dividends. Those were the days!

Kubi ( Jackson Hole )
Anyone remember Phil the one-eyed pilot?

Brian Myers ( Vernal by way of SC )
Worked Seismic from 1977-81, then the Army,in 1984 back to SPX (fired 5 times total!) and CGG and Northern one summer in Dubois, and Mile High until went back to college and Med school. worked many crews, including SPX with Perry, Rick, et al above. Great article. Captures the spirit. I am an MD now and working with a Rad Tech who saw the remains of the shooter the Bell 214 brought into Vernal in the Basket. Forgot his name. Great time and an iconic chapter of Americana(and Canadiana!)

Bell,John t ( )
Early 80s in Ogdan Ut.. Worked out to ND and southern idaho..Was a great job .Came back to WA on standby and company stopped for some reason..Remember a guy named Doo Da 😁.Had a converted school bus...mmiss that job to this day

Eric Barnes ( Afton, wyo. )
I started in Alpine, Wyo. about 1977, living in my very small trailer behind Duane,s house. Started on the Beaver Drills. First day out, 22 of us in the field, 1 drill, 1 radio, lots of mind adjustments. later going to Evanston, Wyo. to be Beaver instructors with Doc and Phil Sweeney.. for Comanche drilling. Then changing our name to Helidrill.. moving on to the HP drills. First helicopter pilot I flew with was Charlie Baez, he pulled Evil Knievel from the snake river jump. later with pilots like Dave, Jeff and Bill Dodds who lost his life in Dillon, Montana.. moving all over the western half of the USA living large, working 12- 14 hour days, shutting down the bars, getting up and doing it all over again.. to many stories to remember, even though I cant remember most.. ut was the best job and the best of times of my life, even seeing lots of people get hurt and killed, we all knew the risk. But it didnt stop how we lived. made lots of friends and very memorable people.. Glad to say I was a part of it all, a piece of history that not to many people even know about, but for those who lived it, will be one that will never be forgotten... heres to all you crazy jugheads, shooters, drillers and pilots that were there to tell these stories. Cheers, I LOVE YOU ALL,... The Trail of the Dinosaur... Rocky Mountain Doodlebuggers... Eric

scout ferguson ( dallas, tx )
Did anyone know Lenny Haddaway & Beautiful Carol Smith Blanthorn?? An awesome Seismic Crew who worked in Wyoming~~

randy aromando ( biddeford ME )
petty ray 1980/81. kicked out of high school in maine and took a greyhound to gillette wyoming and ultimately got on a jug crew! great memories, wonderful friends, and serious adventure both on and off the job. worked out of gillette and then rawlins. bought a 1949 chevy sport coup in casper and drove back east ultimately. should have stayed longer. will always treasure my time there. and watch out for the carbon county sheriff e.w.hicks, as i recollect he is none too friendly... although he did fail to find the reefer in my pocket!

shawn beebe ( Dubois wy. )
Having some serious flashbacks here! And all I asked was what the highest elevation shothole was... dont know how many are still kicking but its good to see the names and I can still see the faces 😁.

Jon R Horton ( Colorado Springs CO )
Started in Afton on SSC crew April 75, finished about forty years later. Worked most of the western states then Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Yemen, Oman, Egypt, Chad, Tanzania, South Africa. What a life!

J. Hoffman ( Minnesota )
Good memories, loved reading through them and I recognized a few names. I was a surveyor for CGG and worked with best surveyors and crews in the business, all were good people. It was the best times of my least looking back it now, we did have some fun, even with the long hours. Im 69 now and maybe slowed down a bit and carry some of those dings in the body from that fun but if I had the chance Id give it a try again,...Its been a while since Ive turned a angle and portable work around Jackson would probably kill me...but what the hell, you cant beat the view. To all those out there that Ive worked with and the brave soles that worked in the search of gas & oil... I salute you! hang on to those memories theyll keep you young. Take care!

Stan Taylor ( Santa Idaho )
Hello everyone. I worked portable with CGG, Mile High, Western Geo. Rocky Mtns to Alaska. It was a great job with a lot of hard working dedicated people. Just want to give a shout out to the B Man and Slim Chance Reuter, also my good friend and former roomie Bob Mccandless. Props to all the great pilots who risked their lives daily to keep us alive. Finally, a prayer for those we lost, Tom Carter, Dave C. and all the others who gave everything in their youth so that America might never run out of oil. Peace and thanks.

Peter Berglund ( Colorado )
So much respect for you folks. I was a geophysicist and visited a helicopter crew out of Meeteetse (at least thats where we drank) around 1980. Hard-working, hard-drinking, good people, and absolutely amazing pilots. Plus the excitement of surface charges instead of shot holes.

Pablo Murphy ( Philippines )
Started my doodlebuggin career in McAllen Texas 1974 with shothole crews ML Randall and Dee Exploration with fellow homies from Buffalo, MN. We escaped the cold winters and played on swamp buggies all over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Caught the bug and in 1977 upgraded to portable with CGG 08 up mosquito creek, then spent the rest of the season on Greys River crew camp. Winter spent on government ski team in Park City, or traveling and partying, anxious for spring and mountain jugging. Recognize many of the names and legends of the time, it would be hard to write a book as crazy as it was, as high as we were! Got injured spring of 78, had to take 2 months off for the bone to mend, but day 1 return to work wound up on the same line i almost died on, did a 100 plus shot day on steep terrain, hobbling along. After a glorious summer and fall we got buried up the Greys in a blizzard, spent a week winter camping on mountain top to dig the gear out, then left beautiful Wyoming for Minot. Another blizzard and -70 wind chill and i had enough, hiring on a marine survey with Digicon in the San Francisco bay area. Spent the whole summer there working on jet boats, barges and zodiacs, spending weather days at Grateful Dead concerts or the Hookers Ball. Wrapped it the end of Oct 78 and transfered to a 2 year navagation support Pacific coast Mexico from the border of Guatamala to the north, Baja California both sides to California. Got kicked out of Mexico and spent a year at home base Cortez, CO, hired on with Phoenix Geo, an IP crew working on snowmobiles above Dolores and Rico and stayed with that company shifting to passive surveys doing portable in Ted Kaszinskys back yard and Glasier National Park. Offered an opportunity to work international and jumped on it, spending 85-87 in Java, Papua New Guinea and everywhere in between until work dried up. I got married 1990 and my oilfield career was finished. Not to bore you with my long story, i mainly write this for my own recall, piecing together dates and events, recalling all the characters and adventures. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything and was definatly the best of times! Would make a great movie!

John bell ( Bellingham,wa )
Helidril out of ogden ,utah early 80s. ..into N.Dakota,whyoming.Utah Best jab i ever had.,Came back on standbye but something happened with company and folded at the time i guess...worked eith Ben Lee,DooDa...Dirty and a binch if not easy to forget...

Patrick Austin ( Washington State )
Anyone remember Grant Geophysical portable crew 380 from the 1980s"?

Quincy ( Hudson, Wyoming )
Quincy here, checking in after 45 years. I stomped jugs and drove jug trucks for Western (V12 and V23??) in '76 and 77, while I was in college, then graduated to P8, Western's first Portable Crew. They had a huge Bell helicopter at first, and tried all sorts of silly things like two-man augers for shot holes (HA!) before coming around to the standard Lama/ Ranger combo and surface shots. Remember Kenny-Paks? My wife Rae and I switched to Mile High in 78 flying with Filthy Phil. I remember how he would pull his glass eyeball out and roll it down the bar for grins. I was camped at Jensens Guest Ranch near Afton when he was reunited around a campfire with a door gunner named Gary from Nam. Small world, eh? Later that season I twisted off from Mile Hi and worked powder with CGG 08, earning a dollar a shot after the first half mile. That was B&D with 10 lb Hercules charges! Seems like we set a record 100 something shots in the mountains and then the next day CGG13 beat it with an easy downhill prospect through rolling Pinyon and Juniper. It's 2022 and Rae Bird and I are still together, 4 kids and 8 grandchildren later, ranching in Wyoming, peddling goat milk.

Julie ( NV, OR, WY )
I was Head of Front Crew for Mountain Geophysical under Ken Stewart (his wife, Mari, ran our office) and our leader’s name escapes me right now but his wife was Carmen and she only had one leg. I worked with Jeff and Jackie Whiteacre from ABQ, Jeff Pruitt, Jim and Roger Clark, Dana Barnes, and our helicopter pilot was called Captain America and he flew a Hughie. Jeannine Frawley once drove one of the trucks off the road in a snowstorm in Nevada without leaving a scratch on the truck or herself. We were tough people back then and we loved that life. Respect.

Greg Kutz ( Montana )
So incredible to read the stories of over 40 years ago. They were truly some of the most exciting and adventuresome days ever. Started 1979 working back crew in Glendive, Mt. with CCG08. As the years progressed worked all over Wyo, Mt, Id, ND and later went to Grant Geo and got involved in surveying. That set the stage for the rest of my career and eventually transferred to Grant Geo in Canada which allowed me to work in the Arctic the winter of 1989. From there started working contract to Shell Canada and another winter in the Arctic 1992. Stayed north of the border surveying until 1997 and eventually got into legal surveying back in the US until finally retiring in 2021. Have a small spread and think of my roots often. It was a great ride that will never be surpassed.

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