Umm Unaiq Old Campsite of Umm Unaiq in the late 1970's
Photograph contributed by Bob Waters

Early in 1952, we loaded up all of our possessions into cardboard boxes and Bill Bartlett found us a large stake bed truck to haul our processions to our new home in Umm Unaiq.

We picked a lousy day; one of the days that hordes of locusts were migrating through the area. They were so thick that we had to use our windshield wipers to be able to see out the front windows. The roads were green with them on the ground, some dead from being run over and others in pairs copulating. We finally made it to our new home, which was not in the locust’s path, but as we unloaded our truck, several locusts would pop out of the flatbed truck and even out of some of the boxes that were not shut up tightly. We were really tired from unloading the boxes, and were looking for our box of refreshments so we could rest and have a highball. Jo kept telling us which box it was in, but she snookered us, cause it was in the very last box!

Our portable was just like the one we had been living in while in Abqaiq and Dhahran. It was located just across the street from the outdoor theater, a small store, a clubhouse and close to the dining hall. We also had a small clinic for emergencies only, but for serious problems the patients were sent into Abqaiq or Dhahran.

Years later, I flew to Umm Unaig and stood on the 'floor' of the old office area. The cement pad to the left is most likely the old mess hall. All that remained was a small hill that had been built to hold the water, diesel and gasoline tanks for gravity feed. I stood their just reminiscing about our stint in Umm Unaiq from 1951 until 1953.

Children living in Umm Unaiq Left to right - Girls: Suzie Eastwood, Suzie Waters and Judy Jones.
Left to right - Boys: Laurel Ives, Larry Ives, Bobby Waters and Teddy Eastwood.
Front door steps of a portable home in Umm Unaiq
Photograph contributed by Bob Waters

The family personnel dwelling in Umm Unaiq consisted of Bob and Jo Waters, engineer, with their two children, Susan and Bobby; Clem Gibbs and his wife, toolpusher; Frank Hargrove and his wife, toolpusher; Tex and Johnnie Guyon, toolpusher, with their two children, Chuck and Stephen; Dallas and Zella Ives, driller, and their two children, Larry and Laurel; Charlie and Corrine Eastwood, driller, and their two children Teddy and Susan; Woody Keller and his wife (daughter Mr. and Mrs. Clem Gibbs), rig mechanic; the transportation foreman and his wife; another driller family; and Ed Jones, toolpusher, and his wife and daughter Judy.

Two of the bachelor status men in Umm Unaiq were Wimpy Wigzell whose wife Addie Wigzell lived in Abqaiq and Claude Enyardt whose wife stayed at home in Bakersfield, California.

At the beginning there was no school in Umm Unaiq; therefore, we made a deal with our childless friends, Bob and Louise Zagst in Abqaiq, that Susan could live with them during the school days and then send her home to us in Umm Unaiq for the weekends. We always hated to see her leave for the five days, but really enjoyed her for the weekends. Not too long after that, the company opened a small one room schoolhouse in Umm Unaiq and Susan went there with about five or six other small children.

Flaring a Well Flaring a Well
Photograph by Bob Waters

Our camp also had many single status employees as well as employees of Bechtel Engineering, who were in charge of constructing the GOSP's, or Gas Oil Separator Plants. They would build new Plants and lay flow lines to the new rig sites. In that way we could flow the wells into the flow lines and into the GOSP's and pipelines once the wells were completed and flowed to the desert for about four hours to remove all drilling fluid before turning the oil and gas into the flow lines. Each well was capable of producing about 12,000-15,000 bpd (barrels per day of oil and about 600 cubic feet of gas per barrel of oil). In those days we had little use for the sour gas, so it was burned to a flare.

The Bechtel “bachelor” employees really made over the children and were always bringing them small animals off of the dessert. At one time Susan and Bobby had a baby gazelle, a jerboa or kangaroo rat, a small fox, and a thub (large lizard).

Susan had something in a shoebox with a lid on it and held it up to me and said, “Daddy, look at my new friend”. With that she removed the lid and a big old lizard reared up on his legs and hissed at me, causing me to jump about three feet. I had to tell Susan that we could not keep that one, so we turned him loose.

There were little black and white hedgehogs in the area. When you touched them, they would roll up in a ball so that all their sticky pointed quills were outside to protect their body. They were small, very cute and had long, pink snouts.

Gazelle Gazelle at the Hobby Farm
Photograph contributed by Bob Waters

The little gazelle lived on the back porch of our house and we would let him visit us in the front room. He would bray like a little baby goat and would eat lettuce out of our hands. Unfortunately, he passed away; we took him out in the desert and we buried him.

Jerry, our little jerboa also would come into the living room with us and he would crawl up my legs when I was sitting in my big easy chair, with my legs all stretched out. One time there was a Time magazine on the floor with a picture on the front of Senator Taft. Jerry would look at the picture, sneak up on it, and then when he got almost up to it he would take a great big jump backwards. He did that several times and had all of us laughing.

One morning Jerry was missing from his little box that had a screen over it. Presumably the little fox had gotten into the box and was hiding somewhere in the house. We finally got him out of hiding by offering him food and decided it was a good time turn the little fox loose in the desert before he bit someone.

We had a little “patio” of gray bricks in the back yard. On it I had placed a great big “spool” that had been used for shipping electric cables. By laying it on its side, we used it for a “patio table”. Our yard was surrounded by the ever present Gared fence, with an open area where a gate would have been placed. One late afternoon, Jo, Susan, Bobby and I were all out on the patio, sitting around our table drinking cold drinks, in shorts and barefoot.

Jo grabbed Susan and Bobby by one arm and said, "Don’t anybody move, but there is a snake right behind Daddy". Back then, the hair stood up on the back of my neck; I slowly leaned over and picked up a loose brick, turned slowly around to see the sidewinder headed for the open gate area, but it was still very close to me. I threw the brick at him as hard as I could. The brick made a direct hit and I had him pinned under it in the soft sand. So I jumped up, grabbed my garden shovel and beheaded him before he could get loose.

Our outdoor theater did not have any doors, had a sand floor and long wooden benches. The movies could not start until after dark; so in the summer, movie time was sometimes quite late. After the snake episode, quite a few people watched the movies with their feet up on the benches.

We tried to get folks in Dhahran to come out and "de-snake" the area. They came one day, drilled a few holes around the camp fence outline and stated there weren’t anymore snakes around camp. Someone in the local paper, The Sun and Flare wrote a big article insinuating we were a bunch of worry-warts because there really were not any snakes in Umm Unaiq. So, someone killed the next one they saw, sealed it in a coffee can and shipped it to the editor of the newspaper. I would have loved to have been there to see the excitement when they opened that coffee can!

When we could get away for a few hours, we would drive into Abqaiq and make a "commissary run". The fruits, vegetables and other items, we had in our little store, were very meager and of poor quality. We felt as if we were on the bottom of the commissary list. Some of the fruits and vegetables we received in Umm Unaiq looked like, as Jo put it, "They had been kicked all the way from Abqaiq."

The road from Abqaiq to Ain Dar was not completely paved yet, so part of the way was just following the tracks in the sand. There was a shortcut just past the Shedgum that cut across and saved time. So when we were coming home with Susan in the middle of the front seat, Bobby on Jo’s lap and the groceries in the back of the pickup that had no air conditioning, I would ask her, "Do you want to take the long way home, or just cut across and hang on."

Camels Camels in the Desert
Photograph by Bob Waters

Since we would be tired by this time and it was usually dark, we almost always took the "cut-off" across the sand and over the low hills. Many times, as we came over the crest of a small hill there would be several camels lying in and around the road. We would not usually see them until we crested the hill and they would then show up in our headlights. We always managed to dodge through them without hitting any any of them or getting stuck in the sand while slowing down. Even with sand tires, which we used, we had to be very careful not to get stuck in the soft sand.

A special treat for the wives was for the family to eat out in the dining hall. One evening we all four sat at a picnic type table with built in benches. Several of the older Bechtel "single status" men were eating at our table. Jo was always watching that our children behaved at the table and sat up correctly and not with their elbows on the table. When she saw Bobby slouched over the table with his elbows on the table, Jo said in a loud voice, "Sit up straight and get your elbows off the table." Immediately, everyone at our table and every table within hearing distance followed her instructions. That brought an apology from Jo to the men, and smiles from a lot of us.

Jo, Byron, Cecilia and Bob Jo, Byron and Cecilia Green and Bob
Relaxing in Dubai at the Green's Home - Early 1980's
Photograph contributed by Bob Waters

We liked to make trips to visit our friends in other outlaying camps. One enjoyable trip we made was from Umm Unaiq Drilling Camp to the original Uthmaniyah Drilling Camp, about an hour by car south and east of us. We went to visit our friends Byron Green, his wife Cecilia and their two children. It was a long hot ride across sandy roads, but we made it and had a nice visit and dinner with the Greens.

Workover Mud Tank Unit The Workover Mud Tank Unit Ready To Roll On Move
Photograph contributed by Bob Waters

One time when Jo took the bus to Al Khobar and Dhahran for an overnight, I was left alone in our house. In the morning when I got up I went into the bathroom to shave and brush my teeth, but no water! I tried both the hot and cold taps, still no water. So I decided to go to our morning meeting, grab a bite of breakfast. Then I went back to the house; to be sure I had turned off the water in the bathroom sink. To my horror when I pulled up in front of my house, there were about 5 people there. The front door was open; water was running out the front door, down the steps and onto the ground. And a couple other folks were dragging out our dining room rug, which was completely soaked through! We swept out the entire house, and people kept asking me why I left both sink taps wide open instead of closed. I had forgotten that our sink hardware was foreign, and the valves operated just opposite from those in the USA. I sure hated to try and explain that to Jo when she came home, but she was not as angry as I imagined she would be.

All the air conditioning in Saudi was much different than it is today. The company had A/C plants located around camps. Their function was to pump either hot or cold water to every house through special air conditioning lines. We had no control at our houses. You either turned it on or off. The plants controlled when it was time to use hot water, then in the summer they switched to cold water. But there were plenty of days when it was completely inadequate. Or the switch would be made, then the weather would switch back for a few days or weeks, and everyone was miserable.

Workover Mast Unit Workover Mast Unit Laid Down Ready for Rig Move
These rigs are moved very fast; they lower the mast, secure it and away they go.
Photograph contributed by Bob Waters

One day my boss, Jack Symons called on the office radio and said he was making a trip to Umm Unaiq and wanted to stop by the house and see Jo and I. So I said, "Great, how about lunch?"

Jack said, "Okay, can I bring a friend?" I said, "Sure".

So Jo fixed up a good old OKIE lunch and when Jack arrived he introduced us to his friend. His friend was Cy Hardy, Executive Vice-President of Aramco in Saudi Arabia.

Workover Rig Workover Rig on Location
Photograph contributed by Bob Waters

Cy was a great person, so down to earth, friendly, and loved to visit places, dressed in tan work pants and shirt. He would just visit with people like he was one of them. He did this all over the Aramco field installations and gathered information to take back to the board. His findings were that our personnel are fine, it is the brass that is causing the problems. But I digressed...

Cy and Jack had a great visit with lunch, thanked Jo and I profusely and left after a very pleasant time. Three days later Jo received a personal hand-written note from Cy, thanking her for the wonderful lunch and being a perfect hostess. Were we ever impressed!

When we took our local vacation, we asked the company to repaint the inside of our house while we were gone. We returned a couple weeks later, everything looked just great until we opened the freezer where we stored all of our frozen food. The smell was awful; everything was hot and ruined. The crew had unplugged the freezer to paint behind it, pushed it back in position and forgot to plug it back in. All of our freezer goods were ruined! I believe that the company reimbursed us, but I am not positive.

Red Tindall was our Assistant Drilling Superintendent during our stay in Um Unaiq, except for a vacation relief by Harry Egy when Red took his vacation. Rumors were starting to circulate that as the rigs kept moving south towards Uthmaniyah from Ain Dar and The Shedgum, Umm Unaiq would shut down and we would all move back to Abqaiq. When that time finally did arrive, we had a big party at the Clubhouse, complete with dancing, drinks, music and just a fun evening.

Failed Workover Mast Failed Workover Mast
Photograph contributed by Bob Waters

Umm Unaiq never really got any bigger, but Uthmaniyah did. I was appointed Lead Engineer over five drilling engineers for five to six rigs we had operating out of our camp. Byron Green was appointed Lead Engineer over his three engineers for the three rigs they were operating out of his camp. As drilling kept going south in Ain Dar, after the Shedgum Area was drilled up, some of the drilling rigs in our Area were transferred to Byron’s Area.

This type of mast failure is usually caused by exceeding the design limit strength, by pulling on stuck drill pipe and etc. Sometimes parts of the mast can be salvaged, but that is at the discretion of the mast manufacturer. In all probability, it will require repair parts or a replacement mast to be ordered from the USA.

Umm Unaiq was in a very sandy area, on sort of a flat top plateau. Due to so much loose dirt and sand due to the constant construction of campsites, flow lines and GOSPs we used to always say “when the wind blew, and the sand flew, you couldn’t see Umm Unaiq for a day or two.”

Everyone in Umm Unaiq got packed and ready to move back to Abqaiq in the summer of 1953.