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Grueling work, rich rewards loom at ground zero of drilling boom

Published: Mon, April 8, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m.

Valley roustabout endures 13-hour shifts of gritty labor to properly provide for his family


Brian Rose, above, is a roustabout for a natural-gas drilling company, whose Dodge 4x4 truck sometimes doubles as a dressing room. Rose’s responsibilities vary from picking up trash to repairing the liners that contain chemicals. He is responsible for general-labor duties on a rig.




On a brisk March morning in a field off of state Route 172 in Lisbon, the air is filled with the rumble of machinery and the smell of diesel fuel.

Combine that with the gray skies, the bare trees and the drilling equipment, and the scene it creates isn’t exactly picturesque.

On this day, workers plan to move equipment from a natural-gas injection well. They pay no attention to the weather as they swarm the well. They perform their duties in perfect synchronicity.

Just beyond the frenzy is 35-year-old Brian Rose, who just parked his Dodge 4x4 with drilling-company graphics displayed on its sides.

Today, the truck doubles as a dressing room. He pulls on overalls with yellow visibility tape contrasting against the black, grease–stained fabric. On one side there is a patch with his name. On the other is the name of Black Bear Oil Corp.

He will wear this outfit for the next 13 hours.

“I get here at 10, and I go home at 10. Sometimes I stay a little extra,” he said, raising his voice above the roar of generators. “It might be 13 or 14 hours, an average day is 13 and a half.”

Rose is a roustabout, the low guy on the natural-gas drilling totem pole responsible for general operations on a rig.

His responsibilities range from picking up trash to repairing containment — liners that prevent the release of dangerous chemicals into the environment.

“It’s hard work. It drains you,” he said. “You go so long and so long, you’re just drained. Then I’m back doing it again.”

“It’s like I live here.”

This doesn’t surprise Tracee Joltes, assistant director for workforce outreach at Eastern Gateway Community College in Youngstown.

“These guys work in all weather. They’re the ones who climb around under the rigs, hook up hoses, clean tanks and do whatever it is that needs to be done when it needs to be done.”

A native of Hamilton, a small city about 30 miles north of Cincinnati, Rose previously built limousines.

But the money wasn’t there. With a family to support – his girlfriend Jessica Campbell and two sons, ages 8 months and 2 years – bills began to pile up.

“Work got scarce, and I followed the work,” he said.

A friend told Rose about a job opportunity in the natural-gas drilling industry.

“I knew a guy who was working for a company, and they needed people,” he said. “I heard the money was good. Down where I’m from, working this hard you’re only going to make 10 bucks an hour.”

Following the work meant moving his family to a mobile home in Salineville.

“The move was better,” said Campbell, 24. “It actually benefitted the family, because we were closer to his work, and he was able to spend time with the family.”

Rose works two weeks straight with a week off. He earns enough to let Jessica stay home with the kids.

“I didn’t want her to work because back home I was working full time and she was working full time, and neither one of us were around,” he said. “One of us has to be there to take care of [the kids] and make sure they’re raised the way we want them to be raised.”

“It’s great going from full-time work and full-time mommy to stay- at-home mommy,” said Campbell. “I don’t miss anything.”

Roustabout salaries range from $21,860 to $51,550 yearly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“You hear about high salaries, and they range from $10 … to $18 an hour to start,” said Joltes. “I know of a couple folks making $20, $26, $28 dollars an hour.”

Those paychecks do not come without risks, however.

“You got all kinds of dangers in there,” Rose said. “You can slip and fall all the time; it’s slick. You got machinery in there that’s running around all the time. I’m sure these people are watching, but you gotta be watching, too. You could walk into a blind spot behind a loader, slip, he not know you’re there, put it in reverse and go.”

That danger became more real Feb. 25, when Abdal L. Audeh, 28, of Dover was killed and Alex Cox, 21, of Cadiz was injured in Carroll County on a rig owned by R.E. Gas Development, a subsidiary of Rex Energy. Sheriff Dale Williams said the two had forgotten to hook up a safety line on the drilling equipment they were working on and a piece of the equipment swung around killing Audeh. Cox was able to move out of the way.

“When I heard about that out here, I thought about it all day,” he said. “It’s scary knowing it happens.”

Faced daily with the reality of injury or death, Rose keeps his guard up.

“I’m not afraid, but I know it’s there. It’s in your head constantly. Don’t be in a rush; that’s when things happen.”

“I call him at least 20 times a day,” Campbell said. “Anything can happen, and I’m not going to be able to raise the kids unless he’s here. He just has to be careful.”

Rose isn’t the only one concerned with safety. Drilling companies say they stress it as well.

“There’s a safety meeting every day before your shift and there’s probably another one during your shift,” said Rose. “They stress safety like crazy here. If you’re caught not using safety measures we talk about every day, there are consequences.”

Those consequences can include being suspended without pay.

Rose does not have long-term plans as a roustabout, citing his age, the work schedule and the job itself.

“Most of the guys who do this are younger. It’s a little rougher on me,” he said. “Some of these guys out here are pretty old and you can tell they’ve been doing it awhile. They’re broke down. I don’t want to be like that.”

“I’d like for him to be home,” said Campbell. “It’s long hours, but he’s doing what he has to to take care of his family.”

Despite the lifestyle and risks, Rose said being a roustabout is a good job.

“The company takes care of me; they’re fair” he said. “They give me insurance and everything. I can take care of my family, so I like my job.”

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, The University of Akron and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).


1timOthy(802 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Give me a break Vindy ! What do yo think Tradesmen and Women tradesmen have been doing for years. Over a 100 ! But that doesn't count thought in your reading. look it's part of work. If you can't hang . Go on the porch and play with the puppies. Why don't you ask Rose about his Medical insurance ? Pension ? Vacation Pay ?

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2Bman(151 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

This sounds like a decent job for people who need jobs the most--those with little or no schooling and with little or no training.These oil/gas/fracking jobs sounds like good reliable work for those people who are hurting the most in society.

This industry could be the salvation for the entire Mahoning Valley. I hope people in the area, and the Vindy, doesn't let the middle/upper-middle class opposition to the industry hyjack the debate and kill these companies ability to locate close to the City of Youngstown. Youngstown is filled with lower educated, unemployed people who would jump at the chance for a decent paying job--even if it means getting dirty and exposing oneself to danger. And most poor City residents always have trouble with "transportation issues"; therefore a decent job within the City is perfect. Travelling from Youngstown to Columbiana to find a job is tough for an underprivileged person.

The children of the bugoise professors opposing drilling within Youngstown do not worry about "finding work". However, most City residents do. SO VOTE NO ON THE PROPOSED CHARTER AMENDMENT!

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3ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Amen Bman! If this job isn't for you then don't apply for it! But don't take away that option for others, all over a few radicals with personal agendas.

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4georgejeanie(1496 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

My son got a job in January. He works in Cadiz and is away from home for a week or two, but it is more money than he ever made in his life at 4o years old. Hard work, but he is also providing for his family in a way he could have by sticking around Youngstown. Even Cadiz Oh provides more meaningful employment than Youngstown.

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5walter_sobchak(2674 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

While you make a good point about transportation, there is another roadblock that people encounter. Mandatory drug testing. As the story relates, these sites are dangerous and the workers cannot be influenced by chemicals in their bloodstream. Even if drugs were legal, these companies would still not allow workers on the site under the influence. And, this applies to everyone, not just city of Youngstown people.

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6redvert(2239 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Yes, the drug testing will be a problem for a lot higher percentage of applicants than you would think!

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7Ytownnative(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

I am opposed to fracking but after reading the charter amendment I am going to vote no. I just don't like the way its worded. Too much gray area. Sounds like I could sue my neighbor if their car was too loud or smokes a little. Actually sounds like if they burned a batch of cookies and the smoke came my way I could sue.

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8SonsOfLiberty(14 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Folks sell drugs in the hood because the money is good. Don't ever for get what their pedaling.

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9SonsOfLiberty(14 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Good thing the spelling police didn't attack me yet. Go ahead and substitute their for *they're, the point is still the same.

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10oilguy82(9 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Who cares if he has pension or vacation time. At least he went to work unlike 80% of that area.I like when i read about people that want to ban this and that with gas and oil that live in ytown area. Keep it up youngstown with those forward strides!

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11SonsOfLiberty(14 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Yup Oilguy poisoning all the residents in the valley is woth a check, right?

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12Ytownnative(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

They would sell our collective soul for a dime in tax money they could spend and a job.

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13Metz10987(145 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Well if it was the only job left i would never apply. Unknown health threats to chemicals and the dangerous nature of the work are two big problems for me. For thhose who chhose tio work in the industry good luck and at least you have a job. I am voting yes for this charter amendment since itcan not legally be enforced and is jsut a show of public opinion nothing more regardless of what you have heard form those afraaid of the negative PR it will bring.

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14SonsOfLiberty(14 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

How about you drink the poison you promote, you breathe the poluted air, you live on the land destroyed. The gas being pulled from the area is being stored, soon to be converted to liquid then transported, shipped and sold overseas. Yet here you thought you knew so much.

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15Metz10987(145 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Go to hell UticaShale you are jsut a industry backed trool that no one with a brain and any knowledge about what really is going on pays much attention to. Don;'t you dare question my metal abilties because that is not a road you want to go down. Byt the way your username says it all, no need to lsiten to you so go talk to someone who gives a darn.

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16TERRAPINST(320 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

UTICA Shale: You just accomplished what I attempt to do every time I comment on this Board. Challenge the whackos and make someone furious-nicely done young man or woman. The road of travelling challenges to Metz's "metal" abilities does indeed sound dangerous-what with his superior metal faculties. At first because we were talking about industry I though he was like a metal expert until I reread-you know alloys and such. So funny.

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17RTS1416(117 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

You betar wach it Terra! Yuo wil be netx on Mtez;s metal hit list!

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18TERRAPINST(320 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Tankhs RTS, wouldn;'t him to think I'm a trool!

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19Bman(151 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Walter, 100% agree with mandatory drug testing.

However, that is a problem with all potential employees; not just City residents. Not all lower income urban-folk use drugs. Those that are drug free should have access to a lower level just with decent pay, and a City Charter Amendment would devastate the chances of an oil rig in Youngstown.

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20cambridge(4066 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

UslessShrimp.....Shouldn't you be moving those shrimp from those road side ditch's into the frack waste containment ponds. I'm sure that frack marinade will make those shrimp big sellers.

Seems you're not the "player" you pretend you are. Ever get around to paying your taxes "player"? How many times have you been sued "player"? What happen "player"....bought a bunch of lots in the Youngstown City limits and when fracking is shot down in the city you're stuck with useless land and an annual tax bill? Karma's a b...h!


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21thinkthentalk(310 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

He shoots....
Cambridge now up by 2...

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22Rockabilly(93 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Wow! You should put some ointment on that burn or it might leave a scar.

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23Metz10987(145 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Can all you jerks jsut go back to Go Marcellu Shale where you belong. Stop personnaly attacking people becuase you know you are wrong and lying and to cover up your actions you atack other people. Go to hell ftracking idiots! You have shonw your true color and it is just plain disgusting. Just because you have a different opinion gives you no right to treat others like dirt.

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24RTS1416(117 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

"Go back to the Marcellus shale where you belong" That is an interesting statement considering that that shale formation covers a large part of the state of Ohio including the part that most of us are living in. The shale formations in the area overlap, they don't just stop like a property line. The Marcellus, Utica , and Devonian formations intertwine all over New York, P.a. and Ohio. You want people to respect your opinions but you will not even educate yourself enough to give any form of accurate opinion.

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25thinkthentalk(310 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

No you idoit he wants yuo jerks to go back to yuor gomarc blogsite

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26cambridge(4066 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

UselessShrimp....you seem to be way to interested in my boxers. Very creepy but then so are you.

So you passing yourself off as an engineer from out of state working for big gas is total BS. Who does that? Once I took your advice and a hint from 300 and went to your precious web site I figured out who you were in two minutes.

So while you're pretending to be this big shot engineer you call me and others the "takers" of society. I've never been delinquent on my property taxes but you seem to make it a way of life. I've never been sued but the courts are clogged with litigation connected to you. That makes you the "taker".

I also find it mind boggling that a local merchant would constantly bash and talk down to locals in the community, you know....customers. Could be bad for business.

The best part of people knowing who the real UselessShrimp is that now it's much easier to decide how to vote on the fracking issue in the city. A vote for fracking is a vote for UselessShrimp. What's even better is all your little buddy shills know you and your big mouth will have more to do with fracking being voted down than anyone posting on this board. Thanks for that. I hope every city, county and state in the country votes to ban fracking

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27RTS1416(117 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Oh sorry, I failed to decipher the hieroglyphics correctly. Thank you for the clarification, I apreshiate teh heelp!

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28thinkthentalk(310 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Engineer? Who's an engineer?

One should review Ohio Revised Code 4733.021 and 4733.99.....

Now you know Cam, he gets 1/1000th of a penny from google every time you hit his blog....

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29Metz10987(145 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Go Marcullus Shale the website promoting frackig and shale development. Stop playing dumb you know what that site is and most likely are a member there. Drinking has nothing doi dio with it, fast typing does.

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30cambridge(4066 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

thinkthentalk....I don't know what to say about the guy, I just hope he doesn't mention me or my underware in any more posts so I don't feel obligated to respond. He had one post where he was going off because people were stupid for not putting a rig on their land because if they did the they could get a new lawn mower. He probably had a line on a boxcar full of lawn mowers.

Metz....I understand everything you've posted and agree with all of it. It's kind of ironic him telling someone else to check their meds.

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31Metz10987(145 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

UticaShale spewing nonesense. what are you even talking about rambling on? I hvce no problem with the Vindicator requiring people sue their real names, in fact it would stop most of this nonesene that people like you start. The more you talk the less people like you which I know you don't care about. People who disagree with what someone says then insult them are at least not nice people and and at worst trools. Sorry that is how it is.

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32thinkthentalk(310 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

How bout Sobchak, Terrapin, Rts, Bman.... Want them to man up too? Whaddya say Walter?

You know that when you sign up to comment on here, the vindy sends your name in a govt registry in Clarksburg Va, along with the names of registered gun owners. But not the gun show buyers. Hey, its true, thats what Larry Pratt of GOA says. They got a big file on me. The United Nations has a department that tracks blog moderators. I saw on Fox, specifically, Dick Morris on Hannitys show (so its gotta be true), verified by Will Swinger and the Weasel Zippers. He says the United Nations is gonna start taxing use of the internet.
They got your name, Ron. The only chance you got is if its misspelled, (e before i or vice versa). When it comes time, you better pay up or else the U.N. peacekeeping force with the sissy blue helmets are gonna come knocking at your door...

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33cambridge(4066 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

UselessShrimp....Why don't YOU start out by not pretending you're someone or some thing you're not.

"My given name is Benjamin Buford Blue, people call me Bubba just like one a those old redneck boys. Can you believe that?"

I think you and I should go in business together.


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3476Ytown(1347 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

I LOVE shrimp

You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There's, um, shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There's pineapple shrimp and lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp in potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That's, that's about it."

When Cambridge & Useless you go into business together, I'll be their first customer.

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35Metz10987(145 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Chance my last name is Metz. And I am no troll. Not going to argue anymore with you ovr this either since it really has no point just the issue at hand.We disagree on many things but let's both stop this nastiness. Truce is in order for everyone on here.

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36thinkthentalk(310 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

The name is Johnson. Ray J . Johnson Jr. But you doesnt have to call me Johnson. You can call me Ray, or you can call me Ray J, or you can call me RJ Jr, or Ray J Jr, or RJJ. But you doesnt have to call me Johnson.

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37oh13voter(1205 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

If you like air conditioning in the summer, kiss it goodbye if the charter amendment passes.


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