Because of You - Cover

Because of You

by woodmanone

Copyright© 2010 by woodmanone

Romance Story: Because of you he is a shadow of himself

Tags: Romance   Drama  

This story was inspired by the song "Because of you" by Reba McEntire.

Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side
So I don't get hurt

My life was fun, fulfilling, and complete until it wasn't; because of you.

I had a wife that was my lover and confidant until I didn't; because of you.

I used to be outgoing, fun to be with, and free spirited, now I'm not; because of you.

Because of you, I have none of the important things I had at one time.

Because of you, my life is a dark shadow of the sunny bright future I once had.

I know this all sounds very melodramatic, but every word is true. My life was going pretty good until about 18 months ago, that's when everything went to hell in a hand basket.

My name is Jason Patrick Riley. At 30, I am or I was a sort of accountant, efficiency consultant, and trouble shooter for one of the largest and richest independent oil companies in West Texas. I worked in Midland Texas, although I traveled all over the country and sometimes the world for my boss. He hired me right out of college and I became a jack of all trades for him and his company.

I graduated from high school and had to go to work full time to help out the family. My family consists of Mom and my sister Sally and me. My mom is a single mother and has raised us kids by herself. My drunken asshole of a father left us two weeks after Sally was born; I was six at the time.

We never heard from him again. Mom always managed to cloth, feed us, and give us a decent place to live, but there was never any extra money. I started working part time when I was 14 and haven't stopped working since. Well right now I'm not working, but we'll get to that later.

At 6' and around 175 pounds, I was big for my age at 16. If I kept my voice low I could pass for 18. That's how I got my first job in the oil fields. I think Butch, my first boss, knew that I wasn't 18 but I told him about my family and he hired me anyway. He wouldn't let me work on the floor of the rig but there was plenty to keep me busy doing other things.

I did basically most of the grunt work necessary around a drilling rig. I would roll drill pipe into position to be picked up, tote the bags of drilling mud to the mixer, make sure there was water in the catch basins for drilling and anything else that needed to be done. I worked part time on the evening shift from 6 PM until 10 PM so I could go to school during the day. When I finished school I went to work as a full time rough neck on the floor of the rig. I had grown to 6' 2" and added about 40 pounds by this time so I had the size to work on the rig.

After 2 years as a rough neck, a friend of my mother's, Jared, decided that I needed to become a driller. It paid more and wasn't as hard on your body as being a rough neck. You could only work so many years as a rough neck before the back breaking labor beat you down.

Jared was about 50 and had been a driller for 25 years. His face was seamed and lined from his years out in the weather and his hands showed the abuse given them for the last 25 years. He walked stooped over and with a limp from an accident on a rig about 15 years ago. He looked like he had been rode hard and then rode hard some more.

I was working the day shift and would stay over to learn from Jared. After almost a year working with and under Jared I got my first job as a driller. The hardest part about being a driller, once you know the technical aspects, is controlling your crew. Rough necks are an independent group and have to respect you before they will work hard for you.

My first time out as a driller I had an older crew; I was the youngest at 21. Being a new driller I had to work the night shift, 10 PM to 6 AM. There was one ole boy on the crew that wasn't going to put up with a young punk as his boss. Jesse was 28 and a veteran rough neck. The first time he challenged me, I told him to get to work or get off the rig. Words and threats were exchanged and the rest of the crew had to pull us apart. I gave as good as I got, but if it had gone on much longer I would have gotten my ass kicked.

The tool chaser, who is the overall boss on an oil rig, sent Jesse home and docked his pay for fighting. Normally fighting on a rig will get you fired, but if he fired Jesse he would have had to let me go too. Drillers for the night shift were hard to come by so no one got fired.

The next night I was waiting for Jesse before the shift began. As he got out of his truck, I told him we had unfinished business and needed to get it taken care of before we started our shift. We went behind the tool trailer to have our discussion. Our "talk" wasn't on the rig itself so the head man had no say so about what went on.

Jesse knocked me down three times but I got up four and started for him again. He held up his hands and said, "I've had enough. I'm afraid I'll break my hands on your face and won't be able to work. You win Jason, let's go to work."

I had earned the crews' respect for standing up to Jesse and never had any more trouble from them. I guess the word spread because I never had a problem with any other crew. Months later when Jesse would find out I was drilling a well somewhere; he would come to work for me. We actually became friends and would share a few drinks together.

Two years as a driller made me realize that there had to be something more to life than oil rigs. The west Texas weather baked you in the summer and froze you in the winter. Add in all the thunderstorms, rain, lightening strikes and the weather was not your friend.

People always say that the Kansas plains are flat but they are hilly compared to west Texas. Oil is often found around a salt dome and a salt dome three feet high stood out like a high hill on those west Texas plains. The storms and winds would roll for miles with no hills or vegetation to slow them down.

In addition you had the dangerous job of the work on an oil rig and you can understand what a tough life this was. The rattlesnakes, scorpions, and spiders were another reason that the rig was not a good place to spend your career. At least not for me, I wanted to work smarter not harder. I didn't want to end up like Jared in another 25 or 30 years, bent and broken with hands that were gnarled and full of arthritis. One more detriment to working on a rig, once you started drilling there were no days off. You worked 7 days a week, week in and week out, until the well was finished.

I took jobs that let me work the night shift from 10 PM to 6 AM so I could go to college during the day. My schedule was set up so that my last class was over at one. That gave me time to get home, eat, study and get some sleep before I started on the rig at ten. I didn't take off summers from school so I graduated in three years with dual degrees, one in accounting/business management and one in computer science. The day after graduation I began to look for a position where I could use my new degrees to get off the oil rigs.

Along came Billy Ray Jones and the Jones Oil Company. Yeah, that was his real name. A lot of the ole boys in Texas had two first names that they answered to. Joe Bob, Billy Bob, Bobbie Ray, etc. etc. etc. I guess it's because everything is bigger in Texas and one name isn't big enough.

Billy Ray had an ad in the local paper wanting to hire a full charge accountant/bookkeeper so I put in for the job. He called me and we met at his office on a Friday afternoon at 3 PM. This would give me time to get some sleep after the meeting so I could go back to the rig that evening. I hadn't quit my job as a driller and wouldn't until I got something else to move on to.

I gave him a resume I had typed up and we discussed my qualifications for about 30 minutes. Then we discussed my rig experience and the oil "bidness" for another hour. He asked, "Why do you want quit working on the rigs, drillers made pretty good money?"

"Yeah they do, but it's hard on a body. Someday I hope to have a family and I want to be able to play with my kids and maybe grandkids." I explained about how beat up Jared was and said, "I don't want to end up like that."

Billy Ray knew Jared and still hired him as a driller once in awhile. "Let me think on this for a day or two and I'll call you and let you know Jason," Billy Ray told me ending our interview. I found out later that he called Jared, Jesse, and my mama to find out what kind of a man I was.

I thanked him for his time and went home to get some rest before starting my shift on the rig. It was an interesting meeting and I enjoyed talking to Billy Ray, but I really didn't think I would get the job. His secretary Judy told me that I was the youngest person to apply and she seemed surprised that a big strapping rough neck like me would apply for this job.

Ten days later I got a call from Jones Oil wanting me to meet with Billy Ray again. This time it was a Monday morning around 9 and as I walked into the office his secretary handed me a cup of coffee and led me into Billy Ray's office. He was on the phone and pointed for me to take a chair.

Billy Ray got off the phone and smiled at me. "I'm offering you the job as accountant, if you still want it Jason. "Here's the salary I'm willing to start you at." He slid a folder piece of paper across his desk to me. I think Billy Ray had been watching too much T.V. "How's that look boy?"

I was surprised at the job offer; I actually thought he was going to offer me a job as a driller on a new well that we had talked about in our previous meeting. The written offer was about ten percent more than I was making as a driller and I didn't have to work on a rig anymore.

"Sounds good Mr. Jones. I accept the job and thanks," I responded.

"How soon can you start?"

"Probably in ten days or so sir. I have to finish drilling this well and then I'm free."

"Couldn't they get someone else to work in your place," Billy Ray said looking at me in an appraising way.

"Yeah I guess they could, but it would slow them down until they found someone. Besides, I gave them my word when I took the driller's job that I would finish the well. I don't like to go back on my word, Mr. Jones."

"I need you to start by mid week or I'll have to find someone else Jason." Billy Ray dashed my hopes for a way out of the oil fields with that statement.

Hesitating for a few seconds, I stood up to leave. "Thanks for the offer Mr. Jones, but I guess you better find someone else. I gave them my word and I aim to keep it. Thanks again for the offer, call me if you need a driller for that new well. See ya sometime."

Billy Ray started laughing, "Sit down boy. You've got the job; I just wanted to see if you were a man of your word and you've proven you are. You're the kind of man I want working for me. So go finish your well and then come to the office and we'll put you to work."

Saying that, he picked up the phone and started making a call. I left his office and don't think my feet touched the ground all the way out to my truck. First time out and I found a way to get off that damn oil rig. I was stoked and could hardly wait to start with Jones Oil Company.

As I got back to my place my cell started ringing and when I answered it was my current boss. He offered me a job on the day shift at his next well with an increase in pay. He said that the way I handled Jesse and got the respect of that crew told him that I could run any crew.

"I can't Mr. Williams; I'm starting a new job right after I get this well to depth." I was just coming into my own as a driller and was beginning to be offered really good rigs and wells, but I wanted out of the oil fields. He asked and I told him where I was going to work and why.

"Well, Billy Ray is a good man and I can understand you wanting to better yourself. Good luck to you Jason. If you decide to come back to drilling give me first call, will ya?"

We had to change a drill bit that night and it put us a little behind. To change the bit we had pull out over 9500 feet of drill pipe replace the bit and put the same amount of pipe back into the drill hole. So it was twelve days before I could report to Jones Oil. The well came in on the day shift, but I worked my shift helping to dismantle the derrick and rig so it could be moved to the next site. I finished my shift at 6 AM went home got a bite to eat cleaned up and reported to Billy Ray's office at 8 AM.

He had heard that the well made depth last night and grinned at me when I walked in. Billy Ray told me to go home get a day's rest and be back tomorrow morning at 9. "I want you bright eyed and bushy tailed when you start work for me Jason."

The next morning I made my first step out of working in the oil fields. I found that I had three clerks and another accountant working for me. Around noon, Billy Ray took me to lunch and explained some things to me.

"First thing, my name is Billy Ray, Mr. Jones is my daddy. Next, I had several people to choose from for this job; most with more experience than you. Do you know why I hired you instead any of the others?"

By now I had a read on Billy Ray and answered with "I guess because I'm so good looking and you wanted to improve the décor around the office." I thought he would fall out of his chair laughing.

"Yeah that's one of the reasons. But the real reason I hired you is because you know the oil "bidness" from the field side. You've worked on rigs and know what it takes to bring in a well. It's not just numbers and you know that. I can trust you to look at the numbers and reports and know if the well is worth the expenditure or should we cap it and move on. You will know if a tool chaser or driller is trying to blow smoke up my ass or if they are reporting truthfully. It was your field experience on the rigs that made the difference."

Billy Ray told me that I would be more than an accountant; he wanted me to be a trouble shooter and field expert. He wanted me to meet with the geologist, the drillers and the crews. I was to hire the best rough necks, drillers and tool chasers for his wells. Pay them above the going rate and keep them fat and happy, but make sure they produced. I was to be his jack of all trades and do what I thought best to keep the bottom line in the black.

Six months in my job and Billy Ray gave me a raise. The raise enabled me to send more money home to my mom and sister. I had saved the company a lot of money by being able to read the phony reports one crew was sending in and correcting that problem. Jesse and his crew had just finished a well so I fired that crew and hired Jesse. Those guys were able to bring the well in under budget. I got a raise, Jesse and his boys got a big bonus, and Jones Oil made money. A win-win situation.

I had more time to socialize now with a daytime job and started to hang out at on the weekends at a couple of the road houses in the area. Now that I had an "office" type job, I could dress better. No more dirty jeans, steel toed work boots and T-shirts, I wore slacks or dress jeans, nice shirts, and Dan Post cowboy boots. I looked pretty spiffy if I do say so myself. Then I made a mistake, I fell in lust.

Marsha Ann Boudrow was a tall little filly that caught my eye at The Ranch, a Midland dance hall. She was about 5' 9" so she fit my large frame very well, as I found out when I danced with her. She had Texas strawberry blond hair worn long down her back and big brown eyes. One look and I was in lust anyway, if not in love.

We hit it off from our first meeting and quickly became an item. She was always up, happy and willing to party till all hours. Marsha Ann lived off a small trust fund from her grandparents and didn't have to work so she had lots of time to recover from her party nights. By the way it's not only the men of Texas that have two names; a lot of the women did too. Sue Ann, Billie Sue, Bobbie Jo, etc. etc.

We dated off and on for about a year and I thought I was in love. I say off and on because we had a few bumps in the road during our relationship. I had to travel once about every four or five weeks because of my job. I would visit drilling rigs trying to solve problems or just to get a feel for a well. My trips were usually lasted three or four days at the most.

Even though I was gone it didn't stop Marsha Ann from going to The Ranch or other dance halls. I wasn't real happy about that but I didn't make an issue of it until the night I found her cuddled up with some cowboy in one of the booths at The Ranch. Old cliché, I got done with my trip early and thought I would surprise her. When she wasn't at her place I knew she was probably gone out dancing.

If I found her at one of the honky tonks I was going to be a little upset. Just before I left on this current trip we had a serious discussion about her going out when I was gone. She certainly was surprised when I walked up to the booth where she and her cowboy were snuggling. The young man and she were sharing a hug and his hand was high up at the side of her breast. She had her eyes closed and she opened them as I had slid into the booth across from them.

"Oh my God," she said. The guy looked to be about 24 like Marsha Ann. She pushed the man away and said to me, "Hi Honey, I thought you were still on your business trip."

Why do people say such stupid things when they screw up and get caught? "It's obvious that you thought I was still gone or you wouldn't be here with Cowboy Boy, would you?" He sort of bristled at that.

"Oh no, I'm not here with Johnny Ray. He and my cousin Julie are dating and I just ran into him."

"You could have fooled me. I thought from that hug, that you two were together for the evening."

"Honey, he came over to say hello and it was just a hug among friends. Johnny Ray this is my boyfriend Jason Riley, Jason this is Johnny Ray Tyler."

The boy reached to shake hands, even though he seemed a little nervous. I took his hand and gave him a very, very, very, firm handshake. His hand was soft and not used to hard work; he apparently wasn't a real cowboy. If he threw a rope with those hands the skin would have been ripped off. Johnny Ray was a drugstore cowboy and had probably never seen a ranch in his life. He gave a little moan from the pain of my "firm" handshake and I let him go.

"Does a friendly hug include Johnny Ray here feeling your tits? If I had come in a few minutes earlier would I have seen a friendly little kiss? And by the way Johnny Ray, that's ex-boyfriend."

"No! Jason, I tell you nothing was going on. We danced a few times, is all."

"I thought you said he just came over to say hello and now you tell me you two were dancing. Which is it? I was born at night Marsha Ann, but it wasn't last night. I know exactly what's going on here."

Marsha Ann and I had been dating for about three months when I gave her the only thing I had ever gotten from my dad. It was a gold nugget necklace that he had won in a poker game. Before he left he asked me several times to give it back to him, I guess he wanted to sell it to buy booze. Even at six I wasn't stupid so I told him I had lost it. That got me a backhand across the face, but at least I still had the nugget.

That necklace was sort of like a pre engagement ring for Marsha Ann. She was leaning across the table trying to take my hand and I reached over and pulled the necklace off her. If she wanted to play around, I wasn't going to let her do so with my brand on her. When I grabbed it she was shocked and Cowboy Bob decided to get involved. He grabbed my arm to stop me.

"Son, you really don't want to buy into this. She's not worth going to the hospital for," I threatened him. I guess the memory of the firm handshake and the look in my eyes made a believer out of him. He let go of my arm and sat back down.

"I'm sure you can get a ride home Marsha Ann. I won't wait for you then. Adios kids."

About three blocks from the bar my cell phone started going off. I could see that it was Marsha Ann and thought about ignoring it but decided to get this over with. "Hello Marsha Ann, what'da want?"

"Honey, come back and get me so we can talk. I came with Donna and she hooked up with some guy and left me, I don't have a ride."

"Talkin's over with girl. You were going to ride Cowboy Bob tonight, just have him take you home first. Don't call me again, we're done Marsha Ann."

Of course we did talk again and being young and stupid I gave her another chance. I didn't really believe all the bullshit she tried to feed my about that night, but I loved her and didn't really want to break up with her. That was the first time. The same thing happened when I took another trip about six months later. I didn't catch her with anyone, but friends told me she had been out "dancing" each of the four nights that I was gone.

There is an old adage that says, "Those that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it", and that's what happened to me. Of course hind sight is perfect and I should have shined her on after the first incident with Johnny Ray, Bobby Joe or whatever the hell his name was. I didn't learn from history and I would repeat it.

After the last time we fought about her going out, she said, "If we were married I wouldn't have to go out. We would have a home and I would wait for you there."

That was either unassailable logic or bullshit, but it worked. We got engaged and then quickly married. Our wedding was a small, but the reception was large and held at The Ranch, of all places, because that was where we met. We went to San Antonio for our honeymoon and stayed in a hotel right on the river walk. Never did see much of the river walk; we were too busy exploring each other. Neither of us were virgins but we needed to see how we fit together and what we each liked. A good time was had by all.

I went back to work and was lucky there was no traveling necessary for a couple of months. Then I had to make a trip to Oklahoma for six days and nights. When I got back home Marsha Ann tried to make up for lost time my first night back. The next morning at breakfast I asked her what she had done while I was gone. I wasn't happy to hear that she had gone out dancing three of the six nights I was gone starting with the first night I was gone. This led to our first spat as a married couple.

She still didn't understand why I didn't want her out dancing with other men while I was gone. "You never minded me dancing when we go out together. You even let me dance with other guys. Why is it a problem if I go when you are gone?"

"Remember the times before we got married and the problems your "dancing" caused when I wasn't with you? You're a married woman now and shouldn't be out dancing without your husband. When I'm with you I can protect you and support you. I don't want you going out dancing by yourself when I'm gone."

That seemed to put an end to her nights out when I was gone. For the next 18 months my business trips were few and far between. Most but not all of the trips I had to make, Marsha Ann was able to go with me. We treated them like a mini vacation or a mini honeymoon. Things were good.

Our second anniversary rolled around and of course the gremlins decided that things were going too smooth for me. I had to go to Mexico for six days which put our celebration plans off until I could get home. Marsha Ann was not happy. She couldn't go on this trip because I would be way out in the boonies in an oil camp in the middle of the jungle with no town or other women for fifty miles.

Marsha Ann didn't or wouldn't understand that I couldn't tell my boss that I wouldn't go. She had never worked a day in her life and couldn't understand the responsibilities of a job. This was only our second real argument, but it was a big one. We both calmed down and spent our last few nights before my trip trying to love each other to death.

She told me she decided to go visit her parents who were camping in their R.V. at Comanche Lake near Big Springs, Texas while I was gone. Marsha Ann said she would call me because she didn't want her phone ringing to disrupt her father's fishing. She did call me the first night I was there to make sure I got there safely. The call was mostly about how much we missed each other and couldn't wait for me to come home. She called every day that I was gone.

When I did get home we were all over each other. She told me that she had spent the time I was gone with her parents at the lake. Our life got back to normal and I took Marsha Ann dancing every weekend. I would have preferred to stay home once in awhile but she had quit going out by herself so I thought fair is fair, let her enjoy herself.

We would go to one of the dance halls around Midland and Marsha Ann would never miss a dance all evening. If I got tired she would dance with her girlfriends and once in a while with a guy that we both knew. She even danced with my old crew mate Jared a few times. If a stranger asked her to dance, she would refuse telling them she was a married woman. Her answer made me feel good and secure and safe. Sure I was safe and secure and then up jumped the devil to screw up my life

I ran into Jesse at outside our office one morning about 2 months after I got back from Mexico. He had been in to see Billy Ray about a job on a new well that was starting in a month. We walked over to his truck to share a couple of beers and talk for a few minutes. He seemed nervous and started to say something a couple of times but would stop and then go on about something else. Finally I told him to spit it out.

"Jason, I've got something to tell you and you're not going to like it. Just don't shoot the messenger, okay?" I nodded for him to go on.

"I know you don't like Marsha Ann going out to the clubs without you but when you were in Mexico she was at The Ranch every night. And I saw..." He tried to continue when I hit him.

He fell back against his truck and I yelled at him, "You're a lying piece of garbage." I started for him again.

Jesse wrapped both his arms around me and held me so that I couldn't move. "We're not going there again, Jason. I'm not lying. Others saw her too. I didn't have the guts to tell you before, but it kept eating at me and I thought you should know."

I calmed down and apologized for hitting him. It was hard to believe that Marsha Ann would go out like that when she knew how I felt about it. And she had agreed not to do it any more after our last talk about it.

"That's not the worst of it buddy," Jesse continued. "Three different nights she went outside with a guy and was gone for about 45 minutes."

"Who?" Now I was really mad. Not only was she going out alone where no married woman should be but going outside with a man did not look good. Maybe they were just getting some fresh air, but not for 45 minutes. Her actions would not pass the husband test.

"Different guy each time," Jesse said. "I didn't want to believe that she was doing anything more than getting some fresh air so I followed her on one of the nights. Marsha Ann and this guy got into the back seat of a Cadillac. I didn't go over to see exactly what they were doing but I could see her legs in the up in the air and she handed him her panties when they got out of the car. I used my phone and took pictures of them getting into and out of that car, of her legs up in the air, and her handing him her panties." Now he hesitated a little and then showed me the pictures.

I stood there with my head down and my hands on my knees trying hard not to throw up. Jesse helped me sit down on the tail gate of his truck and handed me a bottle of Jack Daniels. A couple of hits on the bottle and I was able to get hold of myself. Now what to do, I thought. If Jesse was right, Marsha Ann and I were done.

"What are you going to do hoss?" He offered me the bottle again.

I refuse the whisky, my dad had been a drunk and I didn't intend to let this turn me into one too. "Don't know just yet, but I'll do something you can damn well believe it," I answered. Jesse and I went into my office and downloaded the pictures from his phone to my computer.

"Do you know any of these guys she was with? I think I would like to have a little talk with them, one at a time."

"First I don't know them; I think they're just Saturday night cowboys that hang around The Ranch. Second Jason stop and think, none of them would have been with her without an invitation. This is all on her and even though you would feel better if you kicked their asses, if you go to jail because of this bitch, she wins," Jesse advised me.

That night when I got home, I told Marsha Ann I must have eaten some bad tacos or something and went to bed early. I wasn't sure I could control my anger and pretended to be asleep when she came to bed. The next morning I left before she woke up and went to talk to Billy Ray. He was not only my boss but my good friend. I explained what was going on and what I wanted to do.

"Are you sure this is what you want Jason? Don't you want to talk to Marsha Ann first?"

"Talking's done, I've got witnesses and photos and what could she possibly have to say that would explain what she did?" It was a rhetorical question; I really didn't expect an answer. "Will you help me Billy Ray?" I did expect an answer to that question.

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