Inspiration from a driller who helped build this industry and those who carry it forward
By Colleen Cross
This column is both hard and easy to write. Hard because I’m looking back on the career of Lewis Hopper, a champion of Canadian water well drilling who is no longer with us. Easy because I’m looking forward to a new generation of the industry – and they are an inspiring bunch.
First, Lewis Hopper. This spring Jeff Dickson of M&M Drilling Rivers in Manitoba let me know that Lewis, a longtime well driller and government liaison to other drillers, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Jeff suggested I give Lewis – still “sharp as a tack” – a call to learn a bit about Canada’s water well drilling past.
Three lines in Jeff’s email stuck with me: “He has drilled a well in every province in Canada. . . . He was our government babysitter for years in the field here. . . . He has forgotten more about wells than I will ever know.”
I called Lewis and he sent me a copy of his memoirs to read with a promise to talk the next week. Now, that’s some homework I could get into! I learned so much about the industry in those 40 lively, down-to-earth, heartfelt pages.
I talked to Lewis again the next week, and found him very sharp indeed. He was also kind and funny, which was slightly unexpected given his reputation for being, at times, and by his own description, difficult to deal with – and by that I mean principled and uncompromising in those principles. This was a reputation he seemed to wear as a badge of honour.
You’ll find details of that conversation and more on Lewis’ legacy on page 20.
Sadly Lewis passed away a week after we spoke leaving a gaping hole in the Manitoba industry. I feel fortunate to have got a taste of his no-nonsense style, read some of his thoughts on the industry and told him they were invaluable to me in understanding this industry’s place in the big picture.
This do-it-the-right-way-or-don’t-do-it-at-all driller truly championed well drillers and I like these words of wisdom he had for them (with all due respect to the engineers!): “Don’t ever think you are below anyone; engineers got their education studying what the working class learned and gave away. Someone was then smart enough to get it down on paper so it could be studied to become an engineer!”
And now, the Top 10 Under 40. In January, Ground Water Canada put out a call to readers to tell us about young drillers, service people and scientists who exhibit outstanding leadership, skill and dedication to the industry.
I suspect you’ll see something of yourselves in the 10 young professionals you’ll read about in this issue. Maybe you started out in the industry for some of the same reasons: to help out in and carry on the family business, to work outside every day, to solve problems, and to expect the unexpected every day.
Parker Drury, a young well driller from Barrie, Ont., summed up the work very well: “Be prepared to work hard, put in long hours and do heavy lifting, he says.
“But you’ll find it fulfilling. I do.”
I learned many things from these young people, but mostly I learned this: don’t try to interview drillers in July, busiest of months!
No doubt this is an older industry, but these young people are evidence the next generation is smart, family oriented, hardworking, and tuned in to the big environmental picture.
We hope you enjoy reading these stories of the past and future, and we hope they inspire you to let us know about other stories that need telling.