Retiring After 50 Years in Directional Drilling

Kansas contractor calls it quits after lifetime of drilling, sells business to competitor

An Abilene, Kansas, directional drill contractor has decided to park his drill for good, retiring after 50 years in the business, according to a newspaper article in the Reflector-Chronicle.

Gary Boyd completed his final job on Sept. 17 and stepped into retirement on Sept. 18, selling Boyd Underground to Chris and Paula Harapat, owners of Boretec in Salina, Kansas. Boyd had owned the business for 18 years.

The paper says Boyd’s father, Cecil, started Boyd Excavating in 1956, and Gary and his brother, Rod, went to work for him. After serving in the Navy, Gary came back to Abilene in 1971 and began to drill.

Gary says one of the first machines they used was a boring machine on a track that crews had to walk ahead of and they never knew where it was going to end up. “We came up in the middle of a few roads and hit a few sewer lines over the years.” Now, he says, the technology has improved so much that they can go three or four city blocks and hit the diameter of a hula hoop.

Gary and Rod bought out their dad in 1983 and changed the name of the business to Boyd Brothers Excavating. A fire at the shop in 1997 destroyed everything but the equipment. Soon after that the brothers decided to split. Gary started Boyd Underground and Rod started Boyd Excavating.

Gary’s final job was for local electrical utility Westar, drilling holes for electric lines to power new street lights. The project began a year ago in downtown Abilene and crews did three blocks at a time. On Sept. 17, Gary finished drilling the last 1,500 feet of that project.

He says over the years his company has done TV cable, fiber optic and electric installations, along with sewer and gas lines and water pipes.

The story in the paper also goes on to talk about one of the more important lessons Gary learned being in the business — to double check the locates before starting a job.

“A contractor was supposed to have located everything for us, but as we were starting to drill I felt something so I stopped,” Gary says. “We dug down with a shovel and exposed a line they said had a cable in it for a nurse’s station. Instead of investigating further we decided to take a hacksaw and notched a little bit off the top of it. One of the lines was no good, but the other had 7,200 volts of live cable. It gave Doug (Markley), my employee, a severe shock.”

An explosive flash occurred because of the contact, and Markley received burns to his hands and face.

Markley, who has been with Boyd Underground for 29 years, will stay on with the new owners. Boretec, which also owns Superior Plumbing in Salina, plans to operate out of the shop that Boyd Underground used.

Take a look at the story in the Reflector-Chronicle and learn more about Boyd and his time as a directional drill operator.


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