It wasn’t that long ago, when the film Deepwater Horizon was released, that I called upon a long-time friend who works in the oil and gas industry, Robert Walker, to give me a perspective on it from someone who knows what a rig is, who knows what’s true and not in such operations, and who knows the kind of people who do such work because he has been one of them.
I wasn’t disappointed, and got a good read-out from Bob – what everybody calls him is Bob for the most part – which I shared with all of you.
We met when I was rehearsing for the play “The Odd Couple” back in 2001 at Houma’s Le Petit Theater, where Bob showed up to work on the stage crew. Only five years my senior, he became something of a father figure to me, because he was one of those guys that a guy went to for help with guy things, anything from interpreting noises a car was making to addressing odd mechanical problems with a boat. If I wanted to know how to fix something, Bob was my go-to guy. Some people in the oil and gas business felt the same way, and that’s one of the reasons why Bob was successful in so many of his work relationships.
It was that ability to get things done that got him work keeping barges afloat and ready to work, in particular when disaster struck the Gulf Coast in the form of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Bob manned a barge that was assigned to various locations during the spill cleanup, supervising crews and keeping the supply lines going.
In more recent years a friend in the business of fracking called on Bob to come up to West Virginia, where a new kind of extraction was being done. Using principles he knew from the gas business overall, Bob commuted between that state and his house in Houma, not far from Barrow Street. I hung my hat there for a while, it was my in-between home on two occasions when picking up from here and going somewhere else, the last time when I returned from Key West and started working at this publication. With other friends, I had Christmas Eve dinner there, and stuffed cabbages on New Year’s Day.
Bob is and has been for me emblematic of the people who work in the oilfield here, can-do guys who have solutions in their blood. Stories Bob told me ended up in these pages and those of another newspaper. One was how as a kid he was walking on a certain street in Dallas and saw a bunch of television trucks and didn’t know till later that he had passed right by where – a few minutes later – Lee Harvey Oswald, held for the assassination of President John Kennedy, was shot by Jack Ruby.
He was a big fan of the space program because of work that his father did for many years, and if he was free on a day or two around a space shuttle launch he would drive down to Florida to witness it.
While writing this column, I was notified by Bob’s only child, Robert Shane Walker, that his father had passed into eternal rest at the New Orleans hospice where I visited him just Saturday. His struggle was brief but too long.
Bob Walker taught me many things, but perhaps the most important of all was how to have a friend and how to be one. He touched many people in his life, and I am proud to have been one of those friends.
As he made me think of all these people in this energy industry that we have here and how hard they work, it is they who now will forever remind me of the friend I once had, and help me further cherish the memory of a good man. ·