40 Years....... From The Texas Oilfields To A Master Craftsmen In The Ozarks Of Missouri
There is an old saying, “ When life gives you Lemons, make Lemonade.” Well I believe that statement was only half written. The quote should have read:
”When life gives you lemons, don’t just make lemonade......SELL IT MAN!!!”
Dancing In The Mud
It Was 1978. From A Forklift Operater To The Texas Oilfieds
As a young man I was recently married to my beautiful wife Shronda. We made our home in a small farming community in Allison Texas. At that time, I was a fork lift operator for a local mouldIing company In Canadian Texas. I drove 60 miles round trip to work every day.
I soon realized that the drive was too much and the pay was not enough to makes ends meet, and I found myself looking for a better Job. I was wanting a high paying job to best provide for Shronda and I.
In the panhandle of Texas, you either farmed, ranched, or you danced in the mud on a gas rig. I chose to dance in the mud.
It was hard work and not for the weak. And if you were weak, you had to become strong. You burned up in the summer, and froze your tail off in the winter. You had to pull your load or be fired.
The job paid well, and as much as I hated the smell of oil based mud and the hard work, I managed to bring home a large check every two weeks, and I did my job.
Stress Was Creeping In
I was tired and discouraged
It was now 1979. I was working as a Derrick hand 7 days a week on night shift, also refered to as “Morning Tour”. This pace was slowly wearing me down.
I remember one night going to work, I was physically exhausted, tired and discouraged. It was stressful having to work from 11pm to 7 am with no days off. I was missing quality time with my wife and family.
I remember arriving with my crew on location that night at 10:45 pm, only to be starring at a black leg in the derrick. I sure didn’t feel like pulling heavy pipe back that night.
I got out of the drillers truck, and made my way to the bottom dog house where we got into our coveralls, steel toed boots, gloves and hardhat and prepared to go to work.
As I opened my locker, I immediately noticed all my clothing, boots and hard hat, along with several of my tools were missing from my locker. I was very angry.
Starting From Scratch Again
I ended up borrowing clothes and boots from a daylight hand, and I managed to get through the night. The next day, I bought new boots, coveralls, and brand new aluminum hardhat and I hoped I wouldn’t ever go through that again.
I looked at that new aluminum hardhat I had just bought, and thought to myself. Maybe I should inscribe my name into the hat to identify it as mine. I found a 10” pop-off nail in the parts house. It was more commonly recognized as a spike nail used for landscaping (pictured below)
I ground it to a sharp point, and began to inscribe the hat. It took several hours of work, but when it was done, it looked good.
A Pop-Off Nail....My First Engraving Tool
The Crew Went Crazy
The Crew Went Crazy When They Saw my Hat
When the crew saw me walking out of the doghouse with my new, flashy hat, they went crazy over it. They were amazed that it was done with a nail and all so detailed.
They offered to pay me to do one for them. So I charged them $25.00 and the price of the hat to do theirs.That night was just the beginning of a whole new adventure for me, and to look back and think, that it all started with the negative actions of a thief.
About two weeks later, a couple of daylight hands ordered a hat. Word of mouth got out that I was personalizing aluminum hardhats, and I had a sideline business while working a full time job. The orders were starting to climb. Things were looking up.
A New Kind Of Stress....
Being Overwhelmed With All The Orders.
It didn't take long for me to quickly realize that I needed to upgrade to power tools. I went to the hobby store and bought a dremel rotary tool. (featured below) It was very awkward at first. It was like drawing with a two inch cucumber. But it was faster and made things easier as far as time.
Today, 2018....I now use electric and SCM 400xs air driven, high speed dental tools(featured below the Dremel picture.)
But even after speeding things along with the power tool, the orders kept piling up. I had company men ordering 20 and 30 hats at a time and giving them away as safety awards for their employees. I was working at night on a rig full time and catching every idle minute I had to work on the hats. Then reality hit me in the face. I couldn't do both.
My First power Tool For Engraving
Present Day.... I Now Use The SCM 400xs High Speed Air Driven Dental Drill
A Skull Bucket Full Brim Logo/Name Hat Engraved With The 400xs
The Original “Skull Bucket” Aluminum Hardhat
People are always asking me what is available in the style of the hat, and also what color options there are?
My hats are made in the USA by Skull Bucket. They are high quality, heavy duty hats and are available in full brim and cap style. And also in just about any color.(featured below)
The hat (above) is a full brim basic aluminum hat. And represents an example of a front section engraving with a logo and name. (Below) is a picture of another full brim that is powder coated blue with a company logo.
A Wide Variety Of Colors
Any Color Hat Is Available
My Career Change
Going To Art Shows
In 1983 Shronda and I trusted GOD to provide for us as I broke away from the oilfield and went full time into the world of art .We decided to get a business license and was looking for a catchy name.
The aluminum hat gave off a bright silver color when I cut into it, so we named our business Silver Highlights. It’s name is still the same, even though I have ventured out into new mediums over the years.
It's funny sometimes I often get the question,
“Do you operate a beauty salon?” When writing company checks.
Below is a list of other mediums that I love as much as the hardhats.
- Powder coated Brass flat sheet
- Powder coated Aluminum flat sheet
- Charcoal Pencil
- Prizma Color Pencil
My Love of wildlife and country scenes became my subject matter for my art. Along with the oilfield and Construction field reserved for the hats.
From A Polaroid Camera Les and Shronda 1986 “Shepherd Of The Hills”Homestead
A New Life In The Heart Of The Ozarks
In 1985 we were invited to Branson Missouri to sell my art work, and by 1986, we were officially displaying at my first gallery at "The Shepherd Of The Hills" Homestead.( pictured below) We own a home there and it became our permanent residence.
From 1986 to present day, 2018 I've had the pleasure to work over 28 years as a demonstrating craftsman at Silver Dollar City during the “ National Craft Festival”. I‘m now located at “The Branson Craftmall“ where I have a small gallery.
Shepherd Of he Hills Homestead
I wrote this story in hopes that there might be that one person reading this who is at a cross road in life where you are facing major decisions. There comes a time when we all face decisions about things like our faith, buying our first home, financial wellness, retirement, and the career we choose to take us down that road.
I was making very good money while working in the oilfields, but my first love was creating and selling my artwork and making a living doing it. I had to take a risk and step out of my comfort zone.
I hope you choose to enjoy your life in whatever vocation you are in.
I hope you have enjoyed this bio .
Blessings to you
Les R Seamster
Below are pictures and videos of my hats, brass work, jewelry and pencil drawings I’ve created since I began this journey 40 years ago.
Les Seamster At Work 2018 With High Speed Dental Tools
A Full Circle Engraving And Brim
"Out Of The Ashes"
My 2018 Hat Gallery
24" x 36" "Norbert"
24" x 30" "The Majestic"
20" x 24" "Pheasant
14" x 18" Blue Jays Colored Pencil
14" x 18" Cardinals Color Pencil
14” x 18” “Standing Proud” Colored Pencil Original
"21 x 25" Deer Charcoal Pencil
1.25” x 1.5” Celtic cross pendant PC Brass
.75” x .1” Cardinal Earrings cherry PC Brass
© 2018 Les Seamster