Matt Day’s readiness leads to role as Cactus superintendent
Matt Day is not afraid of heights. In fact, that led to one of his biggest breaks. Early in his career, before he joined Cactus Drilling, he was on a rig crew with his brother-in-law. One day the derrickman for that shift couldn’t make it to work. Day’s brother-in-law was next up to fill in, but he declined because he didn’t like heights and couldn’t function that high up on the derrick. Day, who had been working floors, didn’t hesitate. He strapped on the harness and safety gear and up he went.
That approach seemed to set his career course. It has been the story of Day’s life in the oilfield business: be ready to answer any call, tackle any challenge with enthusiasm, don’t be afraid of heights.
Day grew up learning work ethic working on a farm and running bulldozers. But the oilfield was in his blood. His step- father was a driller so he grew up around rig operations and the drilling industry. This combination of influences and aptitudes led Day to where he is today, one of Cactus Drilling’s youngest drilling superintendents, in charge of seven rigs.
“Kenny beat me by a few months,” Day said, referring to fellow superintendent Kenny Baker. “He was 35 and a few months when he became a superintendent. I was 36.”
Day grew up in Oklahoma and graduated from Fort Supply High School, then attended El Reno Community College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva. His oilfield track to Cactus drilling superintendent originated with ONEOK Drilling, then on to Bayard Drilling Technologies and Nabors Industries after a sequence of acquisitions. Then he found a career home when he joined Cactus in late 2003.
Day didn’t know he was about to go on a wild ride to becoming a superintendent, but he remembers those early days clearly. Just as when he volunteered to scale that derrick years before as a greenhorn rig hand, his hard work and willingness to take on any task would be a telltale sign that he had a future with Cactus. As soon as Day joined the company, President Ron Tyson requested his assistance.
“I joined Cactus on Dec. 15, 2003. I remember it well,” Day said. “When they hired me, we were building Rig 109 in the yard. I was there for about a week when Ron sent me to Rig 108, said he needed it to be spudded up by Christmas Eve.”
The turn of events was not completely smooth. One evening Day went out on the town with a few other new hands who also had rodeo backgrounds as well as oil rig experience. One small brush with the law later and Day had seen the light.
“Ron told me to go to 108 — and stay out of trouble. I learned my lesson: don’t go out with a bunch of bull riders. Nothing but trouble,” Day said chuckling and shaking his head. “We went on out there and got busy. Spudded up 108 by 7 in the evening Dec. 24.”
Day was off and running. After helping get Rig 108 ready by Christmas 2003, he stayed on as a driller another 10 months before moving up to toolpusher on Rig 106 in November 2004. He was there for about a year, then moved over to Rig 136, his first Rocket Rig, where he pushed for almost a year before becoming superintendent in October 2006.
Day lives in Seiling and supervises seven rigs: 142, 144 and 147 working for Cimarex in the Calumet area; 140 and 146 working for Newfield near Lindsay; 109 near Leedey working for Apache; and 114 working for Linn Energy in the Cheyene area.
As Day tells it, he wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for others at Cactus.
“I was a motor hand on 108, and Dick Lipe was the toolpusher. Best guy in the world to work for,” Day said. “Dick used to always say, ‘What are you doing today to make yourself a pusher.’ It motivated me to work harder, with purpose.”
There were plenty more, like the drillers on Rig 106 when he became a first-time toolpusher who had 30 years of experience on him and were glad to share everything they knew. Since becoming superintendent, he has kept learning from his Cactus colleagues. Day said he routinely communicates with more experienced superintendents like Red Garner, Rodney Hale and others, as well as his contemporary, Baker.
“I had great mentors who saw something in me,” Day said.
Cactus requires high standards but also provides great support, Day said. That was never more evident than when he needed it most. Day’s mother, a career educator and major influence in his life, had been serving as a vice president of the Redlands Community College in El Reno when she suffered a stroke and died suddenly Feb. 1.
“I made two calls when I was at the hospital — Ron Tyson and Kathy Willingham. I didn’t have to worry about another thing,” Day said. “We have the best support in the business. I enjoy what I do and wouldn’t give any of it up. That doesn’t mean I can’t get better. I want to get better. But I’m home.”