He Can Spare a Kidney, But He’s Not Slowing Down: Pipeliner Jerry Schild

By Erin Nelsen, Online Editor | September 2009 Vol. 236 No. 9

Jerry Schild and his sister Linda High at a racetrack in College Station, TX, 20 years before the transplant.

For Jerry Schild, the last 18 months have brought a lot of changes. But adapting to his new career in the pipeline industry hasn’t been too difficult so far.

In the year and a half since Schild, 54, joined Pipeliners Local 798, he’s been on three projects. The heat and speed of right-of-way work seem to play to his strengths—Schild has raced cars semiprofessionally for most of his life.

He won the Texas state championship in 2003 and came in second in 2004. He even earned some national attention as a younger man: five NASCAR races “with the big guys,” including an 8th-place finish at Darlington in 1974.

In fact, as a racing lifer and long-time hand around the Cricket NASCAR Modified circuit in Houston, Schild knew a lot of the pipeline industry’s names and faces before his first project.
“When I started racing I drove in the all-gas business. I worked for Red Adair, the oilfield firefighter, as a kid. He was friends with Rush Johnson, who owned Rush Johnson and Associates, and they were the worldwide adjustors and appraisors for Lloyd’s of London on oil and gas rigs and wells.” Johnson sponsored Schild’s racing for five years, including his time at the national level. “My dad actually knew Red way before I was born.

“Dad tells a story about Red and [Red’s colleagues] Boots and Coots. They all ran together at the racetrack when he was just starting his business. Red tried to get Dad to go to work for him. Boots and Coots did, but Dad said, ‘I don’t know anything about that.’

“Later [Red] sponsored me in Texas. I raced with people like the Laneys, who owned Laney Directional; they used to run at the big H dirt track, which is now Houston Motorsports Park. Curtis Payne had Yellow Jacket Construction, which was a pipeline company—I knew all these people, but I never thought I would be standing on the right-of-way at my age,” Schild says.

Schild’s kind of racing is hard to keep up between pipeline jobs, due to the amount of time and energy it takes. But it isn’t just pipelining that’s taken a toll on his body in the last year. While working on a Sheehan Pipe Line project in Orange, TX, this spring, Schild was also preparing to donate a kidney to a sister with polycystic kidney disease.

He didn’t deliberate for long about the offer.

“When she told us [about the disease] a couple years ago I told her to let me know if she needed one,” Schild recalls. He and his niece, Gina Mitchell, both offered to be tested as potential donors, but because Mitchell has small children, Schild decided that it would be better if he went through the ordeal.

The time came when Schild’s sister, Linda High, was reduced to 10 percent functionality in one kidney, with the second not working at all. With Schild more than a hundred miles away on the Sheehan project, getting his blood and High’s to the same place at the same time required some creativity.

“We just had to schedule. I looked through a phonebook and found a lab that was close by, within five miles from the job site. So I talked to the boss and said I may need a little longer lunch . . .”

They sent the sample by FedEx and the rest was history.

“When it gets there, everything turns out good. I’m a match.” It was just a question of balancing the demands of the job with the rigors of the rest of the necessary testing and preparation.

Schild’s commitment to the pipeline project meant some uncertainty on exactly when he could finish his testing.