Oilfield Stories: Drilling for the Well of the World

Dad Joiner, wearing the straw boater, white shirt and tie, shakes hands with his geologist Doc Lloyd as they prepare to drill their first well in East Texas soil.

The moonshiner distilled a little homemade corn whiskey, and the crew passed around the jug.

The time for waiting had come to an end. Dad Joiner, described as “a pie-faced old man who wore a tie in the field,” stood on the edge of Daisy Bradford’s pasture and watched as the ramshackle pine and oak derrick slowly began to take a bare, skeletal shape beside the shadows of a wildwood thicket.

A pile of second-hand equipment lay in the dust, and those who had voiced faith in the irascible old wildcatter weren’t nearly as confident as they had been when Dad was out talking instead of drilling.

For almost two years, he had sold leases, some more than once, scraping enough money together to sink the Daisy Bradford Number 1.

His crew was an odd assortment of roustabouts, most of whom had never seen an oil well before, much less drilled one.

There was the former owner of a general store, a handful of farmers, a moonshiner, a miner from Colorado, and a fifteen-year-old who had been hired to stoke the boilers, sharpen tool bits, and catch as many catfish as he could for supper.

The roustabouts were earning three dollars a day, and the driller received a dollar more, as well as two dollars a day in lease interest if, perchance, he did find oil at the bottom of the hole.

On a bright May morning in 1929, the moonshiner distilled a little homemade corn whiskey, and the crew passed around the jug, bracing themselves for the curious and precarious task that lay ahead of them.

They toasted the well, smashed the jug on a rotary table for good luck, and the teeth of the drill bit touched East Texas soil for the first time.

Dad Joiner smiled broadly as though he owned the world, although he didn’t have enough money to buy an egg for breakfast.

“We’re going to get us the well of the world,” he said.

He had no doubt about it.

After all, how could a man fail, standing atop the apex of the apex that homespun geologist Doc Lloyd had drawn on the face of a weather-stained map?

My novel, Back Side of a Blue Moon, is based loosely on the oilfield stories I heard growing up in the boomtown of Kilgore, Texas. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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