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A DERRICK FLOOR A driller watches his controls and gauges as the drill bit “makes hole.” The draw works, center, is simply an elaborate, powerful hoist or drum on which wire cable is wound or unwound to lift the hundred-ton load of perhaps two miles of drill pipe which may be suspended down in the hole. The rotary table, which turns the drill pipe, is before the draw works, just ‘to their left. Bits, costing several hundred dollars, must be replaced after only a few hours. is not subject to shutdown days. There are punitive measures too. There are penalties for the production of quantities of salt water from a reservoir. If your oil well produces more gas with each barrel of liquid than is deemed proper for the good of the reservoir, your daily allowable may be cut from 80 barrels to 50, or 17, or 6 barrels. The amount of the cut hinges on official gas-oil ratio tests and a penalty formula set up for the wells in that oil field. At close to three dollars a barrel, this kind of a penalty soon runs into money. All of these practices have sound engineering and geological explanations, or at least high-sounding rationalizations. Most of these involve “the prevention of waste,” the “conservation of our natural resources.” Less pious people have less pious explanations. Every oil city has its consultants. These people are in business to look after the scattered properties of small operators, even isolated leases of major companies. They have clerks to handle the month-tomonth paper work. They hire and pay parttime pumpers to do the daily chores around the wells. They generally offer well-testing services and do maintenance work, or will arrange for these as needed. Some of the more pretentious or presumptuous consultants will prepare studies to predict what the future production and cash income should be from oil properties, on the basis of which they estimate what the properties might or should sell for. And then we have the engineers who wear cuff links, who belong to the country club and several private clubs. Some of these boys may insinuate that they have political connections or “influence” with the right people. Their office may be carpeted, their automobile rather costly and showy. I knew one such fellow, an outgoing type who always drove a red car and always paid for everybody’s coffee. Another had a degree from a Texas school and had done some graduate work at a snob school up east. He dressed like a Philadelphia lawyer and always made a big impression at hearings. These fellows claim to know the ins and outs of the field rules regulating local oil fields. They even offer, for substantial fees, to get a hearing called about changing those rules or obtaining a waiver or exception for you. In the great East Texas Oil Field, from the very first the whole apparatus of state control of production was taken with bad grace. Enforcement of rulings, court orders, and injunctions was at gunpoint. I knew some of the old boys who moved in over there, and they told me they made their daily rounds with a Texas Ranger, armed with a shotgun and six-gun. Some of the field men who were less cautious and more arrogant got konked in the head from behind, pushed off catwalks or derrick floors, and their bodies were found in a ditch or a slush pit weeks later. Numerous state inspectors and engineers in the East Texas Field have been dismissed for accepting payola. A scandal of recent years involved the slant-hole drilling of oil wells. This tech nique enables a landowner who is near oil but has been left high and dry to steal oil from his lucky neighbor. You don’t tilt the derrick, nor is there any indication at the surface of what is going on. Half the drilling crew may not know, if they are untrained in such matters, just what is going on. Little wonder that half a dozen state officials, charged with looking after tens of thousands of wells lost in those tall pine trees, were caught off guard. Sometimes all the wells on a lease would be dead, but the same oil company, having an adjacent lease with perfectly good wells, would run a pipe line to the neighboring dead lease. This saved the expense of working over and cleaning out the sand-plugged wells. Only in East Texas must the state inspector insist that all pipes leading into a tank during testing be above ground, or be uncovered. Only in East Texas do they find it necessary to police wells under test day and night to prevent “funny business,” such as starting up an extra well or two, or trucking in a few barrels during the night and dumping in the tank. This piney woods lawlessness stems from the historical fact that proration was set up purposely to curb East Texas independents and has been administered to accomplish this end. The East Texans have screamed “confiscation,” and it’s true. When other fields were allowed 100 and 120 barrels per well, East Texas got 20, and they cried “unfair,” which was true. When other parts of the state produced their 100-barrel wells with only four or five shutdown days per month, East Texas fought bitter political battles against commissions, dominated by the “majors,” which doled out 15 shutdown days for their 20-barrel wells. XI I was in school with one fellow who now makes a living by picking up leases, then phoning up druggists and dentists and assorted suckers to sell them a share in a sure thing. “A thousand dollars will buy you a sixteenth. Looks real good. Shallow stuff in Coleman County, with oil on all sides. Just 2000 feet from a 20-barrel-aday pumper.” Six months later he’s all apologies. “Gee fella, you can’t win ’em all. You know how it is. That’s the way the ball bounces. Never know till you drill that hole.” More and more the oil business is taken over by the giant companies so that the small investor has little chance of a bonanza profit. The risk is averaged out over a great number of wells in diverse parts of the world. Still the get-rich-quick stories go the rounds, some of them purposely kept alive by the peddlers of oil properties. A Colorado City barber cut a man’s hair. The July 7, 1967 5