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From Bad To Worse

This well broached the surface shoe and in the film clip is now blowing around the casing and creating a crater. Most of the rig was drug away from the well before shit... went from bad to worse. As the crater forms, sandy, rocky soil collapses down around the casing, in the hole, until enough pressure builds up below the bridge to heave it all back out again. About the time you think the well is bridged solid, and pooped out, it urps again. This went on for a long time before it finally bridged off. Sometimes these craters get very large and very, very deep.

Cool, uh?

I watched this same thing happen one time with a drilling rig still standing over the hole, and listing to port as the crater got bigger and bigger. The well blew massive chunks, slabs, of dirt up as high as the racking board. I thought that was really cool, until a thick, slab of earth the size of a pickup truck drove the block into the derrick and caused the well to explode in a ball of fire. We were close enough it blew our hard hats off our heads. I remember reaching for my eyebrows to make sure they were still there.

Mama Nature can do some amazing things when She gets pissed off. I have a host of old blowout photographs where pieces of rigs, and pumps, sank into craters so far down when the well died, or was killed, the crater was just filled in, and all that stuff buried... right down to the Crescent wrenches and underwear rags.

El Dorado, Arkansas, 1933


When I was a kid roughnecking out of Alice, and driving down to Edinburg a lot, a buddy of mine pulled off Highway 77 one day, right outside the little town of Sarita, on the Kennedy Ranch just north of the great, King Ranch. There were lots of shallow gas blowouts in this country over the past decades.

We parked off the side of a county road, got out of the pickup, crawled thru a barbwire fence, walked 300 yards or so into a thick mesquite mot and in the middle of this brush was the crown of big triple rig, the top of it about six feet out of the ground. The crown shives were rusted tight, a faint hint of yellowed, white paint was still on the derrick and a shackle was still connected to an old piece of wire rope. The counter balance shives were gone. Beneath me was an entire drilling rig, "buried alive," standing straight up. Ain't lying about that, no sir. I should have had a camera to document it all but $5.50 an hour didn't allow a lot of amenities.

I was little more than a kid back then; 22 years old and on the way to work. I forgot about that buried rig for years. But it haunted me later in life; as I stood over that grave I came to realize I was standing over a story, a moment in life that likely caused many people lots of fear, and much grief.

I researched the well, asked my old friend, a Humble geologist stationed in Kingsville about it, and I looked for that rig several times over the last 40 years out there in the brush, near Sarita.

I never found it, or the story, and to this day it troubles me.

A couple miles further south on Highway 77, Kineños will automatically shoot your gringo ass for crawling thru a barbwire fence... then ask who you are and what the hell you want. I best give up on all this. But the image of that crown sticking out of the ground, like a monument, is a photo in my mind that I pack with me, para siempre.


I have had a very long, oily life.


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