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Humble, Texas; 2021

I am pretty sure this photo was taken in Algeria in early November, 1961. In a few moments Coots will climb into the derrick with Boots to tie the drilling block back, out of the blowout flow.

Up around the racking board Coots will look over at Boots across the derrick legs and shake his head, and point down. Boots looks at him and Coots gives the same sign language. They needed to get down. Now!

They met out in front to the cat walk and Boots, about half pissed off, shrugged his shoulders as if to ask what the problem was. Neither could hear, naturally, for the flow ripping thru the BOP. Coots put his arms on Boots shoulders and shouted in his ear that something didn't feel right.

They backed off another 100 yards to talk about it and static electricity from a dry, desert wind blew across the location and set the well on fire. Two hundred yards away they are both blown off their feet.

I've heard the story before, I just hope this is the right photo. Its my favorite and hangs in my office. I shopped the tobacco juice running down Coots chin and, now that I think about it, shouldn't have done that. Coots was Coots. This was big well and he was probably chomping it pretty hard.

The well they were on in 1961 to this day is believed to be the biggest oil well fire in history. The top of the fire was estimated at 800 feet above ground level. John Glenn saw in three times from space in February of 1962 and called it the Devils Cigarette Lighter.

Coots lived in Humble, Texas most of his life. He had a big-ass yard, several acres, in fact, and he mowed it himself right up until the end.

There is a museum there in Humble with an exhibit about Coots and some of his old stuff from his time with Red and mostly about his long career with Boots & Coots, Inc. Its got his briefcase in it, an old Halliburton case that we all got, and his hardhat, etc.


Ms. Catherine and I have a deal that when I die she is to going to rent a school bus, drive to the Catholic Church in Wimberley and pick up 25, Mexican day-laborers to attend my funeral, so that I can be assured somebody will, you know... show up. If one or two actually pretend to cry, she can pay them twenty bucks extra. Then everybody is going to drink Tequila before being driven back to Wimberley. I've asked that it be Patron, so maybe somebody will remember the occasion and think of me fondly.

I once asked my best friend, David Thompson, if he'd give my eulogy. We are driving back from a blowout in Louisiana one night, really late, and it took him all of about 3 minutes to decline. He said he just wouldn't know what to say. I asked the sumbitch if I wrote it all down for him could he just read it and he said not with a straight face he couldn't. So, I am still working the details out on that part.

Ms. Catherine will just have to rent a storage space to put all my shit in, I guess. She can nail all my photos of big fires, and big fish up on the walls and people can come and visit anytime they want. Free, of course.

You''ll have to visit in the winter because those storage units can get pretty damn hot in Texas in June. I'll make sure somebody leaves the Patron out for you.


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