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There are 300 Allsup's convenience stores in West Texas and New Mexico; if you've never stopped in one to fill up with diesel, take a pee, buy a six pack, or eat a chimichanga, its safe to say you've never been to Big Bend and waded across the Rio Grande at Boquillas for a margarita. You simply can't get to that part of Texas without stopping at an Allsup's. Its physically impossible.

And these joints are every where in the Permian Basin. In fact, up until eight or nine years ago there were more Allsup's convenience stores in the Permian than horizonal, Bone Springs wells.

Allsup's never close, ever. Even on Christmas Day. So, as you might expect, for floor hands, vacuum truck drivers, sand haulers, gaugers, roustabouts, supervisors on frac spreads, toolpushers, dozer operators, mud engineers or even lowly, drilling consultants... Allsup's is a home away from home. Twenty four ounce jugs of piping-hot coffee and Red Bulls from the cooler at Allsup's keep the Permian Basin going wide ass-open, 24/7.

On the bathroom walls in these joints a fella can sometimes find out who to call to have a good time, buy a condom that glows in the dark or learn something about your mother, in Spanish, you never knew. Out on the front windows, by the parking lot and gas pumps, you can read about where to go for a Friday night pot-ropin,' buy a used washer and drier, find out what the reward is for Gus, the missin' cow dog, what meathead is running for county commissioner, and even, now and then, find a 400 square foot travel trailer that can be rented for $4,200 a month, plus utilities.

Stripes convenience stores, by the way, suck. Don't go there if there is an Allsup's within sight, even if there is a risk of getting back on the highway only to get rear ended by a vacuum truck going 30 MPH over the speed limit. Its still worth it, just be careful re-entering the fray. It's dangerous out there.

Allsup's sells more ice to oilfield hands in the summer than all of Alaska can make in January.

And all the nice ladies behind the cash registers at Allsup's call you, honey, no matter how much drilling mud you've tracked on the floor. Every beer known to the oil and gas industry worth drinking, and some that's not, can be found at these joints and all of it is cold enough to crack teeth.

Besides the usual array of junk food that will eventually kill you quicker that having a 6 3/4 in. O.D. drill collar fall on your head, a hungry hand can get cheeseburgers, soggy French fries, fried chicken legs, breakfast tacos with green chili sauce that will keep you more than "occupied" the rest of the day and a kick-ass, world famous beef and bean burrito that's deep fried in four day old grease.

Its possible to buy stuff to brush your teeth in these joints, take the H2S stench off your skin, make sure you don't get an infection from a smashed finger and cure a whopper of a hangover. And, of course, you could buy pink, milky stuff to remedy raging heart burn from the same beef and bean burritos them sumbitches sold you two hours earlier.

A hand can also buy shit to fix a slow leak in his pickup tire, duct tape, bailing wire, baseball caps, antifreeze, oil for the engine, sunflower seeds to eat and corn to feed, even jumper cables. There's every kind of salty snack known to mankind for the taking and for about 40% over the cost at the grocery store, detergent to use at the laundry mat to wash your dirty, oily, oilfield clothes...just don't get caught leaving 40 gravity crude oil, or power swivel grease in the washing machine. Local mama's will flat lay into your ass about that if they catch you. Then you'll have to drive 2o miles away to find another laundry mat where nobody knows you.

Allsup's has always been the perfect one stop shopping adventure for tired oilfield hands; if they didn't have what you needed, you probably didn't really need it after all. I think those 300 stores were designed specifically for roughnecks and the fella that invented them, a man named Lonnie Allsup, got back from the Korean war, opened the first one in Roswell in 1956 and never looked back. In the end, Mr. Allsup made so much money selling beer and Advil to oilfield hands in New Mexico and Texas over 65 years he owned a ranch as big as Midland/Odessa and traded $ 1MM cutting horses like they were baseball cards.

Back in the day, when we use to drill REAL oil and gas wells in West Texas, I'd get off my daylight tower and drive 20 miles back to town where my first stop was always an Allsup's. I'd load up on aspirin, cold Budweiser's and have a few greasy burritos on the tailgate of my pickup across the highway before going to my cheap motel room with sheets on the bed as thin as single ply toilet paper. This was the view, or sort of like the view, from my pickup bed at dark thirty.

Back across the two lane highway, at the Allsup's, there would be a steady stream of hands in white pickups flowing in and out, mostly stopping for beer and ice and dip stuff. Now and then you'd see a husband and wife hollering at each other, or stuffing nasty diapers in the trash cans, a snake scooting across the parking lot or a couple of hands fist fighting over some stupid thing somebody said on the rig floor; it was plum entertaining. When the coyotes started whining it was time to go to bed.

West Texas was heaven 40 years ago. Everybody finger waved you on the highway, a long lost Texas tradition, and back then nobody would run into you head-on with a fucking, 80,000 pound, bulk cement truck while texting Juanita. Kids peddled their bikes on the the street and grown-ups rode horses in bar ditches along the highways. Nobody was tatted up back then and if folks carried guns they were at least discreet about it. When you walked into a café to eat Mescan food you knew who the hands were and you flicked your head up in acknowledgment of the unspoken brotherhood you were all part of.

It was...Texas.

Permian Basin Cultural Centers


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