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Lunch In Tomball; 1949

The very first thing to do about lunch is find some shade. That can be hard to do when there are no stinking trees within 18 miles, so plan B is to get behind a building, or a rig tank, at the very least a pickup truck. Pickups are nice because the water can with the block of ice in it is then handy. A good hand always knows where the sun is going to be at twelve or one oclock and parks accordingly.

Ususally by lunch you are wore plumb ass out so you can wash up, grab your sack with the baloney samich and hard boiled egg in it and collapse with your back against a tire. Always find shade in an upwind position because wind is the only respite you can get from 96 degree heat and 79% humidity. There are lots of trees in Tomball, even pine trees, but the humidity makes the air thick enough to cut with a chain saw.

In 1949 Texas had not been invaded by fire ants yet so these hands, above, after checking for snakes, can lay in the grass without getting lit up. I don't know what God was thinking when He made fireants but I intend to ask Him that question someday. Soon as I get out of the geology department. I've got LOTS of questions about geology.

Generally speaking lunch is about a 30 minute gig so there is no lolly gaggin' around. It takes 4 minutes to wash up, first using gasoline, then Dawn soap, water from a 5 gallon bucket, wiped all off with an underwear rag.

It is socially acceptable within the roughneck community to put your botttle of RC Cola in the water can but by God, your hands better be clean when you fish it out before lunch.

You can wolf down your lunch in 5 minutes, wash it down with your RC Cola, or Dr. Pepper, or water from the water jug that is cold enough to crack your teeth, then lean back and either listen to all the other hands bullshit each other or catch a little nap. If its 96 degrees by lunch its gonna be 110 before quittin' time, so you got that to look forward to.

I was a seasoned hand (or so I thought) by the time I was 19 and had to take job on workover rig in West Texas, once. I was a drilling hand and considered it a step down the social ladder to be a on workover rig; them sumbitches work their ass off.

First day on the job, pulling tubing and I am running air tongs; the rig operator set the slips on another stand of pipe and declares its lunch time. I jump down off the rig floor to get my sack lunch and find some sombra. The tool pusher comes flying out of his pickup and hollars... where they fuck you goin' hand?!! I said I was going to eat my lunch in the shade and he turned deep purple in his fat face and hollared, next time you take your g'damn lunch with you up on the floor; the only thing we take off for lunch around here is one glove...get your skinny ass back up there on the floor !!

Sure 'nuff, we went right back to pulling pipe , ate our white bread samiches with one greasy hand and never missed a lick. We got to drink water when when we are out of the hole.

I worked that job for two weeks, found a job drilling Canyon wells over near Sonora for WesTex. My last Friday afternoon I got my check and told the toolpusher I quit. He called me a pussy. I thought about mouthin' off to him but back in the day the oilfield was small and it was never a good idea to leave the gate open and let cows out on the highway when you were leaving a job. People don't forget stuff like that. That night I went to a beer joint somewhere on the west side of Odessa and got drunk. I sat in from the window unit until my ears got frostbitten.

Man, have I got some toolpusher stories. It wasn't until I was about 16 years old I learned g'damn toolpusher was actually two words.


Photographs all by Esther Bubley and part of the Standard Oil of New Jersey Collection at the University of Louisville Digital Library.

Tomball Field (Miocene) was discovered by Humble Oil and Refining (Standard of New Jersey) in 1933. It was found using a combination of torsion balance surveying of a surface anamoly and brand new seismic refraction techniques.

Tomball Oil Field has produced about 110 MM barrels of oil. Tomball, much like Humble, is essentially part of the greater Houston metroplex. There are still active producing wells in the community including deeper gas wells in the Eocene.


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