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Kinley, 1953

This is a photo of Myron Kinley from 1952-53. I have it in my Kinley stuff and my notes say Sweet Bay Lake, near Morgan City, Louisiana; Pure Oil and the photographer, Robert Kelly. I have seen this photo on the internet also; I believe it might have appeared in a Time Magazine article about Myron. The photo shows the extent of the scarring on his Kinley's back from being badly burned in Venezuela in 1945. He is 55 years old in this photo.

Myron Kinley put the 't' in tough. In 1931 he was working on a fire in East Texas with his younger brother, Floyd when some steel substructure fell on his leg breaking his ankle. He survived that because his brother went into the fire and drug him out, seen here in some old film. He spent the rest of the time on that job directing the shooting of the fire and capping of the the back of a mule. I have some really cool, really old 8MM film of that in my files, along with a job he capped in 1927 where be built an a-frame structure out of lumber above a blowing well and lowered a capping stack over it by backing down a team of plow horses.

In 1936 Myron was loading a drum full of glycerin to shoot a fire out near Bay City, Texas when it went off prematurely, killing the man standing next to him. It mangled Myron's right leg so badly he spent the rest of his career with a bad limp and often having to use crutches to take the weight off that bad leg. Myron's brother, Floyd, was killed on a blowing well near Goliad, Texas, two years later.

Here is a 1939 photo, three years after the incident in Baytown, showing Myron directing work on the great, Greta blowout in South Texas off crutches.

In 1943 Myron was working on a blowing well near the city of McAllen in South Texas; things went badly and when Myron jumped off the rig floor to get away he shattered his ankle, again, on his right leg. When the well caught fire in Venezuela in 1945 he was simply not able to run away because of his bad leg. He laid on the ground with his clothes on fire until a Halliburton hand drove a truck in between him and the fire and picked him up. He spent six weeks in a hospital in Venezuela and several more months in Houston recovering.

In 1946, not long after going back to work, he met a young man named, Red Adair, then working for Otis, and shortly thereafter Kinley hired Red to work for him full time. They were together for 13 years. Richard Hatteberg, Boots Hansen and Coots Matthews also worked for Kinley from 1955 until 1958 when Adair left Kinley to form the Red Adair Company.

Kinley stayed in the well control business several more years and worked on a fire in Japan, of all places, that I will write about someday. He received the highest honor Japan can bestow on a foreigner for controlling that well. He managed his down-hole oil tool business, including the famous Kinley casing caliper, with the help of family members and operated oil wells in the Chickasha, Oklahoma area until he passed away in 1978. He was 80 years old. In his 40 years in the well control profession it is believed he was involved in over 450 different fires and blowouts.

Myron's personal car had an accelerator pedal near the brake and clutch, all on the left side, because he could not use his right leg easily. Coots Matthews told me personally that when he and Red and Boots went on jobs with Myron he always wanted to drive and they had to sit in the back set so he could stretch his stiff, right leg across the front seat. When Myron flew he had to sit on the left side of the plane so his leg could stretch out in the aisle. According to Coots, Kinley's leg could be quite painful from time to time, especially on long DC-3 flights to the Middle East that could often take 30 hours or more.

This is a cool little Movietone News clip of a 1950 fire in Italy showing the extent of Kinley's bad, right leg and his limp. This is a nice clip from an historic standpoint as it was not often you would see Kinley in his coveralls with MM Kinley Company hand-stitched across the back. I believe they were red. Kinley began painting all of his hardhats red in the late 40's. Adair, of course, continued to use red colors after he left Kinley in 1958.

As a side note, the moderator of the clip suggests Kinley is telling everybody to get back from the fire; actually he is called for another cutting torch. The little flicking of his hand means cutting torch igniter, I need a damn cutting torch, now, get your ass in here, lets go! with a host of Myron's expletives thrown in for good measure (and Kinley was well known for expletives). When you cannot hear each other over the noise of a blowing well you learn well control sign language very quickly.


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