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Sabriyah; 1991

Sabriyah Field was north of Burgan Field and close to the Iraq border; wells in it were very gassy and had high flowing tubing pressures. As Iraqis were high tailing it out of Kuwait in December of 1990 they stopped in Sabriyah and blew a few wells up there. By then the Iraqis were getting better at the process as they had already blown up over 500 wells down in Burgan and in the south of Kuwait. Some of the well heads in Sabriyah were blown off below the tubing heads causing difficulties in putting the fires out and re-capping. Boots and Coots, Inc. caught a lot of these jobs because they were complicated.

Boots Hansen and Coots Matthews made at least one 28 day stint in Kuwait that I am aware of, both then in their 60's and the following photographs are of Boots, David Thompson and Wayne Lansford (back turned) on a well in Sabriyah whose fire actually had to be shot out with a small drum of dynamite.

Wayne, by the way, is great guy and was a helluva well control hand. He grew up in George West, Texas, with George Strait, and lays claim to putting the little scar on George's chin in a fist fight one time in high school. Wayne was a Ranger in Viet Nam; a tough son of a bitch, Wayne.

This little 30 gallon drum was welded to a short piece of aluminum pipe and mounted at the very end of a long Athey wagon boom seen in the photos. Asbestos in laid inside the drum, several layers of sticks are placed in the bottom of the drum first. I am guessing this shot is something in the order of 200 pounds.

A blasting cap attached to an insulated wire is inserted into a stick of dynamite at the mid way point in the drum loading. Boots, of course, was an old hand at loading shot drums. This was not David's first rodeo either but Boots is still teaching...with his gold Rolex on, by the way.

It was precisely at this point in loading a drum of dynamite in 1935 that a man standing next to Myron Kinley was killed, and Myron's leg was badly mangled when the drum exploded.

The remainder of the shot drum is then loaded with dynamite, one row at a time, all carefully stacked until the drum is full. The asbestos cloth envelopes all of the dynamite and cap into a nice, tight bundle. The outside of the drum is then wrapped in several layers of asbestos, as is the first 100 feet of insulated wire. The drum is them backed into the fire precisely where David wants the shot placed, all the while being drenched in water from nearby monitors. The boys will then skee-dattle it back to behind the blade of a dozer parked a hundred yards away, hook the wire to a detonator and let the shot fly.

Here is a mish-mash of video clips I put together once for a presentation, some of Kuwait, some of a job outside Bakersfield, one in South Texas, etc. etc. At the 30 second mark in this video is the actual footage of this shot in Sabriyah going off in the summer of 1991.

I am reminded of a few stories that Coots told me about backing shot canisters into big fires all around the world and not having them go off when detonated. Those drums, much larger than this one in Kuwait, could often be packed with 700 pounds or more of dynamite. They would then have to be pulled back out the fire, the drum unwrapped, completely unloaded, then re-loaded with a fresh dynamite and a new cap. Coots, with a wry smile, would always say that he never liked he never liked doing that one f#@king bit, no sir.


It's sort of amazing to me that anyone in the oil business, a Sr. and not a Jr., by the way, could still confuse Red with Boots. This image on the left is of Boots, clearly, not Red.

Boots, I believe, was brilliant in his chosen profession and had engineering skills that surpassed those of Red and even Myron Kinley's. Some of the wells he was able to regain control of over the years were nothing short of spectacular. Even Coots would readily admit from time to time that he was a little stumped and ask for Boots to come sort it out.


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