Mad Jack Hanks: Tales from the O-NO Ranch 1-30-12
January 30, 2012
I got just enough of a whiff of gas the other morning to know that it had to be coming from the newly drilled oil well across the road. Presently the well is flowing with the oil and frac water being separated into the appropriate storage tanks. That little smell of gas and just the site of the newly installed tank battery gathering system took me back to my roots in West Texas.
Yep, most of you readers know that I grew up on the Mallett Ranch west of Sundown, Texas. We lived in an oil field camp on the ranch. It consisted of three houses. One for my dad, one for the geologist, and one for the construction foreman. My dad was the production foreman for the oil production on that vast ranch. Just outside my back door were cowboys, cattle, oilfield hands and pump jacks and tank battery systems in just about every direction you looked.
My first summer job at age 14 was to work with the construction crew building pads for the pump jacks and tank gathering systems. In fact, gentle readers, every job I had until I was 23 had something to do with the oil patch.
If you have every watched that new television program called “Black Gold,” you would have seen the country I grew up in. The show is filmed in the Permian Basin area around Midland an Odessa, Texas. I know every character on the show. I don’t know them personally of course, but when I was a young man I worked with individuals that were exactly like the folks featured on the show. I never worked on a drilling rig but spent a good amount of time on the work over rigs. The smaller rigs that pull the pipe out of the hole to change a pump or to replace old pipe with new pipe.
As an 18-year-old kid I was forced to see the world through the eyes of these types of men. Most were good guys just out to make a living for their families. There were a few “rowdies,” rough guys, some ex convicts and some real “dummies.” In the series “Black Gold” there are always conflict on the rig floor and it appears as if there is always going to be “fist-a-cuffs” sooner than later. Most of that is just drama I’m sure put on them by the producers to make the show more appealing.
From my past experiences working with men like that and managing ranch crews, most of that is just that, “drama.” Fellers that are always trying to stir the pot or looking for trouble don’t last past dinner on most crews. The show does give you the big picture of what it’s like to work on the floor of a drilling rig. It’s loud, it requires a great deal of muscle and to say it’s dangerous is an understatement!
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Back to the rig that was across the road. I looked out one cold December morning when the wind was blowing a wave of snow and there was the derrick man up in the crow’s nest stackin’ pipe that was being pulled from the hole. “Man, I’m glad that’s him and not me,” I mumbled to myself almost out loud. This patch of oil my neighbors and myself are sitting on will pay some dividends sometime in the future we hope. If not, I get a little taste of West Texas right out my front door.
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and don’t forget your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day. I’ll c y’all, all y’all!