Memories of Ira Irvin Boggs
Everything began to slow down after the war ended, and the oil and gas business wasn’t so good in West Virginia. I stayed around here until about October 1919 before I decided that, if I was going to follow those industries, I’d better go to where there were some big producing fields and lots of work.
My cousin, Harry Estep, and I (and about four others) decided to go to Ranger, Texas, where there was a rushing field. We got together in Clendenin and boarded a train to Charleston, where we bought tickets to St. Louis. When we got there, we decided stayed for a day or so to see a big meatpacking center on the westbound bank of St. Louis. We caught a streetcar and went to the plant, where we got permission to go in. We started our tour in the building where they were butchering cattle. It was a big shed, about 300 ft. long; and there was a platform on the side, the full length of it. They drove several cattle into the narrow lane and filled it with cattle until they could hardly turn around. They had a platform, about as high as the cattle’s heads, along the side of the pathway. A man stood on the platform, holding an eight or ten pound sledgehammer; and when an animal turned toward him, he would hit it in the head with the hammer. It would fall and roll down the floor to a scaffold where they could hang the animal. Two or three men attached a rope to its leader with a hook on the end of it and swung it up by its hind legs. (I didn’t like the looks of that. It reminded me of what I had seen in the Meuse Argonne battlefield.)
We went on to where they were killing sheep. They drove them into a pen and tumbled them over to cut their throats. Those sheep bleated as though they knew what was going to happen to them. We continued on to where they were butchering hogs. They drove them into a little pen by a big wooden wheel, about eight feet in diameter. They put a hook in the hog’s leg and rolled it over the wheel. They butchered it as it went over the wheel and into a tank of scalding water, while it was dying. (The law finally put a stop to this cruel way of butchering.) We went on through and watched them dress and cut the meat, in shape to pack, and then on into the packinghouse. We watched them strip the entrails of the animals to make weenies and hot dogs. They stripped the inside lining out and filled it with meat. Then they twisted it at the right length to make a hot dog or weenie.
We caught a streetcar back to town and found a hotel, where we stayed overnight. Then, we got out the next morning and caught a train bound for Texas. We went down the Mississippi River and crossed over it on a long railroad tussle. This was the largest river that I had ever seen. It must be a mile wide at the place where we crossed it. We went south through Missouri and Arkansas and crossed the state line into Texas at Texarkana, a little town on the border of Arkansas and Texas. We continued through Greenville and Dallas and got off the train at Ft. Worth, where we stayed overnight.
As we continued on our journey to Ranger, Texas the next morning, we traveled through big farming sections, mostly grazing and cotton. This was the first cotton I had seen since I was in Georgia, in 1918; but it was getting late for cotton, and it was mostly all picked. There, I saw the largest herds of cattle I had ever set eyes on. Most of them were the famous longhorn cattle, and some were black polled Angus (mule heads, without horns). Those long horns are dangerous to the cattle handlers, and to the other cattle, too. (They have now bred cattle that don’t have such long horns.)
That scenery was in the prairies of Texas. The land was almost level, with some small, rolling hills. It was green and alive with vegetation yet this was far south. It was beautiful the Lone Star State. (But it lost its boasting rights as the biggest state when Alaska was admitted to the union.) Most of the Texans I met were nice and sociable, like most southerners; but some are overly boastful about their state. It is one of our best farming states, and it is about as wealthy as West Virginia in natural resources especially oil and gas.
We arrived in Ranger, Texas at three o’clock in the afternoon. We got off of the train and hunted us a hotel. That little town about one hundred miles southwest of Ft. Worth was lively with the oil and gas business. To save expenses, my cousin, Harry, got us a room together. We got out the next morning and looked around the town, and we talked to several people about different oil and gas companies and their wages and working conditions. Harry soon found a job at drilling wells. (He had quite a lot of previous experience at dressing tools, and it paid good wages.) It took me another day to find something to please me.
I went to work with a casing crew. It paid a little better than tool dressing, and there was plenty of work; but the hours were irregular. Some days they worked us several hours, and others we didn’t find so much to do. We had to install two strings of casing before we could rest. The contractor was paid for each string of casing we run into a well. In the two weeks I stayed there, I made about as much money as I would have made in a month at tool dressing; but work got a little slack. So I inquired about tool dressing jobs, and I found an employment office that was hiring. I stayed around a few hours and found a new job that suited me.
I admitted to the driller that I hadn’t had too much experience in that trade. He asked, “Where are you from?” I told him that I was from West Virginia. He said, “I’m from Blue Creek, West Virginia.” I answered, “I’m from Clay County, near Clendenin.” I learned that he was glad to get employees from West Virginia. The wells in our state are more difficult to drill, and he thought that anyone who could dress tools in West Virginia would be worth a chance to see what he could do. He also realized that I was a long way from home and would probably be more dependable than the local workers. Also, he felt that West Virginia men were easy to get along with and took more interest in their work.
We drove to the site about ten miles from Ranger and got there in time start the afternoon shift. The boss told me that his regular tool dresser had gone home and that he wasn’t expecting him back for a month or so. He said, “I have five strings of tools, and I think I will have work for you most of the time.” I realized that, if he couldn’t keep me busy, there would be a lot of other contractors in that area that would hire me once I had a chance to show my worth.
I arrived at the well at about ten o’clock the next day. I looked around and met the other members of the drilling crew. Most of them were from Ohio. My boss arrived on the job at about eleven thirty. When I met him, he asked, “Where are you from?” When I told him, he replied, “I’m from Pennsylvania, from near where the Drake well was drilled, the first oil well ever to be drilled.” I said, “Yes, I have read about that job.” “I see you are considerably better equipped to drill than Mr. Drake was.” “Yes,” he answered, “It took him about a year to get that well to producing. He had a lot of hard luck and had to rebuild his rig or derrick about three times, and his hole fell in several times before he got it cased in; but that became a prosperous field in about three years. They found a way to handle the gas. The drilling business made slow progress; but after so long, it has finally become one of our principal industries. It can make one a rich man, overnight.” “Yes, I knew a man in the Blue Creek field, who leased his few acres of land. He was a very poor man with about ten children. They drilled about three oil wells on his lease, and he got one eighth of the oil. It brought him several thousand dollars in just a short time. I heard later that some skinner offered him a small sum for his lease, and he sold it for about one tenth of what it was worth. He was an ignorant poor fellow and he never had any wealth. He was proud of a little money, and he didn’t get a lawyer to do his business for him. He got cheated out of it, some way, when he signed the deal.”
My boss said, “Boggs, you go fire your boiler and get it up about 100 lbs. of steam. We’ll pull this bit out to see if we need to dress it.” My boiler was about two hundred yards from the well. We had to keep it far enough away to avoid any danger of setting fire to the well when it came in. If there was a strong producer and the well was too close to the fire of the boiler where we made steam, it might catch fire and burn us and everything else nearby. We pulled the tools out, and I got the gauge out of the tool carrier and gave it to my boss. He put the gauge on the bit and moved it around, to be sure that the bit wasn’t worn too much and was still round and sharp enough to run back into the well. He said, “I believe it will be O.K. to run it into the well at least for one more session of drilling.” I slipped the ropes in place (on the bull wheel) and got ready to run the tools into the well. I pushed the bit over the well hole as soon as he lifted it off of the floor and as it was swinging close to me. He slowly released the brake from the bull wheel and started lowering the bit back into the well. He loosened the brake a little more, letting the bit drop faster. I watched the marker string that he had tied on the rope. When the marker went past the bull wheel and went over the pulley wheel on top of the 84 ft. derrick and back down to near the ground level, I said, “It’s about at the bottom of the well. I see the marker string coming down on the rope.” He slowed his engine and lightened his brakes on the bull wheel. It stopped when the string was about six feet off of the floor. Then we eased the bit on down to the bottom of the well. I put the walking beam on the crank of the drilling wheel and wedged it. I drove the wedge good and tight, to hold the beam to the wheel. The driller started his engine, and the wheel rolled over slowly. As the wheel turned over, the drilling rope stretched tight from the weight of the stem and the heavy bit. The walking beam went up and down each time the wheel turned over. The bit would drop about four feet onto the bottom of the well; and, with the added weight of the stem (Together they weighed about 2,000 lbs.), the bit started churning away at the bottom of the well. The driller felt the rope to see if the bit was hitting bottom. As the bit churned away, he turned the lever on the drill screw, slowly, to keep it hitting bottom and drilling away. Sometimes it would advance pretty fast; and, at other times, the operator wouldn’t turn the screw for a half hour. It progressed according to the hardness of the stone he was drilling into. Sometimes the machine would churn and churn without showing any headway.
I worked on that well near Ranger, Texas for about a month. It was the second well in that field. The first one, about three hundred yards from the one I worked on, was a “wildcat well.” (That’s what they call an exploratory well, one that requires a lot of risk of hitting a dry hole and ending up with nothing.) It was eight or ten miles from any other active well. It was one of the most productive wells ever drilled. It had several hundred pounds of pressure and was so strong that it blew out around the casing at the bottom. It tore a hole in the ground about one hundred feet in diameter and forty feet deep, and it threw boulders weighing several tons out of the crater. After several days of scheming and working at it, they got the well under control by just opening the valve and letting the pressure escape through the casing. They filled in around the outside of the casing with stone and cement and let it set solid. They finally piped the gas away, and that lessened the pressure by giving more volume for the gas to expand into.
One time, there was a rupture in the gas line at that well. It blew out so strong that there was a blue smoke of mist from it. We received orders that if this well blew out again to run for our lives because it could pollute the air with enough gas to catch fire from our boiler, 300 yards away. It was just by luck that the well didn’t catch fire when it did blow up.
I have seen a well come in with such force that it threw gravel against the metal rig at enough speed that it caused a fire. One well, five miles from the town of Ranger, ignited and made enough light that people in town could read a newspaper by it. In those days, the best way available for stopping a fire at a well was to create steam pressure strong enough to cut off the gas feeding the flame. The flame didn’t ignite for several feet above the outlet of the gas because the pressure was too strong for it to mix with air.
At another location near Ranger, lightning struck an oil tank that held 75,000 barrels of oil, causing another big fire. They couldn’t get it out. The tank was too big to steam it out. It burned for twenty four hours or so. There was water in the bottom of the tank. It got hot and exploded. It sent flames so high into the air that the burning oil fell back onto the ground and spread the fire near other tanks. That could have ignited all of them. I was two hundred yards from that fire when the tank exploded. A lot of men had to run for their lives, and I got plenty hot before I got out of there. I ran to a bridge and got to safety on the other side of the river. They managed to keep the fire away from the other oil tanks, which were the same size as the one that ignited. A few days later, I was talking to a girl friend there in town. She said her father had an interest in that well and that he was so worried about his loss that he got too close to the fire and barely missed getting burned up when the tank exploded.
I said, “I had better get back to helping my boss, before he discharges me!” The boss said, “Boggs, get the walking beam down. Uncouple it and throw the cable over the bull wheel, and we will pull the tool out of the well. By the time we get it out, the relief crew will be here; and we will go home.” I was running the evening shift from noon until midnight. We washed up and were soon ready to leave. I finished eating my lunch before the next crew relieved us. The shack that we went home to (where I slept) was built of rough lumber, but I didn’t worry much about how it looked. We usually felt like getting right to bed, after working twelve hours, and we didn’t have to look at it.
When I got out at about nine o’clock the next morning, the proprietor asked me if I had slept well. I answered, “I don’t often fail to sleep good. After working twelve hours, I’m tired enough to sleep.” He was a rouster in the field, and his wife helped him provide us four crewmen with board and room. In my spare time of about three hours in twenty four, I would often get my gun and shoot jackrabbits just for sport. There were a few cottontail rabbits in the area, but except during a few months of the year they weren’t good to eat in that climate. There were a few squirrels, too. They lived on pecan nuts, acorns and a hickory nut, or some kind of nut that looked about like the nut of a hickory.
When we went back to work at noon to begin our shift, we ran the drill into the well and drilled for about four hours; then we pulled the drill out and exchanged the bit for a sharper one, which we screwed onto the drill stem. We ran the drill back into the hole and restarted the machine. I looped the rope around the middle of the dull bit and lifted it with a block. We lined it up and balanced it; and, using the crane, we rolled the pulley toward the heating furnace. There we let it down and placed the bit just a few inches off the floor of the furnace. I lit the gas and turned it up. Then I gave it a little air, to make a hotter flame. In about thirty minutes, the drill bit was beginning to turn red. I watched it for about fifteen minutes longer. My boss said, “Boggs, that bit is getting about ready to hammer out.”
I hooked the crane onto the wire line that I had looped around the drill bit, and we pulled it up with the block and line. I swung it around and placed it on an anvil in a position to hammer it. I picked up my sixteen pound sledgehammer and handed my boss his. We went to work on that bit while it was red hot. We hammered it about as long as we had enough breath to hammer. By the time we turned it over and began to hammer again, it had cooled enough that we had to put it into the furnace and reheated it good and red. We pulled it out and began to hammer it again. We stopped hammering while I handed the drill gauge to the boss. He put it on the bit and measured it. We had to hammer it in shape to fit that gauge so it would make a round hole that fit the casing pipe. If it wasn’t exactly right, it might drill a crooked hole and foul our tools. We let the bit cool just a little more. Then I picked it up with the block and line and swung it around into a tub of water to temper it for that hard stone.
That hammering limbered me up, but a little more of it might have limbered me down! Yes, but that hard work made my muscles strong, and I felt like eating those good country style meals our cook prepared for us. Yes, they sure were delicious! That’s one thing that a laboring man can enjoy better than one who doesn’t get tired enough to get hungry and have a good appetite. Yes, and we poor people don’t worry over losing thousands of dollars. (I never had enough money to worry over it.)
We came back the next day and drilled for a few hours; then, we pulled our tools out of the hole and examined the bit. It was getting dull and out of proper shape. We pulled it off of the stem, and screwed the other bit on. We ran it back into the hole and started to drill again. The sharp bit cut pretty fast, and we made more progress than usual. Bill said, “We must have done a good job sharpening that bit, or else we have struck a softer stone.” We left the dull bit for the other crew to sharpen. It was their turn because we had dressed the one before that.
Bill said, “Boggs, I hate to tell you; but Blake will be back tomorrow, and I suppose the field boss will take you back to the office and put you to work on the yard until he has another place for you on a well. I don’t like Blake. I think he’s a crook. The reason he was off is that he had to go to Oklahoma to stand trial for stealing a horse. He will have to go to jail if they find him guilty. I hear the trial was postponed.” Bill was an ole hard boiled Pennsylvanian, but I got along fine with him. He realized that I was new at drilling but that I was willing to try hard to do things right.
The field foreman came out with Mr. Blake the next day and said, “Boggs, I don’t have a job for you on a well right now. I can get you a job on the yard until I have something on a well for you. I can’t tell you when that will be, but likely in a few days. They don’t pay so much on the yard, but you will only work eight hours.” It didn’t hurt me to have easier work for a few days. Until I started the drilling job, I hadn’t done any hard labor for some time, and I needed to taper off a bit. Next
When I went to the new job, Mr. Easterly, the field foreman, introduced me to the yard boss, Mr. Gray. He told Mr. Gray that he would like for him to furnish work for me until he could use me again. “Yes, I think I can use him.” “Boggs, you hunt you a boarding house; I’ll allow you a day for today. You can come back tomorrow, at eight a.m., and start work for Mr. Gray. I think you will find him to be a fine man. I always have.”
I had about all day, so I decided to see if I couldn’t find a private home to board at. I left my suitcase in town and started down the street. I told some people that I met on the street that I was looking for a place to live and that I would rather stay in a private home. “Well,” one of the men said, “My wife may have room for you. Get in my car and we’ll run down the street a few blocks and see.” He drove about five or six blocks and stopped. He said, “Get out and come in, and I’ll talk with my wife.” He told me to have a seat in the living room, and he would talk to his wife about the circumstances. In a few minutes he and his wife came back. She said, “All my rooms are occupied, but I have a large room that you can share with another nice young man. If that will please you, I’ll put another bed in there.” I said, “I think I can get along fine with the young man, if he doesn’t care to have me in the room with him.”
She replied, “I think that will just suit him fine.ö I said, ôI left my suitcase in town. I will go get it.” Mr. Langford, the proprietor, said, “Get back in my car. I’ll go with you and bring you back.” We drove to the train station where I had left my baggage, and we picked it up. Mr. Langford asked, “Where will you be working?” I answered, “For the Mid Kansas Oil and Gas Co., in the yard.” He said, “That’s where I work.” I told him I didn’t know how long I would be there, as I was a well worker, or a tool dresser, and would be there for only a few days, until they had another assignment for me. I said, “I hope I can still stay in town, when they do find me a well job. He asked, “Where are you from, Mr. Boggs?” when I told him, he replied, “Well, you are a long ways from home. I’ve always lived near here in Texas. I never was in West Virginia, or further east than Mississippi.” I said, “ I never was out of my state until I went to the army in 1917.” He said, “I didn’t get into the service. I had a family and was thirty eight when the war broke out. Did you go across?” “I was in France for a year.” “How did you make out? Did you see action?” “Yes, I was in the Meuse Argonne offensive, but I didn’t get a scratch. I guess I was lucky. I was in the service for two years, but I didn’t see much action.” “I’ll show you your room, and we'll have you a bed by night. Have you had dinner?” “Yes, I ate a lunch up town just before I met you.ö ôHave a seat. Here’re some magazines you may read and the daily paper.” I thanked him and read the morning paper. Then I walked around town for a few hours.
I walked to the yard where I would work the next day, and looked it over. My boss showed me around and told me about the work. “You have a big yard here. You must do a lot of business.” “Yes, we have all sizes of pipe and casing, pipe fittings, drilling machinery, boilers, rig timber, tools or anything that goes with the oil business.” I walked back to my boarding place and slipped in as though I was already at home. That’s what I like about staying at a private residence. It’s more like home to you, especially where you are treated as one of the family. These were nice southern people and much more sociable than the northern people were.
My roommate came in from work, and Mr. Langford introduced us. I found him to be as the Mrs. had told me. He was a few years younger than I and as nice a man as I have ever met. His name is Earnest Schmidt. His father was born in Germany. We ate supper and then walked up town and went to a movie show. We came back and went to bed. I asked, “Where do you work?” “I work for the Lincoln Tank Company. I build steel and wooden tanks in the fields for oil storage.” “I work for the Mid Kansas Oil and Gas Co. Dressing tools on a drilling well is my regular occupation; but I will be working in the supply yard for a few days, until I can onto a new project. These fields seem to be diminishing somewhat. I don’t know whether it’s for lack of exploring for more oil and gas or the lack of business to sell it. I rather think that it’s a lack of sales; the war is over and there is a scarcity of business.”
I got up the next morning, ate breakfast and went to my new job. I worked in the supply room sorting pipefittings and placing them in the bins. There were about ten people working there, not including the office force. I continued at this work for a day or two. For some reason, the crane operator had to be off from his job for a few days. Mr. Gray, the boss, asked me if I had ever operated a crane. I said, “No,” He said, “I would like for you to unload some pipe from a railroad car.” “Well, if you can’t find anyone, I might as well see if I can learn to operate it.” I said, “You had better keep everybody out of the way. I might hurt someone.”
I started the gasoline engine, and took hold of the throttle. I ran it for a few minutes to learn how it worked. I operated a lever and the throttle with my hands and worked the brake pedal with my foot. I said, “Hook the rope to the pipe, and get out of the way well into the clear.” I swung the crane over to see what I could do with the machine. My helper fastened a hook to a steel line attached to each end of the pipe. The hook was on a line that ran to a block and pulley at the top of the crane. I threw the lever that operated the spool and carefully started it to rolling. I raised the pipe up over the freight car and put my foot on the brake; then, I reversed the lever and swung the beam out over the pipe rack. I loosened the pressure of my foot on the brake pedal and eased the load down onto the rack. My helper released the hooks from the ends of the pipe. I worked my lever and my brake; and, after a half day or so, I could operate the crane pretty well. We soon got the pipe out of that car onto the rack. I worked there for about two weeks before the field foreman came after me to work for Bill Kennedy again. I don’t know what became of Mr. Blake. I didn’t ask, and I don’t suppose that Bill thought enough of him to tell me. But I guess that he just returned home and wouldn’t be coming back.
We went to work on the usual shift, from noon until midnight. I worked there until the well was drilled in. It was a strong producer; but it didn’t blow up or cause any trouble. Probably the neighboring 72,000,000 ft. per day gas well took the pressure off of the new well. The two wells were only about 300 yards apart. We ran a string of casing into the well and screwed a six inch valve onto the head of it. We closed the valve and turned it over to the field foreman. His crew laid a pipeline to it, and it was another productive well.
We started taking our tools down from the derrick. Bill said, “Boggs, you take a line up to the top of the derrick and tie about three half hitches around the stem and to the drill line. I’ll pull it up just enough for you to unhook the stem from the block.” I had never done anything like that before! I climbed up the 84 foot rig and swung around inside of it. I locked my legs around a board on the rig and held to it until I got the tie on the drill stem. I told Bill to tighten the rope with a gentle pull. He started the engine and gave it a try. It tightened and held fast until I got the drill stem uncoupled from the blocks. Bill said, “Come on down, and we will take it down.” I took the bit and swung it to the far corner of the rig, as far as I could. Bill let it down to the floor. I took a rod and kept pushing the end of the drill stem outward while he leaned the other end to the far side of the rig. We soon had it on the floor. “Well,” Bill said, “You did that as well as anyone could.” I had been afraid that the knot would slip and let it drop; but it held fast.
Bill said, “Turn the fire out in your boiler, and let the steam run down. Leave on just enough gas burn to keep it from freezing.” (That didn’t often happen this far south, but we didn’t take any chances on bursting a boiler by letting it freeze.) Bill said, “I don’t know what we will do now. The boss said he didn’t have another location to move to, and business is slowing down considerably.” “Boggs, you go back to the yard. I’ll give you an extra day to make up your mind.” I said, “I can’t afford to stay there at $4 per day, not if I can get $12 at drilling wells.”
I went back to work on the yard and jimmied around at just what they had for me to do. Business was slow there also, and they too were laying men off. I worked there and looked for a drilling job at my spare time. After about week, I still hadn’t found anything to suit me. That weekend, I was in town and met the superintendent. He said, “I have a clean out job for you and Bill. Come to my office Monday morning, and I’ll take you to it. It pays the same as for drilling, and it will be day work.”
I met the supervisor on Monday morning, and he took me to the well. He said, “Boggs, you had just as well stay with this company. We don’t pay quite as much as some other corporations, but I think you will find us about as good as anyone to work for. We have better working conditions than some companies, and we won’t lay a man off unless we have good reasons for it. There isn’t any reason for skipping about just for a few more cents on the day.”
I met Bill at the well, and we rigged our tools up and were ready to get something done by noon. Bill said, “Boggs, did you ever run a gas engine?” I said, “No, I never had anything to do with one.” “I haven’t either, but it’s up to us to try. We will do what we can.” We got rigged up and were ready to start cleaning out the hole. Charley Easterly, our main supervisor, came by at about that time. Bill said, “Charley, I never had anything to do with a gas engine.” Charley said, “I’ll show you what I can about it. See that your spark plug is working right, just as you would on your automobile. This engine runs on natural gas, not gasoline; but it works on the same principle as a gasoline engine. The ole Ajax engines are powerful. That’s what it takes to handle those heavy tools.” We examined our spark and ignition and got ready. Charley set his foot on the flywheel spoke, in a safe position; and then he took hold of the wheel. “Now, you will have to just get enough of your foot on this spoke that it will slip off when the wheel rolls over. If you don’t hold it right, it will throw you like a bullet.” Charley started the engine, just to show us how. Then he shut the gas off, and had Bill start it. Then he told me to start it up. “You will have to be sure you don’t get that big foot of yours in a position where it won’t slip off the wheel when the engine starts.” “One time, we missed a pumper; and then we found him dead. He had tried to start an engine, and it threw him thirty feet. His head hit a pipe, and I don’t suppose he ever knew what happened.”
Charley, Bill and I finally got rigged up and started things to rolling. “I’ll see if I can hook the cable to the bailer.” I looked at it, and there wasn’t any link on top of it. Charley had already left for another location. “Well, the Dickens,” (or something worse) said bill. Bill was pretty wicked and didn’t care to rip out a big, ugly oath. “What’s the matter, Boggs? Can’t you swear some, too?” “Bill, I never swore but once in my life and that was when I was about thirteen years old. My chum backed me out or dared me to swear. He said, ‘I will if you will.’ I said, ‘You cut down on it. I don’t take a dare.’ He ripped out a big black oath, and I tried it. I have never felt so ornery in all my life. I’ve never cursed since.”
Bill said, “We’ll have to solder a link onto the bailer. I’ll get the ladle and put a few pounds of lead in it.” We built a fire to melt the lead, and we screwed the head up on the bailer and put a link in it. Then we poured the lead in it. The bailer wasn’t as heavy as a drill and stem; so we were able to handle it without much trouble. We had to let the lead cool overnight; so we didn’t get any well work done until the next day.
We came back the next morning and hooked our bailer to our bailing line. I gave that flywheel a turn or two, and it started. Bill turned the throttle a little and threw the clutch in. I released the brake on the bull wheel, swung the bailer off of the floor, and started it up the derrick. I guided it over the casing while Bill operated the clutch. We bailed water from that well for the rest of that day and all of the next day.
When the bailer got near the top of the well, the engine would slow down. At times it would stop, if Bill didn’t shut the throttle off on time. Bill said, “Boggs, you tell me when you think the engine is about to chug to a stop, and I’ll throw the throttle out to make the engine go faster to pull the bailer on out. Then I’ll throw it back in.” We soon caught onto the tricks of the trade. From then on, we let our engine start fast; and we never had any more trouble.
Within in a few days, we had bailed the water out of the well and found the leak. It was near the bottom of the casing. It was leaking so fast that it took us three days to get the water level down to the leak. We could hear the gushing noise when the bailer hit the water. About all we could do was to pull the casing and replace the joint that was leaking.
“Bill, do you think that ole Ajax engine will be strong enough to pull that casing?” “Yes, since we have learned to operate it, I think we can arrange that. You see, we will have Charley bring us a heavy triple block to hang at the top of the derrick. We can use this double block to hook to the casing, and that ole Ajax will haul it right out.” Bill said, “What’s worrying me is Will this old derrick stand the weight of the casing?” “There is quite a strain on it. This well is twenty five hundred feet deep. I don’t know just how far down this casing goes. We’ll have Charley bring the logbook. It will tell us almost everything about the well how deep it is, what kind of sand the drill went through, how many barrels of oil it produced when it was freshly drilled, just what grade of oil it produces, and, I imagine, who drilled it. The logbook contains a lot of information about the well that the company won’t tell just anyone.”
The chief, Mr. Easterly, came around the next morning with a triple block that weighed about three hundred pounds. Bill said, ôYou take the single block about forty feet further out on the walk. We will unwind enough of the rope from the bull wheel and then we’ll unlatch the blocks.ö ôDid you ever thread a double or triple block, Boggs?” “I’ve helped to thread one or two. I know you have to be careful. If you get the ropes into any position where they will cross, they just won’t work. I think we can handle this job O.K. You put the single or double to the bottom of the derrick to hook to the pipe, and the double block goes to the shaft on top of the derrick. That gives you more leverage. Yes, that would be enough power to pull this derrick down. I have heard of the likes of that happening.” We got our blocks threaded; and Bill said, “Boggs, tie a half hitch, or a square knot, around the block and another half hitch about the rope. Then we will have things as ready for the casing crew as we can get them.”
We couldn’t find a casing crew. There wasn’t enough drilling going to occupy a crew. Charley said. “I think I can find enough men in our field crew that have enough experience to help you.” “0.K.” We couldn’t do any more that day; so we went home at about noon.
We came out the next morning and waited until about ten o’clock. Charley came with a new crew and tools. Bill said, “Boggs, hook that line to the block and take one of these men with you to the top of the derrick. I’ll pull it up and you two can slip the shaft through the hook in the block. In a few minutes, we will be ready to pull casing.”
We had six men, besides Bill and me. I asked the men what duties they usually did at casing. We were soon lined out and started our different jobs. One of the men took the front truck to one end of the pipe, and the other crewman took the rear truck to the other end. Two handled the heavy calipers to latch under the collar of the casing; and the other two handled the pipe, or tongs, that unscrewed the casing. I hooked the block onto the calipers. Bill tightened the rope and gave it a pull, easy at first, to loosen the casing from the hole. We must have worked at it for four or five hours. Bill kept pulling at it and slacking off, trying to work it loose from the wall of the well. He kept pulling a little heavier each time. He pulled so hard that I thought that derrick was going to collapse; but the casing finally worked loose, and we got one joint out of the well. Bill said, “Boys, throw that other caliper under the collar, and we will see if we can get the tongs on that joint to pull it.” They threw on the calipers and latched them. Then they attached two pairs of tongs to the pipe. All six of the casing crew gave it a pull; but the pipe wouldn’t turn. Bill said, “Try this heavy pair of tongs, and I’ll hook this ole Ajax engine to it. That’ll either break it loose or cave the pipe in.” He gave it a pull, and it started to loosen up. We soon had it out and on the rack. I hooked the block to the next one, and so on. “Put that rope with the clamp on one end and a loop on the other on this joint, and wrap it three or four times around the pipe. Then put that eight foot hickory pole through the loop and draw it tight. Then, I’ll take this three pound hammer and pound the top of the collar while you six men push on the pole. I believe it will break. Then, we can swing the pole around and have the joint out in a couple of minutes.”
We worked there until about six o’clock, and had only about half of the casing out. Bill said, “Men, it will take us until after midnight to get all of this pipe out. When we start a casing job, we usually finish it before we stop; but we’re not in a hurry for this old well to produce. It has about served its time.” We threw the calipers onto the next joint and fastened the latch. We locked it so no one could kick it loose and drop the string of casing back into the well.
The next morning, we returned to that job at 7:30. By three p.m., we had pulled one hundred joints of casing out of the well. We found the leak in the pipe that had allowed water to fill the well and shut off the oil. Bill said, “There are about twenty five more joints still in the well. We had better pull the rest of it and put a new shoe on the bottom joint to seal the water off. The old one was not the cause of the leak, but it probably won’t last more than two more years. If we don’t put a new shoe on it, the pipe might have to be pulled again by that time.”
Before we went home, at seven p.m., we had the entire casing out of the well and on the rack. The next day, Bill and I got ready to run the casing back into the well. Charley came out and inspected it. He said, “I’ll have about twenty five joints of good casing brought out today. I imagine we will find that many that won’t be in shape to run back in. That salt water is pretty hard on casing. It soon eats holes through the metal.” Bill and I didn’t have much work to do that day, but we stuck around and got our tools and the blocks and all of the good casing ready to start relining the well. Charley got the pipe delivered that day, and we showed the trucks where to unload it. Charley said, “I’ll send the casing crew out in the morning, and you can start running the casing back into the well. Run the new casing in first and sort out the best of the other to finish the job. I’ll send out an extra man, one that knows how to sort the pipe. I’ll and have him out here by ten o’clock. The crew can stab those twenty five new joints into the well before he gets here.”
The next morning, we started work at nine o’clock, and we had those twenty five joints in the well by 11:30. By that time, the expert inspector had graded some of the pipes. The good ones were ready in time for us to go ahead with the job. I said, “Bill, those men sure know how to get that casing in the well, and they are doing a fine job. Everything worth doing is worth doing well, and that’s the way they are doing it.” Bill said, “I like to encourage men. That keeps up their interest and spirit to make our job more pleasant. That sure is a jolly crew, and that’s what makes the wheel go around smoothly.”
“That shoe we put on the bottom of that first joint won’t wear out scrubbing the wall going down, will it, Bill?” “No, it’s spongy inside that solid rubber. It will fit the hole loosely on the way down. After we put it in the well it will swell and tighten against the wall of the well within a few hours. It will do the job.”
Before it got late, Charley came out to see how we were getting along with this string of casing. We had all but about thirty five joints into the well by five o’clock. Charley said, “Men, it isn’t very safe to leave a string of casing hanging above the bottom of the well. Go ahead and run this in, and I’ll have that country cook fix you a good meal. We’ll have it out here in about an hour and a half, and I’ll see that you get extra pay for overtime. We will have this work finished by midnight.”
Charley sent a man to tell the cook. She had to go to town and get some groceries, but she soon had some of that good ole solid grub ready for our hungry crew of strong laboring men. I said, “Charley, get you a plate and some of those eating tools and have some of that food.” Charley said, “I’m not hungry, but a man don’t need to be hungry to eat that food.”
We finished our lunch, and went back to work feeling fresh and strong. We got our job done a few minutes before midnight. Charley said, “I’ll have men out at about noon tomorrow. They will help you clean up here. Bill, you and Boggs can bale the well out. After you get all of the water out, you may test it the next day. If you don’t find more water in it, you can rig up and drill down to its old level. Bale it out good and clean. If it doesn’t produce oil soon, we will see what we can do for it.” We worked on it for three days to get it in good shape, and we left it undisturbed for a while to see if was producing any oil.
We came out the next day and ran our bailer into the well. When we pulled it out, the bucket was full of oil. We got about ten bailers full of oil out of the well. Mr. Easterly said, “It ought to produce more oil than that. I’ll send the shooting crew out tomorrow, and we will try a light shot of glycerin. That might help it to produce. There’s a gas well right over there a half mile or so. It’s right between the oil and gas fields.” The next day, they gave it about two quarts of glycerin. That shook it up a little. Bill and I cleaned it out and it started producing, but not strong enough to flow. Charley said, “I’ll send a string of two inch pipe, tomorrow, and two or three men to help you and Boggs run it. We’ll run pumping rods into the well, and it may make enough oil to pay off.” After a few days, we finished putting in the two inch pipe and ran the pumping rods into it. We started up that ole walking beam, and it proved to be a very good well. It produced about thirty barrels per day.
I said, “Bill, I don’t like this cleaning out job as well as I like drilling a new well.” Bill said, “I don’t either. I’d rather make something new, anytime, than to repair something old.” “Yes,” I said, “I like to run a good sharp bit into a well and hear it hit the bottom.” When it rings like a church bell for a few licks, we can run some drilling fluid into it. Then we can hear it chug and slush. When we pull the bit out and run the bailer into the well, we can bail it out good and clean. I like to see that white sand run into the waste pond. And when you feel that you are getting near the pay sand and hit a little gas, you feel excited about the prospects. You watch for your drill to blow out of the top, or for the derrick to blow off. It’s a little scary and dangerous; but when you drill a well like that, you can feel that you have really done something valuable. It’s really exciting at times. Drilling is like coal mining. Once you get it in your blood, it’s hard to get away from it.
I liked to sit around the employment office and hear those older drillers tell their exciting stories about drilling, and about how near they nearly met their doom. Yes! That makes me think of when I was about eighteen and was helping on clean out a well. (I had forgot about this incident until I got into a conversation with James Williams, who was standing next to me.) The driller was trying to break a string of casing loose so he could pull it out of the well. He had the brake rod up and fastened and was throwing the throttle of his engine back and forth, churning and jerking with all the power of his engine. He had a two inch pipe on the brake lever, and it was hung up. He gave a surge on that bull wheel and caused about a two ton jerk. The two inch pipe came unlatched, and it didn’t miss my head more than an inch. James was standing almost as close to it as I was. If it had hit either of us, we never would have known we had been hit.
Another time, I was working on a well about five miles from the one Bill and I cleaned out. It had just come in, and it was gushing oil at a high pressure. Eight or ten of us were trying to get the well under control. It was spurting oil to the top of the derrick. One of the stockholders was standing by, and he got so excited about getting rich overnight that he pulled out a big cigar. He was reaching for a match when one of the crew members noticed him and knocked the match from his hand. If he had lit that match, that place would have exploded for 150 yards in diameter. That’s one time I felt proud that I never smoked. That fellow nearly fainted, and he left there in a hurry. The gusher made so much noise that you couldn’t hear anyone talk for a long distance from the well. The oil and gas oil spewed all around. We got that well clamped in; and, after we laid two four inch lines and hooked them up to the oil tank, it flowed with such strength that those two four inch lines jumped and rocked until it looked like they would break.
Bill said to me, “We’re done with this well.” Charley left without saying what we would do next. We returned to the site the next day and stayed there until about two p.m. before Charley showed up. He said, “Bill, I have just started a well, about three miles out from Ranger. The driller and the tool dresser want to go home to West Virginia for a vacation. They will be gone for about two weeks. I want you and Boggs to take over until they come back.ö When we got to the well, we learned that they had just spudded in. The stem wasn’t under ground. “Oh!” I said, “That’s a twenty inch bit. I never saw a bit that large. We never use a bit larger than ten or twelve inches in West Virginia.”
All we had to do was to rev up that ole Ajax engine and start drilling. I set up the walking beam and wedged it tight to the crankshaft. Bill cranked up the engine, and we were off “chuggety,” “chug,” “chug.” I let in a little water, and Bill opened up the throttle. That one thousand pound bit went down into that soft dirt and stone in a hurry. We drilled fifty feet before our relief crew came out. (I was on the morning shift while working on that well. We worked from midnight until noon.)
We went to town and Bill put up at a hotel. I went back to my old boarding and rooming house, Mr. Langford’s. They took me in, and I learned that Earnest Schmidt was still staying in our room, where we were partners before. I was tired. I crawled in bed and was soon asleep. I got up at about six p.m., and Earnest and I went uptown. We just gadded about for a little while, and came back. I sat in the living room and talked with the folks until about nine thirty. There was only Mr. and Mrs. Langford and a niece they were raising, or had raised. She was about eighteen. They didn’t have any children. There was another young man boarding there. His name was Hue Moore. I hadn’t met him on my previous stay, but we soon got acquainted. He was a nice young man. He was from Texas, too. Earnest, Hue and I pulled together most of the time. Hue lived at Ft. Worth, and Ernest lived at Clyde, Texas, about twelve miles from Ranger. Miss Little, the young lady Mr. and Mrs. Langford raised, worked at the post office. She had a friend, Miss Wilson, who worked with her. Miss Wilson was from Tennessee. She had a brother who lived in Ranger, and she stayed with him most of the time. She chummed with Miss Little, and I saw her quite often, at the boarding house and around town. We soon got acquainted.
I went to bed for a little rest. I got up at eleven o’clock, and Bill soon drove by and picked me up. We went to the well and relieved the crew. We drilled until about six a.m., when we pulled that big twenty inch drill out to change the bit. I said, “Boy, that’s a monster!” I hadn’t seen a bit so large. I lit the furnace and Bill helped me get the bit into it. It took a hot blast of fire to heat that big bit. We got it set where we wanted it, and I increased the gas pressure. It took about an hour to get that it good and hot, through and through. I kept my eye on it pretty well. Sparks started flying off of it, and I noticed that it was getting white hot. I said, “Bill, I believe this bit is about ready for the hammer.”
I had taken the walking beam off of the crankshaft and had replaced it with a rod that was about four inches thick and about eight feet long. They called it a “ram.” (We had placed the hot bit on the anvil.) I said, “Bill, show me how to use it.” I got hold of the end of the ram and guided it to the bit. Bill started the engine slowly. Every time the crank turned over, the ram crashed onto the big bit. We soon shaped it as much as we could before it got too cold to pound anymore. We put it back in the furnace and heated it again. We got it white hot and set it back on the anvil. We got our sixteen pound sledge hammers and used them to finish shaping it up to fit the gauge. That was the first time I ever used a ram. (In West Virginia, we never had a bit so large as that one.) I put the walking beam back on the crank, and Bill started drilling again. I put the bit back in the fire and heated it hot enough to temper; then I pulled it out and eased it into a tub of water.
We drilled until our relief crew came out and relieved us at noon. We decided we were deep enough to run some casing; so our relief got everything ready for us to run the casing the next day. Jack, the other driller, said, “If we don’t get this casing in tomorrow, we will have to work on Sunday.” (We couldn’t chance letting the dirt wall of the well cave in.) “Yes,” I said, ‘I like to have one day off per week, especially when I have to work twelve hours in twenty four.”
It took only about three hours for the other drilling crew to get ready to run the casing. They went home early, and all of us came out the next morning. By two o’clock on Saturday afternoon, the four of us had that big twenty inch casing into the well. Jack and George, the other drill crew, didn’t have much time to rest. They had to be back on Sunday night at midnight. That was our regular time to change shifts. Bill and I didn’t have to come back until midday on Monday. I went to my boarding house, changed clothes, took a bath, and got cleaned up. Then I walked up town and wandered around until suppertime. When I returned to the boarding house, Earnest and Hue were there. We ate supper and then got into Earnest’s Model T Ford and drove uptown. Hue walked up the street, and Earnie and I went into a restaurant for a coke.
I asked, “Earnest, what do you have in mind?” “Let’s go up to the post office and see when the girls will get off from work.” We agreed to see if we could slip in and get a chance to see one of them. Miss Wilson was at the window handing out mail. I walked up as though I was there to inquire for mail. When I had a chance to see Miss Wilson for a few seconds, without her boss seeing me, I asked her about arranging a double date for Earnest and me, with her and Miss Little. She said, “We will have to work late tonight. I’ll come home with Miss Little, and we will see you in the morning.” I saw Earnest, and we walked about, in town, for a while. Then we went home. Until about ten o’clock, we sat around and played the radio. Earnest said, “Let’s call the girls and see if they are ready to quit. We will drive up to the post office and pick them up.” “0.K.” I called to inquire. Miss Wilson came to the phone. “Yes, we will be ready to leave in about thirty minutes.” We picked them up and went to a cafeteria. We got a snack and then drove around a few blocks before we took the girls home. We returned to the boarding house and played a few games of Rook before going to bed. I sure was glad to get a full night’s sleep, instead of having to get out at midnight and go to work.
We were all up by nine or ten o’clock the next morning. After breakfast, we got into Earnest’s car and drove a few blocks. Earnest said, “I should go home today. How about driving down to Clyde with me? It’s only about twelve miles.” All of us, including the ladies, were pleased to go. We started that way and drove for about forty five minutes. It was mostly dirt road. I asked, “How fast will this car run, Earnest?” “It’s geared for about sixty miles per hour.” We got onto about a mile or two of straight road, and Earnest speeded up to about forty mile miles per hour. That was too fast! (The speed limit was thirty five miles m.p.h.) That Ford motor was buzzing! That was the fastest any of us had ever ridden in a car.
When we reached Earnest’s home, all of us got out and went in to meet Earnest’s family. They were nice people. We walked around on Mr. Schmidt’s farm, and we gathered a few nuts from his pecan grove. I complimented Earnest’s farm and home. His father had a few longhorn cattle; but he wasn’t a big farmer.
We didn’t stay there long. We were on our way and back in Ranger at about six o’clock. We went to a movie show that evening and then had a game or two of Rook. I talked with Miss Wilson for awhile before going to bed to get ready for six days of twelve hour shifts at that well.
I got up late the next morning. Everyone else had gone to work, but I didn’t go to work until noon. I ate my dinner and got my lunch pail ready. Bill came by, and we went to relieve the other crew. They had rigged up from the casing job, and were drilling again. After running that twenty inch casing, they started using a ten inch bit. That suited me fine. Those big twenty inch bits were hard to handle.
Bill and I worked there that week until the regular crew came back from vacation. Bill was now out of work for me. I decided to go back to the yard and try it for a few days. It wasn’t such a bad job. I got a little more money (for running the crane), and it was eight hour days. I told Bill that I didn’t think I would be there for more than a week or so, if I didn’t get on another well drilling job. Bill said he hadn’t been back to Pennsylvania for about three years, and he might go home to see his folks. I saw Bill in town a few days later. He said he had decided to go home and spend a month or so. I bided him good bye and wished him a pleasant vacation. (I never saw Bill again.)
I stuck around the yard for about two weeks before I decided it was time for me to hunt for a better job. I continued to work on the yard; and, in my spare time, I looked for a tool dressing job on a well; but I didn’t find one. Business was getting very slack. My friend, Earnest Schmidt, said he thought he could get me a job with him. He saw his boss, and he said I could come out on Monday morning. I went out to the yard the next day and told my boss that I wouldn’t be back after the weekend. I went to work with Earnest’s employer, building steel and wooden tanks. That paid me two dollars more per day than the yard paid; so I bid the Mid Kansas Company people good bye.
I continued to board with the Langfords, and I rode to work with Earnie. I had grown to like those fine people, and they recognized me as almost one of the family. It was just like a home to me. They certainly were nice, sociable people like most southern people. In the Army, I had associated with people from about all parts of the states; and, when I had spoken a word or two with them, I could usually tell where people were from. The southern people had a long draw in their speech. Northern people, and people from the eastern New England states, had sharper accents and different expressions.
While working for Earnest’s boss for about a month, I didn’t find any promise for any worthwhile job in Ranger. I wasn’t very well. I needed to see a doctor, and I didn’t want to put it off too long; so I decided to go to a veteran’s hospital for a checkup. I had rheumatism, and my nerves had been bad since my first eight months in the Army. I thought I would apply for a pension, before it was too late. I quit my job and stayed around for a few more days to learn about the best place to go. I decided to go to Camp Logan in Houston, Texas for a physical examination.
The Langfords were such nice people that I hated to leave them, but I expected to be back soon. I bid them and my other friends good bye and left at about ten a.m. the next morning. I traveled about two hundred miles by train, and I got to Houston at about six p.m. that day. I inquired about how to get to Camp Logan, and a man showed me the streetcar to catch and told me when it would be along. He asked, “Are you a patient there?” “No, I’m on my way there to be a patient.” “Where are you from?” “I’m from Ranger, Texas, but originally from West Virginia.” “Oh!” he said, “an oil worker there. That has been a very productive field.” “Yes, but it’s diminishing considerably now.” “Did you get across the waters?” “Yes, I saw some action.” “There’s no wonder you need hospital care, then. I wasn’t over there, but I have a brother who lost his health there. He is in Camp Logan Hospital, now.”
He told me his brother’s name, and I said I’d look him up when I got there. (He had been in some of the same offensives that I had been in; but when I did meet him, he didn’t have much to say about it. I imagine he had seen a plenty and wanted to forget it. When you meet a soldier that talks about his experience in battle, you may imagine that he never saw much. If he did, he didn’t want to talk about it, much less think about it. (My nerves are not so strong, yet, that I don’t get nervous; and I didn’t see as much action as many of our soldiers did.) My streetcar came, and I boarded it. I was soon in Camp Logan Hospital. I gave the entering official my army discharge paper, and he looked it over. He found me a bed and told me the doctor had gone home, as it was late; and the doctor would see me sometime tomorrow.
The hospital was located in some army barracks that were used during the war. At that date, the government had built only a few veterans’ hospitals. I was tired, and I rested well that night. They called me at about six o’clock the next morning. I went to breakfast as though I was in the army. They had very good food. I ate a hearty meal and went back to my bunk. I walked through the barracks and saw some of the patients. It wasn’t very pleasant. I wished I had gone to a civilian hospital, but it was free here; and I had to have the government doctors examine me and learn my physical condition in order to determine the extent of my disability. I was there for two days before I got anything done. I told them that I had had trouble with my legs since I was in service. I had to do too much hiking and carrying heavy loads; and I didn’t think that it was all rheumatism, as my legs would give way in my knees and almost let me down. They understood that. They told me they had no way to diagnose rheumatism. They said that my legs were just overdone, and that the hardships of the war (hiking, exposure to the weather, etc.) had broken my nerves to some extent. I had sinus trouble, too. They examined me and made x rays and run other tests. I suppose they did about all they could think of. The x rays showed that my nose had been broken in the past, I suppose sometime when I was a child. I couldn’t breathe much from one nostril. They operated on it and chipped some of the bone off. It helped me to breathe more naturally.
I was there for about six weeks, waiting for another operation and taking medicine. They said they weren’t allowed to operate for another six weeks. They said my tonsils were infected and needed to come out. I stuck around for three months before they agreed to release me. Although they treated me very nice, it wasn’t a very pleasant place. There were so many wounded veterans there whose circumstances were depressing. Some had lost their legs and arms, and some were very badly maimed. Some were blind, and some faces were disfigured. Some of the veterans had been poisoned by mustard gas so badly that they were skin and bones. Some of them wouldn’t live much longer. Also, some of them were shell shocked and crazy.
I was in a room about sixty feet long and wide enough for an isle about five feet wide with beds on each side of it. There must have been about forty patients in the room. We had a regular bedtime, a time to rise, and times to eat three meals per day. As long as we weren’t marked to quarters, we had privileges to go to Houston two or three times per week. Members of the churches and other organizations often visited in the evenings and provided us some amusement, and we could play cards anytime that we weren’t scheduled for our doctor’s or nurse’s visits. We had plenty of entertainment, and there were not many patients in my room who were bad enough to cause much annoyance.
When the time came for me to go to the operation room to have my tonsils out, they had two surgeons there a husband and wife team. Mrs. Davis was the head doctor, and Mr. Davis was an intern. I don’t think Mr. Davis was very experienced. He got ready to take my tonsils out, and I noticed that Mrs. Dr. Davis kept telling him to wait for her to help him. He froze my tonsils and started operating on them alone. He was cutting around my tonsil, and he cut the main artery to it. I felt the blood spurt onto the roof of my mouth. He finally got out one and a part of the other. (Doctors later told me that a part of one tonsil was still in there. I never had it removed.) I was taken to my bed, bleeding so badly they put a clamp on the artery; but that didn’t entirely stop the bleeding. The forked clamp was inside my mouth with one prong outside.
My nurse sat by my side and asked me to go to sleep. I was still bleeding. I told her I was swallowing blood. She said, “Not very much, are you?” I was afraid she would leave me if I went to sleep; so I kept as quiet as I could. I got sick, and vomited. I must have vomited nearly a quart of blood that I had swallowed. The nurse nearly fainted and called for a doctor. The head nurse and doctor came at once. The doctor gave me a shot to stop the bleeding, but it was getting late for that. I bled so much that my hands, feet and ears turned black. I was so weak that I could hardly talk, but I finally quit bleeding. They gave me more blood and I went to sleep. The next day I was too weak to walk; but I was O.K. in about a week. A few days later, the Doctor Davis that operated on me did the same on another patient; and the head of staff discharged both Dr. Davises.
About six more weeks had gone by, and it was time to have another operation. They told me I had an inward goiter, and that it was affecting my nerves. I knew my neck was a little larger on one side, so I agreed to have it done. I had to have an anesthetic. I got on the operation table and had hardly more than laid down before they had a cap over my face. I wasn’t scared, but they didn’t give me time to be scared; I went out immediately. They told me they never had a quieter anesthesia patient.
While I was coming to my senses, I did some moaning. I was nauseated by the ether, but I was soon feeling good with a good looking nurse waiting on me. “Oh, I don’t want to get well! I don’t want to get well! There’s a beautiful, lovely nurse to wait on me!” Well, that’s right. She was really pretty; but I never had a lot of confidence in nurses. So many of them are wild; but there was one little nurse I had a lot of respect for; and I had an opportunity to date her. She was Miss Davis, from Florida. She gave me some of her pictures and told me that my doctor spoke well of me. I thought that was enough to be a good hint.
She was well respected by everybody that I knew. She said she was going home, because that work was too hard on her. She was too duty bound; everything had to be just right. I told her she worked too hard. I was never in a hurry about falling in love with any woman. I was writing a girl in Silver Springs, Colorado and the Wilson woman in Ranger, Texas, and also a girl back home, in West Virginia. I had known the young lady in Colorado for several years. I met her at Wallback. West Virginia and knew her people well. I planned to see her again. She was a fair looking woman and of a nice family. Her name was Mary Barnes. (I did see her later when I went through her city on my way to Los Angeles, California.)
I stayed at the hospital and got along splendidly with the goiter operation; and I was soon ready to leave. They were going to give me a ticket and expenses back to Ranger. I thought, “This will be a good time to go home.” I told them I wouldn’t be able to go to work for a week or two, and I’d have to pay board and room. They knew that my job required heavy work and that I would have to feel pretty strong to pound metal with a sledgehammer. I asked them if they could give me a ticket to Charleston, West Virginia