Oral Histories

A. L. “Banjo” Holloway



Q: Oh, 1900. So you would have to use the steam way back, then the diesel to make this thing go up and down? This is pumping it though, right? No, this is drilling it?

A: That’s the drill bit right there. That’s your walking beam and it goes up and down. That’s what they call the sloop (?), you put your drill in line through there. 

Q: Does the drill get hot? Or do you have to worry about things like that?

A: You do a rotary bit and it will get hot if you haven’t got it lubricated with air, water or something.

Q: How many barrels a day came out of some of those holes? Or were you just drilling these holes and then moving on?

A: Yeah, we’d just drill and move on. I didn’t have anything to do with the production. We just brought it in and moved on.

Q: How did you know where to drill them?

A: We just did contract drilling for oil companies. (The company would locate the spot they felt was promising for oil., then contract to some driller to come in and “test” for it.) There were a lot of individuals. Now this up here at Crescent Junction, that was for the government during the War. That was for magnesium. You see, during the War the United States was cut off from magnesium. It’s used for a lot of things, metals and potash.

Q: Did you find any up there?

A: Sure. Harold Ickies (?) was the main man in the government at the time, and he set aside 65 sections for a government reserve for potash and magnesium. There was potash there too. 

Q: Was that the only time you were looking for something else besides oil?

A: We drilled for other things…helium, gas.

Q: Is it much different? I thought you went down and came up with a rock core and the geologist would examine it. Is that right? But then when you drill for oil, do you drill until something spurts up or what?

A: Yes. You pull up a core for oil too, just like you core for anything else. If you wanted a core, you just drilled it and tested it to see. Some come blowin’ in and you didn’t even have to core. It would just come in before you were ready for it.

Q: So there was enough drilling around this area to stay here your whole life and work in that? Or did you get a long ways from home sometimes?

A: No, I’ve been all over the United Srtates, even since I came here. This and Farmington and Aztec was my home. I lived in Aztec for about eighteen years. I got to working up here, sometimes I went to Colorado, sometimes to Cortez, back down to New Mexico – Truth or Consequences.

Q: Did you always have a truck to drive out to these places? There must have been some rough places.

A: Yeah. Well, before they got some roads built, you had to go out there and stay. They had camps for free. See, there was even a camp right up here at Crescent Junction. 

Q: What did you like the most about that kind of work?

A: Well, I liked looking for something new all the time. I liked wild cattin,’ I mean when I was younger. I liked to move from one job to another because it was something new everyday. We were usually looking for different things. It was just fun to be lookin.’

Q: When you were wild-catting, were you trying to look at the geology and figure out where to drill yourself, or pretty much with a team?

A: Oh, I was looking myself, sure. But I was also trying to second-guess the real job.

Q: Did you sometimes find out that they were wrong and you were right?

A: I sure did. I found out. And that Bisti (?) Field there in New Mexico, they condemned it. I always knew that it was a good one, but now it’s one of the producing fields.

Q: Who condemned it, the government?

A: No. This guy, Turner from California, had a geologist working for him that when they took the core, Joe Lilley, wanted to know if he wanted to go ahead and spend his money on it or not. So he just turned it back to the government because it wasn’t any good. He turned the biggest part of it back but he kept some of it, what he had enough money to cover. When he asked me what I’d do, well I said I’d like to own it. I’d like to have it. He said, “Well if you can pay the rentals, you can have half of it.” Well, I didn’t have that kind of money. There was one ol’ Indian gal there, Mary Many Goats, who sold her little Indian right for $678,000 to Phillips Oil, down there. And that was just a few acres of it.

Q: So it is bigger than the Aneth Oil Field?

A: Oh yeah, it’s bigger than the Aneth. See, that well in McElmo Canyon is what started the Aneth field too. That’s the one I started on my birthday and finished up on my birthday (the following year). 

Q: So you worked all around this area and New Mexico and north of here and down on the reservation too?

A: Yeah, and down around Chinle, Arizona, and all in through there.

Q: So when you went out to drill, you’d have to be able to read maps pretty well to know what they were talking about.   Or did somebody go out there ahead of you?

A: Usually they went ahead of me, where we’d drill. Now I did go look for some stuff when we was drilling that well down in Loa and Teasdale. I went lookin’ for another site down there and I went to the Colorado River, where Bullfrog is now, before there was any road in there at all.

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