Oral Histories

A. L. “Banjo” Holloway



Q: How many men would be operating the drill?

A: Usually five on the crew.

Q: Of those five, could everybody do everything or did some have specialities?

A: Oh yeah.

Q: What was your specialty?

A: Usually I was either drillin’ or pushin’ tool, but I was a roughneck, worked derricks. I’ve done everything. 

Q: What does “roughneck” mean?

A: Well, that’s your peons. That’s the ones that do anything that needs to be done.

Q: What does a derrick hand do?

A: Well, when they’re comin’ out of the hole or going back in the hole, he’s working up top and unlatches that pipe when they’re coming out of the hole, then latches back onto it when they’re goin’ back in the hole. 

Q: What’s the first thing you have to do when you bring you rig in (to a site)? Do you have to do any digging by hand first?

A: Usually you dug your cellar with a shovel, your pits with a bulldozer, or some other conveyance, hoses and slips, or whichever way you could dig your pits. You had to have mud pits and all of that. 

Q: Sometimes it must have been horrible digging. Did you have to blast sometimes?

A: It was horrible. Sometimes you had to blast off the whole location. Just across from Castle Valley up here, they did an awfully lot of blasting for that location. 

Q: How would you decide how far you wanted to go down?

A: They would usually go to where they knew there wasn’t any hope anymore, where they knew there wasn’t any more oil sand, or they ran out of money. Usually they ran out of money. Because they would go just as deep as they could afford to, lookin.’ 

Q: How much did it usually cost?

A: Well, your big cost was that some of it was lost circulation.

Q: What’s that?

A: That’s when you don’t get anything back. You just drill and can’t get any returns back to see what you’re drilling in.

Q: What do you think the percentage of that was? Do you think you found what you were looking for half the time, only a quarter of the time, or what?

A: I’d say your percentage in wells that pay off are about ten percent. Not very good, unless you get into a proven field. Now down there at Farmington, after we got into that proven field, as long as you stayed in them boundaries you would hit something.

Q: So did you stay with that one company, Mack Drilling, for a long time?

A: I stayed with ‘em for two or three years. They drilled for oil when I went to work for ‘em and they were drilling for oil when I quit. Their main office was in Wichita Falls to start with, then Texas, moved to Albuquerque, then to Gallup, New Mexico, then here, by way of McPhee, Colorado.

Q: Did you drill some up near Dead Horse (point)?

A: Yes, that was Bow Knot #1.

Q: I wish I knew more about this. What does that mean?

A: That’s just a location. Bow Knot #1, it was above Bow Knot in the (Colorado) river.

Q: Was it a productive well?

A: It kinda was for awhile.

Q: Since they had to ship the stuff so far, that probably didn’t always make it productive, right?

A: I drilled some wells over in Last Chance, Utah, that are still just shut in. They are too far from the pipeline to ever do anything. That didn’t happen too often, after they got roads. See, that’s the big thing right now at Dead Horse Point. The environmentalists won’t let them build a road and they won’t let ’em build a pipeline.

Q: That’s too bad because it seems like there is quite a lot of activity up there. But I guess that’s mostly on State land. Is that (Big Flats) the most productive area right around here right now?

A: No. That ol’ Lisbon Valley was the most productive area right around here, as far as oil goes. There is natural gas there too. I worked in there, even with ‘em mining uranium down there. 

Q: When the uranium boom was going on here, did people get involved in an oil kind of switchover to uranium to see if they could get rich quick?

A: No, I stayed with oil clear up to ’67, then I got rid of the big rigs and got some little ones. I had my own business by then. I usually had four people working for me. 

Q: How many years did you have your own business?

A: About ten or twelve years.

Q: Then you retired?

A: Well, I kept a half-interest in the rigs and sold the other half. Then I got a hard band machine that repaired drill pipe. I built up the joints to where it would withstand a lot more wear.

Q: So you were a welder too?

A: Yeah. In fact, when you first come out here you had to be a little bit of everything: engineer, welder, road builder, housekeeper, and everything else.

Q: Did any of your wives help you with your business? 

A: After Marion’s (my third wife) husband died, she didn’t do much with the business (Mack Drilling Company). Of course, all of the books were right here in Moab. Winford Bunce took care of the books and she was the owner and I was just a peon.

Q: So what did you like most about this work?

A: I think just getting out, going places, meeting new people, and looking for something new…to me, that was the glory part of it, if there is a glory part.

Q: Did you get pretty good at reading those cores when they came up?

A: Anybody that’s been around ( a test site) can pretty well tell. (Once you know it), anyone can see the difference. Even you could.

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