Oral Histories

A. L. “Banjo” Holloway



Q: How did the oil get shipped out?

A: Most all of it was trucked out. They trucked out of Lisbon. They used to use the rail spur up here that they sent their butane and stuff out on, but they don’t use it anymore. It’s all picked up out there at the refinery (Union Oil of California) in Lisbon. Of course, they have got (natural gas) pipelines running all over the country now.

Q: I worked in archaeology for a few years and we surveyed pipelines from Farmington, New Mexico up to Meeker, Colorado. They went through and set them up for us, then we went through and surveyed for the archaeology. Some of them got national status, but there were a lot of pipelines being built that year when we were working on it. 

A: Yeah, there were a lot of pipelines built, from about the time El Paso Gas started that one at San Juan Basin. It went to California and every direction out of there. They are still building it.

Q: Is there quite a bit of danger? Did you drill for natural gas too sometimes, and how did you know when you hit that? Could you smell it?

A: You better not smell it or you’re in trouble. There was a lot of people burnt up doing that. A lot of friends I had burnt up. That was one of the most dangerous things to work with. Well, it was the same thing as oil, getting it to fire. But natural gas was easy to catch fire because it could catch from the motors, backfire from the motors. When they drilled into that gas, they would lay them _______lines out about two hundred yards from the rig and set it afire and hope they didn’t have any leaks up there close. Of course they would put exhausts on their engines and water into that to keep the fire hazard down or a spark.

Q: How would you know when you hit natural gas? 

A: Well, usually you would lose your drilling pressure first. Then it would start blowing up the hole. Usually it takes around six, eight, nine hundred pounds of pressure to pump that out. But, if you get that and you lose your drill pressure you can’t get the gas out of the hole. I’ve seen gas blow the drill pipe out of the hole.

Q: If a spark hits on the surface…So you had some friends, did they die that way? 

A: Oh yes, a lot of ‘em. It burnt up the rig and everything else. All of them were down at Farmington. We had one burn up here at Crescent Junction. It was making gas all right, but what really started it was a stand-by light plant that they’d brought in. The light plant had gone bad and they took it in for repairs and sent out this other one that they set under the rig floor. Well, it was kinda rainin’ like that night and, of course, this gas plant had to be filled up (with gas) at every tower.   One of them Walker boys, Crug Walker’s boy, got a five-gallon can of gasoline and he needed a funnel to pour it in. He just set the can down on top of the light plant and went to look for a funnel. Well, that can jiggled off and turned over and poured down over the generator and set the whole thing afire. It was just right at midnight when they was changing the tower, and no one was hurt. I had just got to the highway, coming in, and I seen that fire and turned around and went back. We pumped all the mud out of the pit onto the rig trying to put the fire out. About that time, the governor belt burned off of the motor that was pulling the pump and they ran away. The bit went dry, so I …..

Q: When you burn up a rig, how much money is that worth? 

A: Well, today it would be worth about $380,000 or about half a million.

(One side of the tape ends here and it sounded like part of the story was missed.)

I wasn’t there when Red Tiek (sp?) got burnt up, but I was there when another rig was burnt up. There was some men burnt on that. Five of ‘em got burnt but they lived. They were drilling for natural gas when that happened. There at Rangeley, they had it. They was just waitin’ on to nickel it up, to tie into the pipeline. It blew out and caught fire. Several of these up here at Crescent Junction blew out at different times, but they didn’t catch fire. We would know in time to take care of it, when they would go ahead and blow out.

Q: So what part would blow out? You said you had the pipe going out, that you had it on fire, burning as you were drilling?

A: Well, when you are drilling for gas, we had a buoy (sp?) line. Instead of mud they drilled with gas. Instead of air or mud, they used natural gas to drill with. That is what made it so dangerous. They would drill one gas well, then step out about four or five miles and lay a line from this well to the next one and drill with the gas here. They’d just keep a-steppin’ out. Gas fields run all the way from Bloomfield, New Mexico over to Ignacio, Colorado and all around. The largest one I ever stepped out was at Gobernador (New Mexico), and that was a twelve-mile line there.

Q: So you used that gas to power the engine? 

A: You used it to power the engine and the motor, and you also used it for a drillin’ fluid.

Q: Oh, so when the gas hit the other gas that could be pretty dangerous? 

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