Oral Histories

A. L. “Banjo” Holloway



A: Oh, you betcha. It could be more than your rig could handle. On Barker Dome down there it blew all the pipe out of the hole and tore the rig clear up. But it didn’t catch fire.

Q: So if you are up on the rig when that happens, you’ve got to jump clear?

A: Yeah, if you’re up there they’ve got what they call a “Geronimo” line, like a cable and you can jump on that trolley and ride it down…if you know it in time.

Q: Did you ever have to do that?

A: I never did, because I was never up in the derrick when it happened. If I was expecting it, I never would let anybody else up there. Have you ever seen one of the later model rigs. I’ll see if I can find a picture. This is one of the rigs after it was pulled in. (Banjo shows Andrea some photogaphs) I was on top. This is what they call a crown dome. This was down at Gobernador, New Mexico.

Q: So is it really different the way they set it up today? Did they have the same kind of big boom that came up?

A: Well, this is some of the little rigs later that I had here that’s on the trucks. Earlier you built the derrick right there on the job. Now this is some of them little pumpin’ wells down in Oklahoma. This is two of my daughters, here, twins Barbara and Beverly. They are Sandy’s half-sisters. What I’m looking for is some of them pictures of wells up here by Dewey Bridge.(more discussion about pictures) This is what they call a single. See, on them bigger rigs, they can be three times that high. The board would be 93 feet. When you come out of the hole you would stand back in here. A drill bit is 30-35 feet long and the kelly (?) that handles it is usually about 40 feet. Then you just put your pipe on, set it on the road table here, put on your kelly and drill. You drill down thirty feet, then pull up and drill down thirty feet more. You go thirty feet at a time. There are some stories on all of these. You just run across them once in awhile.

Q: Did you see a lot of wildlife out there when you were out there working in these remote areas? 

A: Oh yeah. The environmentalists just raise hell about scaring all the animals away, but hell, they would come and look at the rig. You go off and leave these smaller rigs and when that dust settles, them bobcats would come and crawl right up on the engines. The big horn sheep that they say we scare out of the country, they’d come right up over the ridge below us. They ain’t scared of nothin.’ Those guys just don’t know what they’re talking about. We drilled a hole one time, right at the edge of the cedars down there at Monticello, right there in deer season. And some deer came right up to the edge of the ravine, checking it over. Anybody that wanted a deer could get it right off the rig floor and never leave the rig floor.

Q: Are there any other small operations anymore, or is it pretty much big operations now? Can one or two people have their own operation or is it just too expensive?

A: Well, I don’t know of anybody anymore. Now Kerry Leach does some drillin’ once in awhile here at Cisco. Bob Beeman has got some rigs and he goes around drillin,’ usually coal. There is little oil drillin’ today. That’s done mostly by the major companies anymore. To just go around wild-cattin,’ nobody’s got that kind of money these days. For what you can get out of it, it’s too expensive. You have to go through all this environmental stuff, impact studies, all of that. That has made it too expensive.

Q: Isn’t equipment more expensive than it used to be? 

A: A rig that I paid $40,000 for, today would cost you about $380,000. When I went into business for myself, I borrowed $20,000 and bought in, then I paid the rest of it off and started with $20,000 of borrowed money. This was in the sixties. The last big rig I bought out of Cutbank, Montana was $75,000. You couldn’t replace that rig right today for four or five million dollars. I bought it second-hand and it was a good rig. I moved it to Farmington.

Q: I guess it’s like everything else goes, it’s got to be run by bigger businesses. 

A: Yeah. They just took the “little boy” out of it. Even some of the major oil companies can’t afford it anymore without having help from two or three of ‘em. See AMOCO, Mobile, and about three companies go together. ‘Course they don’t want any one of the companies getting ahead of the other. Everybody wants to get their finger in the pie and that’s the way they work. Then there is competition from overseas companies and that affects the price too. That’s what’s got this country shut down now. ‘Course, I don’t know whether that’s good or bad. The oil is still there in the ground. It’s sure puttin’ the skids on these rigs here in the states to do that.

Q: This is the reason natural gas is more popular now too? 

A: Oh yeah. Back in the thirties, they didn’t sell gas. If you got a gas well it just drug on the market. There were no pipeline, no way to use it. I had three gas wells on some property in Oklahoma, 1800 acres I traded off for an old second-hand truck. To start with they had a pipeline in there, Oklahoma Natural had a pipeline. But when they took their pipeline up and moved their plant, it left me high and dry. That was in the late thirties before I came up here.

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