Oral Histories

A. L. “Banjo” Holloway



Q: I didn’t know that you were drilling for magnesium, gas, oil, and any mineral. Did you drill for urnaium too?

A: Oh Yeah. That’s what these little rigs were all about.. Of course we drilled shallow oil wells too. But the biggest part of ‘em was for uranium. We drilled for copper down in Lisbon, coal; there was lots of coal up there in Price. I worked up there at Hiawatha, did a lot of drilling up there and over in Salina Canyon.

Q: Did you get a degree in geology?  

A: I went to school for geology, but I didn’t get a degree because I didn’t finish school. I started high school in Oklahoma, but I wound up doing college in Louisiana. (recorder turned off…missed beginning)…drilled just about in the middle of where Atlas has got their tailings pile. There was an oil well there.. If you go just a little bit past where the tunnel starts in, on the Potash Road, just a couple of hundred yards past there. If you just walk down through there, not far off the road, you can see where that old boiler set and everything. You can see some ol’ manhole gaskets and stuff like that, and you can see where the boardin’ house set. I didn’t work on that, it was before I come. I don’t even know who drilled it. I’ve heard them talk about Midwest and Ohio Oil Company. I know they was in here, but who drilled that, I don’t know. We drilled one on this side of the river, down on that flat down there, but we got nothing but salt. That was down in the sloughs.

Q: So your dad did this kind of work too? 

A: Yeah, that and sawmilling. My brother has still got the sawmill in Oklahoma. He moved down there from Missourri and started that sawmill up and he’s been there ever since. I have moved all over a lot. You see, there was thirteen of us kids and I’m number twelve. There was just too many to all stay. All the older kids were girls, nine of ‘em. In fact, I have some sisters that have kids that are older than I am. I have just one sister left alive. I’ve got two brothers still alive, one older than me and one younger. They are both in Oklahoma.

Q: Are there any other folks around here that worked in the oil and gas business? I know that you said there are none of the Mack Drilling men left. 

A: Now there are two guys that I know that still live here, that was just kids when Mack was drilling out there. One of them is Lee Cox, he still lives here. Homer Taylor, he lives in Blanding now. And he worked for Mack Drilling Company. They didn’t come with the company, they just lived here and were kids when we came in. Neither one was of legal age to work at the time, but they did. That was during the war, when they didn’t pay any attention to that. There wasn’t many people to get to work so anybody that could go out there and make a shadow, they hired ‘em.

Q: I know you had your family here in Moab. Would you go out for weeks at a time and camp? 

A: Well, about all the time I was working in these camps I was single anyway. Now, when I was down at Aztec, New Mexico, I had a home over here. I would go to Arizona around Chinle, and even up here while I was stationed down there. But I done a lot of camping out, staying in motels and the like. But a lot of times they had just regular camps, like up there at Rangely, Colorado. ‘Course there just wasn’t anyplace to eat, sleep, or anything else. You had to have a camp. In places we had to do our own cooking, and some places they hired a cook. The first three months up there at Rangely, I was sleeping under the bridge. Every time a wagon or truck would cross that old wooden bridge, the dirt would sift down through the cracks, right onto you or onto your meal. Until they got the camp built, that’s the only place I had to stay. The best place I had to stay to get out of the elements was under a bridge. I was there in the fall. We got the camp built about the first of November.

Q: How did you build the camp? Did you put down a wood floor, then put boards on or what? 

A: Sometimes the cook shack had a wood floor, but sometimes they put up a shack just right on the ground. Sometimes the boards went up so high, then a tent top, and the works clear on over. That’s what they called “board and batten,” you know. That would go over the top and the side and all. Down there at Chinle, Arizona, I stayed about two weeks on six sacks of sawdust. That was my bed, just on the sand, till we got our camp built there.

Q: How was it sleeping on the sawdust? Was it pretty nice? 

A: Oh, it wasn’t bad. You can’t keep the bugs out of your bed, or the lizards and stuff. They would just crawl up out of that sand, that is what bothered you…and knowing them snakes was that close. That wasn’t a very good feeling. But I found out that the snakes are as scared of you as you are of them. But I never could just forget that I was scared of snakes. In the Moab paper about that time, they had a picture of that old rig in it. The one up in Crescent Junction. I am sure Sam has got it. They took the picture when we moved the other rig in, just 200 yards from it. Now in the summertime, I used to go over in the shade of this ol’ derrick. I moved the cot out there and would sleep there. ‘Course I was working the evening tower from three in the evening until midnight. That (time of ) sleep up till noon, after the sun came up in the morning, it would get so hot in that ol’ bunk house that I’d just move over to there and sleep in the shade. That was up at Crescent Junction at that ol’ wooden derrick up there. Folks would keep working around the clock.

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