Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West


Jack West

One other time when I was in the plant (while I’m on this particular angle) I heard a Shell tank truck go by, not a transport but just a tank truck. I thought, “Well, what the heck’s going on?” The closest Shell was Cortez, Colorado. Immediately I thought, “Well, Shell’s doing some drilling out there somewhere, and he’s delivering.” They buy from their own supplier. I was doing my bookwork there and pretty soon, within an hour or an hour and a half, the truck came back. It came back and it passed and I thought if he’d made a delivery already, there was something going on in the drilling field that I didn’t know about. I knew, within a reasonable distance, all that was going on. This happened in the morning, and about a couple of hours later, the phone rang. It was Shell Oil calling from Cortez, Colorado, and they asked me, “Can you deliver down under the White Rim below Grandview Point?” And I said, “Yeah, sure. I have to go down Shafer Trail but I’ll make it. We deliver down there. We go down there quite often.” I said, “What’s your problem? I saw your truck up here.” And he said, “Yes, he got to the top of Shafer Trail, looked down, turned around, and came back to Cortez.” And he used some real expletives. He says, “I will never deliver to a location like that.” I said, “Well, it’s no problem with me. It will cost you extra money.” They said, “We have no kick about what it costs, because we got a drill rig set up down there that had little diesel to start. And we have gotta have some delivery right now.” I says, “Well, we’ll be down there within three or four hours.” And we were. So that was another sample of what types of deliveries we made.

While I was talking about that, what was one of the other rough deliveries you were in on, Jim? Anyway, that was the kind of things we had to do, and we did them. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of them were such beautiful trips, we were exploring new country and, other than running into some of those hardships, we really enjoyed them.

In addition to road problems and the things I’ve talked about, we had other problems. One day Dale Swanson who worked at Standard Stations, Inc., which is a total different subject because they built that station just after we came. He worked for me part-time, he and Benny Hickman, the two main guys at this company-operated station. Dale was on his way to Green River with a load of Diesel and some grease and oils on this 2,000 gallon truck. When they designed the truck they had a behind-the-seat tank and then they put an auxiliary tank outside, a steel tank between the frames so that it had a lot of capacity. But the connecting tube between the two tanks was copper which was totally stupid as it turned out. But, anyway, on his way up Moab canyon to the north, as he was going out of the canyon (it was a hot summer day, July or August), this connecting pipe broke and the gasoline out of the upper tank sprayed down on the exhaust. Everything was just fiery hot pulling out of that canyon, and the next thing he knew there was a big gob of flame up the passenger side of the truck on the outside. He had his little girl with him. He was to the top of the canyon when this happened, but it was the pull up the canyon that had heated it up so much. In fact, it was beyond the top. But he kept going until he got to the turnoff, opposite the Dead Horse Point Road. That was the first place where there was a wide enough place for him to pull off without going into the bar pit and maybe overturning. He was really excited because his daughter was there. But he pulled off at that point onto the right side of the road. There was a turnout there where people could pull over to go into Dead Horse if they wanted to stop and look. Jim, in the meantime, was going to visit some people (one of Helen’s cousins….That’s when you were going to Bountiful.) He was with a salesman who had stopped at the bulk plant and this guy was taking him to Bountiful to visit this cousin of Mother’s. They came up on the truck, and by then, it was really on fire. So they backtracked, come roaring into Moab and told me about it and called the Fire Department. But by the time they got back up there, the truck was totally in flame. It had just spread to every part of it. So that was the end of that truck.

I want to dwell on how I came out on that. I had the insurance with Aetna Insurance Company. The truck actually burned for two or three days. It burned the gaskets out of the valves on the back of the truck and the diesel kept dripping and it just kept igniting it, the heat from the rear bumper. But it just kept burning. Eventually, we took up a tank of water and got it out. But, in the meantime, I had called the insurance company and got hold of them. An adjuster came down and he came to the bulk plant and wanted to go out and look at it. It was still on the road when he got here. That was just after we got the fire out. We were driving out there. He introduced himself, of course, at the bulk plant. Burt Black was his name and on the way out we got to talking about where we were from. He said he had come down from Ogden. He was from there and I said, “Burt Black, from Ogden?” I said, “We went to high school together.” And he said, “Jack West!” And, by gosh, we had and we were friends at high school. We had just changed enough that it took us that little bit to recognize this. But he looked it over and came back. And he said, “You know, you’re covered for everything on that truck (which included some cases of oil and a barrel of grease, small barrel) except the gasoline that was in your tanks to run the truck.” Well, I could never have got a better deal. So, as a result of that, we had to rent a truck to keep in business. I had got rid of one of the trucks prior to that. Business had slacked off. That’s sort of another story….

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