of the six-Inch hole, full size, with an explosion just like a canon popping off, and that blew up with a little blue gas following it for a little bit and that-- and then it quieted down, ceased altogether again.
Well, we uh-- wasn't but a very little bit, I guess, less time than it'd take to tell it, probably, well, I walked over and looked down in the hole there.
I heard- sorta heard something kinda bubbling just a little bit and looked down there and here this frothy oil was starting up.
But it was just breathing like, you know, coming up and sinking back with the gas pressure.
And it kept coming up and over the rotary table and each flow a little higher and a little higher and a little higher.
Finally it got- came up with such momentum that it just shot up clear through the top of the derrick.
And, of course, many rocks and sand and shale that was conglomerate we was in.
It was blown through this crevice in a stream at least twice as high as the derrick and stayed that way until- I don't know--can't remember now whether it was the next morning about three o'clock, but I think it was the following morning about three o'clock that it commenced to die down.
And got down to where the flow was only spasmodic up to the swivel board, or the derrick board there, about 30 or 35 feet up.
So it stayed that way from along early in the morning till about ten or ten after that morning when it tore loose again with a vengeance.
It blew out all kinds of rock again and from that time on, after it cleaned itself then, it stood at that steady flow estimated at 70 to 100,000 barrels a day up till the time we shut it in.
That was on January 10th.
O.- It came in on January the 10th.
H.- Or-- January 20th, I mean.
O.- Ten days it was flowing?
H. - Yes, ten days.
O. - Where were you when the first flowing started?
H.- Well, we was all- I-- Peck and I were on the floor and Curt was up at the double board.
He was the derrick man, you see, up taking-- putting the elevators on, you see, to lower this drill pipe in the hole.
O.- How did you get word to Mr. Lucas then?
H. - Well, after we got our sense quieted down a little bit--I imagine we were rather excited-- of course, when we went down there to see all that mud and our drill pipe ruined, why, It was Mr. Galey's drill pipe, Guffey and Galey's, but it was our responsibility.
We didn't know how much of the hole was ruined or what was in.
I rather expect that I was pretty disgusted.
Of course, after the oil came in then and kept flowing and flowing, why, soon as we blasted a little while--I wouldn't say how long -- why, sent Peck on the run down to Mr. Lucas again.
So when he got down to Lucas' house, why, Mrs. Lucas said, "Well, he's in town, but I'll try to get him."
So she located him at Louis Meyer Drygood Store there where he had his headquarters up when he was hanging around town.
And, of course, he immediately jumped in his old buckboard with his old horse and beat it to Spindletop.
And he came in due time and over the hill there where we could see him, the horse in a dead run.
Well, when he got so close, why, he just, well, there was a gate down there, I guess, but anyway, the old horse stopped and Cap fell out and ran up- Of course, he was very heavy, you see, and time he got up to me he was just about out of breath.
And he says, "Aw-- aw- what is it?" And I- when I says, "Why, it's oil, Captain," well, he just grabbed me and says, "Thank God, thank God."
So that--that was the ending of the Captain's expression there, you see?
O.- Well, how soon did the people start arriving at the well?
H. - Oh, I daresay there was - wasn't exceed an hour.
Of course, these ranchers-- carpenters working on this barn nearby, of course, they didn't come any closer.
They stood up there and looked around, but they didn't come down to ask us what it was or anything about it.
I think they were all frightened probably, but wasn't long till- I daresay it wasn't over an hour, maybe, till people began to come.
Some heard it, you see. You could hear this roar.
And that afternoon they came in all kinds of conveyances. A lot of them walked, you see.
Young fellows walked out there from town and come on horseback and wagons and buggies and-- of course, they all came from-- practically everybody came from town because from where we were for miles and miles there wasn't another dwelling.
Wasn't anything but this big ranch, except these teamsters that were working over there on the- and the few carpenters that was on this farm.
But that afternoon, there was a big crowd there.
O.- How did the people behave as they watched this?
H. - Well, I think very well. You see, there was a fence.
This- this big pasture or what was gonna be a rice farm, was all fenced, had been a big cattle pasture, you see.
And they had a fence between the adjoining property but-- not over 15O feet, I don't suppose, away.
And people would come to that fence and that was close enough cause when the wind was in the direction, they couldn't come that close, you see, because the oil was travelling.
It would go up there in this spray and the wind would carry it for miles.
Even-- take buildings in Beaumont, in a short time were all discolored.
But a lot of that was from the fumes from the gas, the sulphur gas that tarnished the paints.
And every house in Beaumont, I daresay, had to be repainted after that ten days flow.
Of course, a lot of it may have been from this spray that was carried in the wind, you see, and would settle.
O.- How did you protect the well from fire?
H.- Well, providence probably helped us there, too.
But-- on one morning-- I think it was a Sunday morning- Curt was one of the main watchmen, you see, and he kinda was in charge up there part time and I was, and we'd-- soon as we realized it this first day, why, we realized something had to be done.
So Captain Lucas had us- and he did, too, probably, went around and pick up fellows that wanted to work and be his watchmen.
So we stationed them west, and several of them around, and east. We didn't have any south because there wasn't anybody to come in from the south.
So we had these watchmen there to keep people from smoking and ask them not to and they were very good about it but I think it was this Sunday morning about ten o'clock or something like that.
I know I was coming up the hill on a horse. I'd been someplace.
And I noticed this smoke burst up, you see, all of a sudden.
Well, by the time I got there Curt had had the presence of mind-- he was standing there talking, see, with these people--he had the presence of mind to jerk off his coat and commence fighting this fire.
Somebody on a horse there had dropped a match and it'd gotten started.
But then other fellows jerked their salad- saddle blankets from under their saddles and helped him fight it out.
Well, when I got there, Curt was out of breath. I re-member just as well as though it was this morning.
He was all smoked up and this smoke and-- oil smoke had gotten all over him and his clothes were all dirty and coat was ruined, and he was out of breath.
He just stood he'd fought it, you see, through the help that he got there, of course.
A lot of them ran, you see.
Some of these came back and helped him out.
And they beat it out with saddle blankets and coats.
That was the only real close call we had, but if it'd ever got to the well, I don't know what we'd have done with it.
O.- Well, would you describe how you capped the well, by the way?
H.- Well, Captain Lucas, of course, was a very excitable man, and he-- after the first day, why, he he didn't show up, I don't think, any more.
He came out there that night and through the suggestion of Captain Lucas, or ah Mrs. Lucas, he said she wanted him to hunt me up and bring me in where I could get some sleep and have breakfast with them.
Well, I did.
And, of course, after that, why, he was in town there entertaining propositions and people coming and bothering him.
Wires came in there from, I think, as far away as San Francisco offering to shut it in.
I think the highest offer probably, somebody sent a wire in, they'd close it in for $10,000.
I may be a little wrong on that, but I'm positive that-- may have been higher offers.
Well, he was entertaining all this-- these projects.
Of course, he wired Mr. Galey right away as quickly as he got composure enough to go back into town and send him a telegram.
Well, it was three days.
Mr. Galey was down in West Virginia and they couldn't catch him in Pittsburgh right away but they got him down in western West Virginia.
Well, he caught a train and got in there the third night.
Well, we'd arranged, of course, for a room for Mr. Galey up in the Crosby House.
And I met him at the train.
Jim had never met him. Jim didn't know him.
So I met him at the train, took him over to the hotel, introduced him to Jim and Captain Lucas showed up.
So we went up in this room and we was talking about the well and so on.
Wasn't [but] a little while till J. S. Cullinan came up.
So J. S. sat in on, listened to the propositions and so on and Mr. Galey finally turned to Jim and says, "Well, you boys drilled the well. What do you think about shutting it in?"
Jim says, "Well, Mr, Galey, I think we can do it."
Says, "All right, go to it."
So Jim got busy the next day.
It was his idea.
Give credit to Jim for all the ingenuity about getting things together and collecting them to, uh, shut it in.
While we other boys went out there to clear things up, get the rotary and the rotary equipment away, get it from over this well and straighten up the pipe the best we could so we could work and do our watch-job, too, of course.
So he arranged for the timbers and the clamps and one thing and another.
And I went over to the railroad better not tell the Southern Pacific this but I swiped two railroad irons.
Of course, they were light, little railroad irons out there on the switch track.
And we drug those over with the team that hauled our slabs, you see.
The old fellow, he drug them over and we fastened those up on the derrick, the girths of the derrick.
And to those, why, we bolted a carriage arrangement and had a kind of a crate affair fixed and assembled these-- all these fittings, the valves and the "T" and the connections, you see, and all in this crate affair and it was all bolted solid to this here carriage that was on the rail-road irons.
Of course, those railroad irons were secured at both ends very securely to the derrick.
It was apt to lift the derrick before it could have raised those, they had 'em bolted so securely.
Well, then we got off.
We had it all arranged and thought we was ready, why, the well was still throwing out rock every once in a while.
Throw it up high as you could see.
They'd go up, you see there was rock, and come back down.
I've got some of the oil sand up in the the only one I think, the only that's left, up in the sunroom there now.
So he said, "Well, now, we'd better not shut that in today for one of those rocks might damage our valve, might knock it off."
So we waited till the tenth day, and it seemed to clear itself altogether and hadn't made any rock that morning at all.
So he came out about 11 o'clock, 11:30, says, "Well, Boys, how's it been acting?"
And we told him, hadn't made anything.
He says, "Well, let's shut her in."
So I suggested to Curt, I says, "Curt, you turn the valve there, will you?"
And he rushed in-- of course, we had slicker suits and so on and a slicker hat, you see, to protect us from this oil.
So Curt rushed in and closed the valve. Just like that, it was over.
O.- Any danger of gas?
H.- Oh, yes. We-- we- none of us were knocked out on that particular well.
I-- we were- our eyes were badly effected, of course, working there.
But when- see, on this eight-inch, when we'd set that, we'd left our collar stick up in the rotary.
It had gotten where we couldn't drive it any more.
It was on that gumbo and just happened so it was down where the collar stuck up from the rotary a little bit.
Well, when we commenced rotating with the-- to go on down, why, that bothered our four-inch pipe a little, so we pulled that collar off.
Put the rotary out of the way and pulled that collar off, and put on a protector, just to protect the threads.
Well, during our drilling operation, we'd gone- running the drilling pipe in and out of the hole so much to change bits, you see, we had riveted, in a way, riveted that protector on that pipe.
Impossible to screw it off.
Just belt- beat it over there.
So as I was the unmarried one, why, I took the responsibility to go in there and it took me a whole afternoon to sit astradle that pipe and cut that off.
Got diamond points and a hacksaw and one thing and another and just worked in there very patiently, J. S. Cullinan told Jim, said, "Now, Jim, you watch that kid."
Says, "He's in great danger."
Says "If he hits a spark there, why, he just- it would be impossible for him to get out."
So the boys stood right close all the time I was doing this.
Well, I cut that in two and got it sprung apart enough where we could get it off and I had a half-round file and three-corner file, you see, and hacksaw.
I dressed those threads up all around, got them perfectly- In perfect shape and this oil was raining down on us all the time you see, just a constant rain of oil.
But before I started this operation, I went into town and got me a pair of goggles.
If you've ever been around an old-time thrashing machine years ago where they wore goggles, you know, to keep that dust out of their eyes?
Well, I got a pair of those goggles and got a piece of tape and taped all around those goggles and my eyes, just had a complete plaster of all- from my nose clear up covering, not to cover those glasses, just the screen part of the goggle, you see, was all covered with this tape.
And that kept the- of course, the oil was raining down.
I had a - a hat on, of course, a slicker hat, you see.
We had slickers, I had a slicker suit on, slicker hat.
And that would drain the oil off.
But that kept that gas from getting into my eyes, seemingly.
And that's where it effected most- mostly.
But we got out of that.
It took me the whole afternoon to get that done so it was in shape to screw on the "T" or the collar. We put a- I think we put a "T" on that- what it was.
Yeah, then we worked up with the "T" and valve and sledge nipple and so on.
There's a picture of it in there. Cap. Lucas made a very good picture of it. About- just as true as can be.
He did that well.
O.- That's in his book.
H.- In his book, yeah.
O.- Yes, sir.
H.- And he also shows in there the way we anchored it down after it was shut in and, of course, after that was done, then we covered the whole thing up with a mound of earth, you see, so that if fire did get in, it couldn't get to the-- cause there was oil all around there yet.
Our old slush pond was covered with oil and what grass was left was all saturated and the ground was oil soaked, so if we'd ever get a fire, it would just burn for hours, you see.
So we covered that up with a great big mound of oil- dirt.
O.- Well, back to some of the drilling processes. Did you actually use mud in the drilling?
H.- We never used any. Well, we tried to use mud.
I don't know how we got that idea, but we tried.
We tried to feed it through the suction with our hands.
I know I tried to feed it there till my fingernails, I remember, just wore into the quick.
But we didn't realize the value of mud at all until after we set our eight-inch and got into that gumbo at 445 feet.
Well, then it made mud and we had plenty of mud from then on, you see, just- and then is when we realized that mud was a great thing in drilling through this soft sand.
O.- Yes, sir. Had you heard about the use of mud earlier?
H.- No, I'd never heard anything about it.
O.- It was purely accident then that you...
H.- Oh, I think so. That's my opinion.
Cause at Corsicana we never used mud.
All we'd do there, we'd thin up our water if it got a little muddy or shale- too much shale, we'd pump it out and pump in fresh water, just-- that's what we needed at Corsicana to drill with-- fresh water.
O.- There was quite a difference in the formation then?
H.- Oh, yes. This was at Corsicana.
There wasn't any sand there at all until you hit the oil sand.
It was just strictly a shale formation after you got through this surface clay, you see.
On down, of course, you'd have what we called a boulder or a shelf once in a while.
We called them shelves where they'd hold us up in the drilling for a time.
But it was just strictly shale all the way down till we hit the oil sand.
And none of us knew, never heard about mud before.
O.- Even in water wells?
H.- No. Now, they- the water wells down on the coast had been drilled, you see, were all shallow.
They'd get this shallow water and when they got a water well there for the irrigation of rice farms or whatever they wanted it for, why, they'd quit.
They'd put a-- put a piece of pipe down in there and not bother any more.
O.- Were you there when the waste oil caught on fire?
O.- I'd like for you to describe that fire.
H.- Well, that was on a Sunday.
We'd had quite a dry spell there and the grass had gotten dry.
Of course, it was out on the prairie country there.
And they built loading racks along, and the Southern Pacific had built extra spurs there to run these tank cars in on and there were-- this switch engine on this particular day was out there switching cars.
Whether it was drilling equipment, or oil cars or what, I just don't know about that.
But, of course, that's before they'd gone on to burning fuel oil.
And a cinder from the smokestack blew over in the grass and started this fire and no-one noticed it till it got out of control.
Well, that was along about noon and, of course, Mr. [Cap] Forney was, he lived- he moved into the Lucas house after Lucas left, you see.
Forney came down there, was Guffey and Galey's super-intendent from West Virginia.
So he was there and after we watched it so long, why, we could see there was no chance of saving anything, so he sent somebody down to the lower end, which was about a mile away down the track, to set fire to that end, get rid of it, all had to be burned up.
So those two fires, along about five o'clock in the afternoon, had burned so close together that they-- the wind was strictly from the West.
And it blew the fire in such a way that those fires approached each other just as though you'd moved two great big buildings together, just move them gradually.
If you'd get off in the west there and look through as though you was looking down Wall Street or some- between two big buildings.
And this smoke was way up, of course.
And along about the time those flames got within, I'd say, three or four hundred feet of each other -- quite a ways apart, maybe 300 feet; more than a block, I know -
why, the suction of the heat from that fire would pick this oil up, seemingly, in great big sheets.
Or it would get so the heat would create gas -- I don't know which - and would carry that way up in the sky and explode up there.
And, of course, those-- when it would explode it would send a flash like a flash of lightning clear across the heavens, and with a tremendous roar.
And they told me afterwards, especially in colored town in Beaumont which is four miles away, they were so alarmed that they thought the earth was coming to an end.
They went to church and prayed and just terribly exercised over it.
Well, that lasted for probably half an hour or an hour, probably, before it got to where they got so together that it just quit that altogether.
But that was about- well, the most spectacular sight I ever did see outside of this well coming in.
Course, that was quite a thrill itself.
O.- And you were able to stand and watch the fire the whole time?
H.- Oh, yes, we watched it to it burned out along, I suppose, ten or eleven o'clock at night 'fore it quit.
O.- Was anyone injured?
H. - No. Very little damage done. We had our rig- drilling our Number 2 -- Number 1 Gladys was pretty close to this lake of oil.
And, of course, when it started we immediately tore down what we could.
And had teams, and pulled the pump and what we could, what-have-you, up on high ground, but, by golly, the derrick didn't even burn.
Smoke was-- the oil was far enough away so that the smoke, I think the smoke was so dense that it just didn't carry the flames.
It carried up more.
Escaped our derrick.
O.- Anything else you can remember exciting about the Lucas Gusher or that you-- that should be told?
H.- Well, I don't know.
There's so much been told, you know, aid so many exaggerated stories that- that anyone would believe, I guess, that they've heard everything before.
But I don't know as I can, except the hardships we had on it and the grief and hard work we put in.
We had no visitors hardly at all.
They had- see, this well was the fifth attempt on Spindletop.
And the curiosity was all worn out of Beaumont people.
Fact, they thought everybody was crazy.
So we didn't have any visitors.
Why, Perry McFaddin, the land owner, only came there once, he and V. Weiss, his partner in that land, drove by there one afternoon.
That's the only time they were ever there.
And, oh, one Sunday or Saturday, some schoolboys came by there out rabbit hunting, but outside of that, we didn't have any visitors.
They just thought we were crazy.
O.- Where were you living at that time?
H.- Well, Curt, Peck and myself, we were living in a little old shack over about a half a mile away that Captain Lucas had built for his men on his first experiment well there, a little- a little sharpshooter affair, kind of on a boxcar affair, you see.
The cook end was in one end and a homemade table and then we had bunks in the other end where-- four bunks there, one over the top of the other, where we slept.
Not a very desirable residence, but it made out.
O.- You were near enough to the well to be able to work and watch the well?
H. -Well, uh-uh. Way we did that, if you're speaking about watching when we were running the 18 hours, why, no, each one of- we was too far away for that.
One stayed right on the job and kept up steam.
You see, we fired us these slabs and they were pretty bum fuel, you see.
We'd run out of them and almost put out our fire at times.
That had to be constantly watched.
And then one of us would, whatever time we went on, whether we came on and stayed on-- worked all day and worked midnight or whether we came on at midnight and worked all the next day, you see.
It was eighteen hours every third time, you see.
O. - Yes, sir.
H. - So we'd work eighteen hours and then one of the other boys would take the eighteen hours and then I would take eighteen hours and we did that from 600 feet on till after we-
when we got this oil at 850 feet, about 850 feet as near as we could tell by our way of measurement which was so many joints of pipe.
O. - No amusements?
H.- No amusements. No amusements.
Strictly work from the time we could get to work in the morning till night.
We didn't have any regular hours.
We didn't- just work all day and-- we had a job to do down there and we-- Curt had his family up at Corsicana and naturally he wanted to go back and I had a contract there to try to fulfill and try to not lose what little we had on hand.
So the-- both boys - I don't see how two men could have been more faithful and helped more willingly than my brother Curt and Peck Byrd on that job.
O. - How long after the well was capped did the excitement last for you?
H.-Well, of course, we-- we immediately, just as quickly as we could, of course- in fact, those other contractors moved in, moved in- I don't know who drilled the Beatty Well.
I don't know whether it was Bowden or Sturm.
I kinda think it was Sturm Brothers.
But anyway, Beatty got his well started first and it was the second well in.
Well, of course, as quickly as we could get our- we were busy ten days there, you see, on this well.
Soon as we could, naturally, we made -- Galey made Number One Gladys location and moved that outfit there and Curt took charge of that to drill that well and we bought all the stuff that we could get, you see.
We had to get all the rotarles we could because Guffey and Galey had a lot of work for us to do and we -- well, the most rotaries we had running at one time was seven.
So we were just busy night and day there from that time on, until - well, for a long time.
Of course, the boom collapsed when-- when Kaeser Kelly Well, which was drilled about a mile north of the Lucas Gusher, and a couple of others, came in dry about the same time, wildcats around, you see.
One south, I remember.
One south and another one west there.
They all came in dry and, of course, when those were dry, why, the bubble burst.
I was reading a piece the other day where they figured there was 29 million dollars lost on those first ten companies. None of those first ten companies organized made a success.
They all failed, including Guffey and Galey, you see.
Guffey and Galey was taken over by the Mellon interests.
H.- Well, we went right ahead and bought all the rotaries that we could secure, you see, and put them in there, contracting for Guffey and Galey.
Of course, the other contractors came in, why, they got outside work and much higher prices because they could- felt it was only one well or an experiment, maybe, while we felt that we- like Mr. Galey told us.
Said, "Now, you boys have a right to stay here with us and you'll have work as long as we have it for you to do."
So we put in all the rotaries that we could get, you see.
There wasn't any in the country, hardly, at that time.
However, Johnston-Akins, or the American Wellworks Company, had started into the manufacture of rotary equipment a short time before.
Made one and had it put in the Corsicana field as an experiment purpose to get the bugs out of it if there were any, so they could prove it.
Well, about that time, this well came in and we needed equipment so badly that they sold us the first rotary that they made in that shop over there.
In fact, that steel man here, Guy Thompson, told me that the information that he got from their plant in Corsicana was they thought, their records showed that we got their first rotary.
Had been slightly used there out in the Corsicana field.
Of course, they made more, you see, as fast as they could and then we-- we took on more as they manufactured them and we could buy them, [end of tape]