People from the oil field regions might recall the sound of “barkers” attached to the exhaust pipe of the oil field engines in their area. These were simple devices improvised out of almost any material, but they served an important purpose. The “barker” was just something that would make the exhaust report louder. This might consist of an old can or section of pipe situated at an angle to the end of the exhaust, much like you might remember the sound made when blowing over the opening of a pop bottle or the man blowing on the jug in the old-time jug band, but very much louder by far. Some other types of barkers were made by capping the top and cutting the side of the exhaust pipe in a V-shape like a whistle.
The large, forceful volume of gas expelled by a big oil field engine was enough most times to produce a sound loud enough to be heard from several miles away. Its purpose was to monitor that the engine was still running, an important thing to a person running a vacuum station because if the pumps were shut down the vacuum pressure might be lost to a neighboring oil field thus ruining the oil well’s production. The need for vacuum to force oil into the wells sometimes resulted in “vacuum wars” with surrounding oil fields. He who kept his engines running, kept his much needed vacuum. Barkers could also be adjusted to different tones so that several engines could be monitored at the same time and the operator could tell which engine was down from the sound of the barkers.
A good friend of mine, Phillip Sparks of Irvine, Ky., recently shared with me a photo of a unique barker he and Goble Rodgers located in their area. I was astonished when I saw this photo because I had never seen a Yellow Dog lamp used as a barker. But there it sat, just as it had for no telling how many years, mounted to the end of the exhaust pipe with a metal bracket. Yellow dog crude oil lamps were in common use in the oil fields, and I had heard of them being used as a babbitt ladle to pour the molten babbitt metal into bearing repairs. But I had never, until now, known of one used as a barker. I would have never believed it, had I not seen the photo.
On another note, I would like to invite everyone to join the Oil Field Engine Society at our annual dinner meeting. This year it will be held at the Hearthstone restaurant in historic Metamora, Ind., on Route 52 west of Brookville, on Saturday, April 1, 2006 (no fooling) at 7 p.m. This is to coincide with the Franklin County Antique Machinery Club’s Annual Swap and Sell Meet at the Franklin County fairgrounds in Brookville. If you plan to attend the dinner, please R.S.V.P. with the number in your party no later than March 30, 2006, by calling (937) 456-9387, or at the e-mail or address below.
Contact the Oild Field Engine?Society at: 1231 Banta’s Creek?Road, Eaton, OH 45320-9801;