Oil Field Memories
Tony Suykerbuyk's 25 HP 1912 Reid at last year's Buckley Old Engine Show in Buckley, Mich.
Greetings, oil field engine enthusiasts. This month I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you just some of the correspondence we have received here at the Oil Field Engine Society (OFES) desk. One of my favorite jobs as caretaker of the OFES is corresponding with all our great engine friends out there, either via post office, e-mail or by telephone. I encourage everyone to share their oil field engine experiences with us.
To begin, we have a letter from Tony Suykerbuyk of Hesperia, Mich. Tony enclosed a photo of his 25 HP 1912 Reid oil field engine on display at the Buckley Old Engine Show in Buckley, Mich. Sharing trailer space with the Reid are his 5 HP 1921 Hercules, 1-1/2 HP 1923 Hercules and a 3 HP 1917 Fairbanks-Morse Z.
Tony wrote in to tell us about the oil field display at the Buckley show, which has been set up with a 50 HP two-cycle Superior belted to a 24-foot band-wheel, which in its day pumped 12 to 15 wells in Oil City, Mich. Tony invites anyone with an oil field engine exhibit to join him at this year's Buckley show. Tony hopes to have as many oil field engines as possible for the show, Aug. 14-17. If interested in attending, please contact Tony at (231) 854-0955 or (231) 349-0033.
Our next letter is from Mr. Jim Patterson of Laramie, Wyo., who writes to share his memories of drilling oil and water wells in the 1930s. Mr. Patterson writes:
'It was the late 1930s and jobs were hard to find - I hired out on a small rotary rig as a back up tong man. This rig had a telescoping tower, and when the driller raised it my friend was on the tower to set the pins. The cable broke and I jumped off the deck and ran. Luckily, no one was hurt very bad. The rig had two good-sized propane fueled engines. One day the propane man came to refill our tanks. He could have gone to the backside of the tanks to fill them, but he did not. Our supply lines were lying on top of the ground and he drove over them. The driller, a big one-eyed Texan reprimanded him, but the person was a smart aleck and back talked him. In an instant the driller knocked the beans out of him, and when he stopped pounding on him the guy made a run for his truck and screamed away to town. As we did not have enough fuel to drill, we pulled four joints of drill pipe and set the drill and mud pump engines on idle for several hours waiting for another fuel truck to fill us.'
I had the pleasure to talk to Mr. Patterson on the phone, and he related many more of his experiences in the well drilling business. Mr. Patterson said a good driller 'knows the sound of his machine, and even if he is sitting nearby sleeping any change in the sound of the engine will instantly awake him to something not right with the rig.'
He also told me a story of a man who was gathering a crew for a wildcat venture to drill an oil well. He had placed a help wanted ad in the paper, 'Experienced cable tool driller needed.' Upon interviewing one candidate for the job he asked, 'Have you ever lost any tools down the well?' The man proudly answered he had never lost any tools and had never had to do a fishing job to get any pipe or tools out of the well. The man then told him that he could not hire him as he did not have any 'fishing' experience and that they had been having to fish tools out of the well every week on their rig. Apparently he figured that his experiences had been too easy for him to learn any valuable skills.
Mr. Patterson also said a good driller (especially on the old cable rigs) is a patient, calm, level-headed person who is able to listen to his machine, a person who is familiar with every squeak and groan it makes. He has to be someone who knows how the engine should sound under load and can tell just how far to push the engine, and is aware of anything that might be going wrong with it well in advance by the sounds it makes.
He told me one other story about when he was very young, working for a man carrying water for the engine hoppers. Upon shutting one down the man told him that he should never leave the piston sitting at the top center of the bore, that he should always roll it until the piston is all the way backed out of the bore and leave it that way to prevent dirt and dust from getting in, and also any oil from the oiler that drips in.
The people who used the old equipment had to have a better understanding of the machines they were using, an understanding very much removed from the turnkey operations that are common today. These days, you would be hard pressed to find a young boy who even knows what a piston is, let alone having the ability to care for an engine that needed the kind of attention the old open crank engines did.
Many thanks to Mr. Patterson for sharing his memories with us, and to all our readers who have sent in stories. As always, if you would like a free membership with the Oil Field Engine Society please call, write or e-mail. You can also visit the OFES on line at www.oilfieldengine.com
Contact the Oil Field Engine Society at: 1231 Banta's Creek Road, Eaton, OH 45320-9701, or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org