Oil shaped Permian Basin, changed world

It’s a common part of Texas lore that the 20th century began not New Year’s Day 1901 as it did for the rest of the country but 10 days later and at a specific location: Spindletop.

In West Texas, the 20th century didn’t arrive for another two decades.

The Texas oil boom transformed the world and what it could be, and it took the Lone Star State from a poor, agriculture-centered and in many ways backwards corner of the United States to the giant of industry, technology, energy and politics that it’s known for today.

While in East Texas the transformation meant a swift movement from farms to cities, the impact on West Texas was even more stark: it meant there could be cities at all.

Areas unable to support a few dozen cattle during some dry years were suddenly home to thousands of mostly single young men working furiously to build rigs, drill holes, construct facilities to store any oil they got and then pipelines to transport it to somewhere less remotely situated. It needed people to keep all of these things happening when something broke down, and it needed more people to feed and house all of these.

This pattern of boom towns springing up next to the latest big find continued unabated until the oil industry facilitated its own transformation and made it possible for all of American society to do what had been impossible just decades before.

Continue reading “Oil shaped Permian Basin, changed world”

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The dirt around us is full of litter and relics

William Faulkner famously wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

In West Texas, such a thing is no more obvious than around the oilfields and sometimes individual wells now receiving second or third looks as motivated by the upticking price per barrel.

Though left to the bear the steady beat of sun, wind and weather, much related to the old-and-new-again drilling areas surrounding us still lays where it was left from times passed, a natural museum of drilling history.

Continue reading “The dirt around us is full of litter and relics”