Petroleum History Society – Re: Oil Scouts Presentation Talk
Thank you. --- How pleased I was when Doug asked if I would speak at your luncheon.
When I asked Doug to suggest what he thought may be of interest, his answer was, “Keep it
light, drop a few names and express some of the folklore of scouting experiences and crazy happenings that scouting forays were noted for”.
I noticed your mail-out stated that my introduction to the industry began at Ohio Oil. Actually my first step in 1952 was drafting for Sam Nickle drawing base maps from air photos to be eventually used for the Nickle Well Map publications.
The move to Ohio Oil Company in 1953 gave me more
training in Geological and Geophysical mapping and the opportunity to meet a
great crew of people, Landman Bob Grant,
Bill Hartley Scout and a bunch
of geologists, Al Bahan, Gunnar Norgard, George Mustard, Jim Haas, George Chin,
Pat Cooney etc. all under the watchful eye of Manager Dan Donelly. I
Skelly Oil a company
Now that I have bored you with my personal Bio, I shall get on to the topic subject -- Scouting.
To once again be back among an “Oil Patch” group and to speak about the oil scouting fraternity
is a delight. Scouts
were such an unique bunch of guys that so many incidents and stories were
created that one could possibly take a half day or longer relating their
exploits.---- The first well scouting history began in 1871 in Pennsylvania, mushrooming over the years to the forming of “Scout Checks” across the exploration
States. The first Canadian Association
was formed in 1951 at
At Skelly changes were
happening. Chuck moved on and was replaced by Gene Robinson from
I felt that if I was relating some wild scout happenings, I may as well start with one of my own.
My Baptisimal ---On Tuesday evening I headed north with mixed anticipation, checked into the Buffalo Hotel where the check was held
in the basement, and awaited the dawn. At that time the
Week two --- Similar scenario - to
Week three --- A couple of Scouts got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in following them to a Can Sup well drilling east of Olds to initiate me into rig jargon and field scouting. I accepted their offer and the next day away we went. About twenty miles east of Olds we turned down a country road for a few miles and came to the well-site sitting in a empty summer fallowed field. There were about nine vehicles parked on the roadside and down in the ditch were three card tables set up. A group of guys were playing cards; one was covered with various bottles of fire water, plastic cups and a bag of ice. I was quickly introduced to the mini check members and handed a tasty beverage, my first introduction to some of those attendees at the two previous Red Deer meetings. Not long after, a half ton from the rig drove over to our group and warned us that no body should try to come onto the field area. With the binoculars and scopes the scouts had, and the area wide open there was no need to get any closer. Sometime in the late afternoon a couple of reminder gunshots were fired over our heads from the rig.
A card table meeting was called and it was found that among those
present there were about eight shotguns
and rifles available and a hoax
was arranged. The plan was two weapons
would be spaced on each of the four
sides of the quarter section and at five
each gun would be fired into the air. At
five minutes passed eight the barrage was fired. It was chaos on the rig, men were sliding down the vee-doors , scrambling
down the stairways and running in the dark over the fallowed field.
The scouting party had earlier been loaded up and we all quickly departed en-mass for
Now I was totally convinced that scouting guys were a very strange group unto their own.
There were a number of veteran members still present in my early years, Jim Seymour, Bill Allen, Jack Orman, Jim Thompson, Mac Buffam, Porky Brown, to name a few.
The job of the scout was to gather and assimilate information for the use of their company. Scout checks were an agreed information swap of dope by the member companies. The wells of non-member companies were also assigned to the sitting members. That member was then responsible to attempt to scrounge out that firm's operations. When a member company drilled in the vicinity of crown sale parcels, the scout could apply for a “Tight Hole Status“, and if approved was not responsible to report on the well. Usually another member was then assigned to come up with some kind of status report. Field scouting usually was a result of sale postings. If your company was drilling in the same vicinity or had a geological or geophysical play in the area, the well may be “field scouted”. -----Secrecy was a factor, --- thus the espionage aspect.
There was no end of capers and wild occurrences. Bear scares, a helicopter crash, conflicts with drilling personal, they continued through my entire thirteen years of scouting. So numerable that to compile them and write of them would make a fair sized book. In a personal book that I wrote and had published, the scouting chapter I titled “The Industrial Spies”, a name that a guest speaker in his talk at one of our conventions labeled us with, truly somewhat very appropriate. A couple of my personal exploits may draw home some of the bizarre hazards of many scouts.
Skelly was drilling a
hole on the north side of
When I arrived near the rig I looked through my binoculars and was totally surprised that they were pulling a core barrel out of the hole. This changed the whole plan as it was imperative that I tally them back in to calculate the depth. Normally I would have crawled into my five-star sleeping bag just peeking out with my binoculars but that wasn’t going to happen.
They put a drill bit
on and started back in. I tallied as the
hours went by, shifting from foot to foot and slapping myself. My hands were the worst, even with
gloves on inside the eider down lined outer gloves. -- Finally they bottomed
and I started back to the car hearing again rustling in the woods. I arrived at
the car, managed to get the key but my
fingers couldn’t turn it. I put the key between the wrist part of the palms
and did get it to open the door. In the car I had the same problem with the
ignition, thinking that if this doesn’t
start I'm a goner. The key turned, the engine groaned. One more try, the
key turned and the engine fired. I
didn’t even consider warming the car up, I knew I had to get to our camp. I put
the lights on and three big wolves
were directly in front of the car. The
three or four mile drive was brutal. I could hardly hold the wheel, and very
little vision as the windows were iced
over. I made it to camp, struggled into the trailer thinking that I would go
right into a hot shower clothes and all.
But immediately my whole system went
haywire, I tried to say that I was
freezing but the words came out gobbley-goop.
The engineer immediately yelled at
the geologist to get some blankets
as he wrestled me to the floor, I
was fighting him all the way thinking
he was doing me in. They controlled my wild arm swinging, rolled me in blankets and one sat on me. After painfully thawing
out, the engineer explained that he had
been privy to a similar experience once before. The next day a game warden came by and asked if any wolves had been seen. He informed
us that the wolves were starving and
had followed a herd of caribou
trying to get them out onto
The second story, when
ended, actually resulted in a huge change in the well site laws on trespassing rights. A
Two hours later a vehicle came from the Valleyview direction. When the men got out, two of them were scouts that I knew, Ralph from C & E Exp. and Bob from Triad the third fellow Laurie was a rookie geologist from Triad on a “get some field knowledge trip”. They were planning to scout the B.A. rig. I suggested we go to Valleyview, partner up and jointly attack the target.
My vehicle was hooked
to a tow rope and we headed for our motel. My rental was put on a flat deck
truck and sent to
It was agreed that we
take the day shift and Bob and Ralph
would go down at night. Laurie and I tramped the two miles sat for a five
hours, watched them trip out and we got a stand count. We walked back to the
tent had a refreshment and left for town. Early the next morning we started
back in, arriving at the tent about eleven
o’clock. The tent was closed and a
note was pinned on the entrance.
The note read Bob and Ralph are being
held at our rig don’t come near. Phil
Rand. We had a laugh and went inside. While sipping my drink I picked the
note back up and looked closer. I was President of the C.O.S.A. at that time and Phil
was Treasurer. As I studied the signature on the note I soon realized it truly was Phil’s. Laurie and I
immediately headed back to Valleyview
going directly to the R.C.M.P. the
Mounties radioed the rig and the rig admitted that the two scouts were their guests. I told the Mountie that I would go in with a helicopter and bring them out. I arranged for a chopper to pick me up at a fire tower
and I headed for the tower. After arriving at the tower I radio phoned the rig
and told them I was coming in to pick
the guys up. The response to that was if you come in here we will knock you out of the sky. I called the Mounties
they called the rig back and told them that if the boys weren’t out to
their gate in fifteen minutes he
would be coming in and charging them
with kidnapping. I cancelled the
chopper and headed for the gate. A crew
cab came up the road and the guys and four rig hands got out to get rid of
some water. Bob sidled over to me
and whispered that they had an oil
discovery. I called
I found out later what had happened. When Bob and Ralph arrived at the site, two other scouts, . Jim Seymour and Len Messier had arrived on horses with a wrangler from Fox Creek. While standing in the dark woods around they were ambushed by a crew of rig hands and fled in all directions. Bob was less than a week from having had a cast removed from his leg and couldn’t run so he lay down next to a log. When the marauders were returning to the rig one accidentally stepped on Bob. --- Ralph was grabbed when he went back to find Bob. The two of them were locked in a tool shed until released.
I believe the outcome eventually was a court case. One of the factors of the court decision I think was a huge factor in the changing of the trespassing laws. Prior to the changes trespassing areas consisted of the whole of the mineral lease area. Not long after this incident the rulings were altered. I believe it went from anywhere on the leased land to a flagged area of one acre. This was certainly much more beneficial for the “Industrial Spies”
A sincere thank you for the invitation , it was my pleasure to speak to you
by Derry MacFarlane