I Wuz Just Thinking: An Oilfield Symphony

The days of the oilfield, when I was growing up in Kilgore, Texas, were a constant cacophony of sounds, but we always heard them loudest at night.

I was just thinking of the night sounds that echoed through my mind when I was a child living on the old Longview highway near Southport Road.

Just over in the pasture next to our home was an oilfield pumping unit with the horse-head that went up and down making distinct popping noises and sometimes the sounds of the squeaky tail bearing on the unit.

In the light of day, one would almost be in a hypnotic state while starring at the horsehead making its nodding and bobbing motions.

Betty Mahurin Baker

Some of the modern’ pumping jacks of that time were often called horseheads, donkeys, or grasshoppers. The pumpjack worked on the same principle as the old wooden pumping jacks, but the newer ones had been made from steel.

I’ve been told by those who made a lifetime of working in the oilfield, that the old oil patch can be an entire symphony of different sounds, all unique to the trained ear.

While drifting off to sleep, I could hear other sounds of the night, including the lonesome whistles made by trains of the three railroad lines that rode the rails through Kilgore. They were the (T&P) Texas & Pacific, (M&P)Missouri & Pacific, and the (I-GN) International and Great Northern Railroad. Their rattling sounds were made by the steel wheels speeding along the railroad tracks and the swaying of the rail cars.

As the train entered town and approached a crossing – where motor vehicles drove across the tracks – the conductor cut loose with his whistle, blowing it a long-long-short-long to warn the automobile drivers that he was on his way.

There would be variations in the whistleblowing, some brisk or sometimes long and drawn out, and even sad, depending on how fast the train was moving.

After the train passed, and between some of the oilfield pumping unit noises, the only other sounds we heard were made by frogs, crickets, and the occasional barking of a dog, as I wuz just thinking

, , , , , , , ,

Related Posts