I Wuz Just Thinking: Echoes from the Past

Pump jacks beneath the derricks provide a vivid portrait of the early Kilgore, Texas, oil boom. Photograph: Courtesy of Terry Stembridge.

There are still times I can hear the sounds of the past, unforgettable sounds I remember from my childhood days in the oil patch.

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 Kilgore home, was an oilfield pumping unit with the horse-head that went up and down, making distinct popping sounds Sometimes we could hear the sounds of the squeaky tail bearing on the unit.

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

Betty Mahurin Baker

Some of the modern’ pumping jacks of that time, were called horseheads, donkeys, or grass-hoppers.  The pump jack worked on the same principle as the old wooden pump jacks. But the modern ones were made of steel.

I’ve been told by those who made a lifetime of bringing oil from deep in the ground that the oilfield could be an entire symphony of different sounds, all unique to the trained ear.

While drifting off to sleep, the other sounds of the night were the long, lonesome whistle of the three railroad lines that came through Kilgore. They were the (T&P) Texas & Pacific, (M&P)Missouri & Pacific, and the (I-GN) International and Great Northern Railroad.

In my mind, I can still hear the rattling sounds made from the steel wheels speeding along the railroad tracks, and I can never forget being mesmerized by the swaying of the rail cars.

As the train entered town and approached a crossing, the conductor would blow the whistle signal a long-long-short-long to warn the auto drivers.” It was time to stay off the track.

There would often be variations in the whistle, some brisk or sometimes long and drawn out, depending on how fast the train would be moving.

After the train would pass and while the oil field pumping unit noises still echoed throughout the town, the only other night sounds we heard came from frogs, crickets, and the occasional sound of barking dogs, as I wuz just thinking.

, , , , , , ,

Related Posts