Oilfield Stories: The Coming of Dad Joiner

Dad Joiner, wearing the straw boater, white shirt, and tie, shakes hands with his geologist Doc Lloyd as they prepare to drill their first well in East Texas soil.

The appearance of the wily old wildcatter marked the beginning of Kilgore’s rise from a cotton patch town to the undisputed oil capital of America.

Columbus Marion Joiner slipped into the pine thickets before anyone realized he was coming or knew his name.  He was born in Alabama, had less than two months of formal education, and had once been a practicing lawyer in Tennessee.

But the lust for oil had almost ruined his life.

He found some wells all right, but he usually lost them as quickly as he drilled them.  As Helen Griffin recalled, “He was near seventy years old when he ran into a bit of bad luck drilling for oil in Galveston.

He was nearly broke and was even contemplating suicide.

Joiner was extremely depressed until he dreamed one night that he was destined to find the biggest oilfield the world had ever seen.

The vision was so vivid in his dream that the next morning he sketched out what the area looked like on a piece of paper – rolling hills and trees.”

He had sketched a region that looked a lot like East Texas, a place where people only dug holes for fence posts, crops, and graves.

Although no one realized it, the sudden and unexpected appearance of the wily old wildcatter marked the beginning of Kilgore’s rise from a cotton patch town to the undisputed oil capital of America.

Beverly Tucker was seated in her father’s Overton store, eating cheese and crackers, when she saw the man they called Dad Joiner for the first time.

She said, “He walked way stooped over, his arms flailing and looking like he was trying to put out a fire on his backside. My brother, sister, and I used to call him ‘Old Fan Ass.’”

Columbus Marion Joiner wandered into town, wearing a white shirt, frayed from too many washings, wingtip shoes, and a straw boater.

His stature had been whittled down from a childhood bout with rheumatic fever, and some swore he could smell oil in the ground, no matter how deep it lay.

He was crippled and looked far older than his seventy years, a silver-tongued scoundrel with an unquenchable thirst for black gold.

Daily, Joiner checked the obituaries in Texas newspapers, primarily in Dallas, then, with a Bible tucked reverently under his arm, he would pay his respects to rich and grieving widows who just might have a few dollars to invest in his next oil scheme.

He once admitted confidentially,  “Every woman has a certain place on her neck, and when I touch it, she automatically starts writing me checks.  I may be the only man on earth who knows how to locate that spot,” which, he knew, was much easier and quicker to find than oil.

His whole life, Joiner once said, had been dictated by a scripture hidden away in the forty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah: “Let the widows trust in me.”

Back Side of a Blue Moon, the first book in my Boom Town Saga, is based on many of the oilfield stories I heard growing up in my hometown. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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