OLD TIMER'S GAS SERVICE
by Norris Chambers
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This question has been debated for centuries.
In later times the question was which came first, the cabin or the heat. In the case of the ‘possum hunting kids, the heat came first.
In the early oil well drilling days one of the first operations performed in the drilling of a well was to dig a hole about six feet square and five or six feet deep. The well was drilled in the center of this hole and the hole’s purpose was to keep the casing clamps and other hole attachments below the floor level of the drilling machine and out of the way.
We were aware of one of these holes where a well had been drilled but did not produce enough oil to be considered profitable and had been plugged. Often oil operators did a poor job of plugging wells after removing the casing pipes. This was one of those poor jobs and we passed by one day after a rain and noticed a foot or two of water in the bottom of the hole. It was bubbling vigorously and attracted our attention. We immediately guessed it was gas.
The old well became one of our favorite places to stop and skin ‘possums. The fire provided both heat and light. Sometimes it was burning and sometimes it had to be lit, but the gas was always there.
night I suggested that we build a little log cabin there and make it an
more convenient place to hang out and keep warm.
We still needed to get the gas in the shelter and we considered several plans. The most logical solution was to cover the top of the hole and run a pipe from the cellar to our cabin. We discussed building a wooden top over the old pit or covering it with logs with a dirt topping. The wooden top would be considerably less work, so we decided on that plan.
I suggested that we get some pipe and cover the hole with a wagon sheet to see how well it worked before spending too much time in constructing a top.
We installed a two inch pipe from the cellar to the cabin and terminated it in a fifteen gallon barrel lined on the inside with old fire bricks. The gas was directed into the brick with a smaller pipe and a control valve. A stove pipe in the top of the barrel vented the exhaust outside.
The wagon sheet was pulled over the hole and held in place by large rocks along the edges. In a few minutes gas began to flow through the pipe and there was plenty to heat the bricks to a dull red color. The heating stove was a success.
We spent a lot of time in and around the cabin on cold winter nights. A kerosene lantern furnished enough light for domino or checker games. There was even enough gas for a small torch outside.
There was some talk of installing the top on the cellar, but the wagon sheet worked well and we kept it in the cabin when not in use. This was another of the country projects that we enjoyed as long as we played in the woods and hunted ‘possums.
Does this story have a moral? Perhaps it is to not let the gas go to waste – harness it and enjoy it if it is free!
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