prune picker

This is the blog of a prune picker. (Native born Californian) Retired oilfield. I am an old man. (91) I blog a lot about my body and getting old. As I approach death life gets more interesting. More interesting is not good. I still drive. I attend sports, music, and civic events. I am writing my memoirs. I attend swim class three times a week. Some of my blogs might be interesting. A lot of my blogs are silly and trivial. None are very long.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tomorrow is the 66th Anniversary of the birth of my son Christopher David.

Chris was born on April 1, 1948 in San Luis Obispo, California. Chris passed away three years ago. I miss him. We had long talks. He had a blog and started me on blogging. His blog has the title snaggletoothie of the Loyal Opposition. It is a conservative blog and was well read. Chris had many friends in the blog world.

(Wireline 9) Logging wells at the National Test Site (NTS) in Mercury, Nevada.

During the Cold War the US Government was busy at the National Test Site (NTS) in Mercury, Nevada. Mercury is an hour North of Las Vegas. In the fifties the US Government was doing all sorts of research and testing of atomic bombs. This required mine shafts and the drilling of many test holes. Bombs were set off in these. Monitoring of bombs going off were done with instruments in these holes.

Many Schlumberger logs were run in these holes. These logs were run by logging trucks from Bakersfield, California. I made many trips to the NTS. It was four hour drive to Las Vegas and another hour to Mercury.



This is a photo of the camp at the entrance to the NTS. I overnighted here sometimes. I was once arrested in the NTS. When we entered the NTS we were issued a pass. The pass said that it was only valid if we had an escort. One time when we were making prints of our logs the escort left. While he was gone Security showed up and looked at our pass. He arrested us for not having an escort and proceeded to lead my truck and my car to the main entrance. I will never forget that ride. It was a couple of hours. We did not have air conditioning in those days. I was driving behind my truck going over mountain roads. The truck went slow and I was following them. It was 110 degrees or more. What a miserable time. No AC in the truck either.

One time I was driving from Vegas to Bakersfield. It was so hot. At midnight I was driving with all four windows rolled down. We called it 4 times 80 air conditioning. Drive 80 mph with four windows rolled down.  At 1 am I pulled into Baker, California (gateway to Death Valley and close to the spot where the highest recorded temperature ever recorded on earth was recorded, around 135 degrees). The temperature was 115 degrees! At 1 am. The service station attendant said "you should have been here yesterday. It was really hot" I got in my car and got out of there.


World's highest thermometer in Baker.

We ran many logs on each NTS hole. As many as five or six. We made a bonus for each log'.

On one exceptional trip the crew was two engineers and three operators. For five days (day and night) we went from well to well (15 wells) and ran logs. I was one of the engineers. We traded off running the logs. It was a lot of work. During the five days we took one night off at a miner's camp (way back in the NTS). Showered and had a good meal at the miner's mess hall and got some sleep.

It was an exciting to go to the NTS. A rest stop was always required in Las Vegas on the way home. One of our crews had an experience. They left their truck at a truck stop and went to Fremont Street (downtown Vegas), they parked the car in a parking lot and proceeded to do some gambling. When they met back at the the parking lot the three men together did not have enough money to pay the parking lot bill. They had to steal their car off the lot! I hope the statute of limitations has expired,

In the fifties there was an area of the NTS that was numbered on the map as Area 51. Area 51 is the home of a very secret US Air Force research facility. It was highly secret. A secret poorly kept. In 2013 the veil was lifted by the Air Force. The base was used for testing the U2. It is the birth place of Stealth technology.












Sunday, March 30, 2014

There is a wildcat on the road to town.

This sign was a clue.



More information.


The rig.


I thought that this picture of the well (just off HWY 544 about two miles from home) might be interesting for my blog. I thought it might be interesting to know how deep the well is going to be.

So I drove up the well and asked the man in charge. He told me that was classified information. He apologized and said he could not tell me anything about the well. I assume that it is a wildcat looking for new pay. That is interesting. Hope they find something good.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

(Wireline 8) Memories of Truck 321.

Truck 321 was the first truck that was assigned to me. It had a canvas covered winch area. There was a window between me and the winch operator. When it snowed or rained the operator got wet. Sometimes it would blow in on me and the recorder. It looked like the truck below.


I believe that I was told that this was last canvas covered Schlumberger Logging truck. It might have also been the oldest logging truck in service. I started out at the bottom. The truck below is like the fanciest trucks in Bakersfield. No AC on the roof in those days but otherwise the nicest trucks looked like the picture below. Bakersfield had 3 or 4 like this. The others were not as fancy but they were a lot fancier than 321. They were something like 321 but had an enclosed winch area.


A wee bit prettier, heh? It also had better equipment. No snow on the engineer or recorder.  I lusted for one of them.  Downhole tools were the same.

Every month a list of the district trucks and the money they had earned for the corporation during the month was posted. I remember one month that little old 321 was the top truck. I did not brag about it too much!

Friday, March 28, 2014

(Wireline 7) Memories of Oildale.

During our first stay in Bakersfield Jackie and I lived in four houses. The last two were in Oildale. Our last house was across the street from the Kern County Airport. We were living there when the largest California earthquake since the Frisco quake struck Kern County. It was on July 21, 1952. The day after my 27 birthday. Several people were killed and the courthouse and city hall were damaged beyond repair. It was in the night. Jackie hopped out of bed and headed for Nancy and Chris, our two children. The hall floor was heaving so badly so Jackie could not walk there until the quake was over.


RR tracks near Bakersfield.


A school house in Bakersfield.

For months there were after shocks, some strong. In August a quake in Tehachapi killed several people. I can remember feeling a quake while I was driving down a highway. I remember a big shock that came when we were logging a well. When you are running wireline in a well the forces from spinning a large heavy reel are lined up with the truck. (The truck rocks to and fro in line with the truck) I can remember a quake to cause the truck to rock at a right angle to the normal rocking. (an odd feeling)

I can remember being in a coffee shop and all the stacked dishes would start to rattle. The customers would get quiet and look at each other. Downtown Bakersfield was cordoned off and the National Guard was on patrol. Jackie and I would sit in Oildale and watch Los Angeles TV broadcasting from downtown. I had installed a 30 foot antenna pole on the roof so that we could watch TV and watch Gorgeous George wrestle. There was not any TV in Bakersfield.

One time we had some cold cash. My brother Warren (every family has one such character) would visit us and I would loan him money, which he never paid back. On one visit Jackie put all of our money in an ice cube tray so that I could not lend it to Warren.

Our children started school in Oildale. Here is a picture from the time. The man with Jackie is her father Payne Ireton. They are holding on to Chris and Nancy.



One time Jackie looked out the window and saw the neighbor lady running down the driveway. Her husband was chasing her and shooting a gun at her! The lady ran around to our front door and Jackie let her in.  The police were soon there.

The Blackboard cafe was two blocks from the Schlumberger shop. Buck Owens and Merle Haggard  played there. It was a cowboy bar. I probably stopped there for coffee a half dozen times. This is one of the places that the Bakersfield Sound started. The area was loaded with Okies and Arkies 








Thursday, March 27, 2014

(Wireline 6) Graduate. I am a FJE or Field Junior Engineer.

When a trainee completed training some time around six months, he would be given an exam. The exams were oral. You stood in front of a blackboard and answered questions orally and with sketches. If you passed you were ranked as a Field Junior Engineer and started running logs. After another year or two you were given another exam. This exam was for qualification as a Field General Engineer. This exam was given in Houston. The exam took all day for you and three examiners. A typical question might require 30 minutes or more of talking to answer. The examiners would sit and listen you out. It was impressive. You had better know logging and log interpretation.

I remember flying home to California after taking the Field General exam. I was amazed that the President of the United States Schlumberger was on the plane. He sat in the next seat to me all the way home. His name was W G Gillingham. He was an Englishman with a jolly accent. He was a rotund man, balding. A nice guy. After he heard that I had just taken the Field General exam he asked me if I had passed. Occasionally someone would flunk the test and be sent home to study some more. I was so glad that I could tell him that I had passed the exam.

In June of 1951 Jacque Gallois appointed me the Engineer for Truck 321. On June 15, 1951 I ran my first log and earned my first bonus. Below is a print of a portion of that log. It was a standard Electrical Log with continuous readings for formation resistivity and a bore hole measurement called the SP (spontaneous potential). The log was on a Standard oil Company of California well drilled in the Tejon Hills oilfield.






Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blakley Ladies's Report.

I went to my great grandson's track meet in West Monroe yesterday. On the way I stopped at Hart's Corner Convenience Store in Swartz. Miss Rosa was in and looking proud of herself.


She has a cold box full of pop ready for the re- opening of the store.


Rosa said that she will open in one week, or two weeks, or three weeks. I bet that it will be two weeks.

The grand housewarming will be within a week of the opening. We will try to give you a weeks notice. I expect the house warming party will be around the middle of April.

Dust off your folding chairs and reserve a seat or volunteer to drive. It is about 45 miles from Jefferson Corner.

Ethan Charles Newberry can run!

I know. I have attended his last four track meets. Ethan is my oldest great grandchild. He is 13. My heart goes pity pat when I see Ethan running so well. I have watched him win many races. Especially the 400 meter. He is always a medal winner in the 1600.


Warming up.


Running seems a lonely sport at times.


There comes the winner! Notice the lady in blue and the man in red? They are Ethan's proud Mom and Dad.






(Wireline 5) A prunepicker visits the South in 1951.

I was very excited when I learned that I was being sent to the Schlumberger Headquarters in Houston for a week long training school. I had never been up in an airplane, let alone fly in a large commercial flight half way across the US. I thought that I was one important guy.

Half of the flight we were flying over Texas. I remember looking down at the bleak West Texas terrain and seeing the lights of drilling rigs. The country was a lot like parts of Kern County where I worked.

A week in a hotels and meals on the expense account. We stayed at the Rice Hotel which was the biggest and fanciest hotel in Houston (in those days). Exotic food. At a cafe I ordered a breakfast. With the eggs and toast was a pile of white stuff. I was told the white stuff was grits and to get used to it. Not me, I did not eat it. I can now but still prefer hash brown potatoes. A group of us went out to dinner. I will never forget the big piles of delicious fried chicken and biscuits.

Schlumberger then was located on South Leland. Later they built a large and modern (to me then) plant and office out on the Coast Freeway. Now they are in Sugarland, a city on the edge of Houston.
In some ways Houston was like a foreign country to the old prunepicker (me). The plant had two water fountains at each water station, one marked white and one marked colored. This was a shock to me.

We were in classes all day with many experts, geologists, engineers, chemists, accountants talking on the oil well drilling business. A training class picture is shown below. Mr A M Allegret was the dean of the class. He is on the far right in the second row. I am first on the left in the second row. I remember a lecture by Mr Allegret in which he told us to keep our finger nails clean.


Notice that I am wearing a bow tie. The Schlumberger family that owns Schlumberger is French. Many Frenchmen wear bow ties. See Mr Allegret. Need I say more? The bow tie could not be pre tied.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

(Wireline 4) Schlumberger Trainee Engineer.

This was the start of a 15 year career with Schlumberger and another 20 years using the knowledge gained during that time. 35 years in the oil exploration and production business.

Chuck Evans was to train me for six months. I followed him like a dog. Rode many mile to wells. Sat beside him for hours while he ran logs. We spent hours discussing well log operation and interpretation. There were some 25 different log tools to study. The main tool was the resistivity logging tool. A resistivity log was run on almost every well. It was so dominant that the term log was understood to mean a resistivity log.

Chuck Evans is on my list of the top 100 favorite people in my life. A nice guy and a good teacher. He was to advance far in Schlumberger. To District Manager, to Division Manager,  and to Executive Vice President of Schlumberger Limited (the international company). He was really successful. He was just a good old boy in those days.

Chuck and I were both smokers. Chuck rolled his own from Bull Durham tobacco. He would often bum a taylor made from me. In self defense I started rolling my own also. I got pretty good at it. A couple years later I could roll a cigarette while I drove the car with my elbows. At 60 miles an hour that sounds dangerous to me. How stupid I was. You could by a 24 pack carton of Bull Durham for a little over a dollar.



A Schlumberger crew was an engineer and two truck driver/winch operator/riggers. We were dispatched to wells 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The oil company usually called in a standby notice a day or two before the expected time that they needed us. A stand by notice was filled out with well name, directions to the well, logs required, hole size, etc. The tool pusher would call when ready and give us  a several hours  final call.

The crew would meet at the shop and make sure all the required tools were loaded, and away we would go. When I was hired in 1951 there eight logging trucks and crews in the Bakersfield district. There was an "up list". This was the list showing the crew that was first out. This was based on the order that the trucks came in from jobs.

It was busy. There were many drilling rigs in our area. 25 at Elk Hills, 20 in the Cuyama Valley for instance, and other rigs scattered all over. I have seen a time when all the trucks left for jobs over just several hours. A crew could return from a job and be fifth or sixth up and be dispatched before they could go home. Normally there were a day or two between jobs.

Oil fields all over the southern San Joaquin Valley.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Walking and Weight. 3.24.2014.



Need I say anything else? Look at the record beating weight. I am going to try to walk at least 4000 steps and cut back on meals.

If I eat three meals I gain weight.

(Wireline 3) Hired by Schlumberger.

I had been looking for another job ever since I landed in Bakersfield. I remember interviewing, with hope, with a water well drilling company. But no luck. I drove by the Schlumberger office often and was somewhat familiar with what they did. I do not recall how I made the first contact with Schlumberger, but I recall talking to Bud Bryan, who was on the California Schlumberger staff. I remember him telling me that he went to work for Schlumberger (he was a geologist) because he thought that Schlumberger was a prestigious important company in the oil well drilling business. This was a few years before Google so I went to the library and read Schlumberger adds in the trade magazines.

I felt quite fortunate to be hired by Schlumberger. I had four interviews and went out on an overnight job. Schlumberger requested a copy of my college transcript and studied the courses and grades reported. After talking with Bud Bryan I had an interview with Jacque Gallois the Manager of the Bakersfield office. Jacque asked me some questions on electricity. I am glad that I knew what a parallel circuit was. I went to the Long Beach office for an interview by the District Manager there, Art Curran. Then I went to Westwood, to the home of Milt Loy, the West Coast Manager, for an interview. These were all impressive professional men.

 Early in the hiring process I went out to a well and observed a crew logging a 15,550 well. Strange the things that I remember. I spent most of a night on this trip. It takes a while to lower the wireline tools to 15,550 feet.

I was sent to a doctor for a complete physical exam. I had a slight problem with hemorrhoids and was worried about it. No problem. The doctor did not look there. I passed the exam and was hired!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

(Wireline 2) Roustabout at Golden Bear.


I was hired as a roustabout at the Golden Bear Oil Refinery in Oildale, California. Oildale is over the Kern River from Bakersfield. You know what they say "once a roustabout, always a roustabout!". I worked there a few months until I was hired by Schlumberger. I was paid by the hour at Golden Bear. I made a hundred dollars a more per month than I made at my college required job at Airco.

Times were tough in 1950. (I know that they are tougher now) I went to college for four years and the only job that I was offered paid $250 per month (many college graduates today do not get any job offers). I went down the street and got more pay as a roustabout. However many roustabout jobs do require a skilled workman. I did require a college degree to get a job with Schlumberger.

Golden Bear only processed heavy crude oil. The main product was motor oil. They made all the motor oil that was sold by Montgomery Ward in the Western US. You remember Wards? Wards and Sears were arch rivals at this time.

The work at the refinery was mostly manual labor. I remember one odd job. Several of us went out to a well location and shoveled some Black Magic drilling mud. This mud is very heavy and viscus. It was like shoveling tar. Probably tar would have been easier.

I cleaned out boiler tubes by pushing a powered drill through the tubes.

I loaded motor oil into barrels and helped put the barrels into railroad cars.

For a week or two I gauged every tank in the refinery. This job started at 3 or 4 in the morning. One man had the title Yield Clerk. His jub was to keep track of all fluid movement through the refinery. He required a daily measurement of how much fluid was in each tank. At this time (the olden days) that required that a weighted marked tape be dropped into the tank and the fluid level be noted and entered on a list. There were many wet cold stairways up to the top of tanks (high). Then find and open a hole through the tank top. There were many tanks (a few dozen). It was a cold dark tedius job.

Now a days this measuring is mostly done electronically. The fluid levels are always available on a electronic panel. The fluid level is read by various devices. Think of all the steps that they do not have to climb.





Saturday, March 22, 2014

(Wireline 1) My six month career with Air Reduction.

My first job after graduating was when Air Reduction hired me to be the manager of their Bakersfield, California store. I and a truck driver delivery man were the only people at the store. It really tried my management ability.

I spent a week at the Los Angeles facilities of Airco. I was worked in the gas pressure regulator rebuilding shop. I also worked on the order desk. Answered the phone and wrote orders. The facility also produced oxygen. The plant was located in South Los Angeles.

We moved to Bakersfield. I sold welding supplies over the counter. Welding rod, flux, etc. I sold welding rod by the pound. I helped the truck driver load his truck with bottles of oxygen and acetylene. With experience I learned how to roll two oxygen bottle at a time. I never was able to roll two acetylene bottles. These bottles were heavier and oddly shaped. The truck driver could. He drove a delivery route every day through the industrial areas of Kern County and delivered welding gas. One of the big customers was The Superior Oil Company at Rio Bravo. Years later I was to work for Superior in Texas.

It was an interesting starting job with a large nationwide company. There was one big problem. My pay was $250 per month. Every two weeks I received $112. That is not much, even in those days, for a guy with a wife, two kids, and a dog. I worked part time jobs on the side. Sold clothes at Sears Roebuck and plucked turkeys. (plucking turkeys is not a great job) It was at this time we cooked our first Thanksgiving Day turkey. I distinctly remember saying ouch at the expense of buying a roaster pan. We used it for many years, however.

I looked around and got a job as a roustabout at the Golden Bear Oil Refinery in Oildale. The job paid a hundred dollars more per month. That hundred dollars was a big help.




Friday, March 21, 2014

(Poly 8) Remarks about my Life Story. First 25 years..

With this and the previous posts I have told quite a bit about the first 25 years of my travels through this vale of tears called life. I have divided the story of my life into ten periods.

Child. (Birth to the death of my Mother when I was five.)
Boy. (From the death of my Mother to my Father's stroke.  Age 5 to 14.)
Youth. (From my Father's stroke to entering the Army. Age 14 to 17.)
Army. ( My three years in the Army. Age 17 to 20.)
Poly. (My four years of attending Cal Poly. Age 20 to 25.)
Wireline. ( My 15 years working for Schlumberger as a wireline engineer. Age 25 to 40.)
Waterflood. (12 tears working for LBOD in the Wilmington Oilfield.)
Petrophysical. (Working until age 60 for Superior/Mobil Oil as a Petrophysical Engineer.)
RV. (RVing around the country. Age 60 to 81.)
Widower. (Living in Ruston, LA. Several trips to East and West Coast. Age 82 to 88.)

I have posted on the first five periods. Child througth Poly. The posts are on this blog. They range in number of posts from 2 on my childhood (poor memory) to 26 on my time in the Army (better memory).  I have titled the posts so that they are easy to call up. This is handy for you to read them at any time and will be handy for me to call up, combine, and publish as my Life Story. It is bound to be a best seller some day.

To call up enter title of the period and a number into the search box. There is a search box on the upper left, and a better search box in the right column. You also can skim the list of archives below in this column.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hart's Corner House Warming. (Convenience Store Warming?)

I visited Hart's Corner again today. Found Rosa Blakley in. The store looks so much better after a couple of days of hard work by Rosa, Tina, and Rhonda. So clean and spacious. They are making progress.


Found Rosa in today. I had a great visit. I had not seen her since last year.


On Tuesday I had a visit with Tina and Rhonda. These three lovely ladies make up the Blakley Ladies. We really enjoyed their smiling service at Jefferson Corner for many (8 ?) years.

Within a couple of weeks they will be opening their store at Hart's Corner. I would like to suggest that  we organize a trip to Hart's Corner with several car loads of their old friends from Jefferson Corner. We could have one great big jolly visit. We will have to take chairs. There are trees nearby that we could gather under. How about some music? Do any of us play an musical instrument? A lot of us tell funny stories.

How about a week after they open? Please let me know what you think.




Best and most exciting basketball game I have seen this year.

The Latech Bulldogs played Iona from New Rochelle, in the first level of the NIT (National Invitational Tournament) last night. The game started fast and stayed fast to the end. The lead was never more than 5. The game was won in the last two seconds by the Bulldogs.



An eight tuba game!





An eight tuba and banjo number at half time.



Big celebration after the win.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Champs Chicken comes to Ruston!


Robert Morse models his new shirt.



Happy customer John Roebuck, He had the chicken yesterday and said it was great.


Good looking breakfast. Good luck to Champs Chicken.

Birds of this area.

I attended a meeting of the Lincoln Parish Museum and Historical Society last night. The speaker was Gerry Click. He gave many tips on birding and the equipment and literature available. He had illustrations and sound equipment. He gave a quiz on bird calls.





I think that I will join this outfit. It seems like a nice group. I looked around and there was old Right Ear and his wife. I have seen them at Liars Club meetings, basketball, baseball, and soccer games. And now at a bird talk.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Blakley Ladies new store.

I visited Swartz, Louisiana today and found Tina and Rhonda hard at work moving into their new store. They took time out to visit with me. They smiled at me and gave me hugs.










Rosa, Tina, and Rhonda have a big job ahead of them. I doubt that they will open Hart's Corner before April. They have miles of shelves to stock. And much more work. They are of good cheer and are up to the job. There is nothing in the world like the smile of a Blakley Lady.

The store is in Swartz about halfway between Monroe and Bastrop. It is on Highway 139. It is on the corner where Highway 134 comes in from Oak Ridge.




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