Oilfield Trash: Life and Labor in the Oil Patch

Overview


When the first gusher blew in at Spindletop, near Beaumont, Texas, in 1901, petroleum began to supplant cotton and cattle as the economic engine of the state and region. Very soon, much of the workforce migrated from the cotton field to the oilfield, following the lure of the wealth being created by black gold.

The early decades of the twentieth century witnessed the development of an oilfield culture, as these workers defined and solidified their position within the region’s ...

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Overview


When the first gusher blew in at Spindletop, near Beaumont, Texas, in 1901, petroleum began to supplant cotton and cattle as the economic engine of the state and region. Very soon, much of the workforce migrated from the cotton field to the oilfield, following the lure of the wealth being created by black gold.

The early decades of the twentieth century witnessed the development of an oilfield culture, as these workers defined and solidified their position within the region’s social fabric. Over time, the work force grew more professionalized, and technological change attracted a different type of laborer.

Bobby D. Weaver grew up and worked in the oil patch. Now, drawing on oral histories supplemented and confirmed by other research, he tells the colorful stories of the workers who actually brought oil wealth to Texas. Drillers, shooters, toolies, pipeliners, teamsters, roustabouts, tank builders, roughnecks . . . each of them played a role in the frenzied, hard-driving lifestyle of the boomtowns that sprouted overnight in association with each major oil discovery.

Weaver tracks the differences between company workers and contract workers. He details the work itself and the ethos that surrounds it. He highlights the similarities and differences from one field to another and traces changing aspects of the work over time. Above all, Oilfield Trash captures the unique voices of the laboring people who worked long, hard hours, often risking life and limb to keep the drilling rigs “turning to the right.”

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Editorial Reviews

The Journal of Southern History - Joseph Abel

" . . . welcome addition to the relatively sparse literature on the history of work in the Texas oil industry. Bobby D. Weaver draws on an abundant supply of interviews and his own insights as a former roughneck to paint a vivid picture of life among the state's independent upstream drilling contractors . . . accessible descriptions of work in the oil patch . . . an important contribution to an understudied aspect of southern labor history."--Journal of Southern History
Chronicles of Oklahoma - Paul Lambert

“Weaver combined extensive research and careful documentation with empathy for the men whose work was daunting, dangerous, and dirty to produce an engaging and valuable book. This book is highly recommended not only for individuals interested in the history of the petroleum industry but also for anyone interested in social and cultural history.”—The Chronicles of Okalhoma
Southwestern Historical Quarterly - Kay Goldman

“ . . . the personal stories of the men who labored in and around the oilfields . . . is densely packed with informative tidbits that describe the hardships experienced as part of daily life in a succession of Texas oilfield and boomtowns beginning on the Texas Coast and moving into West Texas. The reader learns not just about the men’s lives but also about the professionalization that took place in the oil patch . . . enriches the book with explanations of oilfield slang and terminology. This is an important book. Weaver’s book provides a unique glimpse into the actual lives of the 'oilfield trash.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly
From the Publisher

“Weaver draws on an abundant supply of interviews and his own insights as a former roughneck to paint a vivid picture of life among the state’s independent upstream drilling contractors . . . an important contribution to an understudied aspect of southern labor history.”    —Journal of Southern History

Paul Spellman

" . . . an interesting topic in the hands of a gifted writer . . . an interesting story written in a charming, flowing style that any reader will enjoy . . . a cohesive narrative of the lives of the men laboring in the infant petroleum industry in Texas at the beginning of the 20th century. In Weaver's capable hands, the gypsy lives of a nomadic generation of young men unfold on the rigorous stage of drilling fields across the Lone Star state."--Paul Spellman, author of Spindletop Boom Days
The Journal of Southern History

"...welcome addition to the relatively sparse literature on the history of work in the Texas oil industry. Bobby D. Weaver draws on an abundant supply of interviews and his own insights as a former roughneck to paint a vivid picture of life among the state's independent upstream drilling contractors...accessible descriptions of work in the oil patch...an important contribution to an understudied aspect of southern labor history."--Joseph Abel, Journal of Southern History

— Joseph Abel

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Product Details

Meet the Author


From 1979 to 2002, BOBBY D. WEAVER was a museum professional, serving variously as curator, archivist, and assistant director. Prior to that he worked for more than twenty years in the oilfield and petrochemical industries. Weaver resides in Edmond, Oklahoma. 
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction

Chapter 1 The Oil Boom, 1901-1905 1

Chapter 2 The Drillers, 1901-1910 17

Chapter 3 The Other Hands, 1901-1910 32

Chapter 4 Moving on up North, 1910-1922 52

Chapter 5 The Panhandle---Populating Cow Country, 1919-1930 74

Chapter 6 East Texas---Changes in the Patch, 1930-1935 92

Chapter 7 Way Out West, 1923-1940 107

Chapter 8 Change Comes to the Oil Patch, 1941-1960 123

Chapter 9 The Making of an Oilfield Culture, 1901-1960 139

Chapter 10 A Language of Their Own 165

Notes 179

Bibliography 207

Index 221

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