Ballad of a Wildcatter

Dec 09, 2009 | Posted in Essays, Poetry

by Angela Nuzzo

With the dawn of '75,
A new man came to town.
He had a goal and would survive.
No one could bring him down.

A tale he'd heard of fields of gold
lit a fire in his soul.
But, this was not a rock to hold -
black liquid from a hole.

Without a thought, he made to part
his household and his life.
He had no ties to bind his heart,
no children and no wife.

So he, with his horse beneath him,
supplies tied to a mule,
set off on faith and on a whim
to find the next great fuel.

Roads he traveled were few and rough,
loggers had left their mark.
The journey was hard, he was tough -
nothing could dim the spark.

Stretched before him, hill upon hill,
an endless sea of green.
He beat the mountains with his will -
such a sight to be seen.

When first he came upon the town
there wasn't much in view.
A derrick that had fallen down,
some houses that were new.

He set out first to buy a lease.
A farmer sold him rights.
A shack, he built, to live in peace
and keep him warm on nights.

A divining rod in one hand.
The fates were at their best.
He tried it twice, his third hit sand -
fulfilled, was his first quest.

The oil, it flowed in rivers.
He stored it in a drum.
Although soon, it came in sputters,
he knew that more would come.

So, kicking down another well,
he earned enough to live.
A nitro blast broke through the shell,
his first still had to give.

And so it went, the days flew past.
His wells produced their gold.
The farmer, now, had hoed his last.
The land and lease were sold.

But never fear when fate is near,
the man kept hold his due.
He spent his earnings for the year,
bought land and lease, house too!

He settled in quite comfortably
and went to town to dine.
He met a girl who caught his eye,
said "I will make you mine."

Their love was deeper than the drill
that bored its way to fame.
Nine months they lived alone, until
another treasure came.

So happy in his life was he
the years went by unchecked.
Unnoticed went the muddy sea,
the town, in grime, bedecked.

‘Til one day, when he cast his eye
along the hills, once grand.
Where there had been great trees on high,
now derricks claimed the land.

He didn't recognize this place.
In just a little time,
it started as a land of grace,
but now, -- Oh, what a crime!

From where had all the people come?
And what was all that noise?
The town became a city from
the hopes of oil field boys.

Wooden barrels marked the landscape.
Pipes threaded every hill.
Flatboats and rafts, so close they scraped,
hauled wealth that paid the bills.

The man accepted change in stride.
The city, more it grew.
Gas pressure dropped, it turned the tide.
So pumping was the clue.

Overnight, a few made fortunes.
While other's lives were lost.
The man stuck to his mission,
no matter what the cost.

And so he and his family
worked hard both day and night.
Up grew the son, most hardily,
with oil fields in his sight.

Side by side they would work the jacks,
their heartbeats throbbed as one.
The oil, soon, left town on tracks -
the simpler days were done.

When pumping failed to draw a drop,
the "five spot" came in hand.
The flooded ground gave up its crop -
supplied more than demand.

One day a sound ripped o'er the field,
far worse than any gun.
The man ran up and then he kneeled -
he'd lost his only son.

The grief he felt was much relieved
by working on the hill.
His wife had faith and she believed
their son was with them still.

Ten thousand wells now lined the town
he'd come to years before.
And when the fever settled down
deep roots held tight the core.

As the oil dwindled steadily,
so too his wife's faint breaths.
And once again alone was he.
He mourned his lover's death.

The man, he looked with shadowed eyes
out on the shifting climes.
When most the local wells were dry,
refining changed the times.

So the oil tanks and tall smokestacks
grew up as, long ago,
the derricks and the pumping jacks
first tamed the black gold's flow.

Survive he couldn't, in this day.
The fire left his soul.
He walked the fields, fate led the way.
They found him on the hill.