Howard "Porky" Cutter tells how his crew's pipe truck managed to disappear in southeastern Kansas.

Some years ago, my dad and I were in the oil drilling business in Chanute, Kan. We were moving the equipment back to Chanute from several miles north. We had told the crew before leaving the job site where we would meet in a small town down the road and park our equipment for the night, and then go back after it the next day. The drilling rig lead the way, then the water truck, followed by the pipe truck with the drill stem, floorboards and everything else. Bringing up the rear was my dad in his pickup and I in mine.

Upon arriving at our agreed place, we found the pipe truck (and driver) to be missing. No one had seen the pipe truck along the roadside or in town anywhere. It is almost impossible for a big truck and trailer to disappear anywhere in southeastern Kansas. We parked the other drilling equipment at our agreed upon spot and backtracked to the jobsite. We searched off the roadside, in the ditches, out in the open fields and even down the side roads. Still no pipe truck or any sign of the driver. The driver did have a portable CB radio, but we couldn't reach him on it. We called the office to see if he had by chance called in. He had not. We called friends and the local CB club, which formed a search party, and we searched all night back and forth, up and down the country roads. About daylight, some of the search party decided to go back to Chanute and get a search plane. Passing by the drill, one of the searchers noticed both cab doors were open and something was lying on the seat. Upon checking, they found the lost driver sleeping in the cab. After some relief and thankful prayers, there came an explanation as to what had happened earlier.

Today's portable CB radios have a range of 4 miles or more.
During the evening and on throughout the night, Dad, several others and I had seen the windows down and the doors open on the drill. Dad said he would talk to the driller (the drill truck driver) the next day about leaving the windows down and doors open. It was company policy that if a vehicle had doors and windows, they were to be closed at night.

The pipe truck driver explained that he thought he had seen the drill rig turn off on a dirt farm road and so he followed. After driving a few miles, he decided the rig was not ahead of him, and he looked for a place to turn around -- whereupon he experienced a flat tire on the truck.

There was nothing for him to do but walk back to the highway. While walking, the driver was listening on his radio and trying to talk back to us, but it only would transmit about a mile. He heard us, but couldn't get us to hear him. He didn't hear us say, "Get to a phone and call the office." Finally a farmer ventured by, picked up the driver and took him into town where the drill rig was. Figuring we had all gone home and would not be back until morning, he just went to sleep in the drill cab.

Needless to say, everyone was relieved that everything turned out OK. This wouldn't happen today with all the high-tech cell phones and pagers with voice messaging. By the way, the pipe truck driver was my teenaged brother-in-law -- David Mackie -- and he's still around today.