Columnist Howard "Porky" Cutter recalls an icon in the annals of drilling history.

A few weeks ago, we received a call and the person asked for me, so Bess handed me the phone. The person on the phone says, “This is George E. Failing …” - what a shock! I say, “Yeah, right” because I knew that George E. had passed on many years ago. The person explained that he was, in fact, George E. Failing II, grandson of George E. Failing, the inventor of the original portable drill.

Mr. Failing went on to explain that he had read one of my previous articles in the National Driller, “When Dad Met the President,” which told stories about Mr. Failing's granddad. We exchanged stories about his granddad, his dad and his uncle for some time, and this brought back many wonderful memories.

During our phone visit, the original Failing drill came up. Many years before, the original drill had burned up in the stables and I thought it was lost forever. Mr. Failing advised me that he had the drill restored, and it currently is in the Cherokee Strip Museum in Enid, Okla.

In 1930, envisioning a rig that could be moved quickly and easily, George E. mounted an existing rig on a 1927 Ford farm truck, adding a power take-off assembly to transfer power from the truck engine to the drill. The new portable rotary rig could drill 10 50-foot-deep holes in a day. He filed for patents and launched the George E. Failing Co. to manufacture drilling rigs. His first rigs were used for structure drilling (obtaining cores) and for shot hole drilling (planting explosives).

In about 1933, my father, Porky Sr., was working for George E. near Conroe, Texas, when a major oil well fire broke out. Tremendous well pressure prevented the fire from being extinguished. Dad worked with George E. in drilling a dozen 600-foot holes around the inferno in a matter of hours, relieving the pressure and allowing fire fighters to extinguish the blaze. Mr. Failing lost hearing in one ear and partial sight in one eye, but he gained the respect and appreciation of the drilling profession. George E.'s exceptional service resulted in significant contracts for his company.

Several years after George E. sold his business to Westinghouse Air Brake Co. (WABCO), he bought the old George E. Failing Co. building located on Broadway Street in Enid, Okla. He and his son, J. C. Failing, were planning to manufacture a newly designed drill (I saw the prototype in front of the store many years ago).

I believe WABCO sued George E. because he planned to use the George E. Failing Co. name again. He lost the suit. Is this the reason the new rig design and manufacturing did not continue?

George E. was an honest and tough old bird, well thought of and respected by his friends and employees as well as the community. Many people may remember the “Failing Hole Master.” Mr. Failing told me he picked the name from mix-master food mixers.

Mr. Failing further advised me that he has a letter from President Eisenhower to George E., thanking him for drilling water wells on the Burning Tree Golf Course in Bethesda, Md. This is valuable history.

For those interested in George E. Failing II's background, he has continued in the same drilling and oil and gas industry by providing financing and management consulting services to clients throughout the United States.

He is writing a book about his grandfather and would appreciate any input and material from others who would like to contribute. If you have photos, history or stories about George E. Failing and/or the George E. Failing Co. that you would like to share, please send them to George E. Failing II, chief financial officer, American Corporate Finance LLC, 8086 S. Yale, Suite 141, Tulsa, Okla. 74137, or email them to or at his Web site: