In the ’50s, we were drilling oil wells in southeastern Kansas. It was a convoy when we moved equipment to another drill site. The drill usually took the lead, then the next most likely to have a problem followed. The pickups tailed behind to assist with any problems.

We had drilled an oil well and were returning all of our equipment back to our base in Chanute. It was our rule to travel with our equipment separated just within sight of each other. Arriving into a small town just before dark, about an hour from home, we decided to park the rig and other trucks then come back the next day to bring our equipment on to our base. We tried to avoid traveling with equipment at night.

We parked the rig and the water truck and waited for the others. However, the winch truck with pipe trailer did not arrive. We tracked back to locate the middle truck, but did not find it anywhere.

A flat tire isn't much of an excuse when equipment and people turn up missing.

A flat tire isn’t much of an excuse when equipment and people turn up missing. Source: iStock

We became concerned and called friends to help. We drove back and forth, covering all the side roads in the event the truck had made a wrong turn. No luck! We called home several times to see if the driver had called in … no luck.

We passed where the rig was parked several times and my wife stated the driver’s side door was open. Dad said that he would have to get onto the driver later for leaving the door open. We drove around all night looking for the truck and were becoming concerned. The driver was my wife’s teenage brother.

About daylight we were becoming even more concerned, as it’s hard to lose a big truck and trailer loaded with drill stem and rig flooring in the eastern plains of Kansas. Some of the searchers decided to go back to Chanute and get their airplane to search for the truck.

When they passed the rig, they noticed the open door and decided to check it out. Voila … they found the lost driver asleep in the rig cab.

Apparently, he thought that he had seen the taillights of the drill turn and followed down a dirt road for over a mile. Realizing he was mistaken, he turned around at the first opportunity. Shortly after, he had a flat tire so he just caught a ride to town. Finding the rig, he settled into the cab for the night knowing we would be back early the next morning.

The following day we moved the rig, trucks, trailers and equipment to the company yard and readied all for the next job.

A short time later, we had a company meeting to discuss the recent incident. The first topic of discussion was, when you encounter a problem to first always call the base office and home. Needless to say, the lost truck driver was seriously reprimanded by both my dad and the driver’s sister, my wife Bess, as well!

Today, we have cellular phones so hopefully this problem will never happen again. 

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