Friday, June 27, 2008

French Chicory and Potato Salad

Chicory is as old as history itself, being a primary ingredient in many Roman dishes. The plant’s green leafs (radicchio) are often eaten as a salad in Europe and the root is used as a coffee substitute. It is largely unknown in the United States except for in the south, mostly around New Orleans.

Here is a Cajun recipe you probably have never heard of but try it anyway. I found it in the French Acadian Cook Book published in 1955 by the Louisiana Acadian Handicraft Museum, Inc. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. F.A. McKague of Jennings, Louisiana. Even if you aren’t familiar with the culinary qualities of chicory give this simple recipe a try it and I’ll bet that you’ll become a certified aficionado.

French Chicory and Potato Salad

1 lb of onions 3 lbs Irish potatoes
1 head of chicory 1 lb of bacon
Hard cooked eggs

Boil and dice potatoes and eggs in separate dish. Fry diced bacon and onions until brown. Mix potatoes, eggs and chopped chicory in frying pan and cook for five minutes. Serve hot. Serves six.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Drilling Rig in Path of Tornado

Here is a pic currently circulating by email between oily types. It is supposedly a real picture of a Sandridge Energy drilling rig sitting directly in front of an approaching tornado. I PhotoShopped the pic a little just for kicks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cattleman's House Dressing

There's a pivotal scene in my book Bones of Skeleton Creek that takes place at Cattleman's Cafe located on the south side of Oklahoma City. A rancher has hired P.I. Buck McDivit to help him catch the culprits rustling cattle from his ranch. Buck's friend Trey is an agent for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and they meet at Cattleman's for lunch to discuss the case.

I-40 bisects Oklahoma City into what are really two distinct towns, the north side, and the south side. Just south of I-40, on Agnew, is a retail neighborhood known locally as Stockyard City. It's the home of Cattleman’s Steak House, the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Oklahoma City. Cattleman's opened its doors in 1910 three years after Oklahoma became a state.

The restaurant and Stockyards hold many bittersweet memories for me as I was banking at the now-defunct Stockyards Bank when my little oil company, caught up in the eighties oil bust, went “belly up.” Cattleman’s is still a fixture for oilies, cattle raisers, and other risk-takers, a fitting legacy as the owner won it in a game of dice.

Many luminaries including John Wayne and Ronald Reagan have graced Cattleman’s doors since 1910. The restaurant serves stiff drinks and some of the best steaks in Oklahoma City (no kidding!) along with lamb fries and their signature Cattleman’s Salad. The recipe for their famous house dressing is a secret, but it’s hard keeping a secret for one hundred and eight years. Try it and enjoy. If you can't get there in person, read Bones of Skeleton Creek and have lunch with Buck and Trey.

Cattleman's House Dressing

8 oz. cream cheese ½ pint sour cream
Egg Beater = 1 egg 1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp garlic powder ¼ cup Wesson Oil
¾ cup water

Blend in a bowl larger than 2.5 quarts with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of Wesson Oil and blend until smooth and well mixed. Add ¾ cup of water and blend until smooth and well mixed.

Makes a bunch and you may wish to share a portion or two with your friends.


Born near Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption, and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma where he continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. He is the author of the French Quarter Mystery Series set in New Orleans and the Paranormal Cowboy Series set in Oklahoma. Please check it out on his AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBook author pages. You might also like to check out his website.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Never Trust a Geologist

Before I became a fiction writer, I was a geologist sitting wells in Kansas. Over the years I've learned the two professions have lots in common. Both, some people might say, are paid liars.

Never Trust a Geologist

As a geologist, I often visit drilling wells. When I do, more likely than not, the mineral owner will regale me with a familiar story that usually sounds something like this:
"An oil company drilled a well on the south forty back in ‘52," the farmer might say, pointing at the rolling hill near his fence line. "They struck oil and lots of gas but plugged the well anyway."
"Why did they do that?" I always ask, even though I already know the answer.
"Probably because the crooked operator oversold the well. He didn’t have enough interest to go around so instead of going to jail he plugged it as a dry hole so no one would ever know."
I’ve heard the story many times, a rural legend told and retold by disappointed mineral owners dreaming of vast oil wealth but faced with the reality of only endless barrels of saltwater underlying their property. Years ago in a Kansas wheat field, I helped propagate the legend.
As a young exploration geologist with Cities Service Oil Company, I was sitting a well near Dighton in Lane County, Kansas. The wildcat well was running "low" with little hope of finding oil or gas. It was a gorgeous summer day, the clear Kansas sky robin egg blue. The old "double" rotary rig had just made a connection when I heard a horrible screech. A hundred feet from the rig, I turned to see what was happening.
As I watched, the pipe dropped thirty feet in less than thirty seconds. Knowing what had just occurred, I headed for the rig floor, yelling as I ran.
"Pull up! Pull up!" I screamed, out of breath after climbing the steep stairs to the doghouse.
The driller had already anticipated my orders, pulling up on the drill bit and circulating the bit in the hole.
There are no caverns at 4000 feet but we had just drilled into a thick zone so porous that the bit had virtually dropped thirty feet in thirty seconds. There is no empty porosity at that depth and I knew we had encountered a previously unknown reservoir hopefully filled with oil. I drove to the nearest phone and called for a drill stem test to find out.
A drill stem test is an open hole test to determine what kind of fluid or gas is trapped within a particular zone. It measures quantities and pressures and is a good indication of a well’s potential productivity. It is simply a tool attached to the drill pipe. It has a packer at the top of the tool that isolates the zone of interest. When the tool is rotated, it releases the hydrostatic pressure and whatever fluid or gas is in the zone rushes into the drill pipe. I liken the procedure to putting your finger on the top hole of a straw and lowering it into a glass of water. When you remove your finger, water enters the straw.
It was a clear Sunday morning as the tester prepared to open the tool. Word had spread of the potential oil discovery and many cars filled with interested Kansans faced the drilling rig. When we opened the tool, they got what they came for.
The tester had rigged a pipe that pointed out to the mud pit. If anything came out of the zone, it would flow up the pipe for all to see. I was standing on the rig floor and could hear the rumble from below as the tool was opened. Within seconds I smelled the pungent odor of crude oil. Then I heard the scream of natural gas as it exited with great velocity from the pipe. The gas subsided, followed quickly by thick black fluid shooting from the pipe into the mud pit. Oil, I thought, my heart racing. The well was flowing at a rate of at least a thousand barrels a day. We had a major discovery on our hands, possibly the biggest in a decade. My elation lasted only a moment.
The tester caught some of the fluid in a bucket. He frowned after tasting the liquid from a sample on the tip of his finger. "Saltwater," he said. "Nothing but saltwater."
Not wanting to believe him, I plunged my hand into the bucket and licked the black fluid from my palm. He was correct. The contents of the bucket held nothing but black stagnate saltwater that reeked of oil. The mineral owner was on location and asked, "Am I rich?"
"No, it’s only saltwater," I said.
He didn’t believe me. Neither did the excited Kansans exiting the location in a trail of dust to tell their friends and family of the new oil discovery they had just witnessed. We plugged the well several days later and I’m sure the mineral owner and everyone else that saw the incident thought that Cities Service Oil Company had plugged a monster oil well on purpose for some nefarious reason.
Today when I see a mineral owner approach, I just listen to their story and nod my head. I’ve heard it all before and, yes, I guess I’m part of that rural legend that somehow never seems to go away.


Born near Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption, and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma where he continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. He is the author of the French Quarter Mystery Series set in New Orleans and the Paranormal Cowboy Series set in Oklahoma. Please check it out on his AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBook author pages. You might also like to check out his website.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Drilling Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake is a large, naturally-formed body of water that encompasses parts of northeast Texas and northwest Louisiana. Legend has it that Caddo Lake was formed by the New Madrid Earthquake. One thing is certain. It is little changed since since the early 1900’s when the world’s very first offshore platform found oil beneath its shallow surface.

Geologically, Caddo Lake is situated at the highest structural point of the deep-seated subsurface feature known as the Sabine Uplift. In the early 1900’s, many high-flowing oil wells already surrounded the lake. Most oil explorers had little doubt that the strata below Caddo contained even more oil. The problem was how to get to it. When the federal government dammed the lake in 1911, returning it to a deeper depth, the problem grew even larger.

Oil leases beneath Caddo’s shallow 8,000 acres were controlled by the Levee Board. When the Levee Board put these leases up for bid, only one entity, Gulf Refining Company of Louisiana, did so.

Little is known about the discussions that must have ensued in order to convince Gulf’s management to make its last minute bid for the leases. One thing is certain; they must have been interesting and heated. What occurred is that some unknown person with vision, great foresight and an explorer’s mentality convinced Gulf to risk a lot of money and effort on a technology never before attempted.

The risk was worth it. Once Gulf had secured the leases it had a crew drive pilings into Caddo’s shallow water. A platform was constructed on the pilings. From this platform, the Ferry Lake #1 was drilled and completed in 1911. Historically, the Ferry Lake #1 was the world’s first offshore well.

If you rented a small fishing boat today and motored out across Caddo’s sleepy surface you’d find little has changed since 1911. The coffee-colored water is still shallow and you might see the head of an alligator as it peeks up from the bottom. Giant cypress trees still grow in the water, Spanish moss draping from their limbs in lazy waves. And you’d still see the remnants of many of the original wooden platforms. Some of them are operational with timeless pumping units still at work atop of them.

Books chronicle many heroes, innovators, inventors and explorers that have shaped the history of the world. But like the unknown person or persons that convinced Gulf Refining to drill the world’s first offshore oil well, many more heroes, innovators, inventors and explorers have shaped the world in ways we’ll never know and can only imagine. Although unknown, their contributions are just as important.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Oklahoma Wildcatters

The world’s one-time largest oil field celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005. The discovery well for the Glen Pool, located 14 miles south of Tulsa, Oklahoma, came roaring in during the early morning hours of November 22, 1905. At its peak, the field produced 117,000 barrels of oil per day. The field was so prolific that oil was stored in shallow ponds dug around the producing wells. The real story though is how the Ida Glen #1 was discovered in the first place.
Oil was first noticed in Oklahoma by Native Americans. They found oil seeps and springs that they collected and used for medicines and lubricants. News of these “medicine springs” first attracted oil explorers to the state. One of the explorers, drawn by the promise of black gold and untold riches, was Robert F. Galbreath.

Galbreath came from Ohio, drawn by earlier successful drilling in the area by others, to seek his fortune. He soon convinced a local investor, Frank Chelsey, to bankroll his dream. Drilling for oil in 1905 was very different than drilling for oil today. Leases were cheap and most of the drilling done by cable tool rigs made of wood, on location, by local rig builders. After acquiring a block of leases for no apparent geologic reason other than they were cheap and accessible, Galbreath and Chelsey had a cable tool rig built and began drilling.

Cable tool drilling was very slow, about 3’ per hour. Galbreath and Chelsey did the work themselves, each taking turns while living and sleeping on the rig floor. Oil had been discovered in commercial quantities nearby four years earlier. When they finally reached the Red Fork Sand, the producing zone at the earlier discovery, they encountered only a puff of gas. Galbreath and Chelsey had drilled below 1,400’, their money for the project all but depleted.

Little is known of the actual conversations that followed between the two men. One thing is known: their money and their energy were exhausted. They had already penetrated the deepest known producing reservoir in the area. No one at the time had any idea of what might lie below. Smart men would have packed their bags and gone home.

Galbreath and Chelsey weren’t smart men. They were something more: among the first of the breed known as wildcatters. They’d followed their hearts and guts, not their brains, to that field in northeast Oklahoma. Thankfully, they decided to drill deeper.

The next 100’ proved fortuitous. During the early morning hours of November 22, 1905, Galbreath heard a gurgling sound. He pulled out the percussive bit and lowered the bailer into the hole. When he pulled it up, he witnessed the first evidence of the black gold that he and fellow wildcatter Chelsey had sought. When pressure broke through the cumulus in the well bore and oil blew out of the hole, over the crown block, the two knew for sure.

Near destitution, Galbreath and Chelsey quickly became millionaires. The Glen Pool, to date having produced more than 325 million barrels of oil, has made more money than both the California gold rush and the Colorado silver rush. The discovery led to the founding of Tulsa, once known as the “oil capitol of the world.”

The Glen Pool is 100 years old but the real story is that of Galbreath and Chelsey – two original wildcatters and, for sure, true American heroes.

Native Louisiana Hibiscus

Here's another pic from my friend Dave in Livingston, Louisiana. It is a native hibiscus that grows in the area.