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Dealing with Oil

(Galveston Daily News, January 21, 1901)

Beaumont, Texas, Jan. 20---The Oil Fever Is Now Epidemic in This Section Of Texas---A Couple of Incidents---An Excursion of 535 People Left Galveston For Beaumont Yesterday---New Oil Drinks.

The oil fever is epidemic in Galveston and threatens to drive sober-minded people to drink. But even in drink there is some escape from the craze, and the very atmosphere in and outside of bar rooms is loaded with the germs of this malady. "Gusher punch," "oilerette," "geyser julip," "spouting fluid," "madman's treat," and other fascinating, thirst-destroying concoctions are the latest creations of the Galveston Mixologists. 'When in the oil regions, do as the oilerites do,' so when you enter a bar room in this section, one must be on to the "signals" in calling for his "morning's morning" or mid-afternoon constitutional. The kodak (camera) fiend has departed this sandy isle long, long ago for Beaumont and the wild district, where crude oil washes the grass and oils the sawmill machinery while the engineer entertains his land speculative friends. Photo peddlers with ghastly reproductions of the oil artesian greet the visitor and the home folk, and the ice man song has been buried, while "How Would You Like To Be The Oil Man" is unmercifully handled by the reckless of voice and songful lungers of the street brigade.

It is not excitement, but just the calm, considerate craze which carries strong minds up in the air about fifty feet and then lets them drop gently back to earth. Nobody is excited over the oil discovery, only half the population is a little anxious to get on the oil field so their great grandchildren can recall the incident in the bright and faraway future. To prove how easy Galvestonians accept such surprises and eighth-wonders with cool, premeditated philosophy, 535 people left Galveston early yesterday morning for the oil field on an excursion to witness an iron pipe elevated about 100 feet into the air and supported by a timber shaft. The prairie covered with oil several feet deep and decorated with warnings, "Do Not Fire The Grass--The Oil Will Burn," is all the excursionists cared to see, because Galvestonians did not have the craze. The geyser was capped twenty-four hours before the excursionists left, but that did not interfere with 535 people--men, women, and children--packing themselves into the coaches for a 135 mile ride back and a peep at the spot where the gusher used to gush.

A good story is told about a wise old farmer living not far from the big oil well who had been patiently waiting these many years for some one to discover gold, silver, or oil in the neighborhood so he could unload his immense tract of about ten and three-tenths acres of land for a fortune or two. He had lived in that section for 52 or 53 years, and had settled there long before Beaumont and other growing and gushing burgs had been discovered. He had often told his friends that he knew it was no ordinary part of God's green earth and that sooner or later something would happen to shove up the prices in real estate and common land. He had spent many a sleepless night in years gone by trying to hit upon a scheme to turn the earth over in that section and jerk out the gold, silver, and oil. But time cures all such diseases and heals all wounds,and the young man grew old while younger men dug for oil and got it. Well, to make my long story short, the gusher near Beaumont gushed forth and filled the air with a greasy fluid that was sickening to anyone who did not own land or a saloon within 50 miles of the spot. From the old man's farm, he could see the oil well pouring out its millions of wealth and he raised the price of his ten acres until by the night of the first day, he wanted $75 an acre. He was offered $60 an acre, but he refused, and said he would think about it. The next day he walked out into his back yard and greeted the well spouting greater and grander than the day before, and he moved up his price to $85. He was offered $75 an acre, but he still held out, and figured, like wise men will figure, that he would hold out till he could get about $1,000 an acre and then let it go. But to his horror and surprise, he noticed on Saturday, that the well gushed not, and from his farm, the well looked like a deserted smokestack, towering over the wreck of many fortunes, his included. He was hastening toward the well, when he met a man who looked like a "staight fellow" and he inquired what was up at the well. "The oil has petered out and the piping will be sold for scrap iron."

Two hours later, the old man parted with his ten acres for $20 an acre, and today that tract can't be bought for $100 an acre.

Another story, not sworn to by the sheriff of the county or the all-powerful justice of the peace in the precinct of Texas where the occurrence is supposed to have happened, is told in connection with the find of oil. A farmer, who had bought several acres with the avowed intention of embarking in the rice growing industry on a large scale, wanted more water. It was necessary that he should get plenty of water on his land, as everybody knows what a thirsty product rice is and how it readily takes to water. He decided to sink an artesian well or two, and he forthwith started to bore for artesian aqua. After boring for many months and burying a couple of miles of piping, he suddenly struck a black, thick fluid, having heretofore struck sand, shell, thirty-seven different kinds of mud, hard rock, soft rock, bones of some ancient race or wild beast, etc. To say that he was mad when the oily fluid passed out on his fine rice land would be to do the discoverer an injustice---he raved like an untamed politician. He was filling the atmosphere with a bluish smoke, when a neighbor came along and scenting the dark fluid, exclaimed: "Holy Mike, man you have struck oil! You are a lucky-----!"

But Mike fainted and had to be carried from the greasy field to his house. After a few hours doping and feet boiling, the old man regained his identity, and between moans, his lamentations were colored with expressions, thus: "That I should have lived to this age, and worked hard and spent my money boring for nine months for water---plain, earthly water, and then--then struck oil. I have lived a Christian life and the Lord knows I wanted nothing but water, and yet the devil gave me oil!"

The next day, when a prospector offered to pay the old man the price he paid for the farm, with a liberal extra as interest and reimburse him for the money he spent seeking water, the farmer was a happy man. He sold out and quit the country. This did not happen in or near Beaumont, and it was a long time before the oil craze struck East Texas. (comp. by W. T.Block)

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