Wednesday, September 11, 2013

King Oil

This is one of my favorite books.

(And for those of you who just said, "Oklahoma has culture? Who knew?", I smite thee.)

I like this book so much that I have colored many of its pages with a highlighter.

I like it so much that I have used several highlighters and a pen to mark up some pages.

And sticky tabs.
I like it because when I found it at age 29, this book explained why I was as I was with pithy bits like this:
Oil came closer to being a miracle cure for impecuniousness than did agriculture. It set the equation land equals wealth ever more firmly in the Oklahoma mind. 
From these peculiar circumstances--a frenzied claiming of land, the failure of much farmland to sustain sustenance, and the spread of oil and gas production--comes a basic Oklahoma attitude, a strong faith that land provides for those who are fortunate enough to have drawn a favorable lot...This fatalistic view, drawn from experience, emphasizes winning or losing, the luck of the draw. It is deeply embedded in the Oklahoma psyche.
Whoa! This guy just described me, my family, and everyone else I grew up with, too. That's why this is one of my favorite books. Because I thought someone might have been hiding in my head when he wrote it.

My family's luck has always been sort of middle of the road. Our farms were good enough to sustain sustenance but we hadn't drawn that really favorable lot, the one with lots of oil gurgling up from the ground...

...until the end of my senior year of college. Finally, it looked like our luck was about to change. They were drilling on our land.

My parents bought me this gold nugget to celebrate.

That was the summer--the one right after graduation--that I met Captain America. And let me tell you about the power of oil.

In our early courtship Captain America--well, he was Lieutenant America then--tried to impress me by buying me a gold chain for my nugget. It worked. The guy I was dating right before him made me pay for everything so jewelry was definitely a step in the right direction.

As the courtship flourished, so did the oil well. Each week the news was better than the last. 
They had hit paydirt.
Our stake was going to be $3,000 a week.
$5,000 a week.
$10,000 a week.

About a week after that last announcement I got another piece of jewelry from Captain America--a fancy-dancy diamond ring with a big proposal attached.

That's the power of oil, my friends. The land provides!

And then about a month after that we got the news that the well had collapsed and we would be lucky to get $3,000 ever.

And the land taketh away. Welcome to the luck of the draw, Captain America. You are officially an Oklahoman! :)

This is a long and windy post all to get to this punchline. Awhile back I found this history of the oil industry volume with a fabulous front cover decorated in gold. Now it says:

Oil could still be the cure for my impecuniousness. Somebody needs to buy this book.


  1. From one Okie to another, one of my favorite books is "Oil in Oklahoma" by Bob Gregory from Channel 8 news in Tulsa. What grand tales of the Booms and Busts of the oil days. You are right about the grit in the Oklahoma spirit and Captain America could turn any girls eye!

  2. Impecuniousness, really, I know you're smart, but impecuniousness. I have trouble sounding out and numb and number. At least you gave me the link to the definition.:-)

  3. Hey, Dennis, I decided if I had spent all that time finding the definition, the least I could do was share the URL. :)

    And Babette, I'm going to have to find that book.