Growing Up with a WichTex
What's a WichTex you say   -   "Well"  a WichTex is a Rod & Tubing Machine

And what that might be GranPa,   -   Well first let me provide you with some background ...........

Having grown up in Florida, you GranKids don't know much about the Oil Field and the type equipment required so, let GranPa explain a few things and what a Rod & Tubing Machine is all about.

Oil Wells of course are a hole in the ground which has pipe installed from the top of the ground to the bottom of the hole where the oil is.

Usually a hole is cased with 4 to 7 inch pipe and cemented in at the bottom. The pipe is either set on top of the pay zone or set through the pay zone and then holes are shot in the pipe to let the oil flow in.

Another string of pipe is run inside the casing pipe to the bottom of the hole which is used to bring the oil to the top of the ground and into the storage tanks. Normally this pipe is 2 inches in diameter and instead of calling it pipe, it is called tubing.

Some oil wells free flow the oil to the top of the ground but, most oil wells require a pump to bring the oil up.

This is usually accomplished with a pump jack and 5/8 or 3/4 inch rods going up and down to work a piston pump attached to the bottom of the rods which run all the way to the bottom of the hole inside the 2 inch pipe called tubing.

Therefore, we have Rods and Tubing in an Oil Well to pump the oil out of the ground.

The piston pumps do routinely wear our just as any pump in constant use will wear out and need overhauling.

AND, this requires a machine to pull the Rods and Tubing out of the ground so the piston pump can be replaced or repaired. Naturally this machine is called a Rod & Tubing Machine.

However, we often times referred to the Rod & Tubing Machine as the "Pulling Unit" - Today, a Rod & Tubing Machine is simple called a "WorkOver Unit" or "WorkOver Rig".

Therefore, it was a Rod & Tubing Machine which my father and Alford Golden purchased in 1937 when granpa was 3 years old.

It was a brand new Model C-60 WichTex manufactured at the WichTex Factory in Wichita Falls, Texas. The factory was located out on the Burkburnett Highway toward Sheppard Air Force Base.

GranPa enjoyed going to the WichTex Factory because it was one of those large old buildings built of wood and up on the second floor was their glass enclosed offices which looked out over all the manufacturing floor of the plant and it was just like you see in the old movies.

The factory floor was a wonderful place for such a young boy to explorer and watch them making the different models of Rod & Tubing Machines.

Of course every since GranPa was a very little boy he has enjoyed and loved being around machinery.

As we shall see, the WichTex and I sort of grew up together and it was on this machine that GranPa was taught to work starting at age 12.

The rods are exactly 25 feet long but, the tubing length varies with the average length being around 30 feet. Be it rods or tubing, both are screwed together with enough sections to reach the bottom of the oil well.

In the area of Texas were GranPa grew up the oil wells nominally ranged in depth from around 1600 feet to 7200 feet. Therefore nominally speaking, a 1600 foot well will have 64 rods and 53 joints of tubing. A 7200 foot deep well will have 288 rods and 240 joints of tubing.

The Model C-60 WichTex which my father owned was limited to about 4,000 feet due to the length of cable the sand line drum could spool up and the weight of the tubing.

Maximum height of the telescoping mast was 45 feet so only one rod or joint of tubing could be pulled at one time.

As each joint is pulled out of the ground it is laid on racks about like carpenter saw horses you are familiar with except these were made of pipe.

As each rod or joint of tubing is pulled out of the ground it is unscrewed and laid down on the racks.

After the rod or joint of tubing is unscrewed a person grabs the bottom and runs out to the end of the rack as it is lowered to the ground. This was called "Tailing Rods" or "Tailing Tubing".

Tailing Rods and Tubing was the job given to GranPa when he was 12 years old and GranPa was paid 50 cents an hour.

Now, understand I was not really needed because only two helper type people and an operator were reguired to do all the work.

I was just a 3rd extra helper. My father was a strong headed Irishman who held the firm belief in a days pay for a days work and he gave me the job of tailing rods and tubing at a young age strictly to learn me responsibility and how to work.

Replacing the rods or tubing back in the hole didn't require tailing so while this was being done I was made to wash the tools up with gasoline and did other odd jobs such as keeping the Rod & Tubing Machine itself clean.

My Dads partnership with his old friend, Alford Golden didn't last too long but, early photos of the machine have a sign on the door indicating "Smyth and Golden"

When first purchased, the C-60 was a single drum machine.

When a swabbing job or a clean out was required which necessitated the use of a cable long enough to reach the bottom of the hole, the 1 inch hoisting cable had to be unspooled from the drum and a 9/16 inch diameter cable called a sand line had to be spooled up on the drum.

In the case of the Model C-60, the sand line drum capability was around 4,000 feet in length.

To expedite the task of changing cables my Dad had rigged a sand line on a cable spool which was mounted on a 2 wheel trailer. On one side of the spool was a brake similar to the brakes on the machines drum and on the other side of the spool was mounted a car wheel.

The brake was used to keep slack out of the cable as it was spooled onto the drum of the Rod and Tubing Machine and then the car wheel on the other side was used to run an endless cable back to the cat head on the side of the machine and this was used to turn the spool to rewind the cable back up on the spool.

Since many of the oil well work over jobs only necessitated the pulling of the rods and repair of the piston pump this was an acceptable method of operation for the times however, it was an inconvenience that could be avoided by having two drums on the machine.

Therefore not too long after the machine was purchased, My Dad took it back to the factory in Wichita Falls and had a sand line drum mounted on the unit which turned the unit into what we called a Double Drum Machine.

The double drum made the machine too heavy for the 1937 Chevrolet and while it would still haul the machine, to keep the weight off the rear tires which were now also overloaded, each time the machine was parked in the yard were it was kept at the lease house the guys would back the machine up on a block of wood which was cut slightly longer then the height of the rear of the machine and this lifted the machine up to take the weight off the tires.

For some reason as a small boy of 4 and 5 years old this always fascinated me and I would run out to watch the guys back up on the block each time they came in from a rod and tubing job.

Because of the weight problem and probably with the threat of a world wide war, in 1941 my Dad mounted the machine on a brand new 1941 Ford Truck which he used through out the World War II years. Again WichTex did the change over at their factory in Wichita Falls.

As a kid I remember riding out to the Ivy Pool north of Lueders with my dad in the new truck and him talking to the pumper about his new truck and how the 2 speed auxiliary transmission made the small hills easy to climb.

Up until the war started my dad hired all the help needed on the Rod & Tubing Machine and he never operated the machine himself. but, after the war took all our young men to go fight, it got hard to find operators and while you could get by with inexperienced helpers you just could not afford to have inexperienced operators run the machine.

Therefore, shortly after the war started and a shortage of manpower came about my father started operating the machine himself and did so for the remained of the time he owned the machine.

Also during the war years automotive tires were rationed and hard to come by since the war effort was using all the tires being manufactured.

Leaving the machine out on an oil lease at night when it was rigged up and working over an oil well gave concern for my father that the tires might be stolen.

Therefore, my father removed the cable spool from the Cable Trailer which was no longer needed and mounted a larger body on the chassis to turn it into a Camper Trailer which was not too common at the time.

The cover over the trailer was made from wooden tank hoops much like the hoops around a wooden barrel and then covered with a heavy green canvas. A folding bed for sleeping was placed in the trailer along with a kerosene heater to provide comfort in the winter time.

Depending on the circumstances, location and how insecure my father felt when the machine required being left in the oil fields at night someone would sleep in the trailer at the machine to safe guard the tires.

This same trailer was to once again be modified and converted into a double wheel trailer to haul the tools necessary to support the clean out work with the Spudder Attachment which we mention later in the story.

As of 2005 the kerosene heater resides with my brother and the folding bed was given to my sister Iva many years ago.

Shortly after World War II was over, surplus army trucks became readily available and all the new rod and tubing machines were being mounted on them because they could get into the fields in muddy weather to fix the wells.

After Daddy lost a few jobs because a competitor, Bill McCowan could go in the mud when he couldn't, Daddy took the machine back to the factory and mounted it on the Army Surplus 6 X 6 which was a GMC.

I was with Daddy when he bought the army truck from a guy in Abilene. The guy lived out by ACC college and the guy took us riding and to show Daddy the 4 wheel drive we climbed the side of a hill right there in town that went about straight up. Had to jump a curb to get to the hill.

Daddy paid $1,500.00 for the army truck and it had a dump bed on it. He sold the dump bed for $100.00 and then sold the 1941 Ford to our neighbor Red Felts for $1,500.00 -- So, Daddy swapped trucks and made $100.00 - He thought that was pretty cool and laughed about it working out that way. Of course he then had to take it to the factory in Wichita Falls to get the machine changed over to the army truck.

As I recall the change over at the factory cost $800.00. Not much in the year 2005 but, in the late forties and early fifties, Rod and Tubing Machines with 3 men working on them only received $9.00 an hour total.

The army truck had a longer wheel base which added about 4 feet between the Ford V-8 engine which ran the machine and the cab of the truck. So the machine's frame was lengthened and the factory built a new large tool box and installed it in the extra space.

Additionally, the 1941 Ford had been a single axle and the army truck was a tandem axle so this required all new fenders on the back and this also required installing all new tool boxes on the side so, the machine came out of the factory looking like a brand new Rod and Tubing Machine.

This occurred around 1946 when I was 12 years old and as stated by this time Daddy had me tailing rods, washing tools, and doing other odd jobs when I was out of school and the machine was out working on oil wells for the customers.

When the machine was not working and parked in town at the house and when needed, I was made to wash the Rod and Tubing Machine and all it's tools. On several occasions I was made to paint all the tools red.

Although, I got paid 50 cents an hour when we were out working for a customer pulling rods and tubing. In town I washed the machine and did all my odd jobs for no pay except my supper.

As I've said, my Dad put me to work and paid me on the oil well jobs just to teach me at a young age how to work and earn my own money.

The funds he paid me was coming out of his own pocket and not the oil companies he worked for.

However, my Dad got it back in a way because once I started earning my own money I bought all my own clothes which means, ever since age 12 it was I who paid for my clothes and not my parents. I even had my own charge account at the local Herrick Dry Goods Store and would special order some favorite khakis which had a cowboy cut on the pockets. My Levis cost me the sum of $3.95 a pair which meant I had to work 8 hours to buy a pair. My special ordered cowboy khakis cost $5.95 a pair.

Shortly after my Dad had the Rod and Tubing Machine installed on the army truck, we were out in the Ivy Pool North of Lueders when it was real muddy and we got into the well with the Rod and Tubing Machine but, couldn't get the old 1941 Ford 2 door sedan Daddy used for a work car back out to the road that afternoon to go home because it rained some more that day and the pumper had to get a tractor and pull the car out to the main road which was graveled at the time so we could go home.

Immediately after that Daddy went to Stamford and bought a new 1947 Willys jeep. He said it made no sense to have a Pulling Unit that would go in the mud and then not be able to get to it with a vehicle that wouldn't go in the mud and thus the jeep.

Boy was that a lot of fun for a 13 year old kid. I learned to drive in that jeep and met my wife April Fools day 1950 because of that 1947 jeep.

Drivers Licenses are obtainable in Texas at age 14 because so many farmers desire to use their children to haul the crops and produce to market.

My father wanted me to get my drivers licenses as soon as possible in order for me to drive the jeep and follow him when he moved the Rod & Tubing Machine and thus it did not require the use of the regular helpers and this way my father did not have to pay for someone to drive the jeep just to relocate the machine.

Therefore, as soon as I turned 14 I obtained my drivers licenses.

From age 12 to 15 my responsibilities continued to increase as I got bigger and learned more and it got to the point lots of times when the regular helpers were not available that my dad didn't even make an attempt to hire anyone else and I did the work of a one of the regular men.

Of course I had school days and school activities to work around and my dad made ever attempt to avoid my missing school days but, in my high school years there were days that I had to miss to help my dad.

A some point along the way, my Father had purchased a stripper oil well and thought he could increase the production if he shot the well with nitroglycerine which was a common practice at the time. Anytime an oil well formation is fractured by being shot it requires clean out and often times this will take several days or weeks to clean out all the cavings caused by the blast.

The clean out is accomplished with cable tools to drill out the cavings and then a bailer to haul the cavings out of the well.

Cable Tools require something to make the cable and the tools go up and down.

Although he only had an eight grade education, my father was pretty good at designing things and he had looked the Rod & Tubing Machine over and figured out how he could bolt a walking I beam on the side of the mast and make it go up and down with a chain driven sprocket with an eccentric arm and mount it directly on the existing cat head shaft by removing the cat head.

My father's intentions was to do this as cheaply as possible just to clean out his own oil well after being shot with the nitro and he had no plans on using the walking beam beyond that.

His design of the walking beam arrangement was not going to be a professional or very practical design because it required jacking the front of the Machine off the ground several feet to obtain the clearance for the walking beam between the mast and the oil well. However, it would do the job on his own well without a lot of expense.

My father did a hand drawn sketch and took it to WichTex so they could manufacture the sprocket and a pittman arm he had drawn up.

I don't recall at what point my father became aware of a professional designed Spudder Attachment WichTex now had available for their Rod & Tubing Machines but, I do know it was fairly early and not many had been produced when my father first went to WichTex to have the sprocket made.

When my Dad arrived at WichTex to have the sprocket made, the owner of WichTex tried to get my Father to purchase one of the Spudder Attachments which at the time cost $1,500.00.

Since my Dad was only going to spend a few hundred having the sprocket and walking beam made he declined the purchase and returned home.

However, he got to figuring maybe he should consider the Spudder Attachment and talked it over with a few of his better friends who he had confidence in.

One of his best friends, Thomas Murray was an oil lease pumper and he encouraged my Dad to go all the way and add the Spudder Attachment and told my father if he did he would do what he could to see the Spudder Attachment paid for itself.

It was a major decision because beyond the $1,500.00 cost of the Spudder Attachment, a set of Cable Tools would be required and a Trailer to haul the set of tools and a lot of miscellaneous tools such as a depth recorder and a new 5/8 inch drilling line to replace the existing 9/16 inch sand line would now be required.

In additions my father thought the existing mast should be reinforced to take the vibrations and strain created by the up and down movement of the spudder motion.

Another consideration to consider was that a change from straight Rods, Tubing, Swabbing and minor clean outs with a Sand Pump and Bailer to a full service machine with drilling and full clean out capability could have a severe effect on his current customer base.

In essence it was a big change from the current mode of operation.

Knowing my father, I am sure he laid awake many an hour considering all his options and I know he discussed the situation with his trusted friends for several days.

As I recall a week to 10 days went by and my Dad made a call to WichTex to see if he did purchase the Spudder Attachment could the Sprocket which was now finished and ready for pickup be used on the new Spudder attachment so the expense of it was not wasted.

It was determined that although slightly larger, the sprocket could be used.

With that determination made, my Dad took the machine back to the factory for the 4th time and had the Spudder Attachment installed.

When we got it back home we sit the machine up on the vacant lot south of the Lueders house and I had the pleasure of painting it from top to bottom mast and all. It again looked brand new. (I was 15 years old grand kids)

It was also just before age 15 that I began to complain about my 50 cents an hour pay scale when the men were making $1.25 and hour. Truth be known, I had probably been complaining for a long time but, by now I was filling in when one of the regular guys was not available.

Then one day in the Spring of 1949 when I would turn 15 in August, I was fussing about my pay when my Dad said, "Ok Young Man Tell you what, John is moving to Odessa when his kids get out of school and you will be out of school so when John leaves I won't hire anyone else and I'm going to pay you a mans wage and By God you are going to do a mans work."

And that is how it was all that summer and through out my high school years.

I attended one semester at Ranger Jr. College and then worked for a few months on the old WichTex for my dad after I left college.

However, I wanted to make the bigger bucks that was available working on the big rotary drilling rigs and happened to have an uncle living in Sweetwater, Texas who was a Tool Pusher and he said he could see to it that one of his drillers give me a job roughnecking.

So, I left home and went to Sweetwater for a period and that got me started in the business of roughtnecking for a living and later on becoming a driller on the rigs.

In 1958 after I had married your GranMa and we were living in Abilene, Texas my father sold the Rod & Tubing Machine because at age 58 his health and years was too great to allow him to continue running the machine.

At the time my father and I discussed the feasibility of me taking over the Rod & Tubing business but, in both our case, the circumstances at the time would not make it very beneficial to either of us. So, the decision was made to sell the Rod & Tubing Machine and a man living in Albany, Texas purchased it in 1958.

In the late seventies, I was passing through Albany on one of our trips to Texas and I observed this Rod & Tubing Machine parked just off the highway and near the ice house in Albany.

Nostalgic set in and stopped to look over this machine.

Low and Behold, I got out and made a walk around the machine before I realized it was my Dads old Rod & Tubing Machine.

It was no longer mounted on the Army Truck and had been mounted on an Blue International Truck and all the tool boxes and fenders had been changed so I didn't immediately recognize it as my old friend who I had spent a many of my childhood days with.

I apparently didn't have a camera with me as I have no pictures of the machine on that day.

In 1985, GranPa, his pickup and a couple of six packs took a four week nostalgic trip down memory lane to Texas and made a special side trip to Wichita Falls just to visit the factory where the Rod & Tubing Machine was made but, I was very disappointed to discover the old factory closed.

The Wichtex Plant had moved all the way across town and out on highway 287. Not to be denied, I traveled all the way across town and out 287 to see the new WichTex Factory and I had a nice conversation with the plant manager.

He explained that Wichita Falls City Limits had grown out past the old factory and city taxes had just gotten too high and they could use a new plant and so the move to get back out of the city limits and a new building for the plant also.

The WichTex Company has always been a family run business and still was in 1985. Hard for GranPa to believe that was 20 years ago I made the trip.

I have learned since, that the WichTex Manufacturing Plant has once again moved and this time all the way to San Angelo, Texas.

I have looked through all my mothers picture albums and was surprised and disappointed to discover we have very few pictures of the Rod & Tubing Machine in it's later years and none when it was mounted on the 1941 Ford Truck.

To view Photos of the Rod and Tubing Machine, Click:..  HERE

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