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11. Dispatches from the Electronic Front Lines

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

11

DISPATCHES FROM THE ELECTRONIC

FRONT LINES by Charles Williams

The reporter knocked on the door a little after 6:00 A.M. The tall, slightly stooped elderly man who answered the door had obviously just gotten up, and he was still dressed in a worn bathrobe. The reporter excitedly asked what he was going to do next. The man paused and thought about it, and then answered that he thought he’d make a pot of coffee. The reporter pressed on, until it became obvious the man had no idea what he was talking about, or why this should be any kind of a special day. Finally, the reporter broke the news to him—he had just won the Nobel Prize for Physics. It turns out that Jack Kilby, who was the man who had answered the door, had taken out his hearing aids when going to sleep and had missed the official call from Sweden.

This is only the latest in a continuing line of dispatches from one of the most exciting areas of new folktales, the electronic front lines.

It is peopled by exciting, eccentric, energetic, enthusiastic, entrepreneurial, egotistic, exuberant explorers who are inventing a new industry and changing our very world while they do it. They are engineers, dreamers, medicine show pitchmen, computer geeks (and isn’t it interesting how much carnival slang has drifted over into this industry), sleight-of-hand (or perhaps sleight-of-mind) artists, and other assorted types who have embraced the latest of the get-richquick mother lodes. It is a profoundly young industry, and to this point, no one has written the definitive biography of it. Tracy Kidder has come the closest, but he has only captured a moment in time, which was largely obsolete by the time his books were published. It

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10. Five Stands Off Bottom

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

10

FIVE STANDS OFF BOTTOM by Lew Schnitz, P.E., P.G.

[Drill pipe is usually run into a well or pulled out of a well in

“stands” of two joints or three joints, depending on the height of the derrick. A joint of drill pipe measures approximately 30 feet in length.—Schnitz]

We were five stands off bottom when it happened. The mud tanks started running over. The well started kicking over the bell nipple. It was the derrick man’s fault because he’s supposed to take care of the mud! Most of these stories that started with “five stands off bottom” went rapidly downhill from there.

This paper is about some of the early day drillers, toolpushers, bosses, and service people who had come from boom days drilling at Spindletop, Kilgore, Ranger, Desdemona, King Ranch Stratton, and other famous oilfields. The stories are about a few of us who interfaced with them as we entered a phase of deep high pressure drilling on South Texas’ large ranches. My forty years in the Texas oil patch before I retired from Exxon gave me the opportunity to meet and work with several old-time drillers and toolpushers whose work ethic, wisdom, wit, and humor is legend.

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Lucy Fischer-West - “‘But Miss, My Family Doesn’t Have a Saga!’”

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

“BUT MISS, MY FAMILY DOESN’T

HAVE A SAGA!” by Lucy Fischer-West

I have been telling stories for as long as I can remember. More specifically, I have been telling my story since the third grade. My homeroom teacher, Miss Ross, was also the librarian, so I was surrounded with books. I came from a home filled with books and scant other furniture except for the antique bookcases they were kept in. It wasn’t that we could afford rare or expensive antiques; those bookcases had been acquired at a second-hand shop in the northeastern United States, where my father spent his first years after arriving in the United States from Germany, landing in America with about five dollars in his pocket in 1912, at the age of twenty one.

By the time I got to 3rd grade in El Paso’s Zavala Elementary

School, I had already gone through Kindergarten, and first and second grade at Escuela Agustín Melgar, a small primary school across the Mexican border in Cd. Juárez where my mother taught.

When Miss Ross gave us the assignment to write the story of our lives, I couldn’t imagine completing it based on my short existence. So, I started by telling my parents’ story. Over forty years later, I began Child Of Many Rivers: Journeys to and From the Rio

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Courtney Elliott - “The Legacy of Bill Pickett, The Dusky Demon”

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

THE LEGACY OF BILL PICKETT, THE

DUSKY DEMON by Courtney Elliott

For what reason would a cowboy run his horse full-blast after a calf, bail off sideways onto its head, then pull the animal to a halt?

One explanation for such eye-catching behavior could be attributed to either the cowboy’s real life experiences, or to the sport of rodeo in which he vigorously competes. Both of these motives were true for Bill Pickett at one point or another. He fought an uphill battle while participating in a pastime that was dominated by white men. It surely was not easy for him to gain respect from his fellow competitors when his ethnicity was discovered to be that of an African American. Coming from the most humble of beginnings, he persevered through it all to develop a rodeo event so that generations to come would remember and cherish the cowboy way. Steer wrestling has become one of the most unique of the rodeo events, stemming directly from an incident that happened not in an arena, but on the range. Bill Pickett, a native Texan and the first African American to make it big in rodeo, left a remarkable legacy by founding the steer wrestling event, which is still vigorously competed in today, worldwide.

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Biographical Information

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

Biographical Information

Mody C. Boatright (1896–1970) served as Secretary-Editor of the

Texas Folklore Society for twenty years. He obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Texas, where he taught for four decades. His contributions to folklore study and to the Texas Folklore Society are innumerable, and we continue to benefit from his research.

James T. Bratcher attended TCU and UT Austin. When young, undecided, and subject to mononucleosis, he had a brief stay at Harvard.

Much of his life was spent as a cow-trader and horse-trader, however. (If that’s not “Texas,” he doesn’t know what is.) At UT Austin he studied under Mody Boatright and Wilson Hudson. We also have him to thank for the Analytical Index to the Publications of the Texas Folklore Society:

Volumes 1–36.

Ty Cashion is associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. He received his Ph.D. from Texas Christian University in 1993. Among his publications are A Texas Frontier: The Clear Fork

Country and Fort Griffin, 1849–1885 (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1996) and Pigskin Pulpit: A Social History of Texas High School Coaches (Texas

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