The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 67, July 1963 - April, 1964 Page: 627
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ing oil which might be complicated in appearance and were likely
to operate on secret principles. The old ways of discovering treas-
ures hidden in the earth could also reveal oil-dreams, fortune-
telling, and eyes that see through rock. One popular belief was
that oil was to be found under wasteland, since God makes noth-
ing that is useless.
The first section of the book deals with the finding of oil and
the second with stereotoyped characters of the oil industry as
developed in the popular mind. Boatright points out that the
new stereotypes have their antecedents, the geologist in the book-
ish man, the oil promoter in the Yankee peddler, the shooter and
driller in such figures as the keelboatman, the trapper, the miner,
and the cowboy. Stereotypes, as he says, come into being by over-
simplification and a selection of "the most conspicuous behavior
of the most conspicuous" members of a group. The successful
wildcatter, who considers himself a practical man, distrusted the
geologist with his talk of subsurface formations and preferred to
choose his drilling site by chance or whim, perhaps even after
paying the geologist for his advice. The driller was supposed to
be footloose, independent, hard-drinking, and pugnacious. The
shooter, whose job it was to set off nitroglycerin at the bottom of
the well, was thought to be a daredevil with a relish for danger;
Tex Thornton, who conformed pretty well to this type, became
well known because his exploits were reported in the press. The
landowner was made into a stereotype also-a suspicious rustic
who went from rags to riches when oil was discovered on his
The third and final section has to do with the "imaginative
or fanciful response to the events and conditions of the industry."
For reasons indicated by Boatright, work songs do not seem to
exist and songs about the oil field are quite scarce. Tall tales are
numerous; Paul Bunyan migrated from the North Woods and
became a prodigious driller, and he had a rival in Kemp Morgan.
Gib Morgan, a real driller about whom Boatright published a
book in 1945, was a gifted inventor of tall tales, and many of his
tales have lived after him. Anecdotes flourish, including one that
reveals the psychology of the oil boom. An oilman who could
not find a place to stay in a boom town spread the rumor of a
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 67, July 1963 - April, 1964, periodical, 1964; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101197/m1/705/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.