ROBBIES GUSHER A STORY OF THE OILFIELDS
ARTHUR L. PRICE
HEY were quite alone on the deaort,
the man and the boy, with their
light buckboard and team of quick
little mustangs. There was nothing'
like a road near them, only the soft
bljie of the sagebrush and the tremen
dous expanse" of sand, which seemed to
roll away, through mirages of Imagin
ary lakes, on to the snowtopped Sierra
on the east and the rugged Tohachapi
range to the southeast. The mustangs
had Jerked the bounding buckboard
through" the low growth of feathery
flocked brush, flowering as daintily as;
if thq, shrubs had caught the down of
a generous bluebird.
Overhead-there was a great,' white
sun, set in the' blue heavens, 1 but from"
the distant' snow 'fields a cool breeze '
tempered the spring air. T, */ "
For miles the man and'boy;had trav
eled, the "boy ""driving, the man"' gazing'"
on the ground, occa'slonaily sweeping -
the desert with his glass, but chiefly
looking downward. •; , .
"To the right, Robbie," said the man, *
when they had come nearer to the edge
Offthe desert and the toe' of tfieffwJt^
WHS., .-%. : *-y- ' \u0084 /\u25a0-:\u25a0:; .' % .. .. "-'
•\u25a0/; Suddenly, Jb>ef ore Rob could check the"!-'
horses, the v ma» had jumped over the
wheel ,and w was running: toward -the
dark spot on the sand. . '. . '
: ,."An : outcropping, Rob, sure, an out
cropping; of oil." .' , \u25a0. ; ' :'
' -iThe boy checked the horses and drove
them I toward";, the "• place 'where the man
was now, kneeling, scanning, the ground, ;-.
sniffing the dark that oozed
through ? the? porous soil: ;;v:. : ,"'
m Satisfledv that he | had found oil. the
man'busily traced his position'on maps |
:whlch' he carried: in ; the -wagon. 7 '
| \ "My^. son,"? he cried, „ his; search 'com
pleted, .'.'my boy, . we are all, here. This,
is still government | land." "Now for szK
;tlement.".--,:.;_-:": : j v :r . \u25a0 \- ,/- ','\u25a0:, ':' \u25a0. \u25a0, ,;";
1 i\ The^f ather | and his , son collected : a '
few rocks;and 'piledrthem -.up near the *
dark oore on the sand, the father' wrote V
out^-ia^ notice -of settlement :;and pre--:
emptlon.andjßob took -a ;flne American |
flag: and-; stuck "itv ln the^pile of stones
of "monumerit/'*^- \u25a0;\u25a0' r .\u25a0 \u25a0''".!' i-\
v;* Now»" said Rob's father, "we own
this;iand." • ... } : i'\:'^-\ "•\u25a0\u25a0.:\u25a0 : :\u25a0
\Three months later there was an oil
derrick : on • the ' nronertv r anil .the drill H
"was .biting. .Its way Into .the dearth,' f
\u25a0 through 'gravel and , clay.*: Dowi^ down* ,
It; went,; but y for all the 'surface mdl- v
cations,"-; as, the; oil men say, Ino oil was
found; %The' monotonous panting of. the ,
gasoline engine -that 'worked; the/drlll;'} \u25a0'\u25a0'
;,the deadly hot sun of summer beating
I down on , the s camp, : scanty- supply >
of .water froni \u25a0 a nearbyl; spring, all
, contributed to make the situation In- •
tolerable. \u25a0 '\u25a0\u25a0' : . -\u25a0\u25a0; . <\u25a0*" •'\u25a0.- ' ". l
\u25a0 Rob had, to do the teaming, drivings '
to the; railroad at McKittrick, 30 miles V
away across the burning 1 desert.. for all;, .'\u25a0•.
that , was needed at the . camp. ' The boy
of 14 waß> brave], and -willing, j but the.;
heat .was cruel torture to him and! the
• loneliness o f ; : the r; desert wore v. on his
\u25a0;, heart ;till*it } .lost" thati buoyancy \u25a0'. It! had .
known. he could see that
dally; his father> was growing more dls- •
couraged over the prospects. ,'
# The money: in the Bakersfleld bank
was running-low 'and credit at the Mc-
Kittrick stores was as difficult for Rob
to secure when he would go In with
orders from'hls father. It became known .
in the oil fields that Allen's money was .
giving out, and the well borers 1 began \u0084
to ask for their pay in advance.
. "You see, Mr. Allen, the point \ is,
while wo know you area good man, yet .
this; business is uncertain and we can't
think a lot of your prospect, now that
we're down 748 feet and no more oil "\u25a0"'
indications . than' a Jackrabblt. You'll,
pay us at tho end, we know that, but '
the boys are grumbling and want to
know if there Is to be any end."
At the time Mr. Allen was working
on his reservoir, where he would store
the oil when ..the well produced.
"I have every confidence . in thll
project, Jim," replied Mr. Alien, "and I
Intend to stick It out if, Robbie and I
have to run the drills ourselres. And .
you'll have , your money. I- don't be
lieve much in paying in advance— in
fact, I won't— but I know how the boys
are, with jobs, waiting for them near
the towns and they 'realizing the lone- .
ltness of this place. I want to feel
-sure that they will get their money.
Now, it la isn't the safest thing in the
world to leave money around a camp
like this, but I will draw out at the
THE SAN FRANCISCO CALL, SUNDAY, JULY 24, 1910.— THE JUNIOR CALL
beginning, of each, week the wages' that
will ; be due on' the following Saturday.
*.You^will see the money and know; that
I have it. Of co'uxse, < the boys can
rely on your word that the nioney will
be;, ready for them. -T I'll: write to: the
.Bakersfield bank today r and have.' the
money forwarded to McKittrick bY ex
press. , Rob 'can brlng,it- out Monday."
The boss of the oil borers was satis
fled. The work would go on. '
When Robbie left j McKittrick on , the
following Monday to begin his 30 mile
teaming over the desert he had in the
wagon $500, which was the last money
.that : his father could raise. If. oil was
not struck -before It was gone then the
work would* be a failure. ;
.Rob was a healthyj boy; 14 years old,
ri6t' given to brooding over any hard
ships he might have to undergo, but
the desert , Is a lonely place and six
mules driven by a "jerk lino" are not
the best company In the world. >
1 Through the clouds of , stifling sand
the boy drove on. He had the arid
landscape to himself until late in the
When still a short distance from the
camp he looked back and saw three
men, following him on horseback. They
-had'guns in their hands, and the boy,
thinking they were cowboy*, from the
great ranches In the hills back of the
well, paid no particular attention to
them until they were abreast of him.
He turned to give them a friendly
greeting, and found that three rifles
were pointed at him.
It: is not pleasant for any one to be
in the focus of three guns, particularly
when they are handled by three des
perate looking men with loud voices
and dangerous gestures.
The men wanted the money — the $500
which Rob was taking out to the well
to enable his father to complete the
work. [ -Without it the" boy- knew that
his father's task was hopeless. 1 .
"I won't give It to you," he declared
The oldest man In the crowd lowered
his rifle, and .grabbed the long .whip
which the boy. was holding. He
cracked it in the air.
"Come through now!" he shouted.
.'.:• "Say,; : Bill," said another one of. the
three, "that ain't necessary at* alL.The
kidihas 'the ,moneyf in his ; wagon; I'll
hold him while. you fellows go through
the ; truck and jflnd 'It. ' Come on, kid,
gifdown off there."
'\u25a0- Robbie couldnot move. He saw that
he had '„ no chance to make 'a flght, but
he could' not bear.tamely to submit to
the .robbery. He did-not have to make
a decision. "The young man suddenly
rode up to the seat, grabbed him by the
leg and; threw him off into the: soft
desert sand. There he was held while
the wagon -was ransacked and the
money! discovered and divided. .\u25a0 ' ' '
Thatpart'of the work done, the three
robbers unharnessed,; the mules and
drove each ono away. Then they rode
away swiftly, leaving* Robbie bruised
and heartsick iiv the desert,' miles' from
town-and miles' from camp— with* only
the ithought that through him . his
father had been, ruined/ lie was stupe
fied by -the seriousness of his plight.
Ho felt utterly alone under the sun,
and, turning on his face, he broke into
hysterical sobs, his tears falling hot
on the sanJ. \u25a0 , •
_As he lay there on his face and, grew
calmer he wondered how he was to get
word his father of the predicament.
He. had seen the desperadoes drive off
the mules. He could not walk over the
hot desert sands In the July sunshine.
He must wait until later in the after
noon and then hurry «on through tho
. But as he lay thero with his head
burled in his arms he heard an animal's
step near him and felt the hot breath
of a mule on-hlg neck. The faithful
animal, driven away by the whip of a
wicked man, had returned to its master.
Rob sprung ,to his feat. Before the
astonished mule knew what was in
store for him Rob had flung on a bridle
and jumped on the creature's back. Hot
over the desort sands they went toward
the camp. His father and the men must
know of the robbery. The ambling old
mule, which seldom had gone faster
than a walk in Its. old life, realized the
need of speed and carried the boy
cheerfully, though its shoulders and
Hanks became white with sweat and its
nostrils named under the effort.
Aa the lad carno within sight of the
camp he met the accustomed sight.
There was his father busily construc
lng a reservoir all around the derrick
to hold, the oil if it should burst forth
suddenly as a "gusher."
•"Mri Allen noticed the speeding horse
man and wondered at his swiftness.
When he recognized one of his own
mules and then Robbie on its back he
hurried down the road.
The' boy told his father «the story of
the three robbers and the loss of the
money. 1 In the excitement the well
borers stopped their work and hurried
over to hear the story.
"Lost nil your money, Mr. Allen; may
be you have; but you haven't lost all
your friends. The boys and I are going
to help you catch those fellows right
now. _ Leave the well for a while, boys.
Here is r * better 'fun, for you."
'Robbie' described the men who had
robbed him.' He'; was too \u25a0'worn out by
his experience^ and the terrific^ ride' to
go on the " chase," but, he .his
-father and the six '..well* b'qrers star.t off
. ,on horseback, riding in a'"' wide . line
through the sagebrush? '
\u25a0. Left alone, the boy was broken again.
"He realized what'the loss meant to his .
father, that.the. work must stop, that
, there' probably 'would' not-, be another .
revolution [of/the drill in the'deepwell,
which' had now 1 gone down nearly I*ooo
feet.- He wenf to the derrick. ". There
was the oil "drill hanging in the cas
ing, covered with heavy clay. The
boy 'rattled'; it. '.Suddenly there was -
thej noise *6f: the snapping :V of*,a -pin, '
and down,', through' his .arms -into ' the '
casing^tind -the depth of the well fell
the drill;" .' li; \u25a0 • \u25a0\u25a0';\u25a0 : ; '"•-'•. - ! '; '\u25a0' ' : '•';." / "\u25a0 i ' ,
--\u25a0•• Rob; was dumb: with this*disaster.-He<
\u25a0 knew... enough'^'of oil " wells- t^o :realize V
; I that ;the 'well with a broken* drill in it !
• was considered^ i.ruined) unless- tliere
, .weTe.,;nne_ prospects, for. it^ cost much,
, labor and; nioney, to recover the "drill «
and. proceed /with the boring/again. ..All;
these thoughts \went; through his mind v
as he listened to the falling drill dur- . ;
ing the seconds it took it to drop into
the well. It struck. ' . '; " ,'[ .'.'\u25a0 .- '
; .'>.Then,there.came..a new sound. up. tho '•
casings— a sound Rob had t never heard
before, like- the.' murmur of an earth
| -quake/and up shot a column \u25a0
of black liquid]; thick and. heavy, • oily ;
\u25a0and odorous,"; .which struck the top, of
the derrick and knocked the timbers
aside as, if were 'shingles before
a fireman's hoserr;/ ' ' ; '. .•..'.;..' \u25a0-'••'. ;'•\u25a0;:
\u25a0 ; Rob Tan .from this -uncanny; geyser. \u25a0\u25a0''\u0084"
He wondered -for an .instant what' new
'calamity had overcome his father. But i
only for'an instant. Then' he knew the
„ .truth. ;.;•,'. ;-y^ : r : "[\' ..:.'\u25a0\u25a0. . ;>."f, '\ -, \u25a0..''\u25a0. . : v
*"!; The ..well .was a 'gusher, an oil% well
/which throws hundreds
»' of dollars worth of oil out a day for
_the harvest of its owner. ;; : •;
**"\u25a0\u25a0 AJieavy black. rain was falling, over,
i the boy. He, rushed" to the edge of the ft
reservoir his father' had been so busy ..'• .
making. It was beginning: rapidly to
fill" with 'the ;oil. . which was falling in
all directions. ; Robbie rushed around
the'top of the. dike. It seemed to be
': holding^ in -all places under -the strain. ,
/But no, in ot\e place the heavy current ,
of oil .was biting into the bank; at a ,
place where a sand sack ..had been ,
' taken away. The wall was : crumbling. ...''.
It would break like a dike : before a
flood.and then all the oil would be lost. \u25a0
There was but one chance for saving
the -bank. Robbie had no time to fill
another sand saGk, He must be a sand
sack. ' \u25a0':\u25a0' . "/; "'••.\u25a0\u25a0..\u25a0.'\u25a0\u25a0\u25a0_. \u25a0''\u25a0 \u25a0\u25a0 \u25a0'• :..;;.;.?
'He jumped Into the weak place and
i snuggled in tight between the other
\u25a0 sacks. The oil piled up around him,
.flowing up to ills waist. Still he
stayed. 'The sun set nnd the' stars
came out. and the oil flowed up to his ,
,\u25a0, \u25a0 breast. His" body was numb, but he , ,
held ,. his, place.' It was dark and the , '•',
.'flowing,, heavy oil Foseito his neck, but i
the lad stayed In his place, saving the i
bank and thousands of barrels of oil, •;!
. It was midnight when his father and
the woll borers returned. Their trip
had been long and their return was
alow, for they had carefully to guard
three sullen prisoners. As they neared
the well they heard a great roar.
"A gushert" the boss had cried. -Ai
"No, mo," replied Mr, Allen, i "Don't I
say that. There Is nothing but bad <
luck for me." . i
But the riders quickened their gait '
and in the light of a belated moon saw
the wor\derful flow of oil.
* "Robbie, Robbie!" cried Mr. Allen,
his joy atthe success of his well being
forgotten in his anxiety over his boy,
"Here I am, dad," came a weak voice
from almost .under tho Father's feet;
"here I am, and I'll have to get out In "
. a. minute, for jthe oil's up to my. mouth
now, but before you get me out get
some sacks ready* to put in place of
. me or you'll lose all our bully oil."
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