Keystone Field, Derricks and Sand Dunes by Esther Bubley

Name: Keystone Field, Derricks and Sand Dunes | Artist: Esther Bubley Media: B/W photograph | Year(s): November  1945
Esther Bubley | Keystone Field, Derricks and Sand Dunes | November 1945 | B/W photograph

About the Work

Sid Richardson learned the oil business from the ground up, beginning his boom-and-bust career in 1911 hauling pipe and working on an oil well platform near Wichita Falls, Texas, followed by short stints as an oil scout in Louisiana and Texas. As an independent trader in leases, and independent oil promoter and operator, he won and lost two sizeable fortunes in setbacks in 1921 and 1930.

When oil prices improved in 1933, Sid began wildcatting in West Texas. With $40 borrowed from his sister Annie, he began a “poorboy” operation—buying some materials on credit, borrowing others, wrangling leases, and arranging with workers to take small pay in cash and more in oil. H.A. “Red” Coulter, a driller who worked for Sid, reminisced about those early days in the Winkler County News in Kermit, Texas, “During the Depression, Sid brought the country out with nothing but nerve. Times were hard . . . the price of oil was so low, Sid had trouble getting enough money to meet his payroll . . . . and Christmas of 1933 was approaching . . . . Our grocer in Wink had cut off our supply. We appealed to Sid and he said that he had credit in Fort Worth and would send out a truckload of groceries . . . . It was the biggest Christmas any of us had ever experienced . . . even though none of us could even buy a postage stamp.”

After drilling two dry holes in Winkler County, Richardson struck oil on the third attempt. With the income, he invested in leases in the Keystone field of Winkler County and the Estes of Ward County. By 1935, Sid and his nephew, Perry R. Bass had become partners. Their big strike—one of the biggest in West Texas—came a few years later. Of the 385 wells they drilled, only 17 were dry. By the end of 1940, Richardson had 33 producing wells in the Keystone field, 7 in the Slaughter field, 38 in the South Ward field, and 47 in the Scarborough field.