Wild West Texas | Chapter 8
If you know where to look their pockets in west Texas were visions of the old West still appear from time to time like marriages in the heat. I caught a glimpse one Saturday morning. Last December perched atop a pipe fence at the bullhead ranch some forty miles north west of Vo Desa scanning the horizon when a white faced hereford cow steps through thick tangle of mosquitoes. I don't see the cowboys she. She was followed by her calf seconds later. A herd of rust colored cattle bursted the brush and came streaming toward me guiding the cattle. Were a dozen cowboys. Most of them were chaps in wide-brimmed hat all were on horseback cowboys. hipped and hollered as a push the. Hurry the hooves of the animals turn up dust and sent pill clouds streaming into the wide empty sky. I was staring at version of West. Texas that existed long before oil changed everything. I'm Chris Wallace and this is Boon town a podcast about the historical boom playing out right now. In Permian Basin a half century before the first oil rigs punched holes across West West Texas scenes. Like the one you just heard were common. Ranching was the area's primary industry in this episode. We'll meet cowboys and cowgirls those who still work there ranch on horseback rural West Texans fighting to maintain their land and way of life while their ability to make a living off. The land gets harder and harder art. This boom can be a blessing and occurs this episode wild West Texas Telling you this Oh crack because I could long enough. This is my granny Johnny Witts. I'm helping her make brittle for a family Christmas party party. I'm holding onto a pot of molten corn syrup while she scrapes it off into a sheet pan smooth like down here. I'll show you the difference. OUGHTA be on smooth this out again when I go okay that stuff yes skull skull the balls off a brass what it would do. My granny is full of such things things. A winter day might be cold as frogs button. Alaska's what always site in summertime Texas is hotter than a gene autry pistol fire SAM rounds. She is as she says. Appeared de country. Girl that's got us all we do. Her House is kind of a shrine to the country country life on the shelves or trophies. One from showing horses and bronze sculptures cowboys on horseback sculpted by Betty. Sue Rose Grainy sister betty sue also painted many of the scenes on the wall. Ranch hands working cattle horses grazing in idyllic pastures over. The fireplace hangs a portrait portrait of my great grandfather. Astrid buckskin horse tipping his hat. The cookie jar which has had since I was a kid is shaped like a horse. I am as when you open it for a treat. When was the first time you remember getting on a horse well? My mother has a picture of me when I was three months old and I am on the Horse With Dad. He's got me sitting at between the ears of his horse and I just was with horses from the no granny's House is eight miles. Outside of my hometown of Andrews we call the twenty Acre spread the bean farm when she and my Grandpa Wallace moved. If they're in the early seventies money was tight so for a little while granny served a big pot of beans for nearly every dinner at the time. They're little three bedroom room. House was the first home on a dusty Colucci road with no name. Omar Land Jess. We moved here in one thousand nine hundred seventy three. We were the only ones out here. This has and the one on the corner down. There's only houses that were here. My Dad was in fourth grade at the time he remembers helping. My GRANDPA weld all together. Oilfield pipe that forms the horse stalls and roping arena. That still stand today. Not Long. After they settled at the bean farm Janney came home. One day to find that the county had placed a sign at the turn off to their house. It was green with white letters and it said Wallace road. Granny was awfully proud of that. Besides a short extent living in Midland when she was in elementary school granny has always lived in the country mostly on ranches in West Texas. Oh Yes my dad left. School school hit fourteen and rode horseback from Midland Texas to Silver City New Mexico. At that time mom mom was living on a ranch out there with her mom and dad and brothers sisters and he met her then. This was the nineteen thirties thirties. There were cars on the road but as granny said my great grandfather chuck Houston made the four hundred mile trip on horseback. But I as Daddy Daddy. When he rode out there to silver city? I said Dad. How did you eat? He said well. There's ranch is all the way from here to Silver City New Mexico EXCO so he would stop in and for his time there. Because I'm sure he didn't have rid sent to his name. They did have of BRONC- or two that needed to be started and so he would start their colts and ride and he'd eat and sleep there for his board and were rather horse. My Great Granny Billy. macdermott was still in high school when the two met Chuck worked on nearby ranches waiting for for her to graduate so they can marry and I remember him telling me that when they got married and they had one horse and the head of pickup that had wooden sideboards aboard the side. They horse up in the back of the pickup and drove to Midland Texas and when they came to midland they had one damn Between while working ranches around midland they had granny and later betty sue granny took to the ranch live from day one when she it was three years old she had a gelding named Dash. The daddy would sadly map. Put Him in this pen and I would come up on the fence. Get off on him and riding in writing until I got hurt and I was only three then but I can remember that is playing as if it was just growing up. nope granny's heroes. Were singing cowboys gene. Autry Roy Rogers and hop along cassidy she and betty sue would often grab their cap guns. Saddle saddle their horses and head out into the pasture for make believe camp outs. They'd swap out playing the sheriff for the outlaw. Even in the nineteen fifties. He's summoned the houses. Granny lived in. Didn't have electricity at night. They would burn coal oil lamps and being far from town met you or even less protected did from the elements that was during the era of in those big sandstorms would roll in. And you could see him coming they would be re hid in like this and we would all everything down real good and that Oh house that we lived in there it will be dirt inside the House of that window. Sale that day and we'd cover our beds with a sheet so that when we I went to bed we'll take that sheet off in all the dust dirt would be on it. They weren't in fact many times. We've put a wet handkerchief live across her nose so we can raise granny. I started working cattle alongside her father when she was a young girl she developed a knack for treating animals whether she was working on heifers with screw worms or bottle feeding a newborn Colt and then we get our horses trailer rope motormen trailer you bring him to the worming trips. What we call it? We put the sick so we could watch and make sure that they healed up. It was pretty trying little chore. Did you like doing that though. Oh my word yes I thought I was in heaven. Living Out in the sticks also meant the granny rode the bus to school in sixth grade. She got transferred to what was known as the rich kids school. For the first time she was in class with the children of bankers and local oilman. It was a tough tough transition. She would cry because she didn't fit in with the city kids eventually though. Her outlook changed. I learned that I felt much much more privileged to have come from my background as country girl and I didn't care if they call me a country girl. I was tickled to death over that after graduating high school. She met my grandpa Bob Wallace like her mom. Granny became the wife of a ranch. Hand one of her responsibilities was cooking for a crew of cowboys and that was up. Mostly our menu was chicken fried state potatoes. Data's and gravy and there'd be vegetables thrown in some green beans or corn and later on we we did try I out some Jello Salads on cowboys and they will not eat green jaw. So it's got to be rid really regardless of the flavor cowboy thing I Guess Cowboy League like she did when she was a girl. Granny gave basic medical attention to everyone everyone out on the bean farm both four-legged and two legged variety. I mean you're basically kind of a horse vet in some ways. Oh yes I've had a lot. The people called me for that things in fact I had a main come here one time and he had a fighting rooster and this rooster go beat up pretty bad he he say. Can you give my rooster penicillin shock and thought. Where do you get A? But I feel a little strange about three CICI's penicillin and police bigalow leg out just gave him ms shot in that leg in that made it to Louisiana and raised more fun chickens for him. I experienced experienced this. Then you used to give dad the same shots he'd give the horses gave him. I gave Him Bay twelve and I wouldn't go with the penicillin and stuff because that strictly I kinda figured that was veterinary purpose. Only only but part of what grigny enjoys most about living on ranches around West Texas is the practice of neighboring the women would come with the US this bins when we branded and we'd be peeling potatoes chopping onions and everything getting lunch. Ready for them. While they were out brandon and and gathering in brandon the cattle so we had a lot of good camaraderie there with the neighbor women and and their husbands events because they would come. Help us do our brandon when she wasn't cooking granny was out riding horses tending cattle and helping thing with other chores required to keep going. It was hard work but sweat never bothered her. What shook her toughness to the core was going through a divorce divorce a few years after they'd settled in at the bean farm my granny and GRANDPA split up? was that hard for you to to go through a divorce. I like in the seventies and I thought my life is over because I didn't marry divorce. Yeah I'm married till death to US part. My grandpa headed north leaving granny to take care of the place with just. My Dad and my uncle ski to help train. The horses run the stables that was one of the hardest. There's times through. My life was to get through that and not have the fame because I am a very family oriented in person I liked the I love my family and didn't like going places without him with me is he was the other half Jeff. I didn't like just me and the boys going because they don't have a dad anymore due dot worked but I I pray through it but I think my best solitude was was when I was just distraught to the point. I didn't know what to do next. I've just opened up my Bible and read all four page for called Columns and I don't care where in that bobby were I would get pace. Would you ride horses at all to do that. I was still riding. Oh Yeah See. When he left we had four or five horses here that we were still there? Were still in training. I was taking an eight hour job and come home at five o'clock and ride at least two horses every day and switch off the next head right there there too and they would vent ride those horses out there in the pasture hollering 'cause scream and get it system go back and have to be civil altima kids being a single mother and operating. The bean farm wasn't easy with two wild adolescent boys one time. My Dad wrecked his motorcycle on the COLUCCI road leading to their house when he hit the fence the barbed wire sliced him centimeters from his jugular. He still has a scar in skeet. You probably probably remember him from episode one. We always carry the superglue alcohol bottling truck case. He's always getting fighting. Bart is always get cut open so we just superglue. Yeah tell me about some of need A. I need a sympathy card for that. I looked out one day and skied in wide purpose. Had the hood of a no picker hooked behind the Horse and one was riding hood of the deal in wars ride the horse and they were making circles in the arena. I thought if something happened. They got in front of that. Hoodie cut their head plum off. didn't pay attention to safety. I don't think so. Despite multiple trips to the hospital the three of them managed to get by mm-hmm granny later met Karl wits. They were married before I was born. And he's always been a grandfather to me Papa. Carl worked at a gas compressor station Asian for Texaco but he also grew Alfalfa on the side. Once I asked him why bothered with Alfalfa. He thought for a minute and said I like to watch it grow as a kid. The bean farm was one of my favorite places in the world. I spent a lot of time out there. My two brothers. Listen I built forts out of the square bales of Hay. We shot each other with. BB guns rode horses and occasionally go and raised around on a go-cart growing up. We never want slept in a bed out there. We made pallets on the floor right there on the SHAG carpet. Full of arena dust and sticker burs and I still love going to see Grandpa at the bean farm. Though much has changed. The COLEGIO road has long since been paid. The sign at the end now says southeast four thousand one no more Wallace road. The biggest change is the amount of people who now live on all sides of Cranium Papa Granny says many new homes and RV parks have been built since the boom like. How do you feel personally about having more neighbors and all that that is a good thing or a bad thing or neutral thing? Well I like the idea that there's progress going on. You wouldn't want it to stay at stagnate. It's very good for our economy in this area. I'm old fashioned and I do still love the country but I'm in the middle of twenty acres. I still have a little bit of hollering room. And they're not choking me absolutely today like you know if they were right next door to me in town right right. I would be like a caged lion there. Thank granny is also grateful for the boom because it helps her business business to make a little money into keep busy. She boards horses at the bean farm. Lately the stalls have been full when the bus goes. Everybody gets rid of with their horses because they can't afford to feed them and care for them and then the minute the business comes back. This place fills up at. This is a healing place out here. 'cause that's what horses do is help. Keep People's calm down from the urban world they can come com rather horses and relax and that's what it does for me too but these days the urban world is encroaching and it's bringing more or than just people to her doorstep up until recently if you stood on Granny's back porch and look past the arena. There is an unbroken view of the horizon but nowadays more and more flares are cropping up. If you're not familiar with the term flares are sort of like giant torches that burn off excess natural gas ask when it's not profitable or there's not enough pipeline capacity to send it down to market. They burn off highly potent greenhouse gases as well as pollutants that can cause ause respiratory. Problems is at flare still out backer on away. There is well they did get it cut off a while but it come it's owning and you can send on the front or back porch and kept probably anywhere from three to ten flares going in the air. That's quite a few way more from back when Hannah. I'm sure that is not helping our air quality but you had to make some sacrifices somewhere. The skill of these sacrifices surfaces is growing larger. Now we have also seen a very dramatic drop in our rainfall here because we used to raise ALFALFA and our pastors in the south and we could not irrigate it enough to keep it well because you you have to have a little bit of rain to help you along. When we didn't have it so we had to plow it all under and on top of that your water supply from people irrigating north of US seminal Lubbock Littlefield? Brumfield all those farms in there are growing our water tape you you think maybe some of the oil field use to of all that water is probably I think I think they probably have a lot to do with some of the bad water sources in this area in fact about three or four miles down the road here. That water is totally undrinkable. Oh really and I think I think the oilfield ruin that. Yeah it's kind of like the flaring. Oh Yeah See. I don't what that's doing to our. I mean we surely don't have clean air. There's not much reliable data measuring how much flaring is going on across the permian basin companies self report emissions ends and the agency responsible for regulating. Them is mostly toothless. One report released last year did find that the amount of methane being vented or flared has doubled since two thousand seventeen and as groundwater contamination. It happens across the region last September. Groundwater near the Odessa city limits was found to have been contaminated by Oilfield Service and supply operations in that instance. The Responsible Party came forward worked with state and local agencies to remediate the contamination. There's just so many pros and cons to all industry that so important important but yet you sometimes wonder if that over rides the bad side of it. 'cause there's there's definitely a bad side I like our air and water and even even head some thinking about having earthquakes because because they've drilled so much and they are doing so much horizontal stuff down to the earthquakes granny mentions are common in areas. Where a lot of fracking takes place? Ace scientists who study seismology have published research linking earthquakes to both hydraulic fracturing and injection wells though the industry has pushed back on these claims. The steady up ticking quake since the fracking boom has raised more questions from the locals the uneasy tension between ranchers and the oil industry is nothing new in so many ways drilling destroys the land they hold dear and with fracking. That's more true than never but it also makes their way of life possible despite the flares and the influx of people granny. And Papa aren't planning on going anywhere weird but recently they've begun talking about the long term future of the beam form granny and pop are both approaching eighty and none of her grandkids. Kids are begging to take over the operations. Do you ever wish that me or my brothers. Her Dad and skeet were more out on the ranch and stuff. Well I would love that to happen but economically. It is not any good because you cannot. They're not hopping opping jobs anymore and you cannot get ahead in the laugh so you have to make the choice of trying and make a living and prepare for your senior. Years are just when you get your senior years. You're just not in good shape this. This scenario isn't unique to my family. It's becoming more and more common. Among ranching families across West Texas as the older generations die younger. Younger ones aren't as likely to take the ranch on raising cattle on these often parched pastures is risky and only marginally profitable if at all for many any of the younger generations it simply not worth it but there are some West Texas ranchers that managed to keep their land and traditions intact And they almost always have help from another far more lucrative industry every night in America local police as departments around the nation received hundreds of calls from burglar alarms most of the time they have no way of knowing whether or not alarms real all the alarm companies can tell them them is the motion sensor went off but simplisafe home security is different. There's a break in. SIMPLISAFE uses real video evidence to give police an eyewitness account of the a crime that means police dispatch up to three hundred fifty percent faster than for a normal burglar alarm. You get comprehensive protection for your whole home Outdoor cameras and doorbells alert you to anyone approaching plus simply safe protect your home from fires water damage and carbon monoxide poisoning. It's it's twenty four seven monitoring done by live security professionals and it's only fifty cents a day with no contracts visit simplisafe dot com slash boomtown. You'll get free shipping and a sixty day risk-free trial go to Simplisafe S. I m. p. l. i. safe dot com slash. Boomtown Dan. So they know our show since you and this is the fall roundup at the bullhead ranch a time when all the cattle are gathered the calves that were born in the spring or branded in the Bulls Sir Castrating de Horrid. It's tough noisy work but the cowboys know exactly what they're doing to riders on horseback rope a calf half the herd and drag it over to the team to cowboys. Hold the animal. Still One man notches the year with a sharp blade. Another administers a series of vaccines. One does the branding another clips the horns and if it's male. One Cowboy has the unpleasant task of slicing seeing off the testicles. The bloody testees dropped in a bag. They're often taken home in Eaton as delicacies known as mountain oysters. So who's cooking. You can notice that you've been taking a levels right. Yeah I going to cook. We'd on Yonten Tain Jalapeno though it may sound on like a scene from an old western. We're surrounded on all sides by the wool patch. The ranch is right in the heart of the old dollar Heidfield an area that's been producing using oil for seventy five years. The bullhead ranch is owned by Dan Fisher. His family has been working the same line of Hereford cattle for over a century the Hereford cattle. My granddad started back years ago. Are Still there today. That's all we raise Hereford cattle and as far as I know since the early nineteen hundreds. There's never been a female bald. It's we just bought bulls can raise the improve. That original heard read it today. Dressed the dental pearl snap shirt starched wrangler jeans and a black felt hat. Dan Is the platonic ideal of the West. Texas cattleman. He's sixty eight lean gene in athlete. It in fact seven years ago. Dan broke his own record as the oldest athlete to compete at the National Finals Rodeo. He'd made the trip with his two sons. Vin J Tom Fisher who are also competing for championship buckle and the steer roping event. It was the second time that all three three of them had made it to the finals. A feat no father son team had ever managed in Rodeo history. The fishers are the closest thing Andrews has to royalty though. I know it would embarrass Dan to say so. It's true the bullhead ranch where I attended. The roundup is one of several properties. The family owns in the area the sprawling ranch which makes up a good chunk of North Western Andrews County is their primary headquarters despite the pump. Jacks dotting the shared land. The ranch is beautiful with quail coyotes. record-setting mule deer. Dan's grandfather founded the bar F in nineteen. Oh eight Fisher. Ranch actually started with my grandfather Marvin McKinley Fisher senior. Came here from Arkansas. Came out here on a train and he was a traitor later. He would he mind sell land horses. Can he bought land here in Andrews County think the First Section he bought was about a mile. Al From Ri- actually right here. Dan and I are sitting with his wife Pam in the living room of their new house on the northern edge of Andrews. The Fisher spent two two and a half years building their dream home. A Beautiful ranch style mansion that Pam designed all the way down to the tile. There's an art studio upstairs and a full on movie theater in the basement with the ceiling of twinkling lights that look like the milkyway. Pam Headmaster woodworkers hand-carved pieces of furniture in Mexico Zico. She also planned the subdivision where the house sits on a road. She named Prairie Lane. The fishers can trace their success back to Marvin senior ear. Dan's grandfather in the twenties. He was one of the first to drill for oil in Andrews County and so your grandfather when he got out here he looks around. There's a few ranching communities and know oil wells yet they don't even know they're gonna find that was he taking a gamble. Sure the big gamble. Yeah especially buying minerals and things that he did that we still have in the family today which has been very profitable. was that kind of a game changer. What's at all? Oh yes definitely. Yeah it wasn't that much game changer. Them but it has been over the years you know because it's right now with cattle markets and the way land is low. It's hard to keep land together to raise catalog because lands worth worth more than what you could make sallies talent. You know So you see that too much big ranches anymore there and But yeah the business has been one of the main things that helped us keep the land together. The fishers have been lucky. Few families have been able to keep their ranches intact. Most ranchers are what Dan calls dirt rich and cash poor when ranch owner dies. The next generation doesn't always have have the money on hand to pay the inheritance tax and other expenses so they partition it all sell that land somebody else and it just just over a year. She things share get away and as you partition especially out here. You need a lot of land. Grace Catherine that's how. Oh the smarter your property gets. Es less heard you can have surgery to have the less money you're gonNA make so it's kind of more drought you. You have the fewer cattle you can raise and even when it rains after a four five year drought the cattle. That you've been able to keep they don't have as many babies because it affects them physically so it takes a while to build you heard backup and then you you know to try to get back in the black you know but that's been that's the main reason those reasons our wives. There's not many old ranches anymore. Still it from the beginning just because of those factors out there so we've been real fortunate to be able to keep it in the family. Nothing big actually came from the wells that Dan's grandfather drilled in the twenties but he set an example for his son. Marvin junior was only sixteen years old. When senior died in nineteen forty four and left Tim to take care of the ranch? It was a tall order for a kid fresh out of high school but Marvin junior followed in his father's footsteps. By trading horses selling cattle will and coaxing companies to drill wells on his ranch. Dan came along in June nineteen fifty one a few weeks after his birth. He was at the pay Cash Rodeo Radio where his dad competed in the roping. It was the beginning of a lifetime. Love affair with Rodeo. Dan went pro in one thousand nine hundred eighty and the next year. He made his first trip to the national finals. RODEO team roping. He eventually made it to a total of eighteen national finals. A feat which earned him entry into the Texas Texas Rodeo Hall of fame. The announcers called Dan the living legend. And here's the living legend. Yes you don't hear him. I do when I'm in the grants that's what they're saying. This is that's what they mean without saying. Dan's forty year career has come with its share of injuries. He's undergone eleven surgeries his latest. This was performed shortly before our visit Andrews when we talked his armless still in a sling. I had a shoulder surgery two weeks ago and a knee surgery. Same Day out toward the shoulder shoulder up at At a Rodeo in October two broken bones in their three torn tendons and I thought it all year long but there at the end of the year started doing better one Thirteen thousand shiny. And like I was telling you go there And then two days later tore my knee up in doubt Heart Texas at the T. Rodeo and actually placed on that run that I told him and So I I came home. That night went to the doctor. It was torn horned hand so I decided well I need surgery here. I definitely be surgery here. I'll just stop and get them both done. So that's what I did and ahead of both done the same day by Dr Daniel Cooper in Dallas. Who is actually another kind of cowboy doctor? He's The Dallas Cowboys I stopped. The guy goes out on the field cowboy gets hurt. That's that's my doctor. And he did of course not everyone on the Rodeo circuit can afford the same surgeon who works on the Dallas cowboys nor do most Rodeo contestants travel and fashion like Dan does these days his when he goes down the highway. It's a beautiful custom trailer with flat screen. TV's a revolving satellite dish and plush leather seats. While Dan and works hard to stay in shape and practices constantly. His Rodeo career is cushioned in part by all money much of that money actually came after his kids has gotten involved when oil was down in the early two. Thousands dance oldest son. Vin decided to quit law school and with Dan's backing. They went to buying oil wells else. Dan's younger son J. Tom went to school to become a land man and McKinley. Dan's daughter worked as their attorney. The families timing was good God when all shot up during the shell. Boom the fishers were in a good position to make some money. We bought so ally wells in the last twenty years making good trade. It's been real lucrative. That's that's been on the test things for for us. We're so glad then wanted to come home. The old man Jay. Tom Van are able to keep up with their old business. While traveling the Rodeo circuit even on the road travel and they've got their laptops. Yes and that's what they're doing is researching properties to bind so and this goes back to the there there Regional routes. They're great great great grandfathers trait. It's the same thing it strikes me that these are two of our biggest Texas myths. Right right our biggest icons or the cowboy in the old man and this is like a blending of the two in the modern Texas. That's that's that's pretty much wavy furious. This reminds Dan of his favorite movie giant. I don't know if y'all see men but of raw cousin lives potato. And there's I can Relate to everything in that movie because they raised Hereford cattle on the West Texas ranch and they got an business and then also had airplanes. And things you know and then they go with all that they want to go back to the ranch. They went back to the ranch and finished the movie. You know me and just West exit rancher again. So let's go. Although Dan is a money will man. He's stayed true to the path card for oh him by his father and his father before him. The fishers invest back into the community. The annual Marvin Junior memorial roping raises money for a scholarship scholarship. They give to college bound high school seniors and by no means does officiers. All money mean that. Dan Sweats any less than other ranchers at the round under the bullhead ranch. He was right there on horseback with all the other cowboys. Seems like you could just say okay. I'm done with the cattle and all that hard work but you're still out there. You're still doing it. Yeah you don't see many ranchers ever retire retirement and ranch and don't go together because ranches what you love and what you would do. You didn't have anything else to do. You do it anyway. So most west Texas Rangers never retired. They just that that's just the way and Retirement's not something you look forward to it all. It takes a little while back. I met another rancher fifty year old Michael Moore an annual barbecue held for the friends and clients of an Oilfield Electric Company in Andrews. These types of events are sometimes dangerously lubricated but this one was sponsored by a snow haired haired Baptist so the hardest drink on hand was sweet tea. Michael and I shook hands while waiting to load our plates with steaks grilled by crew down from Abilene. After bit of small talk I asked Michael. How many head of cattle he ran on his spread? He studied me from under the Brim of his black. Felt cowboy hat. He he told me quietly. We don't ask folks that out here. Nonetheless he politely offered to give me a tour of his corner of the Permian Basin his ranch and South Western Andrews County and the nearby sand dunes of northern Winkler County. Few days later I climbed into his three fifty and we bumped down Texas highway. One Twenty eight a two lane road connecting Andrews to Jal New Mexico. The bar ditch was littered with shredded tires and trash tikey psyche on them. You know. It's the holidays. It's the highways earn portion. They weren't built for this much traffic. They weren't built for these kinds of whites right. These vehicles that are coming down through here and the trash. Yeah I saw tons of they just sitting right there and it's everywhere where we left your pickup the every every gate entrance. I've got whether it's mine or wall field. Also there's thirty air bottles there you know about a teeth over okay. Right litter stretch you know Staff we have to deal with. You can hear Michael's frustration. His respect for the land runs deep earlier that morning. Three hours before sunrise. Michael in a ranch hand had driven to a nearby property to help round up another ranchers cattle. They're continuing doing the same time honored tradition of neighboring that my granny used to practice we we stay busy. We still neighbor quite a bit in this part of the country. mm-hmm neighbors call him. We'll go help them. They're tattling we call them. When we need? Help Melt just like we did this morning. We got four thirty Fed the horse's saddle but amended. Try Her quite before daylight. You know we've made up at a windmill or a set of pants somewhere in quick bite of breakfast getting a satellite tag off ago. We knew for them. Thank you for a week week. After a devastating prairie fire burned some eighty percent of Andrews County in two thousand eleven. Michael took it upon himself to protect his neighbors. If it ever happening the fire auto body decent half trump seven hundred gallon tank on the back tropical go anywhere at. Yeah and but the thing is when we're on fire we call the neighbors come when when they call Sir we thank. Starting in the fall of two thousand sixteen Michael and his neighbors were approached by companies asking them to sell or lease their land. Unlike the landman who'd come knocking before these people were interested in the oil beneath ground. They were after the sand sitting on top. If you were driving through this part of West Texas and didn't know about the sand dunes you might might think he'd just stumbled through a wormhole straight into a miniature version of the Sahara desert. Beautiful Rolling Dunes of corn meal colored sand appear seemingly out of nowhere in certain areas for years. These dunes were little more than a curiosity a place to ride. ATV's and for high schoolers blurs to drink beer. But when fracking came along they suddenly had commercial value. fracking requires a lot of fine grade. Silica sand to keep the fractures propped open so the hydrocarbons can flow into the well up until recently most of the sand used by drilling companies had been dug doug from central Texas or up in Wisconsin or Minnesota and shipped by rail by harvesting the San Right here in the Permian basin drilling companies. Genie's could save a fortune on transportation but those companies I had to talk the landowners into letting them do it. Michael and his family were hesitant. So yeah this would have been fairly just peaceful nothing going on now ours people now. It was pretty quiet them. MM-HMM I'm not trying to sound him. Critical okay okay Because we did sell making disclosure did sell some land to San okay. It's our hot there okay. Then I can't talk about journalism so I'm not trying to sound hypocritical when I talk about the people the damage to the roads in the trash right. It's just what it is. Yeah but we in the back of our minds. We all kind of knew what was coming with. I understand Tehran. Now that there's going to be As of right now there's sixteen minds that are already operating or you're the family's decision boiled down to pragmatism. They knew the sand companies were coming anyway with with or without a piece of their land so they leased since we spoke at least four more mining facilities have been constructed among the rolling dunes that stretch from from crane to kermit small town some thirty and forty five miles west of Odessa. The Wall Street Journal has dubbed the craves the new Texas Goldrush Goldrush as we drove Michael pointed to a huge sand mining facility. It looked like a series of massive grain silos planted in the middle of the Saharan. Yama pulling here. They don't know me down here One of my neighbors had this ranch leased for probably thirty forty years when this ranch so to a The same company. We came over here and help to move the catalog aloft. Yeah last summer home. This road used to just be to track barely wide enough for pick coming down here. Is it kind of bitter sweet for you to be moving cattle off of your neighbors ranch or is it just more of a kind of of the business calculation that you feel pretty comfortable about as far as that's a smart move well they didn't sell land at least okay and he's a big operator in this area so he's got land elsewhere he can. Yeah this was. This was not the only hard to cattle. He on catching. But right you know. There was ten sections laying slack that it was taken out of cultural production right. Yeah Okay and as far as it being bitter sweet you know a lot of these older some cal one formulate this into recording me you have to you have to understand some of this land them apart by the sand companies. Some of it came from old ranch families that have been here in this area. Eighty one hundred years or longer and in some of it. It was acquired from guys who've only the last fifteen twenty years a lot less time so most of the older families I I'm not sold and I can't speak for all of them. Okay chair but it. It's basically a matter of this sand has been here for a long on time and not all of it needs to disappear so not every acre out here in these sandhills else will ever be mind. I know several of those families. They they did not they did not find everything contract for sale. Br early sound just certain Swaziland. Yes their reasoning. You know. That's up to them. You look at it that is it's been here forever. And some other needs to be saved for several reasons. The wildlife laugh out there and see some San deals out there connection to him. And you know there's certain vegetative species that are in that science preserve them as well. Michael Michael is genuine when he talks about the importance of preserving the land and wildlife. He's always been attuned to the difficult balance. Between profit and preservation survey shen his grandfather law ranch in the Permian Basin for ninety nine years awash. Grandfather lived to be nearly ninety nine and he was in his right mind until few weeks forty past about eleven years ago and he lived in this area all his life. He and a law the other Alzheimer's at the time we lost the last ten years but they were always telling announce US younger ones would say one day that water will be worth worth more than that so take care of you won. Their prediction has come true. Selling Permian water has become far more profitable than raising cattle and many ranchers have gotten in on the act. Several have even saved their ranches from bankruptcy. You can't blame clean them but it's not exactly a long-term solution either. The land can't support cattle. If your water get sucked dry ranchers no this of course but bouncing prophet and preservation hasn't gotten easier for his part. Michael wants a future for his daughter Allison and his son Mason and that means giving up some of his is land to the mining operations sprouting across the beautiful West Texas Sand Dunes. Mason WanNa Kinda fall on your footsteps as far as ranging He. Does you know we. We're trying to plan for that for the future. Alex ever. I'm forty nine. My wife is a before as we headed back towards Andrews County. We passed what was once an oilfield camp in the old dollar fill. I asked Michael to pull over so I could walk around. I could see a few sand silos on the horizon. The rest was a flat sea of mosquito and Shinno still green from recent rains. A Hawk perched on a fence post. It was quiet save for the rhythmic groans of a pump. Jack at its peak. Some thirty families families had called this patch of dust home now the only signs that anyone had ever dwelled there were a clump of dead elm trees and a few broken concrete slabs labs rising from the pell dirt back at the bean farm granted sipping big red and rum from a big Gulp Sized Cup and nursing a broken collarbone. She fell down the stairs while sailing around the Caribbean Country Music Cruise. She said the ports were fine but she really liked seeing acts like Ronnie millsaps and Neal McCoy Nathan with a broken collarbone. She didn't miss a single show was on that ship with ever state in the Union which represented a no. You're from Texas. And they're really excited that they met somebody from Texas out. What do you want if someone says what's it like out there? What do you like? Do you have a response. I'd still miss like Kinda desert country and plus the oilfields. That's what we're noted for now used to be cattle cotton and O.`Neil it's just all taken overall pastures seem boy you see a few cattle but not so Kamini not very many because the range is kind of gone by the wayside and Lago said that's due to the younger generation in Russian. They cannot make living on it. And that's why then it's gone and because again for ices relations all kinds of stuff you know of cost. It's her that I'll say about but this is probably be till they bury me up there in the same litter applaud his. I tried to wrap things Well thanks for sharing. Thanks for sharing a lot of things but I have totally enjoyed you being from West Texas and I don't care where they're gonNA know for ticks and they're gonNA know that I loved nixes basis. Stand up for before I go. There's something else she wants to show me her ALMANAC she uses uses it to determine all kinds of things at the bean farm like wind to plant seeds and wind cut the cattle. which is what they were doing at the bullhead ranch now now if only she could find it almanacs you remember let me by the cash the known no? I don't care if it's a newer old. I won't often that you had. I just Argonne new and I can't find either one of their together where they are. They're together worry. Look under Eh. Is it on top of the Bible autograph on top of the Bible. I guess she's he's got one of them anymore. I surely do. Oh look in the next episode. Boom town the Permian Basin next bust may be coming sooner than expected. What really interested me about this was back in the industry actually doesn't make any money? Boomtown is a CO production of imperative entertainment. mm-hmm and Texas monthly executive producer. Is Jason Hoke produced and engineered by Brian Stanford who also wrote the score audio assistant at the ranch which was born. Michael Boomtown is edited by J K Nickel and Meghan cry reported by lead-free Stat. Our theme song is written and performed by fake Rossi. I'm your host and writer Christian Walls Texas monthly's pairing up also owns interest in the midstream oil and gas industry. Among other diversified investments are editorial judgments are made independently of any such investments. Don't forget to tell your friends about boomtown and leave a review on Apple. podcast if you like the show. Boomtown is a ten episode series with new episodes available. Every Tuesday follow us on social media and visit Texas monthly dot com slash. Boomtown town for more on. The story allowed me washroom. I'll I'd say this is the longest I've ever looked for ALMANAC before.