Sorry folks . . .

I managed to get the sinus crud. I’m mostly over it, aside from the stuffy ears and nose, but I’m having to dedicate the small, still-functional part of my brain to Day Job and writing.

Full posting will resume tomorrow.

Eek! A Peeping . . . Oh, Never Mind

So there I was Sunday morning, standing there minding my own business and putting on my earrings, when a second shadow appeared on the wall. No one had walked into the room. Someone was looking in through the window!

I spun around and beheld . . .

Star-cat, the peeping not-a-tom. He’s a red tabby with a diamond-shaped patch on his back. He’s at least seven or eight years old, one of many tabby kittens spawned by a household that apparently did not believe in spaying or neutering the two+ adult cats that lived there*. Star and his brother appeared in the neighborhood as kittens. MomRed had been putting out water for Gato del Diablo, and the elderly lady up the block fed the feral kittens, so they hung around. Star’s brother was brown tabby and very friendly. He disappeared when he was full grown, and I suspect someone adopted him and he became a house cat. Star was always skittish and stand-offish, so he continued to be a Community Cat.

At some point, Star disappeared for a few days, and returned a little more skittish, minus the tip of one ear. And minus something else, which cut down on the number of cat fights. When the elderly neighbor started having medical problems, a different neighbor started putting food out for Star. Except that family calls Star “Big Orange.” I suspect Star does-not-answer to a lot of names, some of which are not printable. He’s a survivor and gets around. I have no idea where he dens in cold weather. MomRed tried to entice him into a little cat-shelter a few winters ago, but Star-cat wasn’t interested. Typical cat. He spends the mornings around RedQuarters, then moves on. He eats the squirrels that, ah, suffer the local penalty for trespassing. He fears no one and no thing, except for the very large hawks and the Great Horned Owl.

He’s our peeping not-a-tom. Grey, Little Grey, Blanket, Tux, and Marmalade occasionally wander through, but only Star-cat hangs out on windowsills or the fence.

*The family moved away and the number of striped felines in the neighborhood plummeted. I’d seen fifteen cats and kittens in their driveway one morning, all striped, so I knew that I’d found the hive.

Tuesday Tidbit: A Change Comes

Word comes from the south . . .

“I don’t know,” Wulfhilde admitted four days later. She shrugged black-cloaked shoulders. “You have read all that we have here on the Valke lands. The imperial court holds more, including books with spells and accounts of the Great Cold’s wars. I can send south, but I suspect that such books are not permitted to travel.” He sensed her hard look even without seeing her eyes.

Halwende nodded. “Making things burn without using fire arrows or balls of flaming tar hurled by arm-throwers, breaking stone from a distance, twisting animals into weapons, those are not skills I’d want other people to have.” He glanced down at the floor. “I don’t want to have those skills.”

A black-gloved hand rested on his shoulder, then withdrew. “No. It is not a light burden, because of the duties that come with those skills. Gifts are divided for good reason, so that none are overburdened.” She leaned back in her seat. “Although, I freely admit that I wonder at times if the Dark Lord perhaps, mayhap, overestimated my abilities and wisdom.” He heard a little humor in her quiet words, and smiled in turn. “Which doesn’t answer your question, brother.”

He looked up again. “No, ma’am, but now I know not to continue searching for, oh, a bedded-down ovstrala in an empty snowfield.” More than one man had literally stumbled over—or run into—the beasts after a heavy snow. They disappeared, looking like snowdrifts. Only the tiniest tip of a nose revealed what lay beneath the snow blanket.  A man could spend hours poking at drifts only to discover that the herd had moved without his knowing it.

She chuckled. “True.” She paused, sitting up very straight. He went on alert. Her voice lowered, pitched to carry only to his ears. “The old emperor . . . is not well. His heir is not experienced. Be wary, brother, when you go to court.”

He inclined toward her. “My thanks for the warning and road word, sister.” The news did not surprise him. Nor did the warning. He’d read a few too many accounts of lords and others who sought to take advantage of inexperienced and distracted emperors.

“Now go. You have duties, I have duties, and I shudder to imagine the rumors if you spend too long in my company.”

He stood and bowed again. “That I will turn miner and begin working on that wine cellar that his grace desires? Scavenger forfend such a fate, honored sister.” He dared to wink before he left. Her chuckles helped ease his mood.

Warm spring air played around the keep. Halwende nodded to the other guard on duty and took his post. Dark soil appeared among the green, plowed and ready for planting after the next Eighth-Day. The new priest of Marsdaam should arrive soon, weather permitting, now that the roads had started to dry. A pair of valke danced in mid-air, talon-to-talon, then wing-tip to wing-tip before separating and diving down, toward the edge of the close schaef pasture. The first flocks had started moving north, along with woodsmen to begin clearing land for pastures and farms. Someone had done laundry, and he shook his head. The amount of work, and fuel, and labor that went into cleaning bedding and clothes . . . No wonder washer women were so strong.

Spring . . . two years until he could wed. The Valke lands, the new ones, should be ready then. Perhaps moving north would not be such a bad idea? Except his father would not allow it, of course. He needed to stay here, in the heart of the lands, not go to a new place away from civilization. Except Valdher had called him to do just that. How, my Lady, how do I do both? He took a long breath and moved to the right, watching the distance, then moving his gaze closer in. He did not expect an answer. She answered in Her time, and his wife would have to learn to accept his dual roles.

An eight-day later, a servant pounded, then caught herself and tapped on the chapel door. He got to his feet and opened the door. He’d been working on a spot on the floor, along with Maltaria. Here, the Lady’s servants served. “M’lord, his grace seeks you and Valdher’s voice. A messenger from the south has come with news.”

“We come,” Maltaria called. The servant bobbed a curtsy and hurried off. Halwende helped his senior to her feet and they put bucket and brushes away, then made their way to Duke Hal’s reception chamber.

“Good.” His grace waved to a man clad in light grey and brilliant blue, the hard blue of the winter sky on a sunny day. “My heir and Valdher’s voice are here.”

The stranger bowed and turned so that he could see everyone in the room. All the senior servants, Master Lothar, the chief steward, and others had crowded into the chamber. “I bring news from the south,” the man began. He opened the large, flat bag hanging at his side and removed a page written in blue ink on creamy white. A heavy blue seal, and a smaller black seal, hung below the page. Halwende glanced to Maltaria and raised one eyebrow. She nodded. They knew the news.

“Hagmar Thorkilson has gone to the Scavenger’s realm. His second son and trained heir, Aglak Hagmarson, called Rothbard, is now emperor. Full court will be held on the Eighth-Day following Yoorst’s spring feast, to honor Hagmar Thorkilson and celebrate the his majesty’s ascension to the throne.” The messenger turned to his grace. “Your grace, your presence and that of your heir are requested at His Majesty’s court at Shwabvale. All titles and claims will be confirmed, and honors paid and received.”

Duke Hal bowed in his seat. Halwende too bowed. “I and my heir shall attend.”

The messenger inclined his head. “I leave this here as proof of the news.” He removed another handful of documents. “And these.” Duke Hal waved his hand, and the chief steward took the pages.

(C) 2022 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved

Which early?

There’s early, and early. My early is “arrive in place ten to fifteen minutes before time, unless otherwise needed,” or unless traffic might be a problem. Military early ranges from fifteen minutes before time to two hours before time (although the latter might be a trifle exaggerated. Or perhaps not). Sib’s early has shifted from “ten seconds before I’m too late, give or take” to “ten minutes before call time” to “thirty minutes early because Big City Traffic might strike.”

I get twitchy if other people don’t leave early enough for me to be early/on-time. Yes, it’s a control thing, and it’s not my fault, but still. Being prompt is polite. And if you have been left standing, panting for air after racing for a bus or train that departed without you, well . . . Especially if you are in Vienna, at night, and the end of that vehicle had a blue light on it. Guess what? You just missed the last one of the night. It’s going to be a long walk to find a taxi, or just a long walk. I darn near missed a boat that way, and had to jump from shore onto the moving vehicle. In my defense, and that of the people I was with, we were given the wrong departure time and the crewman standing beside the tour boss did not correct her. The tour boss thought it was amusing that the four of us almost had a massive logistical problem (trying to get from Tiny Town, Germany to Larger City by milk-train and bus, then find the correct pier with our boat.)

High school students seem to feel that early is “ten seconds before I’m officially tardy.” Except for the one who claws at the door to be let in ten minutes before students are allowed into the building.

Athena’s early is . . . I have no idea. I know that her “I want attention and food” generally comes at my “oh cat, the alarm won’t go off for another half hour. Hush!” Unless it is Caturday, when she gets up on weekday time, not weekend time.

I come from a military/aviation/medical background, where on time means on the specified time or before. Other cultures, especially ones that are farther in time from the introduction of the mechanical clock, time-clock, and “be here or be fired” tend to ease along and get there when they get there. After all, there’s sunrise, and cow milking if you have cows, and then you do whatever work needs to be done. The clock is not all-powerful and all-important, assuming you have a clock. This approach to things works pretty well in an agricultural society. Not so well in a society that wants to know exactly what time “mañana.”

But a lot of us, around the world, know what it means to run on “Lonesome Standard Time.”


A traveling meeting of the North Texas Troublemakers assembled this past weekend. The gathering included research, food, laughter, food, story swapping, ad-copy improvement, writing, and food and laughter.

The group started a few years ago, sort of. Like most mischief, it began with some passing comments, then some relocations. I “met” Lawdog, Peter and Dorothy Grant, and OldNFO through comments on their blogs. Peter and Dorothy happened to be on their way elsewhere and passed close to RedQuarters, so we got together. We hit it off from the start. They introduced me in person to the others, and again we got along well. We formed the “North Texas Pilots, Shooters, and Writers Association” (a shooting and flying club with a writing problem). Then more, and more writers, pilots, gun-fans, and so on gravitated toward northern Texas. A few folks who are not writers, pilots, or gun-buffs moved in, and a new name was coined for the group.

We’re a community of . . . heck if I know at this point. People who are curious, have seen the world (mostly), tend to be higher experienced* than our ages would suggest, and each have a wide range of interests. If there is one single commonality, I’d say curiosity. OK, that and a willingness to learn and to admit what we don’t know. All of us** are experts or close to it in a field, even if that isn’t our formal vocation or academic specialty. I think between us we’ve seen all the continents, although don’t hold me to Antarctica.

Otherwise? We’re all over the map in terms of interests, faiths, favorite foods, personal philosophies, looks, musical preferences, you name it. And we all get along, and encourage each other, and help out when needed. Its a voluntary community where we can disagree without being disagreeable. Um, with a few exceptions. Sugar or no sugar in cornbread, and marshmallows on sweet-potato casserole are topics that can get rather heated. Well, that and “what caliber for . . . ?”

We all want this crazy, loose group to work, so it does. I think that’s what makes any community function. Everyone agrees that there will be differences, and debates, and disagreements, and works around them, or lets things like “he has buffalo grass and I have Bermuda” go by. People are people. A working community finds ways to make the best of differences, and to tolerate a degree of eccentricity. But it won’t tolerate dangerous stuff, either. There’s a difference between “entertainingly eccentric” and “dangerously unbalanced.”

We’re a community by choice, self-selected to a degree, and somewhat off-kilter. And we like it that way. 🙂

*I will not say higher mileage. No, I will not.

**Not necessarily with an academic degree or professional license, although many of the group have a BA, MA, or multiple professional certifications. There’s a lot to be said for the slow accumulation of real knowledge over time, as opposed to getting an advanced academic degree.

Saturday Snippet: A Lesson

This was pestering me earlier this week. It is from the next Familiar Generations story.

“And again!”

Jude gritted his teeth and drew three skeins of magic, a thin one from his Familiar, a stronger one from himself, and one from the night itself. He wove them into one and cast a curved shield, mirrored toward Shadow and Ears, while also holding the shield on the working circle. Sweat stung his eyes despite the chilly autumn air surrounding them. A swirling ball of darkness and light together hit the mirrored shield. The shield buckled, then solidified and the ball disappeared with a pop as Jude pushed magic against it.

“Break!” Ears called. The silver-white kit fox shook all over, then trotted to talk with his mage. Jude released the mirror shield, then thinned the outer shield. He also extended his left arm. Shoim, his own Familiar, shook a little and stretched his wings. The melanistic Northern Harrier almost disappeared in the darkness.

Shadow made the Clan’s gesture of negation, then said, “We’re done.” Jude unraveled the shield on the circle and pulled the magic back into himself and Shoim, Jude scuffed the chalk away behind himself, breaking any last bit of magic. “Very good, Jude, Shoim.” He came closer, limping a little and leaning on his heavy walking cane. “You’re reached your limits for tonight, both of you. Eat, drink, then we’ll talk.”

Jude nodded. He paced Shadow and Ears, alert for trouble, wary. “Jude, relax,” Shoim murmured, voice as soft as the touch of a falling feather. “André and Rodney are the good guys, yes?”

They were. They were also Hunters, members of the River County clan by marriage, and that made them dangerous, perhaps. Rather than speak so, and restart the dispute, Jude said, “So is the coven.” He shifted the fingers of his left hand under Shoim, reminding the hawk of his injuries.

“It’s not paranoia when things are out to get us,” Rodney sighed. “Especially this year. What the hell is in the water, anyway?”

Shoim fanned one wing, fortunately not the one closest to his mage this time. “If you find out, let us know, so we can eliminate the source.”

They had reached Master Lestrang’s pickup, parked at the edge of the coven’s work area. Jude had permission to use a small part of the lot, away from the coven’s circle, to training. A very light breeze clattered the leaves and sent two twirling down to the ground. Autumn had arrived. André Lestrang unlocked the truck and got bags of things out of the back seat, then set them in the bed and lowered the tailgate. He sighed. “Shoim, there is no cure for stupidity on this side of the grave, at least not for that sort.” His thin lips twisted in a warped parody of a smile. “Or for evil freely chosen, either.”

With the latter Jude agreed whole-heartedly. With the former? Well, he’d been cured, but the cost . . . He lifted his maimed left hand level with the side of the pickup’s bed, and Shoim stepped from hand to coated metal. Jude found his leather rucksack and pulled out the container with Shoim’s meat in it. He opened the little box and set it beside his Familiar, then dug out his own food.

“You’re not eating enough,” Master Lestrang said. The tall, lean shadow mage presented Jude with a take-out sack from a sandwich shop in Riverton. Jude bristled, then caught himself and accepted the food. “Even when we draw from our Familiars, we mages burn through a lot of calories. In that we’re no different from a sorcerer.”

“Yes, sir.” Jude forced himself to unwrap the still-warm sandwich slowly despite his hunger. Dinner, such as it had been, had worn off before sunset. He ate with care, not getting any sauce or crumbs on himself, not dropping anything that another might find. Rodney devoured whatever it was in his bowl with loud appreciation. Jude caught Shoim giving the kit fox a look of avian disdain. Jude shook his head a little. Shoim could be just as messy. When he finished, Jude folded the sandwich’s paper wrapper and slid it into the now-empty paper sack. Master Lestrang did not take as much care, but he had sufficient power—and firepower—not to be so wary. He did not Hunt in Devon county, and if anything caught his scent, Master Lestrang would not be present to track and attack. Jude lacked that good fortune.

Rodney licked his chops. “Shoim, have you settled on a use name yet?”

“Pasaru.” The harrier gulped another chunk of raw meat.

Master Lestrang smiled. “Good choice—a use name that does not sound like a name. And you?” He nodded toward Jude.

“Tenebriu.” He folded his arms. “I had considered Vanati, but,” he turned his left hand palm up, as best he could, forcing the muscles and tendons to stretch. “Too obvious to those who might know such things.”

Master Lestrang nodded. “Wise decision. And it does not serve as a proper name or descriptor.” He frowned, breath turning into a little puff of steam as he said, “Had anyone else given me my use name, I would have changed it following the first Great Hunt. But Draku would take that . . . amiss.”

Even he had heard tales of the Clan sorcerer’s temperament and power. Jude nodded in turn. “Names given by the powerful are not to be shed lightly.”

“Just so.” Master Lestrang leaned against the tailgate, only the wisps of silver-white hair that had escaped his black hat visible in the darkness. Black clad, surrounded by shadow, the shadow mage disappeared into the night, even to normal sight. “You and Pasaru are a puzzle, Tenebriu. As a mage, you shouldn’t be drawing so strongly from your own magic. That’s sorcery, and for most magic users, once you shift to being a mage, trying to draw from yourself causes more problems than it cures. Except you and Pasaru make it work.” Master Lestrang sounded torn between puzzlement and frustration. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Your magic reads as both mage and sorcerer.”

“Don’t tell Morgana, boss. She’ll be trying to corner Jude and Shoim so she can update all her books,” Rodney muttered from ground level.

Jude still could not quite get used to the fact that Master Lestrang knew Morgana Lorraine, and worked with her. “I do not want that, do I, sir?”

Master Lestrang chuckled without humor. “Only if you have a few days to talk to her. She comes close to rivaling Krimhilde Schmidt’s Teutonic thoroughness, at least when teaching magic is the topic.” He poured what smelled like hot chocolate out of a thermos. Jude contented himself with water, for now. Master Lestrang shook his head a little. “Normally I would advise you to stop thinking like a sorcerer and draw magic only from your Familiar. In this case?” He had some cocoa. “Continue as you are, Jude. Work by daylight as well. There are times when drawing from the night, or from the land, is a very bad idea. Some abyssal and many infernal creatures can sense if you are drawing from sources outside yourself and your Familiar.”

(C) Alma T. C. Boykin 2022 All Rights Reserved.

For those wondering, “Pasaru” means “bird.” The root of Tenebriu means “darkness.”

Interstate Water Treaties, or “Here We Go Again”

Nebraska is invoking a 1923 treaty with Colorado to build a canal and outmaneuver Colorado on the South Platte River. It’s been a while since an interstate water fight made the news, and I can hear water lawyers on all sides organizing papers and smiling at the prospect of a fight. After all, whisky is for drinking but water’s for fighting over.

My first thought when I heard the news was to grin a little, because Colorado has some water policies that make me roll my eyes, especially policies pertaining to the South Platte River. Among other things, the state banned the collection of rainwater runoff by private individuals (no cistern at the end of your downspout) on the grounds that if too many people did it too well, it would affect in-stream flow on the South Platte and violate the river compact. Translated into normal English, if people collected the rainwater, there wouldn’t be enough run-off into the river. The quantity of water would drop below the minimum required by law. That minimum has to go to Nebraska, or else, unless there is a drought or other 100% non-man-made event in progress. Even water lawyers can’t make rain where rain doesn’t want to fall.

An interstate compact is a treaty. It must be ratified by the US Senate, just like any other treaty. Most of the interstate compacts I know of are about water, dividing up the flow of rivers, or discussing quality. The goal of a river compact is to keep, oh, Texas from sending the Guard into NM and doing in a dam, or suing for $$$ in lost income and property if the upstream state dries up the river. The Colorado River (of the West) is probably the most famous of these compacts, and one of the most litigated streams in interstate water law. The Pecos River and Rio Grande are not far behind, then the South Platte, and some rivers in Wyoming. A quick skim of the list shows that most of the compacts involving rivers from west of the 100th Meridian are about in-stream flow, and protecting downstream users from upstream excess usage. Mexico is also a party to some Compacts, notably on the Rio Grande and Colorado.

The first official compacts over in-stream flow date to the 1920s, when irrigation got better and litigation more common. What had been local (except in NM and CO) became a state matter. It’s one thing for Garden City, KS to complain about a lack of water in the Arkansas River. It’s another for Kansas to sue Colorado in federal court. Also, the surge in dam and irrigation-project construction in the 1910s and 1920s led to a surge in lawsuits. Thus the compacts. Some are just quantity, others are quality as well as quantity.

As long as people use water from rivers, or use groundwater that affects rivers, others will watch with beady eyes. “I’d rather be at the head of a ditch with a shovel than at the end of the ditch with a decree.” “Whisky’s for drinking, water’s for fighting over.” “The boy at the spring controls the stream.” [Ein Knabe am Quelle controliert den Fluß.]

It’s been a while since an interstate water compact bobbed up in court. The last time, it was TX and OK vs the US government over control of the banks of the Red River. There’s nothing like the Feds sticking an oar into things to get the states to drop other fights. Now it’s Nebraska making waves, and Colorado backpedaling, at least for the moment.

I encourage you to read the compact for yourself. River compacts are some of the clearest of legal documents, not that it prevents lawyers from muddying the waters. The University of Colorado law school has a water law specialty. Other states have something similar, at least those where “prior appropriation” is the rule for water apportionment.

“Time Passes By”

For various reasons, Kathy Mattea’s song “Time Passes By” has been popping up on my mental playlist recently. That one, and “Record Time (33,45,78)” seem to sum up my experiences at various times, although “Record Time” is probably the more accurate of the two when it comes to describing my world. Anyway. “Time Passes By” is about loving and living while we can, but the point is that things change, no matter what we might want.

A new generation, so to speak, now runs the large museum where I have done a lot of work and research. It has been a few years since I was last digging around in their archives, and the new folks don’t know me on sight the way the older staff did. They have changed some policies, which led to a bit of confusion until credentials were confirmed. Academics and museum research is a small world, but not that small, so I shouldn’t have been surprised by the mild confusion and hesitation. All is well, connections are restored, and tentative plans made for future in-depth research and study.

Time passed by. As I said, I’m no longer known on sight, and it’s been a while since I’ve done a presentation at any local museum. My every-day work made it challenging, and the last two years have been heck for trying to do research on pretty much anything. I mean, even field geology and biology were fraught in 2020 in NM, because the governor banned out-of-state residents from having access to state or national parks! It’s hard to study the geology of, say, Frijoles Canyon or the Valle Grande caldera complex when the state police won’t let you get close to the gate. I suspect academic credentials, connections, and a few other things eased into the right in-boxes might have opened access, but I didn’t bother trying to go to the state archives, for example. Everyone I worked with at the state archive in Santa Fe has retired, or moved up to bigger things, archivally speaking. Time passed.

The new generation is different. Museum science and archival practices have changed a lot over the past 30, or even 15 years. Emphasis has shifted in terms of what the goal of a museum or archive is. Now, state government archives will always be about state documents and government stuff. That’s baked in. But the focus of collections, how collections and exhibitions are managed, what is important in the collection and what can be set aside, or not brought into the collection, those have all changed. What stories are the most important to tell? How should those stories be told? Is there a grand narrative of history or should it be more of a jigsaw puzzle or patchwork within a chronology? All of those questions shape museums and history departments. What role to expert amateurs play in museology and curation, or should they? The older generation encouraged the expert amateur, at least in some fields. Today . . . I’m not so sure.

We might be seeing a swing from “museum management and curation as an art” toward “curation as a science.” With “science” comes international standards, and journals, and consensus in the field about philosophy and ideology, and statements of ethics and so on. This is not bad, in and of itself. Some aspects of curation have always been a science. How do you preserve textiles and things made of wood, leather, clay? Art conservation is chemistry as well as learning styles of art and studying framing. Will this kind of light fade or damage the items, and if so, what kind of illumination should be used? How can we make 1000+ year old documents available to researchers without accidentally destroying the documents? All these are questions that materials science and long experience can answer, and should. It’s when the social “sciences” get involved that things seem to become a bit odd, or at least odd compared to what I grew up with.

History museums, especially those that are not very, very narrowly focused, walk a bit of a tightrope. The public wants them to tell a story, and tell it in an engaging and neat way. Academics want to tell different stories, with a different emphasis on presentation. Activists look for certain things, donors look for other things—sometimes—and the curator and exhibit designers have to sort through all of these ideas and stories. I incline toward “tell it straight, as best we can, given what we know now, and update things as we know more.” That’s not always popular. I bristled a little at a new section of an older display, but . . . it covers something very timely and that is part of the current story, even if I disagree with it. I’m a grown-up, so I read the section and went back to the fun-for-me-stuff. I’m not going to throw a fit because I would have used that space for something else, or would have presented the material in a different way.

I liked the older generation’s way of doing things. It was comfortable to me, I fit in, and they did very good work. The new generation is skilled, they are doing good work, and eventually I’ll get back to my research and reclaim my little niche, or find a new niche. Time passes by.

Walking Dogs, Christmas Trees, and Spudding In

All of these terms are from the oil patch, although not all of them are used today. I grew up around family members who were in, or who had retired from, the blue-collar end of the oil business. One great uncle built and maintained derricks, one worked as the chief of a seismograph crew, one had been a roughneck before becoming a toolie . . . I learned about steel Christmas trees, walking dogs that didn’t go places, cat crackers, and other mysterious terms.

I was reminded of the jargon while perusing a local museum. It has a fantastic section about the oil and gas industry, with some updated exhibits about the technology of fracking and “directional drilling.” When I was younger, we called it slant-hole drilling, and it was as illegal as illegal could be. Oil leases were elongated cubes. You had a permit to drill straight down. You were not to wander into a neighbor’s lease, no matter how good his find might be. Today, drilling to a certain depth and then changing directions to make a horizontal hole is common. I suspect it made the lawyers handling the older leases rub their hands with glee, because each lease holder would have to be compensated if the horizontal hole produced. I also suspect that how oil leases and permits are written has changed to match the times and technology.

A “Christmas tree” is the cap put on a well once it is producing and the drilling equipment is no longer needed. When they top an producing well, lights and hoses and valves stick out of the heavy steel cap, which stands about 4-6 feet tall. From a distance they look a bit like trees, and since the royalty money buys stuff, Christmas tree it is, especially the ones with lights on them.

A walking dog is the other name for a pump jack, the large rocking pump that lifts oil up into the storage tank or collecting line.

Fair Use under Creative Commons. Original source here:

A cat cracker is a now out-dated term for the cracking towers, the long tubes in a refinery where fractional distillation takes place. This is the process of separating crude oil into all the various components, by weight, from gasses at the top to automotive fuel to naphtha to paraffins (kerosene) to diesel fuel and down to asphalt.

A toolie was someone in charge of the different tools, and sometimes other equipment, used on the rig and around the well. He made sure things were in good repair, and checked equipment in and out as needed. You don’t want to hear “has anyone seen [critical thing]?” at the wrong moment. Nor do you want to discover tools where they ought not to be.

A doodlebugger worked with the seismograph crew. He set out the dynamite used to make the thumps needed for the seismographs to do their magic and tell the geologist what hid below the surface. The little crater looked like the nest of an ant-lion, or doodlebug, thus the name. Today they use thumper trucks and other things, since toting around explosives is either illegal, bad for the environment, or seen as an invitation to “borrow” the dynamite for other purposes (like terrorism. Or at best, for fishing. Which is also illegal).