By Jack Cawthon|
My wife and I had stopped at a roadside flea market down in the hills. I had noticed an old Ford truck parked at the entrance with "B. Z. Bub I Make Deals" written on the door.
When we walked in he jumped up from a table he was tending, extended his hand in the warmest handshake I had ever felt, and said enthusiastically call me "Bubby." He was wearing a baseball cap and I could tell Bubby marched to a different drummer as the bill was pointed forward, hang the non-conformity.
He set in telling me his life's story while my wife went her way looking for bargains. "Had my first well spudder back when the old man Rockefeller was just settin' out in the oil and gas business." (He pronounced it "oral" and I knew he was a true hill dweller.) "In fact, ol' John D. worked for me quite a spell," and he winked.
Wait a minute! I thought. Jay is No. 4 and he is no spring chicken, so that would make Bubby, no, that couldn't be right, he would be pushing way, way past the century mark and yet the look at most was sixtyish and the talk was thirty-something and there was a fire in his eyes that spoke of an unknown depth. This man was no shallow driller!
He continued telling me about John D. "That ol' boy sure knew his gas from a hole in the ground," and he slapped his knee and laughed like the devil. "Found oil and gas no one else could find all with my help." Then he turned serious. "You believe in well witchin'?"
Well, I had met a few women in my time who were pretty certain witches of some sort or other. (Note: If something happens in cyber space between here and Hur, force majeure the coal companies call it and loosely translated means "don't blame us, blame God," the word had a "w" when I typed it.)
I had heard about water well witching. I had known a prominent professor in academia who swore by it and every time I questioned the authority of one of them I was reminded that I didn't have tenure. So, if professors believed in it, I could too with a lesser degree.
I decided to play along. "What do you use, willow branches?" I asked, wishing to show my knowledge. "Nope, pair of pliers," he replied. "Had 'em tear the hide off'n my fingers when they went asunder," he said solemnly. Was Bubby putting me on, telling me he water witched to find oil and gas?
I had heard of using coat hangars and I suppose there are people who use chicken wishbones to find water, but find oil and gas? But so what? I often find a world failing to measure up to my standards of saneness. Maybe Bubby was just deviling me. But I thought not, as he had that dedicated Democrat look in his eyes.
"How deep you have to drill?" I asked, hoping to find out some inside information to pass along to a fellow I know in the business. "Depends on the area," and he pronounced it "a-ree-a," something one doesn't hear up here on the Pennsylvania line where people talk funny.
"Sometimes I have to go all the way down to Hades." He laughed that devilish laugh again and his eyes flashed fire, and suddenly it began to filter through to me. I looked around for my wife but she was off in the corner making some sort of deal with the man's wife. And here I was talking to the Devil himself.
All through history there have been reports of people selling their souls to the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Charlie Daniels even met him as a fiddler down in Georgia. And writers have always been good targets for Old Scratch as in their vanity they will trade their souls for a byline in The Grit.
But curse Bubby! He can use pliers, coat hangars, old Ford parts, whatever, for all I care to capture oil and gas drillers who may belong to him by default anyway. Sure, I want to be a writer who can reach thousands of readers….Thousands of readers? Hm-m-m.
A few days after my encounter with Bubby (B. Z. Bub=Beelzebub?) Bob Weaver called and asked if I would like to write for the Hur Herald. Said he had thousands of readers. I thought it was a h---, well, heck of an offer. After all, I hadn't notarized anything.