National Geographic : 1937 Aug
SPEAKING OF KANSAS tall steel derricks that march like big skele tons to far horizons. You see loud, slangy waitresses at quick lunch counters; gnomelike electric welders, in ceaseless movement, wearing odd helmets that ward off heat and blinding torchlight; and crowds of men in overalls so greasy that they seem to have just been baptized by total immersion in the smelly black oil now pumped from the world's deep, dark, greasy bowels-oil that means more cash to Kan sas than her boasted wheat crop. As you near McPherson, silvery domes of oil refineries glint in morning sun like mosques on a Babylonian plain. Heavy tank trucks, loaded with new-made gasoline, speed west for Denver. My guide through one new field told me the dramatic story of Kansas oil, and how farmers' income from oil leases helped so many to live and pay taxes through dry, lean years. "I'm lucky," I told him, "to be shown about by a geologist who can tell this oil yarn in a popular way, free from bewilder ing technical jargon." "Geologist, my foot!" he answered. "I just learned about oil by watching drillers, listening, and writing it up for the papers. I'm no geologist. I came to Kansas play ing a trombone in a circus." "DOODLEBUGS" AND SEISMOGRAPH TRUCKS HELP HUNT OIL IN KANSAS Luck and superstition figure in oil strikes. Many men still insist you can find water, treasure-or oil-with the witch's divining rod, or some of its metal kin, known in oil field slang as the "doodlebug." Kansas oil is found among buried "hills"; to locate these, which may bear no relation to surface hills, is the prospector's first step. One of the newest scientific oil-hunting methods is use of the seismograph, which works more or less like the echo-sounding machines used by ships now to measure ocean depths (page 145). When the oil hunters have made enough shots and got enough "echoes" in a given area, they draw a chart, based on the time in seconds or split seconds that it took echoes to bounce back at different spots on the area tested. This contour map shows at depths any where from 1,000 to 6,000 feet the major underground "hills" and "valleys," just as a common topographic map shows hills, valleys, and drainage on the earth's surface. If the oil hunter's subsurface map reveals Photograph by King Studio A CHEYENNE CHIEF ONCE CARRIED THIS WAR LANCE The feathered weapon is on display in the museum of the Kansas State Historical Society at Topeka. It belonged to Cloud Chief and was borne by him at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.