“I Better Put on My Shoes”
Once I had notified the Selective Service that we had lost our child, I was immediately reclassified as 1-A - available for draft. Shortly after, I was notified to show up for a physical and pre-induction into the U.S. Army. Many people will remember: “Congratulations, you have been inducted into the U.S. Army.” I was then bussed from Chanute to Kan-sas City, Kan., for my physical.
Since Dad and I owned Cutter & Dad Drilling Co., and for other reasons, I really didn't want to be in the army. I tried to convince them that I wet the bed; all that ensured me was a bottom bunk. I was told if you had a police record you may be rejected! I told them I had a police record for carrying a concealed weapon. All that got me was an interview before several uniformed army officers. I then decided that it wasn't worth going to the brig over.
For the physical, about 30 of us were lined up naked; several medics with clipboards stood in front of each of us and asked us questions, noting the answers on their clipboards. When it came my turn, the medic asked me if the scar on my stomach area was an appendicitis scar. I told him “No, sir.” He then asked me what kind of scar it was. I told the medic that I didn't know; it just came on there. The medic was quite frustrated. A medic in-specting some other recruits about five men down from me said, “You heard the man, it just came on there; I saw it!” The medic wrote on my record “appendectomy scar.” At that time, I still had my appendix. Later on, I found out the scar was called a stretch scar. If I would have had an appendicitis attack while in the army, I could have died because my records showed I had no appendix. It was more than 15 years later when I actually had my appendix removed.
I then was returned home to wait until I was notified as to the exact date I was to report for basic training.
Cutter & Dad had purchased a Sullivan 200 (Joy 2000) rig in Smackover, Ark. There was just about enough time to go after it before I had to report into service. Dad and I loaded our pickup with tools to go after the rig and other included equipment.
The rig had been sitting idle on a Smackover oil lease for several years. We had to work on the batteries, fuel system and brakes on the drill truck (a 1944 Ford flat head V-8 with Thornton tandem rear axles) and the water truck (a 1948 K-8 International with a single rear axle). This took several days.
We realized I would be getting back to Chanute just one day before my reporting into the army. So we called Bess and told her to catch a bus to Texarkana, Ark. We would meet her and she could ride back with me in the rig.
One day into our return trip with the equipment, the brakes went out on the rig. So we just plugged off the brake lines to the tandem axles. With a derrick sticking about 10 feet in the front of the truck, only front wheel brakes and an emergency brake on the transmission driveline, we headed out through the mountains.
Several times, the fuel line stopped up while going up a hill and Bess would have to jump out and throw a block behind the rear axles. We would get it going, then we were off again.
Occasionally, the coil wire would jump out of the coil. If the engine stopped, it wouldn't start again until it cooled off. Someone had mounted the six-volt battery behind the cab and it didn't give enough current to start the worn engine. We fixed that when we got home.
Once when the coil wire jumped out, I asked Bess to steer the rig while I jumped on the running board to the fender, raised the hood and stuck the coil wire back in, all while we were moving. Once the coil wire was in and the engine started, I lowered the hood ready to jump back in the cab; I noticed the rig was headed across the road to the left. Bess was riding the steering wheel, trying to hold it in the road, but she wasn't big enough. She was just going around over the steering wheel - no power steering in those days.
Dad was driving the K-8 International water truck, towing a flatbed tanker trailer loaded with sills and 2,000 feet of drill pipe. No power steering or power brakes in those days. There was no knob on the gearshift, and Dad shifted gears so much he had worn a blister in the palm of his right hand. When shifting, he would grab a handful of rags to shift.
A car was passing Dad while traveling on fairly level road when the left front tire on the water truck blew out. He couldn't keep it in the road, so both his truck and the car headed for the ditch on the left side of the road. They didn't collide, and both stopped in the ditch. They both got out and the man in the car said, “That was close.” “Too @#$%^ close,” Dad said.
We were traveling through the mountains from less than five miles per hour uphill to probably as much as 60 miles per hour downhill. The way this big drill was geared, its maximum under power speed was 45 miles per hour.
I would clutch the rig - push down on the clutch pedal - going downhill and coast to gain momentum to go up the next hill. Going pretty fast down one hill, I noticed a sharp curve at the bottom. I told Bess to hang on - “I'm not sure we'll make this curve.” She said, “I'd better put my shoes back on because we might have to bail out” - she wasn't very worried. We made the rest of the trip fine.
We arrived in Chanute the evening before I had to report to the army. I spent the next eight weeks in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., without seeing much of Bess. ND