A person from Oklahoma who puts sugar instead of red-eye gravy on his grits is considered a Yankee in the South.
In the 1970s, I delivered a new Failing drilling machine from Enid, Okla., to Georgia Tech in Atlanta. They didn’t have an operator, so I was offered the job and accepted it. I was to core-drill for minerals in South Georgia. I moved my family to Jessup, Ga., and later settled in Adel, Ga., and worked for Georgia Tech in South Georgia for several years.
Then I decided to re-establish our Cutter and Dad Drilling Co. in Adel, Ga. I ran a well drilling ad in the local newspaper. I immediately had a lot of inquiries for wells, but I didn’t have any drilling equipment. So I bought the drilling equipment and started lining up work.
At that time, the only local driller, Lloyd Duke, bored wells with a machine that he and his dad had built some 20 years before. Most of their wells were shallow and cased with terracotta pipe. They also owned the local Adel Ice Co. (http://adel-ice.com/).
I met Lloyd and his dad, Pa Duke, while buying ice for our water can, and we became friends. It was known in the community that if Lloyd and Pa liked or disliked you, you would know it! They are well-respected in the community.
Pa Duke passed on many years ago, but I’ll never forget him. Pa loved greeting me in public, saying “Hello, Piss Cutter!” He was quite a character. Once a salesperson at the local hardware walked up to Pa and asked, “Can I help you Mr. Duke?” Pa replied, “If I want any help, I’ll ask for it!”
Lloyd always teased me about my little 4-inch wells. Lloyd discontinued boring wells after his 22-year driller employee retired. Clients would call him to drill them a well, and he would say, “Call Cutter; he’ll drill you a half-[baked] well.”
Many times when we’d go by the ice plant to get ice, Lloyd would sneak something off the drill like the drill rod slips, the shovel, the drill bit or anything necessary to drill the well. We’d get to the drill site, find the item missing and think we had lost it. Shortly after, Lloyd would show up with the item and say that he thought we might need it.
Their automatic ice dispenser dispensed 25-pound bags of crushed ice for 50 cents. Our water can wouldn’t hold a 25-pound bag of ice, so we put half the bag in our water can, and would go around the ice dispenser and put the other half-bag inside the dispenser door to save it for the next day. Several times, while we were inside, Lloyd would lock us in until he was sure we were good and cool!
About every six months, we would order a railroad car of well gravel. We owned a gravel conveyor to unload the gravel. Lloyd asked to borrow it, and a few days later, he came by to tell me that if I didn’t take better care of my conveyor, he wasn’t going to borrow it anymore. I let Lloyd keep it as he used it often, and I knew he would take care of it. Some months later, I told Lloyd that I needed to borrow my conveyor! He said, “Nope, you don’t take care of it.” A minute later, he said, “Well, pull over here, and we’ll hook it up.” (It was on wheels.) When I drove off, Lloyd said, “Don’t forget where you got it!”
We were building a dune buggy in our shop at night after drilling all day. Lloyd would come by and sit down in the dune buggy seat, just to be aggravating, knowing he was in the way. I would be talking to him, then lay down a wrench and go to get another one. When I would return, the wrench would be gone. Thinking I just had misplaced it, I would go get another one. After a while, Lloyd would say that he better go check the ice plant! Then he would say, “Oh, you might need these” – and unload the misplaced wrenches from his pockets with a smile.
Once, I pulled my pump from a well because the homeowner, Willie, refused to pay me. Willie filed charges against me for stealing the pump. I asked Lloyd to sign my bond. Lloyd went to the sheriff’s office with me and asked the sheriff what would happen if he didn’t sign my bond? D. J. Connell, the sheriff, said that he guessed he would have to lock me up! Lloyd smiled and said, “Lock him up!” Shortly afterwards, though, Lloyd signed my bond. At court several months later, Willie never showed up and all charges were dropped! Willie didn’t get his pump back, but I didn’t get paid, either.
After many years of living in Adel, I announced at the local restaurant Family Table (a big table for the local businesspeople) that I was moving back to Oklahoma. Lloyd was sitting next to me and, showing his unique smile, said, “If I wasn’t so busy, I’d help move you!”
My sons and I have returned to Adel several times over the years just to see Lloyd Duke. A few years ago, Randy and I returned to see Lloyd at the ice plant. He was squatting in the brine room where the ice is made, busy checking the ice cans near the noisy compressors. He looked up, saw us, stood up, said nothing and walked past us to his private office. We followed him into his office where it was much quieter. He went to the corner, picked up a shotgun, and said, “You aren’t planning on staying, are you?” Then, with his unique smile, he gave us a big welcome.
Adel Ice Co. has thrived and grown larger through the years. Lloyd’s son Buddy now is the president. Lloyd says that today they are hauling ice to many places in Florida where they grind it into snow for party snow, and other places wanting snow in the summertime.
Good friends usually are few. Even though I seldom see Lloyd anymore, I consider him one of my best friends.