Not long ago I wrote a story about Chigger Brown, a torpedo shooter in the late 1920's from Cisco, Texas; he ran off the road on his way to a job and blew himself to Kingdom come. Torpedo shooters in the early era of America's oil development were generally young, well paid, and had short life spans. The famous, Tex Thorton, from Amarillo, was once reported to have narrowly escaped death when the torpedo he was lowering down hole hit a gas bubble coming up the hole and the torpedo got blown to the crown destroying the entire rig and two human bystanders. Tex ran, and made it, only to then get murdered by some hitch hikers years later.
Most well shooters back in the day were killed transporting the tools of their trade, their glycerin jelly down rough lease roads to well locations, like Chigger.
In the late 1920's the oil leg of the great Panhandle Field started to be developed around Borger, in Hutchinson County. These shallow oil reservoirs were limestone and dolomites in the Anadarko Basin that were draped over the buried Amarillo Mountains. They all needed to be shot with glycerin to fracture the rock and improve fluid flow to the well bore.
Above is a photograph taken outside Borger, Texas around 1929. Two men driving a tandem axel truck with 13,000 pounds of glycerin down a bumpy road never made it to their destination. They were vaporized into nothing and left only a 1/2 acre hole in the ground 40 feet deep, to be remembered by. I have no clue what these people are looking for at the crater rim, perhaps a shred of vehicle, or a piece of boot...there was nothing.
"Pouring the soup," the term for shooting a well with a glycerin canister, or torpedo, was a tough way to make a living.
Photo Courtesy of the University of Texas Arlington Digital Library