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Thursday, Mar. 6, 1997

Derrick collapses, 3 taken to hospital

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KERMIT, Mar. 6, 1997 - One pin bolt on the A-frame crumbled.
The derrick rumbled. The other three A-frame pins failed.
James Kirby, 31, out of Hobbs, N.M. working for Allen Casing Crews based
in Odessa, was in the derrick 40 feet off the ground. He was stabbing
casing when the derrick began to fall apart and Kirby began the deadly
"He came down," reports Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts Jr. "He
broke two legs."
It was 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday, March 4, in Winkler County at Patterson
Drilling Co. Rig 71 in the Emperor Field southwest of Kermit and north
of Monahans in the West Texas desert.
Metal and debris rained on the floor of the rig.
Ambulances from Ward and Winkler counties were headed to the crumpled
derrick almost immediately, responding to calls from the job site.
By the time it was over three men were on the way to the hospital in
either Kermit or Monahans. Two were treated for bruises at the scene of
the bizarre accident.
Investigators, company officials and hospital officers identified the
three hospitalized workers as:
Kirby, 31, of Hobbs, a member of the crew from Allen Casing. Kirby was
taken to Ward Memorial Hospital in Monahans. After he was stabilized,
Kirby was flown by helicopter to University Medical Center in Lubbock.
He suffered massive leg injuries but was reported in stable condition.
Robert McBride, 27, of Hobbs, another Allen employee. McBride was listed
in stable condition after initial treatment at Ward Memorial before
transfer to Odessa Medical Center. McBride's jaw was broken.
David Nunez, 34, of Monahans, an employee of Patterson Drilling. Nunez
was kept for observation at Winkler Memorial Hospital in Kermit
suffering from extensive bruises and rib injuries. Mark Cullifer, the
safety officer for Patterson Drilling, headquartered in Snyder, Tex.,
said Nunez was expected to be released from the hospital on Wednesday
and would be returned to light duties at the job site.
The two more seriously injured workers were taken to Ward Memorial
because of a problem with the x-ray processing at Winkler Memorial, the
Monahans News was told.
Names of those who were treated at the site of the fallen rig by
emergency medical technicians were not available..
Said Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts Jr.:
"I've seen them explode, burn out, fall over. I've never seen one
collapse like this. That's why I call it metal fatigue."
Roberts worked the Oil Patch for 25 years before becoming a law
enforcement officer.
Patterson's Cullifer was perturbed at the sheriff's assessment of the
that metal fatigue was the most likely reason for the rig's collapse.
Said Cullifer: "He might have better luck cutting fish bait than he
does about determining the cause."
The sheriff declined to rise to the gibe except to say: "I know the
A-Leg buckled and I don't know what else could have caused the A-Leg to
Here is how Roberts reconstructed the accident.
The derrick was 130 feet high. Cullifer and Roberts both said Kirby was
about 40 feet up in the derrick when the first A-frame bolt went.
Members of the 11-man rig crew were about four joints from the bottom
and were running casing to 9,000 feet. The rig is rated at 400,000
pounds. The derrick was lifting 180,000 pounds when the pin failed
triggering the collapse.
"The day before, it had lifted 220,000 pounds," Cullifer said.
David H. Arrington Oil and Gas Inc. of Midland could not be reached for
comment. Arrington Oil is the well operator.
Larry Allen of Allen Casing Crews says the collapse was unusual and he
had never seen anything comparable. Sheriff Roberts called the incident
a "freak accident."
Debris from the derrick was strewn on the rig floor and north and south
of the floor, barely missing the dog house where three other men had
been working.

Investigators at scene of rig collapse

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KERMIT, Mar. 6, 1997 - Federal, state and Patterson Drilling Co. agents
are investigating the collapse of Patterson Rig 71 in Winkler County
about dawn on Tuesday.
Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts Jr. says representatives from the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on site Wednesday.
Their missions is to determine the exact cause of the incident that sent
three workers to the hospital.
Texas Railroad Commission investigators were there to assess danger to
public safety from chemicals, especially hydrogen sulfide, which might
escape from the well. The commission reports the well is under control.
Mark Cullifer, the safety officer, for Patterson, says company engineers
and metallurgists will examine the wreckage and make appropriate tests
to determine the "exact reasons for the failure."
Patterson, Cullifer says, hopes to have answers in a week.

Oil tank makes great dance hall

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MONAHANS, Mar. 6, 1997 - The oil was gone and so was the roof and the
walls had been leveled off even with the dirt around the big tank.

The year was 1937 and folks in Ward County were scratching their heads
wondering what to do with that great, big concrete-lined hole in the
ground known as the Million Barrel.
Shell's earlier refusal to sell had nixed a doctor's idea for turning
the tank into a lake surrounded by a park.
High school youth found the area a good place for dancing, though, and
the Monahans News reported that Leonard Wilson was arrested and
sentenced to 15 years in prison when he interrupted one of the events,
waving a shotgun. He stole $1.85 and a car from one of the dancers,
thus the sentence from the district court in Barstow.
Then a couple of entrepreneurs came along and decided if the big tank
wasn't going to be used for water, maybe it could be recycled into a
baseball park.
The pair launched their plans with great enthusiasm, drawing the city
and it's residents right along with them.
"Stock in the possibility that Monahans would have a professional
baseball team, soared to a new high this week as plans rapidly were
formulated for organization of a local franchise," read the front page
article in the Feb. 26, 1937 issue of the Monahans News. "Proposed
owners stated definitely that Monahans would be in the new West Texas
League..all that would be asked of fans of this city would be a place to
play and the selling of 50 season tickets to help defray training
expenses of the club."
Organizers envisioned bringing indirt to cover the floor of the tank so
they could plant grass and seats installed along the walls of the giant
"If we can secure use of that tank for a stadium, we will have the
nucleus of the finest plant in minor league baseball in the United
States today," quoted the news story.
When the duo approached Shell with their plans, they "received
practically definite assurance that the use of the tank could be
But it was not to be. A late-breaking story in the March 19, 1937
Monahans News reported that once more, Shell had thrown a monkey wrench
in the plans but the bulletin did report that the entreprenaurs "secured
a plot of ground west of the old ball park from the Humble Company."
Though Monahans would host it's share of semi-pro teams in the
succeeding years, fate decreed no home runs would be hit (at least
professionally) in the bottom of the million barrel.
History records no further plans of that magnitude for the next 20
The tank didn't set completely idle, however. In the 40's, the Sheriff's
Posse found it a handy place to gather and in the 50's, the floor was
utilized for square dancing, drawing large crowds.
Billed as the "world's largest dance hall", one such event, on June 24,
1950, drew over 1500 dancers and spectators, despite threatening rain,
reported the June 26 issue of the News.
"Action started at 8:00," read the story, "but the handful of
early-comers assembled in the tank looked like school kids in the
Pentagon Building. However, by the time darkness had thrown a top over
the big bowl, dancers, spectators and automobiles were streaming into
the one-time oil storage tank."
Speculation over the fate of the tank continued to challenge the city
fathers, however and in April of 1953, Shell was again approached
concerning the structure and the mayor was authorized to "pay $12 a year
for a lease".
According to an article in the April 9, 1953 issue of the local paper, a
tourist promotion committee, headed by Wayne Long, proposed converting
the facility into a park with square dancing, tennis, shuffle board and
"whatever other recreational activities it will lend itself to... It is
also contemplated that the tank might become an added attraction to the
proposed Sandhills Sate Park, plans for which were discussed with State
Park officials." Once more, it just didn't happen, and the puzzle of
what to do with the million barrel still remained.
And so it seemed, the tank, though abandoned, would never really be

Mystery bullet grazes city marshal

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THORNTONVILLE, Mar. 6, 1997 - Investigation continues into the
mysterious shot that wounded Thorntonville City Marshal Jo Ann Winborn
on Sunday afternoon.
Winborn was treated for the wound at the office of a private physician
and released.
The incident occurred at 5:11 p.m. when Winborn answered a call to the
residential area around Fifth and Wilma streets.
She was responding to a report of "firecrackers" or "shots" fired.
According to investigators the city marshal stepped from her vehicle and
immediately felt a sting to the side of her head.
She reached with her hand and brought it away covered with blood.
Immediately Winborn stepped back into her car and called for back-up.
Elements of the Ward County Sheriff's office, Monahans Police and the
Texas Highway Patrol immediately responded and cordoned off the area.
The physician, Winborn reports, says it appears she was grazed by a
.22-caliber slug.
What may have happened is a matter of speculation, according to
Officers say they have no suspects.
The area in which the shot was fired is mostly residential but there is
open desert along part of the road.

Hurst files for school board

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MONAHANS, Mar. 6, 1997 - Steve Hurst, a vice president of Monachem Inc.
in Monahans is the first candidate to file for the
Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District board elections on May 3.
Hurst Wednesday filed in District 7 Incumbent Robert Wells has not
filed. No candidates have filed in District 6. Filing deadline is
March 19.

New cell site goes up

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KERMIT, Mar. 6, 1997 - A new cellular relay site near Kermit in Winkler
county became operational in February, according to a company communique
released this week.
Officials of Plateau Cellular Network, headquartered in Clovis, N.M.
with offices in Monahans, issued the announcement.
From the statement:
"Construction has been completed on a new cell site located near Kermit,
Texas. It became operational on Feb. 27.
"The new site will provide extended coverage and expanded service for
the city of Kermit and surrounding Winkler County in West Texas."
Plateau Cellular operates on behalf of the Eastern New Mexico Regional
(ENMR) Telephone Cooperative. The cellular company provides cellular
phone service in more than 100,000 square miles of West Texas and
Eastern New Mexico.A new cellular relay site near Kermit in Winkler
county became operational in February, according to a company communique
released this week.
Officials of Plateau Cellular Network, headquartered in Clovis, N.M.
with offices in Monahans, issued the announcement.
From the statement:
"Construction has been completed on a new cell site located near Kermit,
Texas. It became operational on Feb. 27.
"The new site will provide extended coverage and expanded service for
the city of Kermit and surrounding Winkler County in West Texas."
Plateau Cellular operates on behalf of the Eastern New Mexico Regional
(ENMR) Telephone Cooperative. The cellular company provides cellular
phone service in more than 100,000 square miles of West Texas and
Eastern New Mexico.

Main Street board to promote camping

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MONAHANS, Mar. 6, 1997 - Members of the Monahans Main Street Board of
Directors are discussing the possibility of a recreational pullover in
Ward County.
The focus, says a Main Street release, would be to promote camping and
tourism in downtown Monahans. The effort would be scheduled in April,
says the statement from Main Street.

Ketchup and yogurt not on menu

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MONAHANS, Mar. 6, 1997 - Mike Fletcher of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote
School District has seen some strange things in his years as a school
He even remembers when the federal government decreed that ketchup was a
vegetable as far as school lunch programs in the United States were
But the federal government this week went one better.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that effective on Monday, March
3, yogurt will be allowed as a meat substitute in the lunch rooms of
United States schools. But not in Monahans, says Fletcher, at least not
yet, "not in the foreseeable future."
"Our students, I believe, generally favor hamburgers (or steaks) over
yogurt," says Fletcher, the district's assistant superintendent for
administration who has been serving as interim superintendent since Jack
Clemmons resigned to accept another position. "My preferences reflect
Fletcher's interim appointment continues until the school board meeting
on March 18 when the school board will confirm its appointment of
Clifton L. Stephens as superintendent of the district. Stephens has been
the assistant superintendent for academics and personnel. The board
unanimously appointed Stephens superintendent on Tuesday, Feb. 25. But
state law provides for a 21 day delay before the board can confirm its
Fletcher's commentary on yogurt and beef came after USDA released the
statement in Washington.
Joe Rutledge, a General Mills Inc. executive immediately released a
statement which says:
"The USDA is confirming what school cafeteria workers have always known
- namely that greater choices at lunch time mean far less food tossed
away uneaten often, at taxpayer expense."
General Mills produces yogurt.
USDA's acting undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services
says yogurt is low in fat and will offer a needed alternative for
children who cannot or don't eat meat. USDA already permits cheese,
beans, eggs and peanut butter as meat substitutes.
USDA staff seem to be elated by the decision. One statement boasts that
this means students eating in the school lunchrooms now can choose
something other than hamburgers, sloppy joes or comparable items. USDA,
which establishes regulations for school lunches, requires two ounces of
meat or its equivalent in each school lunch. Yogurt is now a certified
Several Monahans High School students, who asked to remain anonymous
because they fear federal government retribution, said they preferred
hamburgers and sloppy joes to yogurt.
"A few years ago," says Fletcher, "USDA approved ketchup as a
vegetable substitute. I thought that was a stretch."
The school administrator also notes: "There's a lot of difference
between beef and yogurt." Students agree. Yogurt might become the choice
of Monahans students but, says Fletcher: "I don't foresee it just yet."

Half-cent sales tax bill on fast track

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AUSTIN - A special property tax bill for citizens of Monahans and
Winkler County rode the fast track through the State Senate and was
approved on Wednesday, March 5.
The vote was 31-0 for Senate Bill 590, legislation that will enable
both governmental jurisdictions to enact a half-cent sales tax and
apply the savings to property tax relief.
Committee hearings on an identical bill are scheduled next week in the
State House of Representatives. It is expected the House will approve
the bill within two weeks.
No problems are expected in the Joint Committee between the two bills.
Gov. George Bush will sign the measure, legislators have been told.
"The Monahans City Council and the Winkler County Commission will have
until June 30 to act on the legislation," says State Sen. Bob Duncan,
R-Lubbock, who was the bill's leader in the Senate.
Duncan's 28th Senate District includes Monahans and Ward County. He and
State Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, co-sponsored the bill in the Senate.
Bivin's 31st. District includes Winkler County.
State Rep. Bob Turner, D-Coleman, whose 73rd District includes Ward
County, and State Rep. Gary Walker, R-Plains, whose 80th District
includes Winkler County, are the co-sponsors of the bill in the State
"We are working hard to see that the citizens of Monahans and the
citizens of Winkler County get the property tax relief they already have
approved at the polls many months ago," says Duncan.
The reference was to elections in 1995 in which voters in both Monahans
and Winkler County voted for a half-cent sales tax to provide relief
from property taxes.
But a glitch in state law involving conflicting governmental
jurisdictions invalidated that vote.
The Senate-approved legislation and comparable bill in the House are
necessary to provide an exception to the law. State Comptroller's office
said the two elections exceeded the cap.
The reason is that Monahans, the county seat of Ward County, in the
1950s had annexed some 5,000 acres in Winkler County.
As Turner has said:
"This overlapping jurisdiction . . . coupled with the sales tax
election, caused the half-cent sales tax to exceed the legal gap."
Says Duncan: "This will get done for Monahans and Winkler County."
Spring rains this year and last Autumn's moisture combine to bring hope
to Ward County rangeland, says County Agent Andy Stewart.
"Things are looking better," says Stewart. "But don't hold your breath
just yet."

Rains bring hope to range

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MONAHANS, Mar. 6, 1997 - The major impact of the dry weather is on
calf-and-cow production which, the county agent notes, is a major
economic force in Ward County, perhaps the major force because of the
slumping Oil Patch.
There are 11 ranches in the county grossing about $3 million a year.
"We've been through three really, really dry years," says Stewart. "We
had a drought before that. Rains last Fall and this Spring can do
nothing but help."
The question is how much and will it continue, agrees Stewart.
But he says there is hope for Ward County rangeland after years of
drought, which about three years ago caused many ranchers to sell off
Ward County's average annual rainfall, based on a century cycle, is 13
"In the past few years we've only been averaging eight to 11 inches,"
Stewart says. "And, even if we get 13 inches, that's not all that much
because rainfall of about 20 inches a year is the general norm. West
Texas is dry."
The bottom line, notes Stewart, is that the Fall and Spring rains mean a
potential for rebuilding cow-and-calf production. Further, there is no
doubt the moisture will contribute to lawns and shade trees.

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Copyright 1997 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

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