The Tribune is publishing a three part recollection of Buster Iverson, a personal account of the well development history in the region. Tribune Reporter Carissa Mavec contributed to this report.
Graduating from Knox High School at Knox, North Dakota in 1950, I worked on the family farm 1 mile northwest of Knox. In July of 1951, a drilling rig moved in about nine miles northeast of Rugby, on the Lawrence Bell farm. The rig was owned by Clark Drilling Company, and the lease was held by Ajax Oil Company.
After rig-up was completed, the well was spudded on July 4, 1951. As drilling continued, there were many downhole problems with the drillstring, and much time was lost fishing for tools lost in the hole.
I visited the rig in mid-July and found they were short one roughneck on the day crew, and they hired me. Several other men from the Rugby area were hired as well. Many are now deceased.
After the well was plugged and abandoned, the rig was dismantled and stacked-out (without another contract). A replacement well was drilled in 1954.
I then went to Tioga, North Dakota, where oil had been discovered by Amerada Petroleum Corporation in the "Clarence Iverson" (no relation) well in 1950. The rig was still on location doing some testing.
I was hired as a "roughneck" by another drilling contractor that had brought in a new rig. I continued working for this new drilling contractor, and in 1952 I married Inez "Toodie" Follman (the love of my life). We settled in western North Dakota and followed the rig wherever it went in the Williston Basin. We worked eight hours per day, 365 days per year.
In 1953, I was promoted to "driller," with a crew of four men (eight hours per day, 365 days per year). In 1958, I was promoted to "toolpusher," with responsibility for the operation of one rig, 15 men, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
In early 1960, the price of crude oil began to drop, and the oil companies began laying-off rigs.
In early 1963, I was promoted to drilling superintendent, responsible for the operation of five rigs in the Williston Basin. Drilling continued a sharp downward spiral, and a close friend told me crude oil was being sold at Tioga, North Dakota for $3 per barrel. Work for the rigs became very scarce!
In July of 1965, I was offered a job as drilling supervisor in Egypt for an oil company. I accepted the job, and we sold our home in Williston. Then after packing up our furniture and personal belongings (plus a new Volkswagen Bug), Toodie, Tim, Tami, Barry and I (plus our dog and cat) boarded a plan in Williston bound for Alexandria, Egypt in the first week of September 1965.