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Ralph Gurney's Oil Speculation   By: (1848-1912)

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Author of "The Cruise of the Sprite," "The Clown's Protege," "Roy Barton's Adventures on the Mexican Border," Etc.




Copyright 1883 BY JAMES ELVERSON


Renewal Granted to JAMES OTIS KALER, 1911




The puffing, panting engine that dragged the long train of heavy cars into the busy little city of Bradford, in the State of Pennsylvania, one day last summer, witnessed through its one white, staring eye, sometimes called the head light, many happy meetings between waiting and coming friends; but none was more hearty than that between two college mates one who had graduated the year previous, and the other who hoped to carry off the honors at the close of the next term.

"Here at last!" exclaimed George Harnett, as he met his old chum with a hearty clasp of the hand. "In this case, if the hope had been much longer deferred, the heart would indeed have been sick."

"It was thoughtless in me, old fellow, not to have sent you word when I concluded to remain at home two days longer, but the fact of the matter is that I did not think you would be at the depot to meet me, but would let me hunt you up, for I suppose you do have some kind of an office."

"Yes," laughed the young man, "I have an office; but since my work just now is several miles from here, I am seldom at home, and was obliged to come for you, or run the chance of having you spend a good portion of your vacation hunting for me."

"And are you sorry yet that you chose civil engineering for a profession?"

"Sorry! Not a bit of it! Up here there is more excitement to it than you are aware of, and before you have finished your vacation, you will say that the life of a civil engineer in the oil fields of Pennsylvania is not by any means monotonous. But come this way. My team is here, and while we are talking we may as well be riding, for we have quite a little journey yet before us, over roads so bad, that you can form no idea of them by even the most vivid description."

"But I thought you lived here in Bradford."

"I live where my work is, my boy, and since it happens just now to be out of town, my home, for the time being, is in as old and comfortable a farm house as city weary mortals could ask for."

"Well, I can't say that I shall be sorry to live in the country for awhile, at least."

"Sorry! Well, I hardly think you will be, when you learn what I have to offer you in the way of enjoyment. I am locating some oil producing lands, in a valley where game is abundant, where the fish prefer an artificial fly to a natural one, and where the moonlighter revels with his harmless looking but decidedly dangerous nitro glycerine cartridge."

"What do you mean by moonlighter?" asked Ralph, as he seated himself in the mud bespattered carriage which George pointed out as his.

"A moonlighter is one who shoots an oil well regardless of patent rights or those owning them, save when, by chance, he finds himself gathered in by the strong arm of the law."

"I thank you, Brother Harnett, for your decidedly clear explanation. I almost fancy that I know as much about moonlighters now as when I asked the question, which is saying a good deal, for you very often contrive, in explaining anything, to leave one even more ignorant than when he consulted you."

"If you are willing to listen to as long and as dry a dissertation on oil wells in general, and illegally opened ones in particular, as ever Professor Gardner favored us with on topics in which we were not much interested, I will begin, stopping now and then only to prevent my teeth from being shaken out of my head as we ride over this road."

The two had hardly got out of the "city," and the thoroughly bad character of the road was already apparent. Riding over it was very much like sailing in a small boat on rough water always down by the head or up by the stern, but seldom on an even keel... Continue reading book >>

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