Joe N. Brown
Joe N. Brown

I guess this probably happened is 1974. I had leased a small ranch from Allan Construction in Maxon Canyon, Brewster County. It was 10 sections of Chihuahuan desert with a water well at the house. Mr. Allan only used the place for deer hunting once a year.

He called and asked me what I needed to make it a better ranch. I told him what was needed was more water. His answer to that was, “Hire driller and drill two water wells one on the south side of Maxon Canyon and one on the north side and we will equip them with windmills from my Dryden Ranch.” I agreed and this story is the result of that conversation.

I hired a driller out of Del Rio complete with a crew. Names are not important here as it would interfere with the story.

He moved in and set up his rig on the south divide. They began drilling and brought in a water well at 840 feet, capable of producing five gallons of water per minute. This was typical and considered a good well. As far as I knew, they only went to town for groceries and beer.

We moved the rig to the north Mesa and set up to drill there. This is about the time trouble began to show itself. They would shut down the rig and go to Ft. Stockton for the weekend. I don’t know what the charges were, but the driller called saying they were in jail. He asked if I would sign his bond so they could get back to work drilling at the ranch. Without asking the charges or amount I stupidly agreed.

On Monday I asked and was told not to worry, it was a minor deal and he would take care of it. Again I accepted his word.

They hit a dry hole at 1,600 feet and Mr. Alan canceled the drilling contract and they moved out, but I did not know where to at that time.

The next month I got a subpoena to appear at District Court in Ft. Stockton, as I was the bond holder in the case. I showed up alone, no driller. The judge explained to me that I was responsible to produce the charged party, or pay up the $10,000 dollar bond. Not having that amount I asked the judge for time to locate my man. He gave me six months until the next court session to produce the subject, or I would have to pay the $10,000 bond.
I left there a very sick man to say the least. I began to search all over West Texas, no results. I put out feelers from the oilfield to Del Rio. Again no results. I was desperate and had to change tactics. I had a friend who taught school in Comstock where the man’s wife lived. I contacted him for help. In about one week my friend called and said the wife was getting mail from her husband from Los Lunas, Mexico. I could do nothing, my search was over!

That fall I was subpoenaed to appear in court and I went with my checkbook in hand. The Sheriff walked by and said, “Good morning Joe.” He walked a few more steps then turned around and said, “Merry Christmas Joe.” As it was only October, I asked, “What do you mean?” The Sheriff laughed and said, “The Border Patrol picked up your man last night at Sierra Blanca.”

Totally relieved, we went and found the judge and, after being satisfied that the man was in custody, he released me from the bond.

This was the best “Christmas present” I could have gotten. I had made a big mistake but having learned my lesson it would never happen again.