by Bobby D. Weaver
There have always been sharp operators in the oil patch, especially in the early days. There are some who say that they are alive and well in today’s world. But few of them were the match of Henry.
Along about the end of World War I, Henry was operating out of Wichita Falls as an oil promoter. It is said that he floated so many oil stock schemes that they had to put on an extra shift down at the Wichita County Courthouse just to keep up with the paperwork he created. Sometimes he even resorted to hawking nonexistent companies, but even for Henry that seemed a bit risky. All that was past, however, when Henry hit upon his sure-fire scheme. He would promote investment in an oil well so far removed from proven producing grounds as to assure a dry hole. Selling high-priced shares in the well would guarantee him a tidy profit when the project failed, and some of his investors might even be induced to buy into his next project.
It worked. Henry used the scheme time and again with unfailing success. Then the unthinkable happened. One of the wells came in a gusher. Investors appeared from everywhere clamoring for their share of the profits. It soon got out that Henry had sold a total of 500 percent of the project although he claimed to maintain 50 percent ownership. Naturally the conflict landed Henry in court.
When the case came to trial, dozens of investors testified how Henry had sold them 10-, 12-, or even 20–percent interests in the prospective well. The promoter countered that they had simply misunderstood the deal. He was obviously raising capital for only one-half of the project, for he was saving the other half for himself. The legal arguments raged on for almost a week with Henry spending more than a day on the witness stand. Eventually the jury retired to consider the evidence. It did not look good for our hero.
Shortly after the jury began deliberations, Henry disappeared. Everybody went looking for him. Most assumed that he had slipped out ahead of a certainly unfavorable verdict. Finally, the bailiff happened to peek into the jury room, and there stood Henry making a pitch to the jury on his next big project.
Collective memory is unclear as to the verdict ultimately rendered, but it is largely agreed that nine of the twelve men good and true put money in Henry’s next project.
Spending 20 years laboring in greasy overalls in the oil patch and doing a hard time stretch collecting oral histories for Texas Tech has provided Bobby Weaver with a wealth of oil field yarns. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.