On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Of Oil and Gas Wells
The American Chestnut log that has been a resting place for the past 33 years on the Pennsylvania property of the Footloose Forester owes its presence to the kindness of Ray Langer, who owned the oil well from whence it came.
At one time, Ray Langer owned 25 oil and gas wells in the area, but as he grew older he knew that he could not keep up with them all by himself. Since it costs about $25,000 to close and seal each well in accordance with state and federal regulations, he kept only ten of them open. In the first photograph below, a newly refurbished oil well stands next to a modern Marriott Hotel and astride a heavily traveled road. Despite the ubiquitous rust that covers all iron fittings, the reconstruction of the oil well was completed less than ten years ago, and retains the architectural design of the original well. A closer look at the still active well is shown in Photo #2.
Old oil well next to a modern Marriott Hotel
Close up of oil well showing original design features
Only the freshly painted green exterior of the collecting tank downstream in Photo #3 hints of recent activity. Although the trickle of oil is slow, it is still an active well; and the holding tank is emptied about once a week. The dark patch on the ground in the photo below is fresh oil that was spilled when the tank was emptied.
Oil collection tank...note spilled oil at ground level on left
The chestnut log that was salvaged from one of the wells that was once visible from the bedroom window of the Footloose Forester was one of several oil wells that were closed when part of Ray Langer’s oil patch was sold off as part of a housing development. As the day came closer in 1980 when the bull dozers were about to demolish the pump houses, the Footloose Forester went to Ray Langer and asked permission to take a couple of the chestnut logs that were part of the main structure of one of the two remaining well sites. He kindly gave permission. The next move was to go to the construction supervisor to inform him that permission had been given by the land owner. Remarkably, the supervisor not only listened with interest, he volunteered to deliver the logs curbside the following day, at the bargain price of a case of beer. The following day and right after quitting time at the construction site, the supervisor showed up with one of his crew and a large front-end loader with three hefty chestnut logs from the oil well.
Over the years, the two smaller chestnut logs finally rotted away. After all, they were already over 100 years old when they were delivered at the property of the Footloose Forester. They were installed as benches and served that purpose for about 20 years. The only remaining chestnut log is still in good shape, thanks in part to its extra rot resistance as a butt log; and some additional creosote that was applied when the oil derrick was built about 140 years ago.
Chestnut log from the oil well once visible from the bedroom of the Footloose Forester
Another view of the now well-shaded American Chestnut log
This methane flame has burned continuously for more than 100 years
The flame of burning methane just outside the residence of Ray Langer is testimony that both natural gas and oil continue to seep from the ground in the hills of Western Pennsylvania. From his front porch and down the hill to his left, the active oil well next to the Marriott Hotel is visible. And up the hill past the methane flame that has been burning for more than a hundred years, stands the rusty but active oil-gas well that Ray Langer still services. The photo below is primarily a gas well that passers-by may not realize is part of the living past, but is still serving our needs.
The oil-gas well above got a modern upgrade in 2018
Sometime in early 2018, Ray Langer installed a heavy duty plastic receptacle to monitor the slowing emerging oil at the well shown above. The 1100 gallon opaque receptable was about half full on the day that Footloose Forester passed by. It can be seen from Aten Road, so he decided to bang on its side to witness the crude oil ripple on the inside. It sloshed just enough to suggest that Ray's oil might be classifed as a light grade. Just a guess, but an interesting and memorable moment.