Yesterday, the boys and myself took a drive out west past Palo Pinto to the shores of Possum Kingdom Lake. We were doing some advance scouting for an upcoming camping trip. If Possum Kingdom sounds like a bizarre name - it is and it isn't. An early 20th century furrier who bought possum pelts used to refer to the local trappers as the "Possum Kingdom Boys". We did not see any possums but we did see dozens of pumpjacks, bobbing away and by golly reducing our dependence on foreign oil, if you buy into that kind of thing.
The wells reminded me of when we moved to Austin and gasoline was something like 85 cents a gallon. I met a guy then who at one time had worked in the oilfields in the Permian Basin out in West Texas. I was fascinated by the prospect of owning a share in a Texas oil well. We kicked the idea around but he advised that with oil under $10 a barrel (this was 1998) that many of the wells were just sitting idle. It was cost prohibitive to bring the crude to the surface at that price. And so my aspirations of being an oil baron were shelved. Of course, oil hit $126 a barrel in 2008 and is currently around $74 and based on the busy pumpjacks we seen, it is again profitable. I missed my chance to buy in at $8 and change... c'est la vie.
Possum Kingdom Lake looked cool and inviting in the afternoon heat but we may not end up camping there. It is a longer drive than I thought - over two hours from home. The lake itself is a result of a dam on the Brazos River and while I told the boys about John Graves and his famous book "Goodbye to a River", I doubt that much of it sunk in. In the 1950's, there were plans to build several dams on the Brazos and in 1957 Graves took a canoe trip down the river, hoping to see it in its pristine state before the valleys were flooded. The aforementioned book memorialized his trip. Ultimately, three dams were built on the longest river in Texas. The author is still alive, Texas Monthly interviewed him in the August 2010 issue.
While the boys may not recall much of my account of John Graves, they will undoubtedly remember the self proclaimed "World's Largest Wheelbarrow". It sits unexpectedly in a field just off the road - the nearest house in the tiny hamlet of Caddo is several miles away. Talk about a roadside curiosity. It must be about five feet high and serves no apparent purpose other than to get people to pull over and take a photo. It sure was quiet there though and somehow the giant wheelbarrow sort of fits right in.