Ray L. Bellande
RAY L. BELLANDE
Ray L. Bellande resides at Ocean Springs, Mississippi, home of his ancestors, where he has written since May 1993, a weekly historical column, “Sous Les Chenes”, for The Ocean Springs Record. In addition he has published several books: The Bellande Cemetery: A History and Register (1990); From Marseille to Mississippi: A Bellande Family History (1991); and Ocean Springs Hotels and Tourist Homes (1994). Bellande also wrote the text for Ocean Springs, The Way We Were (1900-1950) in 1996.
Ray L. Bellande was the first commandant of the Fort Maurepas Society. He is currently vice-president of the Jackson County Historical Society and the Mississippi Coast Historical and Genealogical Society. He is a member of the following: Mississippi Historical Society (life member), Ocean Springs Genealogical Society (life member), Pioneer America Society, Friends of the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center, Fort Maurepas Society, Jackson County Historical Society, Jackson County Genealogical Society, Jackson County Tricentennial Commission, Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce, American Association of Petroleum Geologist, and Gulf Hills Tennis Club.
Ray L. Bellande is an active participant in community preservation and cultural affairs. He serves on the Ocean Springs Historical Commission and Museum Board. His hobbies include tennis, hiking, windsurfing, and gardening.
TO SOCORRO and FIRST SEMESTER of COLLEGE:
The Sunset Limited pulled-out of the Union Station at New Orleans in late August or early September 1961. It was late on a Sunday evening, probably about 10 P.M. I began to get anxious as the reality of leaving home, family, and friends for the first time began to set in. I rode in a passenger car and slept very little until I got to El Paso about 2 A.M. on Tuesday. I slept on a bench in the train station until dawn and then boarded the northbound Santa Fe for New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology at Socorro, New Mexico.
I can still feel and smell the cold, smoky, air-conditioned atmosphere of the train compartment. The mustard taste of ham sandwiches remains, but some of the characters I met on the Southern Pacific passenger train like the Russian student from California, the G.I. going to Ft. Bliss, and the “southern belle” from Georgia will always be a part of the “insomnia journey” from the Crescent City.
Coincidentally, I met Bob Hossack who was also headed for New Mexico Tech on the Santa Fe portion of the journey. Hossack was from La Mesa, California. He was very intelligent, an excellent student, and a damn good tennis player. Bob, is the only guy that I ever saw wear out the toe of a tennis shoe. He did this by dragging his foot while serving the tennis ball.
We arrived at Socorro on a beautiful cool clear September day. I met my roommate, Hunter Smith, a “cowboy” from Pinon, New Mexico. The first several weeks at college were very miserable. I really missed something. Was it the security of my former environment?
School was difficult. My objective here was to get a degree in Geology. I had a poor high school foundation in mathematics and the physical sciences, which would haunt me all through my scholastic years. I did do well in English, Art, and Physical Education, but only fair in Chemistry. Failure was not met in Physics or Algebra, but I was near the bottom of the class in these subjects.
The art of art of studying had not yet been learned by this Mississippi lad. It was much easier to get absorbed in sports as my dormitory room was only about 100 yards from the gym. Soon I became a “gym rat” spending hours shooting baskets and playing round ball. It was a great escape from studying.
The school had a basketball team called the “Ratheskeller”, named for the sponsor, a local lounge. We played in the city league against the locals who were chiefly Chicanos. I once scored twenty-five points in a game. This experience also gave me the opportunity to officiate, which was very difficult.
We also played softball and flag football as part of the intramural program. I thoroughly enjoyed the keen competition, with the graduate students and staff. I will always remember James McGettigan, our P.E. teacher, as a great competitor.
Probably, my biggest thrill at New Mexico Tech was the trip to the Kelly-Graphic Mining District near Magdalena, New Mexico. It was here that we went underground to search for the rare mineral, smithsonite, a zinc carbonate ore, which is present here in a boitroidal form.
In late November 1961, on a cool, clear Sunday afternoon, eight of us left the Socorro campus for Magdalena. I had never been below ground and was quite anxious about the experience. Little did I know that later that afternoon, I would experience some of the greatest anxiety of my life. The entrance to the mine at Magdalena was 4-5 feet high and required one to walk in a stooped position. We wore hard hats with acetylene lamps, carried geologic hammers, and an occasional person might have had water and a flashlight. Sporadically, we stopped to collect from the walls of the mine, barite, calcite, and other common minerals. The “turkey ore” or Smithsonite was much deeper. I remember coming to a juncture in the mine tunnel were it was necessary to descend on ladders to another level. I had no idea of our depth or direction. Thus far, all was preceding well. The group reached an area of the mine where the portal was about three feet wide. I wasn’t eager to begin crawling through this small tunnel, but there was little choice. Someone said that we were crawling through the fault zone. I never did learn the geology of the area. The proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” was a welcome sight. There was another surprise before we reached the stope or winze were the Smithsonite lie. It was in the guise of crystallized sticks of dynamite! We collected some fair quality mineral specimens of which a few, I still possess.
The return trip out of the Kelly-Graphic Mine was hairy. We reached a location in the mine where one had to swing across a vertical shaft to reach the continuation of the tunnel. I was with the point man and naturally, we were leading the party. Suddenly behind us a muted shout or scream was heard. My partner who had the light source felt that someone might have fallen into the shaft. Immediately, he returned to determine the seriousness of the situation. I was abandoned in TOTAL darkness. It was blacker than black. I wouldn’t move for fear of falling into a shaft. It was deathly silent and the fact that I knew nothing of the potential disaster behind me only added to a growing sense of anxiety. My heart began to pound violently in my chest cavity. I was scared. “Lord, deliver me from this tomb”, I prayed. I started a litany: “Don’t let me die alone”. “I’ll never miss mass again”. I had no concept of time or space. It seemed like an hour before my partner returned. I’m sure it was no more than ten minutes. Fortunately, all was well and my companions and I returned safely to the surface.
When we got back to the campus, I didn’t realize how hungry or dirty that I had become. I remember picking dust, dirt, etc. out of my nose for twenty minutes while waiting for some hamburgers and a milk shake at the grill that evening. A deep fatigued had also set in.
As the semester at New Mexico tech progressed, I realized that I couldn’t survive four years at Socorro. I probably could have struggled through with a C average on the academic side, but the isolation and boredom that I felt as well as the expenses were difficult obstacles to overcome. I went to the library to locate a college catalog for a school closer to Biloxi. Mississippi State University was the only school in the State that I could find any information about. I applied and was accepted for the Spring Semester.
When I left Socorro in January 1962, I wept. It was my first experience away from home. I had made some great relationships. It was a small school, almost non co-ed. We were all survivors. I left the ship, but I know these guys all survived as well.
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY
What a difference a college makes. At Mississippi State, I found all the courses fairly easy, and made the Dean’s List. Admittedly, I did study much more enthusiastically. I got away from sports and became caught up in a competitive group of guys who wanted to excel academically. Here, I continued my pursuit of a Geology degree. Dr. Dunn had just retired and a new professor, Dr. Troy J. Laswell, had just taken over the Geology Department. Don Keady was on his way to Texas A&M to work on his doctorate degree.
My three and one-half years at Mississippi State were fairly routine. I made good grades. In fact, I was on the Dean’s List six out of the seven semesters that I attended that Institution and finished with a 3.12 QPA. With the exception of a C in Structural Geology, my record in Geology courses was all A’s. I never did understand how to use that strain ellipsoid. Of my Geology classmates at State, I would later come across Owen Scott (Lafayette), John B. McGee (Sidney, Australia), Jesse Ellard (Tuscaloosa), and James Christian (New Orleans) on the “oil patch”.
After departing Mississippi State and Starkville in May 1965, I only returned twice. I believe it was 1972 that I went for a Home Coming football contest with USM, and then later in 1984 when I went to Tuscaloosa to show some oil deals to Michigan Oil and an English based company.
At Starkville, only a few memorable events remain with me. The most ecstatic being the May day that I departed the area. Another event that occurred there that left a mark in my memory happened on the athletic field. In 1964, we lost to Memphis State at Scott Field. This was the first time that they had beaten a SEC team. Following the contest, their fans stormed the field and attempted to tear down our goal posts. Needless, to say, the “rednecks” and their cowbells held the day. I observed some very nasty head wounds in Tiger fans on their way to the infirmary.
Another athletic event which is memorable was a State-Ole Miss football game in November 1963? It was so cold. I froze my ass off. It took about two hours before my body quit shivering and I felt normal. I’m sure that I was hypothermic.
The great State basketball teams led by Babe McCarthy are another fond memory. I was fortunate to watch Red Stroud, Joe Dan Gold, and Leland Mitchell during the 1962-1964 seasons. Even though State reached the Final Four in 1996, these teams with those of Bailey Howell a few years earlier may have been the acme of State basketball history.
Interview with George Burchfield of Gulf Oil. Went to work for Gulf in their Jackson, Mississippi office in May 1964, as a geological technician. Worked with photogeologist, Harry ?,
Interviews with Texaco, Gulf, and Humble Oil & Refining Company. Hired by Fred Sollars of Humble oil.
On August 5, 1965, I reported to Carl Patterson at the Jeff Davis Parkway office of Humble Oil & Refining Company.
OIL FIELD GROCERIES
[written February 1992]
Its a cool damp wintry day in South Mississippi and I have the en vie to create a great gumbo. After preparing a shopping list for the multitudinous ingredients, I decide to make some chilli instead. Thank you Mr. McIlhenny. These culinary thoughts surface memories of an oil patch experi-ence of yore. Allow me to relate it to you.
As I best recall, it was about June 1967, and Humble (Exxon) transferred me to the Shreveport Production District to learn the real oil field. My first venture into the patch was down the Mississippi River levee in Concordia Parish to a Wilcox oilfield called Fairview. Since I was a real weevil, I was placed in the tutorship of a senior geologist. We spent the night at Vidalia with the theory that a good nights sleep would sharpen the mind, and allow for a more lucid evaluation. After a savory breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits, butter soaked biscuits, and copious amounts of coffee, we headed south the twenty odd miles to the rig at Fairview.
Our timing was superb as Big Blue had an induction log waiting for us. After a quick inspection of the log, smiles radiated from us both. There were at least five pay sands called Sharp, Artman, Minter, and other Anglo names like that. I began to get excited since we were going to see some "real oil". Well, the cores kept coming. Industry's modus operandi was to shoot beaucoup sidewallscores since many Wilcox reser-voirs exhibit low resistivity characteristics due to the laminar bedding planes. About 1 PM, I began to feel the pangs of hunger. In a weak tone I suggested, "hey, Jim, lets go to Natchez for some groceries. I hear they have some great food up there". His reply was, "Huh? We're working kid. No food until the evaluation is complete". "But, man, I don't think well without food," I said irritably. "We should be done by 4 PM. My wife made me a sandwich yesterday. Its in the trunk of the car. You're welcome to it", he replied amicably. With the thought of ptomaine or some other stomach disorder in my head, I gracefully declined his offer for nourishment.
Instead, I suggested that it might be a good idea for me to go into the swamp to look for some natural organic health food like blackberries, heart of palmetto, pine seeds, etc. I knew someday my Boy Scout training would come to play. Was this the day? When I opened the door of the doghouse, my oil and chlorothane saturated nostrils could barely sense it. Yes, yes, an aroma of edible goodies in the atmosphere. The Schlumberger operators were feasting out of a large ice chest near the logging truck. Bologna, lunch meat, ham, pickles, tomatoes, bread, yeah, and lots of mayonnaise. In addition there was lots of sugar and caffeine in the colas to revive my weakened body and sluggish mind.
Sheepishly I asked if I might participate in their victual ritual. "Sure", they replied gregariously, "this is the community lunch wagon". This was to be my first oil field perk, but I didn't realize it then.As we ate a thick steak that evening in Monroe celebrating that rare event, a successful Wilcox well, I began to formulate an idea. Yes, I'll stock my car with food the next time I venture into the backwaters of the oilfield to do wellsite work. I did and have never regretted it.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
I departed LAX for Anchorage, Alaska in March 1969. We stopped at Seattle and then flew non-stop to Alaska. Dean Morgridge, the District Geologist for Alaska, was also aboard the Continental jet. We arrived at Anchorage about 8 P.M. The air temperature was a cool 14 degrees F. Leaving balmy Southern California, I wasn’t totally prepared for the sub-Arctic cold.
Dean Morgridge invited me to have dinner with him. We went to a restaurant that specialized in beef. Our order took nearly two hours and consisted of a small roast weighing about 20 ounces. Needless to say that after the wait, we were literally hungry enough to eat a cow!
There was a strong blizzard on the North Slope and no aircraft were going in. This allowed me to remain in the Anchorage area two additional days. I took advantage of this time to do some shopping and sight seeing. I rented a car and drove down the Turn Again Arm of the Cook Inlet to the ski resort at ? and to see the Portage Glacier.
I believe it was St. Patrick’s Day when we boarded the King Air for the Prudhoe Bay camp. I joined the company of three ARCO tool pushers. They were pretty crusty characters-stereotypes of the oil field. Where do they manufacture these men? There must be a mill in Oklahoma or Texas that stamps them out complete with cowboy boots, diamond ring, and assorted gold jewelry. Nugget watch bands and jewelry were popular in Alaska at this time.
It was a three and one-half hour flight to the North Slope from Anchorage. The weather was good and visibility at the altitude that we flew was great. The Yukon River was still frozen and the rugose nature of the Brooks Range still remains strong in my memory. I soon realized that we would be extremely difficult to find down there. The North Slope was equally impressive. It is a great Arctic desert which dips gently to the Arctic Ocean from the mountains to the south. This vast, treeless, tundra terrain is about 100 miles wide and 400 miles in length. It is transected by a few large north, flowing rivers such as the Colville and Sagavanirktov.
When the King Air set down at the Dead Horse airstrip, it was cloudy and blowing snow with the temperature at 0 degrees F. I was assigned to the ARCO-Humble Oil No. 1 Toolik-Federal, an exploratory hole, about 12 miles south of the Prudhoe Bay Field.
At this time, the ARCO-Humble combine had three rigs running on the North Slope evaluating acreage for the upcoming September Alaska State lease sale. The ARCO-Humble No. 1 Delta-State was drilling in the Sadelerochit truncation zone, southeast of the field discovery well, the No. 1 Prudhoe Bay-State. It had been completed in 1967, and was located in the gas cap of the large Permo-Triassic reservoir. ARCO-Humble No. 1 Lake-State was digging south of the field’s confirmation test, No. 1 Sag River-State. Lake-State No. 1 was attempting to locate the oil-water contact for the large oil accumulation discovered by Sag River-No. 1. Toolik-Federal No. 1 was a weak seismic prospect and probably should not have been drilled. We had company in the immediate area as SOCAL was drilling their first well, No. 1 Dead Horse-State, between our No. 1 Lake and No. 1 Toolik-Toolik Federal.
Immediately upon disembarkation from the aircraft and checking in at the base camp, we were transported in a pick-up truck to the rig. The trucks on the North Slope ran continuously for fear that they would freeze up if shut down. The drive from the ARCO base camp to the Toolik rig took about 45 minutes in good weather. The road was paved with gravel which had been mined from the flood plain and bed of the Sag River, a large braided stream with many anamostizing channels. It is interesting to note that this huge oil and gas field, which is about 10 miles wide and forty miles long and reservoirs about 12 billion barrels of oil and 27 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, might not have commercial to develop if it there had not been extensive gravel deposits in the immediate area. The gravel insulates the tundra and provides a solid foundation for drilling pads, buildings, and an extensive network of roads as previously mentioned. To reduce the large number of drill sites necessary to develop the field, production wells were directionally drilled from pads similar to the development of an offshore field development. This practice was also environmentally sound as it reduced the number of surface structures.
JAKARTA, INDONESIA and SUMATRA
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA and SABAH
I left Los Angeles, California in March of 1973, for Kingsville, Texas. It was to be my last assignment with Humble Oil & Refining Company as the name of the company would soon change to Exxon. I drove my Chevrolet Vega through the high California desert for the last time. My first night out of LA was spent in Arizona on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The first view of that magnificent hole in the earth was remarkable. I remember mumbling something like “oh, shit” with my first glimpse of it. No doubt that the Grand Canyon is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Snow was still present on the high Kaibab Pleateau.
The next day I drove continuously stopping very briefly at Socorro, New Mexico to visit my alma mater, New Mexico Tech. The campus had improved since my stay there in the Fall of 1961. I arrived in El Paso, Texas before dusk and spent the night there. Visited Jim Petrezelka, a class mate at New Mexico Tech.
I arose early and continued east passing through the rugged canyon country of Pecos and Crockett Counties in West Texas. It is very beautiful. I reached San Antonio in an exhausted state.
The next day I made the two hour drive south to Kingville arriving there about 10:00 A.M. I went to the Humble office and met Rod Boane who was the District Geologist. Ed Sabatka would be my immediate supervisor and Bob Dubose in Corpus Christi was our Division Geologist. There were some real characters in our Kingsville office. Some were old veterans like Wally ?, Jack ?, Charlie ?, Fred Steuer, and Hollis Marshall. There were a few newcomers like Rolly Oberg, Mitch Neilson, Ed O’Quinn, Paul Mayes, and Carl Musgrove. I was replacing Dennis Barclay who had gone to work for Esso Norway in Stavenger.
I had met Dennis Barclay in the 1966 Electric Well Logging School at Esso Production Research Company in Houston. I’ll never forget the Saturday morning that he and I went to Galveston. We got into a very intense rain storm on the Galveston bridge. Traffic stopped because the visibility was zero. There was a total “white-out” of rain water.
Barclay had gone to STANVAC at Jakarta, Indonesia on a temporary overseas assignment in 1969, and I followed in his tracks over there in 1971. I had hoped to repeat and follow him to Norway. Life is cruel at times. In 1974, Dennis developed a melanoma or black mole and died in Norway within a few months while with Esso Norge. He was very fair skinned with red hair, blue eyes, and freckles. Dennis Barclay was a good geologist and friend. I will always remember him although our acquaintance was chiefly by telephone.
At Kingsville, I settled in at the Santa Gertrudis Apartments. A most appropriate name since the principal bovine on the king Ranch was the cow with the same name. I believe the Santa Gertrudis hybrid was developed from the Brahma and Hereford breeds and the resulting animal is well suited for the climate of South Texas.
Humble’s Kingsville District consisted primarily of the oil an gas fields which had been discovered on the large King Ranch. The King Ranch is approximately 1 million acres in size. Someone toId me that it was leased by Humble Oil during the Great Depression. The lease money helped pay the taxes and kept the Kleberg empire intact. Subsequent exploration and development by Humble demonstrated that the King Ranch contained some major oil and gas fields.
At one time, the King Ranch Gas Plant was one of the largest in the world. I was in development geology and assigned to work the abnormal pressured Vicksburg gas trend in the Tijerna-Canales-Blucher and Seeligson areas. The Oligocene Vicksburg age clastic reservoirs occur at relatively shallow depths in this area, i.e. 9000-10000 feet. If you find a good reservoir, wells with capacities in the 20-30 MMCFG/D can be made.
An interesting geological phenomena occurred at the King Ranch shortly before I arrive there. In the 1950s, Humble had drilled an 8000-foot Frio flank well at T-C-B. There was oil production up dip in the same apparent stratigraphic interval. The up dip wells watered-out, but the down dip well continued to produce liquid hydrocarbons at a good rate and had accumulated a high production total.
One very commendable facet of the reservoir engineering group in the Kingsville District is that they ran BHP (bottom hole pressure) tests on a regular basis. They discovered the anomalous production condition on the east flank of T-C-B, and recommended that a well be drilled up dip of the “production anomaly” and the down dip of the abandoned wells.
A geologist correlating the Frio wells of interest on the east flank of T-C-B would probably conclude that they were the same sand body. An exploratory test was dug between the producing well and the up dip watered-out producers. It came in flowing between 200 and 300 barrels of oil per day. Rolly Oberg handled the mapping of this project and eventually six successful development wells were drilled on strike. This was a great lesson in stratigraphy and production anomalies. I would remember this and apply it successfully later at the Iota Field in Acadia Parish, Louisiana.
Although I remained in the Kingsville district for only nine months, it was an interesting assignment and I met some good people. One of these individuals was young Bill London from Oklahoma City. We called Bill, “the kid”. He had grown up in the “oil patch” of New Mexico and Oklahoma as his father owned a production company. London graduated from Princeton University and came to Kingsville in May of 1973, directly from New Jersey.
I have never met anyone who was as knowledgeable about the oil business at such a young age. Bill London was about 24 years of age. He developed a prospect within three weeks of his arrival and it was drilled immediately. It was a stratigraphic play that didn’t work, but nevertheless was a good idea.
Bill London, Rolly Oberg, and myself were the only batchelors in the office. Bill and I sailed some at Rivera Beach and played tennis. He called me at Lafayette after I had left and invited me to be in his wedding at Oklahoma City. I hope he and Coe have done well with their life together.
Work wise I got two wells drilled during my short stay in Kingville. Both were in the Canelo Field. One was a marginal producer and the other probably made Humble lots of money. I worked with an Australian engineer, Dave ?, on these projects. He was good chap and very bright.
My days with Humble were numbered after I made several gaffs with the local management. Living in California had set me free in some ways and added to my eccentricities. My primary troubles started in the Summer of 1973. It was very warm and humid in South Texas and I decided to set a new dress code for working in the “Texas Tropics”. My choice of apparel was British walking shorts with white knee stockings. This was not pleasing to District Geologist Boane.
In addition, I was habitually late for work. Office hours were from 7:00 A.M. until 4:30 P.M. Historically, I am not an early morning person. My hours were more like 7:15 to 5:00 P.M. Boane would write company memos and send them out reminding everyone of the work schedule. I would have appreciated it more if he had come to me personally and told me to be there at 7:00 A.M.!!
The final act that led to my leaving Humble Oil also occurred in the heat of 1973. I had come into the office from a logging run on a very hot day. The District Engineer, Harry Longwell?, wanted to see the log. Unfortunately, I was wearing a tank top shirt. Longwell? later complained to Boane that, “I didn’t appreciate his (Bellande’s) hairy arm pit in my face”
During my trips from Kingsville to Biloxi, I usually stopped at Lafayette to visit John Borger, my old mate from the Offshore Distrci at New Orleans and from Alaskan well sitting days. John had left Humble while in Los Angeles and joined Tenneco at Lafayette. Tenneco at this time was very active in the Gulf of Mexico. They were actively hiring experienced development geologist for their Lafayette office. I met several management people, Dan Foder and Chuck Schultz, and liked them immediately.
My employment with Humble Oil had exceeded eight years in August of 1973. Until the incidents with Rod Boane at Kingsville, my career had gone smoothly. Chuck Schultz began calling me at home in Kingsville offering employment with Tenneco. As things began to deteriorate for me in Texas, I accepted an offer to meet Schultz in Houston to seriously consider leaving Humble. We met in the airport and he offered me $1200 per month which I accepted. The thought of leaving Humble was not pleasant as it was the only real job that I had ever had.
John Henderson had replace Rod Boane as District Geologist. I liked and respected Henderson. He was smart and a leader. Strangely to me, John Henderson wouldn’t accept my resignation.
TIME LINE IMAGES
Mississippi State Science Fair
1st Place Earth Science Class IV
[April 24, 1959-Jackson, Mississippi]
1960 BILOXI HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS TEAM
[L-R: Glenn Saucier?, Mike Rester, Ronnie Kettering, Ray L. Bellande]
Arco-Humble Toolik-Federal No. 1-North Slope, Alaska-March 1969
2002 painter and potter
Ocean Springs, Mississippi-August 2013.
First Art Exhibit-Biloxi Public Library-November 2013