This is my first EXPLORER column as president of AAPG. I want to first thank the membership for putting their trust in me to lead this great organization. I want to welcome the newly elected Executive Committee members: President-Elect Rick Fritz, Vice President Regions Bob Shoup, Secretary Stephanie Nwoko and Editor Bob Merrill, who will be joining Treasurer Richard Ball and Vice President Sections Jeff Aldrich, who are each serving the second year of a two-year term. To round out the new EC, John Kaldi will be the new House of Delegates chairman.
The new EC’s objective for the coming year is fairly straightforward: Members. As the industry changes around us, AAPG has to adapt to these changes for its membership. We will be looking at every avenue through which the AAPG provides services and information to its members and look at ways we can improve. As your elected officials, we are more than open to comments or suggestions. Just be nice!
My involvement with AAPG started in early 1979 while working for Cities Services. The first AAPG event I attended was a short course 40 years ago taught by Frank Brown and Bill Fisher. I still have the certificate. Thus began my involvement with AAPG.
I have been asked why I was so involved in the geological community within Midland and AAPG. This is an easy question – it is the people. We work in an industry that is not only challenging and exciting, but the people are great to be around. If you get two geologists together, they can talk for hours about the rocks. I always wonder what doctors talk about for hours when they are at parties. In my more than 40 years, I have met and made friends with some of the smartest and most interesting people around the world.
Starting a Career
For the students reading this column, I want to talk about my first job, which was an internship with Cities Services in Midland as a geophysical tech in the summer of 1978. In the fall of 1977, I interviewed with over ten companies for a summer position. All ended up with letters similar to the one shown from Cities Services: “Thanks for your interest,” but no job offer. After receiving the letter from Cities, I called Mr. Farley, who had interviewed me, to discuss my interview. I felt I had a great interview with Cities and Mr. Farley was very helpful in answering questions in the interview, so I reached out and asked him what I needed to work on, how to improve my resume and interviewing skills, and I even asked about appearance (I did wear my only suit – a leisure suit – to the interview).
Long story short: they ended up offering me a position in Midland for the summer of 1978. I arrived in Midland in mid-May and lived in a Circle 6 Motel for three weeks waiting to get an apartment, as Midland was in the very early stages of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s boom.
My first boss was a great man and mentor, Mike Cook, who had me working on several projects, but the highlight was getting to take some newly shot 2-D over acreage owned by Cities and map the structure. It was my first mapping project in the oil and gas industry! At the end of the summer, Mike offered me a permanent position with Cities in the Midland office after completing my degree in December. I accepted the position and was back in Midland by Christmas.
In our careers, we never know how important some people might be. For me, I can never fully express my gratitude to Mike Cook for taking a chance on me and being a great mentor throughout my career (he also served as best man when Cathie and I got married). Without him, I might still be in Missouri on a pig farm.
‘Loves Me Like a Rock’
Speaking of that pig farm. I was raised in a small town in Missouri called Belle. I grew up on a farm, mostly raising hogs. When I was around eight years old, I found a Mississippian coral that resembled a walnut, so I thought I had a petrified walnut. This sparked a fire in me to collect rocks. My early science loves were geology and astronomy. As I progressed through grade school into junior high, the geology took over, and by the time I was a sophomore I had filled a part of my parents’ basement with rocks. By the end of my junior year, I decided to go to the University of Missouri-Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology, and major in geology. Belle High School had a tradition in which each graduating senior had a song dedication involving some aspect of their high school life. Mine was Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like a Rock.”
I graduated 13th in my class (impressed? there were 42 of us.) and was off to UMR. I graduated from UMR with a bachelor’s in geology/geophysics in December 1978, moved to Midland for the job with Cities Services, and have remained in Midland ever since, with the exception of nine months in Tulsa going through the Cities Service training program.
I was fortunate that in 1982, I landed a job with Wagner and Brown, Ltd., a small independent that was owned by Cy Wagner, a University of Oklahoma geology grad, and Jack Brown, an engineering grad from Texas A&M University. At Wagner and Brown, we worked plays throughout the United States and internationally. Outside of the United States, we drilled wells in England, France and Australia.
Without the encouragement and support of Cy Wagner, I would have never been able to be as active in AAPG and the West Texas Geological Society as I was. He understood the importance of AAPG to the geological community. I wish he was still with us so he could see where those years of encouragement led.
I worked for Wagner and Brown for 28 years and left in 2009 to become vice president of exploration at Reliance Energy Inc. This was also a private company run by Gary McKinney. He put together a management team that had ownership in the company to develop assets. Jerry Hancock was the first person Gary assigned to the management team. Jerry is a landman, and he was instrumental both in getting the properties that later became the core of Reliance’s acreage position, and in assembling the rest of the management team.
Jerry had shown me several deals at Wagner and Brown Ltd, all of which I turned down, yet he approached me and said they would like me to consider coming to work at Reliance. Later, I asked him “Why me?” when I had turned down his deals. He said that I was at least nice when I turned him down!
In 2016 Concho made us an offer we could not refuse, and we sold out. At that time, Beryl Oil and Gas was doing non-operated projects, and I decided that it was time to open up an office.
My wife of 37 years, Cathie, enjoys traveling with me to the AAPG events and has made lots of friends along the way. My daughter Lauren is the office manager for Beryl, and my son Rob has a geology degree with a strong IT background, and he works geology and keeps the computers running at Beryl. My other son, Michael, went to the dark side and is an engineer with Hess in Houston. Cathie and I have one grandchild, Reagan. It looks like she might be a geologist – she is six years old but has been collecting rocks for several years!
The Year to Come
I’ve included a picture of me on a field trip almost 40 years ago. You will notice the scrapes on my leg, the first of many through the years from the outcrop. As I got older and grayer, I learned to wear pants and not shorts, along with many other lessons that will serve me well as president of the AAPG.
In closing, this year is about you, the members. I am looking forward to traveling and catching up with friends I have known for a long time and making new friends.
Remember, AAPG is your organization. Help us make it even better.