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Making the most of Barnett Shale benefits (video)

By By Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
April 28, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 27, 2012 at 11:28 p.m.

A rig site sits next to a hotel and restaurant and ever-so-slightly obscures the Fort Worth skyline on a clear afternoon in North Texas. The Barnett Shale was the first big play of its kind in the country and those affected by the Marcellus Shale and the Eagle Ford Shale are looking to North Texas, with its landscape dotted with rigs that encroach on neighborhoods and businesses, for insight into what their oil producing future may hold.

GODLEY - Close your eyes and picture it - there, out on the water of a lake he dug himself is a 90-year-old man, boasting a wide grin, zipping along on water skis.

The cause of this unlikely scene? The surprising Barnett Shale play.

When the drilling companies started leasing land across 24 counties in North Texas, many of those who signed did so with a grin, never imagining the companies would drill wells that would produce.

The odds are good that Harvey Dolphus Staples, known by one and all as Doc, never imagined the wealth encrusted in the black carbon-rich formation that lay thousands of feet below his patch of land in North Texas.

The Barnett Shale play thundered along, and as the rigs appeared drilling wells, hundreds of them, to get natural gas out of the formation that spanned 24 counties, people had money on their hands, more than they'd ever imagined.

When the money came in, some people bought trucks they didn't need or replaced fences that still had life left in them - the things you do when you don't quite know what to do with it all.

Staples lived in Godley most of his life, a man as rare as an exotic bird in the small community of dairy farmers and cattle ranchers. The town never grew much because Godley didn't have a water source, the kind you need to help a town swell into a city.

Staples worked as a math teacher and then a principal in the little community just outside of Fort Worth.

He was a living legend, the man who taught the track team to pole vault using long sticks of green bamboo cut from a grove in his backyard. Every Lions Club meeting closed with Staples standing to recite a poem - usually "The Albatross," a crowd favorite.

He never expected wealth, but he knew exactly what to do with it when the wells started producing and the royalty checks came flooding in.

"I'm going to have more water than anybody here in Godley," he told neighbors Maureen and Bobby Green.

He bought some farm equipment and dug himself a 13-acre lake, filled it up and stocked it with trout.

Looking down into the valley from an adjacent hill, the neighbors could see his long angular figure flying across the water, a trail of foam following behind.

Doc Staples lived only a few years after the royalty money came rolling in, but he enjoyed every bit of it.

And he still closed every Lions Club meeting with a poem:

The Poet is like this monarch of the clouds

riding the storm above the marksman's range;

exiled on the ground, hooted and jeered,

he cannot walk because of his great wings.

The Victoria Advocate's ongoing series on the Eagle Ford Shale play continues today with a look at the Barnett Shale, the first shale play of its kind, and what lessons might be learned from it.

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