Shades of Jed Clampett: Searching For Water, Finding Oil

“This is the story of a man named Jed,
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed.
Then one day, he was shooting at some food
And up from the ground came a-bubbling crude.
Oil that is, Texas Tea.
The next thing you know old Jed’s a (former) millionaire . . . ."

If you remember the opening sequence to “The Beverly Hillbillies,” you’ll remember crude oil flowing out onto the ground after he shoots his rifle at a rabbit.  That might have gotten by in Jed Clampett’s day, but it wouldn’t happen in today’s world.

All a Tennessee landowner wanted to do was drill a new waterwell.  But, now, instead, he faces a massive clean-up bill for oil that began seeping out of the ground after the waterwell was drilled.  At that rate, he’ll be a former millionaire before he even gets a chance to be a millionaire.

A story in the Feb. 14 edition of The Tennessean noted that the Rev. John Gouldener is now one of those oil polluters quite by accident.  And, he has no idea how much the clean-up of his oil spill will finally cost him.

As the newspaper noted, state and local officials have been putting a lot of effort into sopping up the oil spill, which seeped out of Gouldener’s property and into Brushy Creek.  His property is just outside the Fairview, TN, city limits and southwest of Nashville.

The newspaper had pictures of oil-absorbent booms draped across the creek and noted that you could easily smell the crude oil.  The oil is migrating from holes in the creek bank and the creek bed.

The state agencies believe the waterwell drillers tapped into a shallow oil reservoir on the minister’s land.  Although the cause of the leaking oil has been identified yet, inspectors think the waterwell opened the oil flow.

The oil was still flowing over the weekend of Jan. 11-12.  The state agencies were getting a little antsy, hoping the oil flow would stop.  If not, a more aggressive response would be needed, which would run up the bill for the clean up.

Gouldener is the pastor of Crossroad Community Church in Nashville.  The 66-year-old “oilman” is afraid the “wildcat” well will cost him money.  It’s not quite the same thing that Jed Clampett did.  Gouldener won’t be moving to “Californy.”

According to the newspaper, state records show that 77 wells have been drilled in Williamson County where the oil seep is.  All of these wells are classified as either dry holes or water wells.  There are no oil producing wells in the county.

The oil in Brush Creek has been slow in coming.  The oil has likely migrated through the aquifer to the creek.  The waterwell was drilled last fall, and only recently has anyone noticed that it was coating the creek’s surface.

The townfolks are wondering how long the oil has been has been filtering into the creek, how much oil has floated downstream and how much longer it will be a problem.

Gouldener drilled the water well because the underground spring on his property dried up, the newspaper added.  He’s only owned the land for a year.

State geologists expect the reservoir to empty fairly soon, if the well follows