Letters to My Granddaughter, No. 77

[June 7, 2024]  After drinking from the water jug, we drove to a broken “Oklahoma Jack,” sitting silently on an old farmer’s barren land about an hour west of Abilene.  In Texas, it was mid-summer and early, just as the sun peeked over the horizon.  Already, the air was so dry the moisture was sucked straight out of your bones. And the sun would later in the day beat us relentlessly. Jonny Dirt, a high school senior and two years older, was a classmate. One day, he asked if I wanted to fix old oil rigs, which he called Oklahoma Jacks. These were small oil pumpers and old as dirt.

Jonny could get any Oil Jack up and running with some skillful effort. He had talent; it’s hard to deny that. I saw him work on a broken 1920s Oklahoma Jack and get her running in a couple of hours. Jonny always had a crescent wrench and grease gun under the seat of his pickup truck. I remember him greasing the polished rod and stuffing box pump, checking the oil in the engine, setting the throttle, and cranking the flywheel. When the engine was at running speed, he would release a brake that would engage the horse head.

Those old girls’ were cast iron, solid but brittle; mostly, they would last more than a lifetime, never giving up the oil spirit.  Jonny said, “I can get ‘er running in no time,” he was true to his word.  What was interesting about this rig was that it ran off a straight inline six-cylinder, air-cooled engine that must have come from an old Franklin Model 10.  Those rigs were often powered by small truck engines, which seemed to chug along without any maintenance on them at all.

And that Oil Jack magically sputtered back to life and pumped oil, the black gold flowing again. That’s how the money is made. It is not unusual for these old oil jacks to operate off a hodgepodge of parts and castoffs, and while it takes tinkering to keep them working, the cost had to be cheap and that mattered back in the days of the Great Depression. Sometimes, you could find the entire front end of a car tied to the rod line. Now, that was something. You had to appreciate the technical skills of those oil construction workers who built these smaller oil jacks.

Jonny would not graduate from High School and was happy to walk away.  I think the teachers sometimes gave him passing grades out of pity. He was never college material, you see, “He was slow, don’t waste time teaching him.”  That’s what the teachers would say. I overheard them on several occasions. They may have been right.  The school’s guidance counselor told Jonny he wouldn’t make a good ditch digger.  At the time, Jonny fancied himself a pump tech on a large offshore rig, which was a respectable job, but he was nowhere smart or strong enough to last; he wouldn’t have been hired in the first place.

Working with Jonny that summer was a way for me to get away from the school jocks who thought they were the hottest thing since women were invented. I admired Jonny. But I also hated working with him. I also liked tinkering with and getting the oil rigs up and running, but Jonny talked too much. Besides, I wouldn’t get to work as early as he needed me; I still had my newspaper route to deliver by five in the morning. So weekends were the best time to spend working, and I had not yet gotten into motorcycles.

I gave up on Jonny’s oil Jack quest in the late summer of ‘68 and quit working on them.  I learned something I would carry with me for a long time. And that is if you want to work hard, in the heat, around metal machines (that have been ignored), and for little pay, then work on oil rigs in Texas. I discovered Jonny was the undisputed king of the smaller Oklahoma Oil Jacks. Without ever uttering a single curse word and wearing stained shirts, worn-out shoes, and a baseball hat that itself needed an oil change, Jonny had found his place in life.


NOTE: See all my letters here: https://www.theleadermaker.com/granddaughter-letters/


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

28 thoughts on “Letters to My Granddaughter, No. 77

  1. Gail Hamilton

    Another BEAUTIFUL Letter ….. thank you, Gen. Satterfield for sharing.

  2. Texas Jim

    We’ve all heard of these oil pumping rigs on land but never ever had this much info about them and the maintenance that is required. I heard there is a lot of money for the operators. Too bad that Jonny Dirt couldn’t get on a larger rig and make himself more cash. BTW, I’ve worked on them too, when I was young and wanted to prove to my parents I could make it.

  3. Erleldech

    I keep on learning about the little boy who grew up “rich” (but actually poor because his house had doors and windows) and who joined the army as a private and advanced to the rank of brigadier general and who had a topsy turvy childhood. I want to read more about it.

    1. Jerome Smith

      You just gotta love these letters and read about the world of the 50s and 60s.

  4. Melissa Jackson

    Wow, another letter to add to the on-going series and are so loving and “entertaining” too. I admit to being first attracted to these letters because they are just fun to read and I can also feel like I’m back in my childhood. That is the first reason, but I can now see that there is something much deep with the letters and that is that family and friends matter more than we might think. Plus, a person has to develop their character and that is not easy at all, it is hard to do and there will be mistakes made along the way. I gather from Gen.Satterfield’s comments that sometimes he learned the hard way.

  5. USA Patriot II

    I heard on the news that Atlantic city had a big WW2 Memorial Dedication that Gen. Satterfield and others who live out his way were part of. I read a few articles. Great job! Here is one article from their local press:
    “The Press of Atlantic City”

    1. Kerry

      Hey thanks, USA for giving us an article. I was unaware and we get another look at Gen. Satterfield, this time with his Stetson Hat.

      1. Watson Bell

        Great! Thanks USA P. Here is another one where the entire program was captured on video. Long but worth it. The Official Website of City of Atlantic City, NJ – Meeting Recordings (acnj.gov)

  6. Lynn Pitts

    Sir, keep your letters on ur website and I can see how they are getting better each time you post one.

  7. Winston

    A great lesson in life from the mind of Gen. S. –
    “I gave up on Jonny’s oil Jack quest in the late summer of ‘68 and quit working on them. I learned something I would carry with me for a long time. And that is if you want to work hard, in the heat, around metal machines (that have been ignored), and for little pay, then work on oil rigs in Texas. I discovered Jonny was the undisputed king of the smaller Oklahoma Oil Jacks. Without ever uttering a single curse word and wearing stained shirts, worn-out shoes, and a baseball hat that itself needed an oil change, Jonny had found his place in life.”

  8. Hondo

    The first thing I look for when I log into Gen. Satterfield’s website is another letter to his granddaughter and I am rarely disappointed. These have become something of discussion and happiness in my family.

    1. ashley

      Hondo, I think that is one of the side benefits to these letters from Gen. Satterfield. I don’t know if he intended them to be that way, but many families/couples are considering written communication to their descendants in the form of letters or notebooks.

  9. Christine Bisset

    ❤😁✔💖👍👀😎👏😍 JUST LOVE THE LETTERS 💋🎁😉💕😀🎉

  10. KRause

    Gen. Satterfield, I want to say that this letter is my favorite so far. I too love working with my hands. And I too developed good friendships along the way of my growing up in Oregon. It was a weird kind of place that has gotten weirder but those in my friend groups were able to overcome the stifling “compassion” that so many adults were trying to impose upon us and protect us from the real world. Too many of my friends were sucked into that feminine way of life, and to many “sissy” men supported them. I escaped and I think that is one of the lessons of these letters.

    1. Melo in Chicgo

      Yeah, got to agree with that Wellington. Haven’t heard from you in a while. I know that Gen. Satterfield has developed a regular following with similar folks posting often and with good content. Please all, read Gen. Satterfield’s books:
      “Our Longest Year in Iraq”
      “55 Rules for a Good Life”

  11. Northeast

    I hope that yesterday, the 80th anniversary of D-Day, 6 June 1944, that each of you were able to get out and attend a ceremony or event or lecture about that day 80 years ago yesterday. I had a great time, learned alot, and got to meet some wonderful people.

  12. JT Patterson

    Like so many letters, each has become something of a beautiful piece of art. thank you Gen. Satterfield for these letters, and like to many have written before, well done, keep them coming. #77 already, seems like yesterday you started writing them but it has been over a year already. These letters do inspire many to write their own letters to their kids and grandkids. 😀

    1. Pastor John 🙏

      Hi JT, yes! we get another glimpse into the young life of Gen. S. and see what he saw. His letters are becoming something like a running biography and whlle that , in itself is less important, the message to young kids is VERY important because it shows us that even a kid from the deep south and who was not rich by any measure, can develop himself and work on getting others into his circle of friends and family. That is definitely how to get ‘er done (to use Gen. S’s words). thanks to all for supporting Gen. S’s website and be sure to get a copy of his books because in them we have stories that tell the important story of becoming a good person.

      1. Jessica Acia

        ❤ Pastor John, exactly my thoughts. Love the letters. ❤

      2. docwatson

        Yes, Pastor John, well said and I hope others are reading these letters for more than pure entertainment value, which they do have, but for the content on how to gain experience that will make you a better person in the long run. From developing his friends to working hard, gen. Satterfield as a little boy, made something of himself.

  13. Sadako Red

    A DOUBLE FEATURE with two letters to Gen. Satterfield’s granddaughter and wonderful to read them.

      1. lydia truman

        All the letters are wonderful and loving and whenever we get that ‘double feature’, all the better.


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