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Texas | Columns

Hadacol Corners
and The Doctor

by Barbara Duvall Wesolek
Barbara Duvall Wesolek
As a girl, growing up in Texas and Oklahoma, some of my favorite times were spent traveling around with my dad, having adventures. The best days were when we would go out to fish, shoot tin cans, or visit a drilling rig. My dad was in the independent oil drilling business and would sometimes take me with him when something exciting was about to happen at a rig. He was the boss, and I was welcome by the oil field workers. They liked my dad because he had a reputation for being fair and even-tempered. He was a good man to work for, and they knew he had started out as a roughneck, just like them, when he was 17 years old.

One day, when a rig in the Midland-Odessa area was about to spud in, hit oil sands, and end the suspense everyone felt not knowing if the well would produce or be a dry hole, dad took me with him for the big event. School could wait, more important things were happening in the oil field. I liked the excitement, and I liked the unusual names in the oil field. Sweetie Peck field was one of my favorites.

This well today was in the Sprayberry Field. Although oil field work was hard and dangerous, and the men took their work seriously, they liked to joke around good naturedly and call each other names. I remember workers in the Sprayberry Field were called Sprayberry strays. Once in a while, forgetting I was there, they must have called each other names I was not meant to hear, because a worker would jerk his head in my direction and say, "Watch it, there."

Mother believed an oil field was not the proper place for a young lady, and she would say, “If you don’t stop taking her around the way you do, we’re going to send her off to boarding school.” I asked dad why she said that, and he told me not to worry. He explained that he met mother when he, dressed in the latest style, a fine cream-colored silk suit with Navy blue tie, had crashed a high society party at the Corpus Christi Country Club.

He spotted mother from across the room and went over to introduce himself. Realizing her date had too much to drink, dad gave him a dollar to go back to the bar and buy himself another round. Dad then whisked mother out to see his waiting new Ford coupe with the top down, and he took her for a moonlight spin on Ocean Drive along Corpus Christi Bay. My parents married three months later. Back then, oil field workers were considered exciting and daring, and their pay was much more than in many other occupations. Dad told me mother liked adventure. A drunken college boy could not compete.

When dad and I headed out this day of skipping school in Midland-Odessa, our first stop was Hadacol Corners where the Hadacol Corners Café served over-sized hamburger steaks smothered in onions and brown gravy, a fitting meal for big men working long, hard hours in the oil patch. Each time we stopped at the cafe, I could see the waitresses liked my dad and paid a lot of attention to us. My dad would beam proudly when they told him I looked like him, with our black hair and green eyes.
Bottle of Hadacol
Hadacol
Photo courtesy Barbara Duvall Wesolek
Hadacol Corners, a desolate crossroads on the barren West Texas desert marked by tumbleweeds and sand storms, consisted of four temporary wood buildings joined together that could be detached and moved on later to another oil field. Although this rough oilfield oasis had a short life span, it was quickly memorialized by country musician Slim Willet when he wrote and recorded a song titled Hadacol Corners:

"Hadacol Corners, caliche road,
Once it rained, once it snowed,
Most of the time the wind just blowed.

Hadacol corners, caliche road,
The road is rough and dirty,
Your car will last 90 days if you don't go over 30…."

While we were enjoying our hamburger steaks, a call reporting trouble on the rig came on dad's mobile car phone. This sometimes happened, and dad said there was no telling when someone might fall out of the derrick or drop a wrench into the well. More likely, a piece of equipment broke down.

Oil well problems were my dad's specialty. He was so good at knowing how to get the drilling going again that he was called "The Doctor," or "Doc" for short. Drillers or shooters running into a problem they could not solve would say, "We need to call The Doctor." Dad was so knowledgeable about the oil business, he could often solve the problem on the phone.

This late afternoon, however, he told me he would go on ahead to the rig, and if he could not fix the problem without calling in for more equipment, or if he could fix it soon, he would come back for me and we would go out to the rig or go home. Otherwise, I would have to spend the night at Hadacol Corners. It was only a wood floor café on one side and a United States Post Office on the other side. Where was I going to sleep? Dad said the ladies at the café would take good care of me.

I did spend the night. The ladies took me to an area that ran all across the back of the buildings and had rows of separate small rooms with a bed in each room. I heard one of the ladies say the back rooms were now closed for the night. Two ladies looked after me. One told me about her daughter and said the girl was my age, and the other lady gave us hot chocolate with little white marshmallows. We sat on one of the beds and talked and laughed into the night like old friends.

Early next morning, dad came for me, and we had a big breakfast at the café. I recall we had the special Tool Pusher Breakfast: T-bone steak, scrambled eggs, grits, hot biscuits, and hash browns with red-eye gravy on everything. The rig was fixed and we were going home. Dad told me, "When we get home, it's a good idea not to give any details to your mother about the back rooms where you slept." If I were asked, I was just to say it was a motel, and for her to ask him if she wanted more information.

Some of our adventures, such as the time dad used a car telephone to shock some fish to the surface of a river, and we were arrested, required we not trouble mother with details. That fishing misadventure ended when dad turned on his West Texas charm and made peace with the game warden, and we parted on relatively good terms.


Shortly after this Hadacol Corners adventure, word got back to eastern journalists about a Midland-Odessa oil field area United States Post Office that bore the name of an alcohol-laced patent medicine named Hadacol that could allegedly cure what ails you. Also, you could drink enough Hadacol to get drunk and then take a few nips the next day to ease the resulting hangover. Hadacol's popularity had started in Louisiana and then spread across the nation. A big magazine such as Life or Time sent a reporter and photographer out to Hadacol Corners to take photos of the post office with the U.S. flag flying over the sign, "United States Post Office, Hadacol Corners, Texas." I think one of the photos ran on the magazine's cover.

The United States Post Office headquarters, embarrassed by the article, immediately shut down Hadacol Corners Post Office. In a few years, dad told me the magazine writer and photographer had missed the rest of the Hadacol Corners story: A United States Post Office had a United States flag flying proudly over a West Texas bordello. This was the bordello where I had spent the night when I was 11 years old.


October 1, 2014 column
© Barbara Duvall Wesolek
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