lived in Orla Texas
from 1961 through 1968 until I graduated from Pecos High School. Life
in Orla was made to say the least. Our memories were good for the
time we lived there. At that time, there was much activity in the
area with oil and gas, and later about 1967, a sulphur boom came along
with several exploration companies coming in to the area. Duval built
a huge processing plant west of Orla about 25 miles.
Former gas station in Orla
courtesy Rob Hann
the area were Hall Olds store and grocery of which you have pictured,
George Ashby owned the Phillips 66 station across the street, and
later the Humble/Exxon station down the road to the south. Pearl Ashby,
George's wife ran a liquor store next to the station. I worked for
both Hall Olds, and George Ashby in the filling stations. Hall had
a gravity feed pump that would suffice when the power would go out.
The Orla Café, where my mom and sister worked, served to feed the
workers in the oil, gas, and sulphur fields daily with much activity
and gossip abundant. We had another café that came and went. Opal
Sorrels was the main stay waitress at Hall's store. There were many
characters from the surrounding area. A few ranch headquarters were
in the area, Jack Wilkerson ran the Burner Ranch at the time, since
sold to someone else. Jimmy Cooksey and his wife Evelyn had a ranch
close to the area, Buck Jackson's ranch was near. Jigs Dinwiddie had
land in the area. Newt Keen worked on a ranch near Mentone and would
grace us occasional with his wisdom and wit.
courtesy Rob Hann
traveled to Pecos
on a big yellow school bus daily. Buck Jackson's son, "Bubba" was
our school bus driver. He lived east of Orla and taught school in
Pecos, so transportation for him was taken care of. His home was 18
miles east of Orla. The bus route would usually go something like
this: Phillips Camp, Anadarko Camp, Couch/Waterflood Associates Camp
where we lived, then to Orla, stop on the north side of town and pick
up the Cooksey's, then up to Red Bluff. On the way out of town South
toward Pecos, we would pick up the Pasotex camp at the highway entrance
to the camp, sometimes we would deadhead into Pasotex and pick them
up though it was about 5 miles down to their camp. This would all
be done by 7:00 AM. Then on the way to Pecos, if the Armstrong's were
working on the ranch south of town, we would pick them up. The Keen's
were on the Dixieland Ranch between Orla and Pecos, if they were on
the ranch working, we stopped to pick them up. It's now 7:30 AM and
we are off to Pecos.
We would usually stop at the Elementary school first, then Junior
High and back to High School, once "Bubba" had let everyone off, he
would go to East Pecos Jr. High and do his teaching. After school,
we reversed the pickup schedule for the afternoon. High School, Jr.
High, Elementary, then off for a 38 mile ride back to the Orla area.
When the day was done, we would get home sometime around 6-6:30 pm
depending on how "Bubba" wanted to run his route. Sometimes we would
go in at Pasotex, and follow the river road back to Phillips, Anadarko,
and Couch then he would go into Orla and up to Red Bluff. Sometimes
he would drop the kids at Pasotex turn off, if a ride was available
then to Orla, Red Bluff, and the camps last.
was not easy to come by. We had to haul drinking water from the water
station near the Jackson's ranch, 18 miles to the east. Most everyone
had overhead storage to keep drinking water available. George Ashby
kept the community water trailer at his gas station. We all used it.
Jimmy Cooksey had my dad build him an overhead storage rack for his
water tank. Jimmy had just bought a brand new 1966 Ford pickup, baby
blue and white. His son and I went to haul a tank of water once it
was installed. Upon returning, we parked the pickup and tank below
the overhead to fill it. I had rained for several days prior and in
that part of the country that was an event. As we filled the overhead,
and weight began to press on the stand legs, his son and I noticed
the legs sinking in the ground somewhat, before we could stop the
pumping of the water into the overhead tank, it came down, right in
the bed of Jimmy Cooksey's brand new pickup. It was as if it was slow
motion and we could do nothing. The bed of the pickup looked as if
someone had taken a giant sledgehammer and hit it behind the cab.
Jimmy handled the catastrophe pretty good, but his wife, Evelyn was
some kind of mad.
Jackie and Hall Olds ran the store and café. Hall was known to take
a drink, and Jackie had a short leg and had to wear a built up shoe.
Jackie's favorite beverage was iced coffee. While I worked at the
store and café, her favorite saying was; "I'll dance at your wedding
if you will get me an iced coffee from the café." I thought I would
die every time she asked me to get an iced coffee for her, but I was
always happy to accommodate her. Walking on that short leg was a real
effort for her. It seemed I was doing nothing but getting iced coffee
20 times a day. Hall would usually open up in the morning and we would
not see him the rest of the day until it was time to close. Both were
great people and have helped many travelers get to either Pecos or
Carlsbad NM, giving them gas or fixing a flat, or feeding a family
Carrie Von and Sam Simpson ran the State Line Bar and Dance Hall 15-20
miles north on Hwy 285. Every Sunday night, they would cook ribs,
brisket, chicken, and every one from miles around, even from the camps
in New Mexico, would come in and they would put on a big feed and
have a dance. The dance hall was modest but had a great hardwood floor.
I learned how to western dance with all the older ladies. Schotish,
Put Your Little Foot, Cotton Eye Joe, Two Step, Waltz, and even a
was a community that made its own activity. Everyone who lived in
and around Orla was
a true community. We did have two churches. A Baptist, and a Methodist.
Brother Mac from Pecos would come on Sunday and Wednesday nights for
the Baptist. And several different traveling lay ministers would come
in to the Methodist on Sunday evening for worship.
We did have an active Post
Office, of which my mother was Post Mistress for a while. We had
an oilfield supply store.
The kids would have their own dances and get togethers at the Phillips
Camp community house occasionally, and we had a 4-H club, Rustler
Hills 4H, named for the foothills west of town. Fishing in the river,
quail hunting on the oil leases, deer hunting in the foot hills, arrowhead
hunting on the ranches, hanging out till 9:00 pm at the store or café,
everyone was driving on their own before they were 16, camping out
at Red Bluff, swimming in Red Bluff Lake, which had to be close to
swimming in the ocean, as it was so saline. We truly made our own
life in Orla. Many more
stories could be told, some funny, some sad, some bizarre, but life
in that small place sometimes was bigger than being anywhere else
on the earth. - Michael E. Beckham, September 16, 2005
"They shoe horses, don't
they?" 9-17-05 Guest Column