Apr

11

Coots MatthewsHellfighters is being shown on TV this morning and it is a 1968 movie with John Wayne based on the exploits of "Red" Adair and the oil well firefighting men nicknamed Boots and Coots.

E.O. "Coots" Matthews died last week so the movie is being shown in his honor this week. My father took me to see the movie as a young boy (no doubt to show me an example of what real life, tough situations, and strong men look like) and I later thought of the company and bought a few shares of WEL when Saddam Hussein started lighting up the oil wells in Kuwait–one of those rare (for me anyway) instances where you buy a stock on (the advantage of) memory or think of how things are connected and make a little money on a trade. There are a still a few companies like that which are good to keep in your portfolio in case certain rare events occur that require very specialized men and equipment.

The obituaries for Mr. Matthews who died at age 86 are very interesting to read. The "can do" attitude and Texas bravado in face of immense challenges is impressive.

From the Houston Chronicle :

In real life, Adair, Matthews and Hansen worked some of the industry’s most notorious blowouts, including a fire in Algeria in 1961 known as the “Devil’s Cigarette Lighter.” Experts thought the fire, which billowed 450 feet in the air, would take years to extinguish. They did the job in just a few weeks. Like soldiers on the battlefield, the three men grew to be like family doing the tough, dangerous work, said Richard Hatteberg, 71, who toiled alongside them and still works for Boots & Coots. The fierce flames and winds of an oil well blaze whip up a roar louder than a jetliner’s engines, he said.

From the NY Times:

Mr. Matthews’s daughter said her father had never denied fear.

“You respect the things you fear,” he would say, “and that respect can save your life.”

But fear was not something Coots Matthews often displayed. His daughter characterized him as a “barroom brawler” and “hell on wheels,” who “too often let his fists do the talking.” It might have owed something to this cantankerous nature that Mr. Adair fired him and Mr. Hansen seven or eight times, before their final dismissal in 1978. For years, the two sent Mr. Adair, who died in 2004, a thank-you note each Dec. 6, the anniversary of their firing. The gratitude was for the chance to start their own business. They both remained good friends with Mr. Adair.

and

Perhaps Mr. Matthews’s most harrowing experience was when a piece of a crane fell on his leg, pinning him, while a poisonous gas well was spewing, his daughter recalled. Mr. Adair grabbed an ax to whack off Mr. Matthews’s leg. At the last moment, though, Mr. Matthews summoned his strength and jerked his leg free. He later asked Mr. Adair if he would really have done it. Mr. Adair replied, “A one-legged Coots is better than no Coots at all.”


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