Friends celebrate 101st birthday of East Texas roughneck
KILGORE, Texas (KLTV) - September 7, 1921. That was the day Ray Barnard was born, which makes today his one-hundred first birthday.
Ray Barnard lives at Arabella of Kilgore and to celebrate year 101, he celebrated with a trip to the East Texas Oil Museum. He lost his sight a few years back, but that hasn’t slowed him down much thanks to friends like Reece Nichols. They were checking out an old truck.
“That’s a fender,” Ray said.
“A fender, yeah,” Reece said.
“And there’s a wheel!” Ray said.
“Six hundred sixteen,” Ray said.
“What is that, six hundred sixteen?
“That’s the size,” Ray said.
Ray says he worked in the oilfield for Gulf and others before he retired in 1983, and:
‘I grew up in Joinerville, Texas. It’s south of Kilgore Museum, about 45 miles” Ray said.
Ray says he went to school in Gaston, and March 18, 1937, he had just left school:
“And I heard the explosion. So that put me one mile and a half from the London disaster,” Ray said.
He says ran to the site of the New London School gas explosion, but they wouldn’t let him help since he was 16.
“There was 313 killed,” Ray said.
He says not long after that he started working in the oil field for ten cents an hour.
“He let me work ten hours every day,” Ray said.
He says he quit school and:
“I hitch hiked to Corpus Christie and went to roughnecking and I never did quit,” Ray said.
He says they sent him overseas.
“I went all four corners of Africa. I made them all,” Ray said.
And many other countries including Italy, Scotland, England, and Cuba. In Kuwait he says a four-star general threatened to blow up Ray’s rig if he didn’t shut it down.
“Oh, it shut it down. As far as I know it’s still shut down. They had a war started. A few days later they went to killing each other,” Ray said.
And then there was his time in Brazil.
“And there’s still headhunters. They’re not headhunters, but they call them headhunters, just to make it sound good. They’re just wild people,” Ray said.
Ray says he never did see any even though he looked. He survived these adventures and more before he retired from roughnecking in 1983, and he can identify oil field equipment at the museum by touch. How has he made it over a century?
“I don’t hurt. I sleep good. I eat like a horse. And it’s just easy money that’s all I can say for it,” Ray said.
So, after a morning of storytelling and celebration, it was back to Arabella for Ray where it is hard to say what adventure awaits him.
“And that’s all I can tell you about that,” Ray said
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