J.V. McCullough

JVMcCulloughI was born in 1928, the youngest of four. Dad was a mechanical engineer with the Hartford Company and mother was a nurse.

We burned coal in San Antonio in the 1930’s and as soon as I was old enough, I became acquainted with a coal scuttle. At a tender young age, I became aware that these black, smear looking chunks of coal were completely filled with fern imprints. Dad was always getting after me for breaking up the coal. I’d be cleaving chunks of coal into pieces in an effort to see what had been preserved within it. Kids are curious, and I was no different.

How did these fern prints get there? Why did the water well at Roosevelt Park always smell like rotten eggs? Where did all the gas come from that fueled the oil well flares that lit the skies around Corpus Christi, Refugio and Pearsall? Where did all the seashells come from this far from the salt water/ Where did all this fools gold (pyrite) and calcite come from? My school teacher always told us that the Lord took only six days to create the world. Now just how can it take millions of years to form stalactites and stalagmites? Even on grandmother’s farm in Grayson County the hills seemed to have an abundance of shark’s teeth. When did the ocean cover this land? These are questions (among many others) that come to mind of a 10 year old.

During the mid ‘30’s, friends visited and talked about oil being found in and around their dirt farms near Refugio. It did not seem long before they became rich friends due to the oil discovered on their lands.

Mr. John J. O’Brien, schoolmate of my dad, complained “these darn oil wells and trucks are crowding my cattle operations—it’s just not the same! It smells and they ruin the roads.” Mother spoke of oil helping Mary Clair Hurd Bauer and the Reilly’s’. I remember the day when Mrs. Reilly came by after oil was discovered on her property, in the longest, biggest black Buick automobile that a 7 year old had ever seen—she gave me a bright shiny silver dollar. Again, another connection made between oil, geology, and money.

Dad’s profession took him many places in South Texas, and he frequently took me along and this afforded my exposure to many areas within 150 miles of San Antonio hill country down to the Texas Gulf Coast. I never knew that the Gulf of Mexico covered all of South Texas at one time. Some years later, the question of how, where, when and why did these geological type things happen, began to make sense. It seemed as one question was answered, another door to new questions was opened. Frontiers! I suppose that the field of Geology, while solving one riddle, only leads to more questions and challenges.

With all of these unanswered questions lodged in my mush filled cranium, by the time it came to enroll in college, having been exposed to only engineers, mechanical and civil all my life it seemed I should be an engineer. Civil had a nice ring to it—I could build roads and bridges and do surveying out in the open. So off to Texas A&M to pursue Civil Engineering. However, after a year or so, I was drawn to the Geology Building at Texas A&M, which was shared with the Petroleum School.. The more I hung around the Geology Building, the more exciting the study of geology became as it began to answer a lot of youthful questions. So after a short while, I made the switch to the exciting world of geology. And that’s a love affair that still persists. It still presents challenging problems and fun things about this wonderful, blue orb we live on and make a living at the same time.

J.V. McCullough – Geologist