Oil pioneers: bronze
Oil pioneers: bronze"Partners" Mack Chase and John Gray.

The Derrick Floor

Field review by the editors.

Artesia, New Mexico

Three bronze sculptures define "Oil Pioneer Plaza" in downtown Artesia. They were dedicated on April 24, 2004, as part of the 80th anniversary of the first commercial oil well in southeastern New Mexico.

The Derrick.
The Derrick.

"Woman's Intuition" depicts Mary Yates sitting on a spool of cable, pointing to a spot on the ground. Her husband had drilled two dry wells, and the Yates' hired geologist refused to pick another. So Mary chose a spot and said, "Drill there." Her husband did, and struck oil on April 9, 1924, ushering in the Artesia oil boom.

"Partners" shows big-bellied oilmen Mack Chase and Johnny Gray leaning across the artfully floating hood of a pickup. The two local men went into the oil and gas business in 1972, and for 20 years ran a successful company making most of their business deals this way: no lawyers, and just a sun-baked truck hood desk.

Oil workers on The Derrick Floor.

The third sculpture, "Derrick Floor," is a full-size 37-foot-high drilling rig created by artist Vic Payne. Visitors are welcome to climb onto the drilling platform and examine the sculpture's obsessive technical detail. According to its plaque, the sculpture is meant to ennoble the workers "who take the risks and do the work to find, produce, and refine New Mexico oil and gas" -- so its four-man crew is scaled at a hero-size 125 percent.

The Derrick Floor

Address:
S 6th St., Artesia, NM
Directions:
S 6th St and W Main St/Bus US Hwy 82
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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