IN A LETTER TO A LONGTIME FAMILY FRIEND, FORT Worth oilman Tex Moncrief remembers his father, legendary wildcatter Monty Moncrief, carrying him across a river on his back during a fishing trip. “In later life and business,” wrote Tex, “my dad has carried me across an even wider river, and if possible—on an even stronger back.” From the moment the thirteen-and-one-half-pound Tex was born on the kitchen table of the family’s Arkansas house, the two men’s lives were tightly intertwined. Through forty years of sharing a business, hobbies, family heartbreak, and mutual adoration, Monty was the defining point of Tex’s life.
The office where Monty died is ordinary. Hieroglyphic-like seismic charts, mud logs, and maps of drilling leases, the prolific wells reduced to stick-on dots, cover the walls. On that day in 1986, Tex and his son Charlie were shooting the breeze when Monty wandered in, demanding to get in on whatever deal they were discussing. It was a family joke that Monty, even at ninety, couldn’t pass up a deal that might bring one last big play. Suddenly a pain shot through his back. Tex and Charlie laid him on the floor, but soon he was gone. Tex’s arms were wrapped tightly around him.
It’s unimaginable that Tex would not have been there. “We were like two peas in a pod,” he likes to say. Tex was ten in 1931 when Monty hit Lathrop #1, the discovery well that extended the East Texas Field and enabled fledgling Moncrief Oil to take off. Watching his dad