Few places stoke the imagination like West Texas. It’s a land of mesquite-studded prairies, drifting tumbleweeds, and wide-open vistas. It’s also home to America’s most productive oil field, the Permian Basin. Right now the Permian is booming like never before, bringing tremendous wealth to some and wreaking havoc for others. Over the course of ten episodes, our new podcast series Boomtown guides you through this world of roughnecks and wildcatters, and takes a look at the people directly affected by the boom.
In Episode 1, host and West Texas native Christian Wallace introduces the region through a cast of West Texas characters, beginning with his uncle, Skeet Wallace, a three-decade veteran of the oil field, who continues to make his living in the patch.
From his parents’ back porch in Andrews, Wallace travels to Pecos, the southwestern hub of the Permian Basin, to speak with Harvey Carrera, a tow-truck driver. Carrera spends most of his time working the scenes of brutal accidents on one of America’s most dangerous stretches of asphalt, U.S. Route 285. Before the boom, 285 was a bucolic, two-lane road connecting the region’s few tiny towns. But the road quickly became one of the nation’s most critical arteries for crude. Workforce housing, or “man camps,” sprouted alongside it, and today heavy tankers barrel through day and night. West Texans have renamed the road “Death Highway” and “the Highway to Hell” for good reason.
From Harvey’s wrecker yard, Wallace heads across town to Lee Ryan’s barber shop, where a perpetual game of dominoes takes place at a table next to Ryan’s barber chair. Wallace then travels seventy-five miles northeast to Odessa, the blue-collar center of the Permian, to speak with Shawna Granado, who knows all about riding the whiplash of booms and busts. Finally, Wallace returns to Pecos, where he spent a week living in one of the man camps on the outskirts of town. There we meet Pake Rossi, a songwriter who, like many others from across the country, makes his living working in the patch—far from his home and family.
Read more of Texas Monthly’s Permian Basin and oil coverage here.