A few hundred yards on the Left Hand Road of Sycamore,
Junior Cleo Poling was born in the Poling home place in 1929.
He is the second child of Dave Poling, an oil field
worker, and the former Orpha Schoolcraft. He has four sisters and one
Junior Cleo Poling
He attended the one-room Millstone School until the age
“I had to quit school and go to work,” explained Poling.
It is hard to believe his wages were only 20 cents an
He did not have remorse in his voice when he said, “Dad
pumped wells, and I grew up pumping some of those same wells. I only
went to school for about six years before going to work in the oil
The veins of oil that run deep through our countryside
have also found a path to run deep in this man’s soul. Poling, who
celebrated his 80th birthday last month, has worked in the oil fields
for over 50 years. He has seen the evolution of the oil business, from
standard rigs to spudders and rotary rigs.
A legacy in his own right, Poling has taken in many a
“roustabout” through the years and spent time teaching some “green
His work began with McCall Drilling Co. and FWA
Drilling, but for the last 33 years he has been with Creston Oil Corp.
“Dad started us boys out with Junior,” said Jim Morris,
owner of Creston Oil. “I was 15 when he sent me into the oil field with
The two men laughed as they told stories and remembered
“Jim was quick up in the derrick. We had to throw a rig
up one time, and as Jim cut the first brace loose, the rig started to
fall with him still 14 feet up in it. With the cutting torches still on,
he jumped from the rig. He moved faster than a flying squirrel,” said
Morris said that Poling is getting to mentor his
children as well: “We start work at 7 a.m., but Junior is always here by
6. He has always done a fine job and got the work finished. Now, I get
to see my Levi and Sally spend time with a man that spent much time
Though he is not as spry as he once was, the veteran oil
worker takes everything that comes at him.
“I just keep going through the pain. People ask me why
I’m still working, but I say those that quit pass on. I just want to get
the job done, work hard, and keep at it until it is finished,” said
Poling, “No one can take that away from me.”
Poling spent two years in Korea. From 1951 to 1953, he
served in the Army as a mechanic and operator.
“I knew any piece on the old army trucks. I kept them
birds running,” he said, “They told me that I did the work of three men.
On the day I got home, the oil man came looking for me. I went back to
the fields that afternoon.”
He remembers the Eureka pipeline system and said that
the progress over the years has made things faster, but not necessarily
When asked if he would work in a coal mine, Poling was
quick to answer, “I didn’t mind skinning mother earth, but I didn’t want
to gut her.”
We’ve learned a great deal during the past 100 years
about the U.S. oil and gas business. We know that the production from a
well declines over time, but we know too that the decline varies.
The decline in production is not as critical as what
happens to the reserves. Perhaps, these lessons are about the workers
Yes, decline is inevitable, but what we spend time
learning from some of the masters creates a reserve for the future.
Look at the example of Junior Cleo Poling. He is a
testimony that the heartbeat of the old gas engine beats in his chest
Many people recognize the value of the oil in our
hillsides, but we can’t forget the individuals who have grown to love
the back-breaking work and long days. It is a tradition. It is
generational. It is a family and a custom.
Strong and stubborn, they drill while their own blood
runs as deep as the wells they work.