Mason County News
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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, February 2, 2011 • Posted February 2, 2011

Centenarian Knows the Drill…

If the boundaries of our understanding were as expansive as H. Bryan Poff’s commitment to sharing, our world would be one of unprecedented benevolence, stronger friendships, heightened prosperity, elevated spirits and unbounded faith in Almighty God.

We’d have a preview of the "land of milk and honey." Handshakes would seal promises, and spoken words would have value equal to details of multi-page contracts.

Positives abound with exposure to this man whose late wife thought he would "make a preacher." Indeed, he has a ministerial manner, and his application of Christian principles has been foundational to oil exploration in Texas and Kentucky. During his 73-year career, this pioneer has drilled more than 600 wells, and at age 100, is still at it, working phones on oil deals daily…..

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Born in Oklahoma, Poff moved with his parents to Fort Worth at age 3. He graduated from Central High School in 1929 before beginning his career with Logan Mapping Company. In 1930, he was in Kilgore, selling land lease maps during the massive East Texas oil boom.

After studying geology at TCU, he was "off and running" as an independent operator and consultant in 1938.

Over the years, his motto has been "always go down one more foot." His first personal oil discovery came in 1948 on a Cooke County lease that would produce a half-million barrels of oil over the next 20 years. He felt divine guidance on that first well. Much depended on it, like whether he’d be able to afford to drill a second one. And he hit oil by drilling a few more feet….

* * * * *

Drilling results in a majority of dry holes, and Poff knows the life of a wildcatter is "iffy." Still, he loves the journey, and 16 of his first 22 wells were producers.

He’s a favorite at Fort Worth’s Petroleum Club, where he was a founding member 58 years ago.

A living legend, Poff tried retirement twice, and he didn’t fare well either time. For a short spell, he thought raising race horses might be fun. It wasn’t, nor did ownership of five drive-in restaurants pique his interest. The allure of wildcatting has long since had him by the throat, and he’s always planning the next well….

* * * * *

Friends threw a 100th birthday party at his beloved Petroleum Club on December 5. Don Woodard, a life-long friend, voiced a tribute to the crowd of at least 175 friends.

Woodard, dubbing Poff "the Babe Ruth of the Petroleum Club" at an earlier event, recited a tombstone epitaph photographed by Scott Smith, the honoree’s grandson. It reads: "THERE ARE FOUR IMPOSSIBILITIES IN LIFE: YOU CANNOT INHERIT CHARACTER, YOU CANNOT BUY FRIENDSHIP, YOU CANNOT PURCHASE RESPECT AND YOU CANNOT OUT-GIVE GOD."

Numerous guests requested copies, so the honoree—in "Poff-like" fashion—mailed them to all guests. This also gave him the opportunity to express thanks "one more time" and to ask God’s blessings on them….

* * * * *

Twice each month, Poff hosts a non-denominational group for Bible study and brunch at the club. Dr. Jimmie Nelson, long-time seminary professor, leads the study. "It’s church for me," Poff said, smiling. It started almost a decade ago, soon after 9-11.

The patriarch, a walking encyclopedia of Texas oil booms and busts, is frequently questioned about "the way it was." He’d much rather discuss "the way it is" and "the way he thinks it will be."

Ever optimistic, full of zeal and keen of thought, he feels richly blessed with a wonderful family. He has a son and two daughters, 11 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and an army of friends. (Annice, his wife of 63 years, died in 1996.) Asked about keys to successful investing, he answers, "It may be as simple as participating with good people who know what they’re doing, and who offer fair deals. If folks want to know more about real oil prospects, they can give me a call."…

* * * * *

He recites Proverbs in the freshness of the morning. Thus begins each day.

At workday’s end when bedtime beckons, he retires, again with scriptural study in moments prior to slumber. Wait a minute. He doesn’t care for the word "retire."

Let’s amend that to read "when he goes to bed."

Perhaps he dreams of a rig, drilling deep into Mother Earth. But, no matter the depth, his faith runs much deeper….

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com.

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