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#149 The Big Rich (Oil Billionaires)
October 18th, 2020 | E149

What I learned from reading The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes by Bryan Burrough.


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[3:12] There's truth behind legend. There really were poor Texas boys who discovered gushing oil wells and became overnight billionaires, patriarchs of squabbling families who owned private islands and colossal mansions and championship football teams, who slept with movie stars and jousted with presidents and tried to corner and international market or two. 

[9:55] Their success raised a tantalizing question. What if there really was another Spindletop out there, and what if it were discovered not by a large company but by a single Texan working alone? One well, one fortune, it was the stuff of myth, the Eldorado of Texas Oil, and as a new decade dawned, a hoard of young second-generation oilmen would begin trying to find it. 

[14:53] He first headed to the Houston public library where he read every book he could find on the geology of oil. 

[17:51] Let me get a shave and a bath. Tomorrow's another day he would tell her. 

[19:35] This is a metaphor for a lot in life. Not just oil: The trouble with this business is that everybody expects to find oil on the surface. If it was up near the top, it wouldn't be any trick to it. You've got to drill deep for oil. 

[25:45] What Clint lacked in physical appeal, he made up for with a mind that whirred like a Swiss timepiece. Headstrong and independent, disdainful of his father's stuffy ways, young Clint was Tom Sawyer with an abacus. 

[32:21] “Daddy, you cheated me!” he exclaimed.“ “I did not,” his father said. “People will try to get at you any way they can, and you might as well learn now.” 

[33:46] If that dunce can make so much money we’ll go too. 

[42:07] H.L. Hunt was a strange man, a loner who lived deep inside his own peculiar mind, a self-educated thinker who was convinced —absolutely convinced— that he was possessed of talents that bordered on the superhuman. 

[49:30] Great fortunes are built on great convictions. 

[52:33] Hunt drilled wells like a madman. He worked from dawn till late in the evening seven days a week. Every cent he took in he plowed back into the search for more oil. 

[58:50] The spigot of cash Texas oil opened in the early 1930s ranks among the greatest periods of wealth generated in American history. 

[1:02:30] Sid Bass and his brothers had since achieved everything he hadn’t, that while the Basses were investing in Wall Street stocks and high tech startups, he had been snorting cocaine. 

[1:10:30] A harking to the days when giants walked the oil fields, when men like Hunt and Clint and Sid and Roy helped build something unique in midcentury, Texas—an image and culture loud, boisterous, money-hungry and a bit silly, but proud and independent. 


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