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Local author brings region's oil-rich past to life

Submitted Mon, 10/22/2012 - 8:43am by Andy Alm

EMLENTON – Paul Adomites, of Emlenton, is putting a new twist on old stories of the oil boom that put Western Pennsylvania on the map in the mid-1800s.  His book, Oil Fields, Oil People – Re-imaginings of the Great Stories of the Early Days of Pennsylvania Oil, is primarily a history book, but reads more like a collection of riveting short stories, filled with names like John Benninghoff, Henry Rouse, Billy Smith and Edwin Drake.

“That’s what I wanted to do here.  I wanted to make it fun to read, because the stories are so fun and fascinating.”

In it, you’ll find not only the well-known facts of these early pioneers, but also some amusing anecdotes and quirky details, like the exploits aboard oil man Ben Hogan’s infamous party barge known as the Floating Pleasure Palace, and what happened to a local pig who drank a bunch of nitroglycerin at a Titusville drilling site.

The author’s vivid imagination is apparent throughout.  The book begins with his take on how the oil might have appeared to prehistoric men, who must have been totally ignorant to the future usefulness of the alien substance.

“Imagine yourself a prehistoric being, a proto-human, simple, basic, living just barely above the purely-animal level.  One spring you set out to investigate a snow-swollen creek you had not seen before.  As you approach, your keen sense of smell detects a faint new odor, somehow earthy, somewhat tangy.  What could it be?  You tense briefly in anticipation of danger.  Where the water has sloshed up on shore, a grey foam surrounds a small patch of a dark brownish-green liquid floating on the surface.

You dip your toe into it, then touch your foot with your hand.  A touch to your tongue is not pleasing.  The stuff is slippery.  It is strange.  You have never seen or felt anything like this before.  Even more strange is the effect this new substance has on your mind.  Something about the very strangeness of this odd ooze stirs your imagination."

Oil Fields Oil People is available locally at the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, Neverending Stories in Franklin, and the Book Nook and the Clarion University Center in Clarion.

More local news at www.palive365.com.