Ditch-Diggers to Breadwinners

How Two Men Turned Oklahoma Dirt into Gold

BY BRYCE MCELHANEY | THE NEW TERRITORY ISSUE 01

Billy Graham and Frank White weren’t sure what they were getting into when starting a business. But they did know two things: working hard, and treating people right. (Diana White, Frank’s wife, circa 1971)

The willingness to change can be the difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful business. A testament to this resilience and adaptation sits on a hill next to Highway 62 in an off-white building in Blanchard, Oklahoma. A Dallas Cowboys-inspired blue and silver sign is bolted onto the building, which reads “B.J.’s Oilfield Construction, Inc.”

Inside, secretaries laugh and joke with passing roustabouts, as they walk in handing off tickets and checks from jobs; bits of caked dirt fall to the floor from the field-worker’s steel-toed boots. The aroma of Folgers coffee and years of cigarette smoke linger as a sign of progress stained into the walls.

Maps lay spread out next to Oklahoma atlas books and pens on gridded tables with giant magnifying glasses hanging above them. In the back room, a sign reads “Man Cave” with a photo of the Three Stooges in caveman attire. Two desks sit across from each other, each with 32” televisions used as computer monitors and two name plates: Billy Graham and Frank White.

Billy, 64, and Frank, 68, are brother-in-laws who decided to go into the oilfield business during the early 1980s oil bust, and the work has been a gamble ever since.


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ISSUE 01 MADE POSSIBLE BY OUR SPONSORS

Native Health News Alliance Missouri Wildflowers Nursery

The Red Earth MFA at Oklahoma City University

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