Black Gold Under Gobles
The Peculiar Smell of Liability.
Tim Ford, December 07, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioOld-timey oil rigs used in Ontario. Stock photo.
In 1960, a farmer was tilling crops on his land in Gobles, Ontario, a small village in the far fields of Oxford County, just west of Brant. His feet and back made the executive decision that his working day was done, so he gathered his tools and began to walk back to his homestead. Along his path he mushed his boot into a mysterious bubblin’ crude that was seeping from the soil, causing him to slip to his knees. He pinched a dab between his thumb and index finger, rubbed them together and brought it to his nostrils. The shear smell jerked his head from his hand. He unknotted the bandana from around his sweaty neck and dipped it in the darker-than-night ooze, knowing, but not believing, what began to drip from it. He then fumbled for a match from his denim pants and struck it on his belt buckle, grazing the flame with the greasy tar.
The rag lit alight instantly. It confirmed a notion he’d only seen in movies or read in books. He had struck oil. The farmer ran home to his wife who he grabbed in his arms, leaving a black smear on the back of her dress from the oil on his hands. He called his family, alerted the proper authorities, and boasted to anyone who would listen to his tale. Word quickly spread amongst the farmers union and became a topic of conversation at all the markets in the area. Rumours even reached as far as Kansas about Oxford’s bladder of “Texas Tea.”
Surveyors stumbled over each other to assess how much was brewing underneath their feet, and after poking and prodding the land around Gobles, there was believed to be an estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil in the area. Within no time, oil companies began to stick their giant craned syringes deep inside Gobles’ belly and slurped as much oil out of its guts as they could. During Gobles’ black gold rush there were as many as 58 running oil wells and 10 gas wells littered around the outskirts of Brant, Oxford and Haldimand Norfolk.
Oil and gas pools in Southwestern Ontario. Stock Photo.
Inevitably, the would-be tycoons sucked and sucked until one by one the wells dried up. They gradually retracted their rods like fattened up mosquitoes and flew off to find another town to suck dry. The pockmarks on the land can still be found littered around Brant County’s boarders and the environmental impact has been felt as far as Delhi. The Simcoe Reformer reported in 2021 that residents in Norfolk County, who reside in homes in the near vicinity of abandoned oil and gas wells, have been suffering atrocious smelling natural gas “burps” on an escalating basis since 2015. The eggy smell can linger for days on end, leaving the residents of Delhi confined within their houses, windows shut tight. “Mini earthquakes” have also been reported around Gobles as well.
Welcome to Gobles, Ontario. Submitted photo.
The companies responsible for the holes have long ceased production, leaving culpability to no one and the burden to everyone else. Due to underfunding and seemingly not knowing who to blame anymore, the government has been slow to clean up after someone else’s mess. Since the mid 1800s, there have been literally thousands of oil and natural gas mines drilled, sucked dry and abandoned in our little slice of Southern Ontario and it remains a struggle to whack-a-mole the consequences of so many years of environmental mistreatment. With more and more “burps” being reported in the area it’s hard not to wonder what we brewed up when we started whisking and stirring below our feet. Apparently, repercussions have a farty smell.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Ford is freelance hobbyist who lives in his twelfth home in Brantford, Ontario…so…yeah, he knows a thing or two about aluminum siding.