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May 12, 2007

Pump over oil well on Los Gatos Blvd (near Carl's and Garden Lane). Photo by Mary Pope-Handy, May 9, 2007Driving through the Central Valley or Central Coast areas of California, you see lots of oil pumps working busily. Oftentimes they are painted green, and sometimes they’re even decorated with springy antennae so that they look like mechanical grasshoppers.  They are so goofy looking that you just have to smile.

View of pump over oil well, Los Gatos, CA. It is modestly situated under the shade of a redwood tree and surrounded by a parking lot.They’re a part of the rural landscape in other parts of California.

But you really do not expect to find these things in Los Gatos.

Oil was first discovered in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Moody Gulch  in 1861 (the California Highway Patrol has named the bend in the road near there “Big Moody Curve”).  It ended up not being a moneymaker, and drilling there stopped in 1912.  Closer in to town, there were 12 functioning oil wells in Los Gatos between 1891 and 1929

The oil pump sits under the shade of a redwood tree and surrounded by a parking lot in Los Gatos, CAThe one pictured here was apparently pumping oil into the 1950s, though, and supposedly was giving out 8 barrels a day in 1953. But it was just not enough to justify the effort.

So this tethered pump, surrounded by a small chain link fence, now sits in the middle of a paved parking lot, shaded by a very large redwood tree. It really looks out of place next to the giant SUVs and luxury vehicles and tiny Mini Coopers parked there. The pump is a little rusty looking.  The paint is peeling. It looks, well, forgotten.

With gas rapidly approaching $4 a gallon, I am wondering if maybe this pump without a purpose shouldn’t be revisited to see if it has something more to give. Maybe our technology would make it feasible to use again. Do you think?

In any case, it’s a glimmer of the pastIf it can’t be used, perhaps it can be respected.

I vote for a coat of green paint and some springing, bobbing antennae.

Just for old time’s sake.