The passing of a genuine hero

This past weekend America lost one of its great heroes, a man who combined technical genius, creativity, and physical courage of the highest order. A high school dropout, he rose to become the unchallenged world leader in his field, and was personally responsible for saving more of our precious oil resources than Greenpeace ever will. He served his nation heroically in war and peace. John Wayne portrayed him in a Hollywood movie. But his passing generated few headlines nationally. Far too little notice has been taken of the death of Red Adair.

Like so many other great figures of American lore, Red Adair did not start his life particularly auspiciously. He held a series of Depression-era jobs following his early departure from Reagan High School in Houston, and didn't work in the oil patch until he was 23. Even then, he knocked around from job to job until he entered the United States Army during World War II.

The Army assigned him to ultra-hazardous work: The 139th Bomb Disposal Squadron. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Evidently, Red developed a taste, as well as a talent, for danger. Following the war he returned home to Houston and went to work for Myron Kinley, the original pioneer of oilwell fire and blowout control. Red continued to work for and with Mr. Kinley until 1959.

At the age of 44, having spent 14 years at the feet of his master, Red Adair set out on his own, founding the Red Adair Company. It became the universally acknowledged leader in controlling oil well blowouts and fires: 'best in the business' — a badge which Red proudly wore for the rest of his life.

Keep in mind that an oil well blowout is an extraordinarily dangerous place to be. A high pressure jet of gooey, poisonous, inflammable oil shoots out. Stopping it, and then installing the equipment to control it and tame it into a usable flow of valuable fuel and feedstock takes a lot of guts, as well as technical expertise. It is not a work site which attracts effete intellectuals in large numbers.

Now, add fire to the equation and you have something approaching hell on earth. Lives can be, and all too frequently are, lost in such situations. This is the chosen work environment of Red Adair and the generations of experts he trained and employed. The movie in which John Wayne portrayed a lightly-fictionalized Adair was called Hellfighters for very good reason.

The list of specialized equipment developed by Red Adair and his team of technological geniuses is formidable. Semi-submersible vessels for fighting underwater oil fires; high pressure, vertical turbines; transfer pumps to piperacks; athey wagons with boom assemblies; and dependable water guns. His equipment, which included safety devices for preventing blowouts and fires, was sold and leased to companies around the world, and had the reputation of being the Rolls-Royces of the industry.

The sorts of people who inhabit newsrooms, faculty lounges, and movie studios these days don't think very often about the physical travails required to drill produce, and fix oil wells. The entire enterprise is...well, smelly and icky in their view. It's much more fun and admirable,to them, to fantasize about oil conservation (unless it means grounding Robert Kennedy Jr's private jets), windmills (unless they spoil the view from Martha's Vineyard), or solar power (just don't think about the toxic substances involved in the production of solar cells).

Red Adair committed another sin, in the eyes of the intellectual elite: he made a lot of money as an entrepreneur in the oil industry. The scent of wealth created by oil is one of the most distasteful odors possible for the sensitive noses of our cultural masters.

Red Adair's greatest glory came following the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein followed-through on his threat to ignite the oil fields of Kuwait. The anti-war forces and many environmentalists predicted global doom from the smoke shutting out the sun's rays, from the oil flowing into the Persian Gulf, and from the economic chaos caused by disruption of world oil supplies.

Where greenies and weenies bemoaned catastrophe, Red Adair saw a job which needed to be done. Fast. He met with President George H.W. Bush to advise on the logistical issues in getting firefighting equipment to the Gulf quickly, and set to work with his team to extinguish the fires in the highest-producing fields of Kuwait. The experts had predicted it would require three to five years to completely extinguish the Kuwait oil field fires. Red got it done in nine months.

Red Adair won't get his due from the cultural elites, even upon his death. But he should be a considerable hero to the rest of us. Someday, if there is any justice, there will be a statue of Red in a public place of honor. He is a real American hero — the kind of rough hewn, up from the bottom, creative and brave man that this republic seems to produce and contribute to the world more than any other nation. A brave and good man who served humanity well.

This past weekend America lost one of its great heroes, a man who combined technical genius, creativity, and physical courage of the highest order. A high school dropout, he rose to become the unchallenged world leader in his field, and was personally responsible for saving more of our precious oil resources than Greenpeace ever will. He served his nation heroically in war and peace. John Wayne portrayed him in a Hollywood movie. But his passing generated few headlines nationally. Far too little notice has been taken of the death of Red Adair.

Like so many other great figures of American lore, Red Adair did not start his life particularly auspiciously. He held a series of Depression-era jobs following his early departure from Reagan High School in Houston, and didn't work in the oil patch until he was 23. Even then, he knocked around from job to job until he entered the United States Army during World War II.

The Army assigned him to ultra-hazardous work: The 139th Bomb Disposal Squadron. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Evidently, Red developed a taste, as well as a talent, for danger. Following the war he returned home to Houston and went to work for Myron Kinley, the original pioneer of oilwell fire and blowout control. Red continued to work for and with Mr. Kinley until 1959.

At the age of 44, having spent 14 years at the feet of his master, Red Adair set out on his own, founding the Red Adair Company. It became the universally acknowledged leader in controlling oil well blowouts and fires: 'best in the business' — a badge which Red proudly wore for the rest of his life.

Keep in mind that an oil well blowout is an extraordinarily dangerous place to be. A high pressure jet of gooey, poisonous, inflammable oil shoots out. Stopping it, and then installing the equipment to control it and tame it into a usable flow of valuable fuel and feedstock takes a lot of guts, as well as technical expertise. It is not a work site which attracts effete intellectuals in large numbers.

Now, add fire to the equation and you have something approaching hell on earth. Lives can be, and all too frequently are, lost in such situations. This is the chosen work environment of Red Adair and the generations of experts he trained and employed. The movie in which John Wayne portrayed a lightly-fictionalized Adair was called Hellfighters for very good reason.

The list of specialized equipment developed by Red Adair and his team of technological geniuses is formidable. Semi-submersible vessels for fighting underwater oil fires; high pressure, vertical turbines; transfer pumps to piperacks; athey wagons with boom assemblies; and dependable water guns. His equipment, which included safety devices for preventing blowouts and fires, was sold and leased to companies around the world, and had the reputation of being the Rolls-Royces of the industry.

The sorts of people who inhabit newsrooms, faculty lounges, and movie studios these days don't think very often about the physical travails required to drill produce, and fix oil wells. The entire enterprise is...well, smelly and icky in their view. It's much more fun and admirable,to them, to fantasize about oil conservation (unless it means grounding Robert Kennedy Jr's private jets), windmills (unless they spoil the view from Martha's Vineyard), or solar power (just don't think about the toxic substances involved in the production of solar cells).

Red Adair committed another sin, in the eyes of the intellectual elite: he made a lot of money as an entrepreneur in the oil industry. The scent of wealth created by oil is one of the most distasteful odors possible for the sensitive noses of our cultural masters.

Red Adair's greatest glory came following the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein followed-through on his threat to ignite the oil fields of Kuwait. The anti-war forces and many environmentalists predicted global doom from the smoke shutting out the sun's rays, from the oil flowing into the Persian Gulf, and from the economic chaos caused by disruption of world oil supplies.

Where greenies and weenies bemoaned catastrophe, Red Adair saw a job which needed to be done. Fast. He met with President George H.W. Bush to advise on the logistical issues in getting firefighting equipment to the Gulf quickly, and set to work with his team to extinguish the fires in the highest-producing fields of Kuwait. The experts had predicted it would require three to five years to completely extinguish the Kuwait oil field fires. Red got it done in nine months.

Red Adair won't get his due from the cultural elites, even upon his death. But he should be a considerable hero to the rest of us. Someday, if there is any justice, there will be a statue of Red in a public place of honor. He is a real American hero — the kind of rough hewn, up from the bottom, creative and brave man that this republic seems to produce and contribute to the world more than any other nation. A brave and good man who served humanity well.