My last blog post reported that an oil company representative, or "Landman," had recently notified me that my great-grandfather Stephen Stutler had acquired oil and gas rights to a West Virginia property in the early 1900s. Old Stephen then leased those rights to an oil company, which now wanted to drill natural gas wells on the property. The Landman went on to say that I was one of Stephen's heirs -- which meant that I stood to earn royalties on the wells.
I did a bit of research and discovered that a single natural gas well can produce 5,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas a day. The gas presently sells for up to $14.00 per thousand cubic feet, or $70,000 per well, per day. If the oil company drills ... oh I don't know, say five wells, that would equal $350,000 a day, or $130 million a year. Holy crap. That couldn't be right, I thought. But I spoke with a friend of mine whose ancestors had entered into similar lease arrangements with an oil company, and he confirmed that he was pulling in tens of thousands of dollars every month!
As my last post reported, that's how I became a modern-day Jed Clampett. You remember Jed, that poor mountaineer on the 1960s sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies who discovered oil on his land, became a millionaire, and moved to Beverly Hills? Well that's pretty much my story, and I should never have to work again. So as my last post also mentioned, I've penned a "Thanks, but no thanks" letter to my new employer.
Yes, life's been good this holiday season. Visions of sugarplums have been dancing through my head: sugarplums served in the finest crystal bowls atop silver trays carried by diffident butlers with English accents (proper BBC English, that is -- none of that cockney nonsense), morning coats and white gloves.
I suppose I should probably start dressing and acting my part too.
Never again will I have to perform unpleasant chores -- like shoveling my dog's poop from the yard. Excuse me; I suppose a man of my means should call it "droppings." Whatever it's called, I'll hire people to take care of such trifles. Through sound investment and proper financial planning, I'll soon climb into the top 1%. No doubt. Funny, it seems like just yesterday that I ruefully shook my head at the news that Sam Walton's six heirs have more money than the bottom 42% of Americans.
How quaint of me! I really must ask my new personal assistant to add the Waltons to our Christmas card list. Speaking of the holidays, I wonder if Bill and Melinda are throwing a New Year's Eve party this year? I don't think I received an invitation.
It's probably just as well. Anyway, I still admire the Gates for their charitable foundation. I too am a firm believer in noblesse oblige, the concept that the privileged are obligated to help the less fortunate.
Ah yes, noblesse oblige. Helping out our lower-tax-bracket friends. You can bet that after I buy my first professional sports team (I'm partial to the NFL), I'll be stocking the locker room with mineral water -- and not just that Kirkland swill you can buy in bulk at Costco, but the really good stuff. The poor lads deserve it!
Of course, charity starts at home, so I've been watching The Great Gatsby and old episodes of Downton Abbey for decorating ideas. Those shows prompted me to frame a copy of the original lease agreement. I was about to take it down to the frame shop when I realized that I had never actually read the darn thing. As the Landman told me, Stephen Stutler had originally acquired the property, including land and a house and a small store, from a W.B. Davisson. The lease begins:
Witnesseth: That the said parties of the first part, for and in consideration of the sum of One Dollar to them in hand well and truly paid by the said party of the second part, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, and of the covenants and agreements hereinafter contained on the part of the said party of the second part, to be paid, kept and performed, have granted, demised, leased and let and by these presents do grant, demise, lease ...
I'm beginning to understand why people hate lawyers. I decided to cut to the chase, i.e., to the part about the royalties W.B. Davisson negotiated and later sold to my great-grandfather. In exchange for the oil and gas rights now worth many millions, it turns out that the oil company agreed to give Davisson "The use of free gas for his residence and store." Okay, that's a good start. Winters do get pretty chilly in those hills. I read on:
Aside from the said free gas so provided, said W.B. Davisson is to receive no other or further rent, royalties or consideration of any nature whatsoever for this lease.
Huh, all right. Wait ... what the ...? That can't be it. Oh, snap. It couldn't be. All right, hold on; it does get damned cold in West Virginia in the winter, so the value of gas for a residence and store there, in current dollars ... divided among ... all the heirs of Stephen Stutler would be ...
What about my sugarplums on silver trays and my English waiters, and partying at the Gates' house? And what about my people -- you know, the ones I was going to hire to collect the dog droppings?
A pox on you, W.B. Davisson ... you, and your toasty little house and store. A pox on you, I say! And damn you too, Jed Clampett!
And as for you, Stephen Stutler ... that's a great deal you got for us. Thanks, "Great" Grandpa; thanks for nothing!
I guess I'd better get to my chores before work.* That dog poop sure ain't gonna pick itself up.
*It's probably good that I didn't send that letter to my new boss.
If you liked this article, kindly share or "Like" it. And if you enjoy Stutsblog, be sure to subscribe to it (see blue buttons to the right, just beneath the periscope in San Diego Harbor). Thanks!
SUBSCRIBE TO FUTURE BLOG ARTICLES