I received word today that a good friend of mine had passed; John Black. John and I played many a round of golf together but I remember him most from a failed business venture, possibly the most hair-brained scheme known to man. And we almost pulled it off. We first met 300 feet (maybe more) underground at the Atomic Energy Commission test site near Las Vegas. How often do you get to take a business trip and stay at Caesar’s Palace?

Our plan was to detonate an atomic device to shatter underground oil shale deposits, burn the rubble in place to drive out the oil and bring it to the surface for sale. Utah, Wyoming and Colorado have sufficient shale oil reserves to satisfy the entire world demand for oil for 75 years. But the oil is trapped in the shale and no one can figure out how to extract it in an environmentally safe way. John and I put together a consortium of ten companies and we bid $30 million for the oil rights under a 5,000 acre government owned tract. Fortunately, our group was outbid and we didn’t secure the tract. It went for $300 million. Looking back we had no chance of doing what we planned to do. The oil would be radioactive but beyond that, detonating a nuclear device in Colorado? What were we thinking?

His passing reminds me, as do all passings, of a song sung by my favorite country ballad singer, Slaid Cleaves. The song is called Temporary. Here are a few lyrics.

Battered by the years
We’ll quit this vale of tears
And leave the world to turn
The voice of midnight comes
And spoken on its tongue:
Man’s infinite concern
All you see
Every joy and every sting

To hear the entire song go to:

Rest in peace John. We had the world by the tail for awhile. But, like everything else, it was temporary.

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