Carroll Choate drills water wells all over west Texas. He has had his business since 1957. He started it while he was working at the oil refinery in Big Spring. Prior to the official start of Choate Well Service he did the work for his family and friends at no charge. He knew the procedure well because he grew up taking care of windmills.
In 1957 he was drilling a well for an uncle and Carroll told his uncle he was going to have to charge him and the uncle said that was fine. “It didn’t really seem to make much difference if I did it for free or got paid for it,” says Carroll. “I’d rather get paid for it.”
Carroll lives in the country near Moss Creek Lake on the outskirts of Big Spring. He is 90. Recently he bought a fire truck, a 1950s model that had been in use in Stanton. Usually men buy fire trucks because they’ve always wanted one just to have for grandkids and parades. Carroll sure plans to do some of that for sure, but he has a special use for his fire truck. He plans to put out fires. “We live out here and there’s not a fire station nearby, so if we have a house fire it’d burn to the ground before a fire truck got here.” He has already used it to put out some grass fires.
Carroll named his fire truck Gladys, his mother’s name and painted her name on the doors. He says she always liked fire trucks. The truck has a tank that holds 750 gallons of water, 5 minutes’ worth of spray. It has all the bells and whistles with a bunch of hoses, lights and a siren that sounds like a musical instrument.
I have met several men who have fire trucks. Bob Robertson, who owns radio station KAIR in Humble (don’t pronounce the H), has owned two of them. He has a friend named Clinton, a former Fire Marshall in Humble who is a member of the IFD (Involuntary Fire Department). He buys and sells fire trucks. One day he told Bob that everybody needs a fire truck. So Bob bought one.
“I was going to a car show with my wife,” says Bob, “and there were 4 fire trucks. I turned into a 5 year old. I got so excited and I asked some of the guys standing around if they owned the fire trucks. Sure enough, one of them was my friend Clinton who said ‘Bob, when are you gonna buy a fire truck?’ A few days later I went to his place and saw this big 1962 La France. It was running with that big Detroit 671 engine going chug chug chug and I just melted. It was complete with generator, axes, big old siren and flashing lights.”
During the 6 years he had that truck Bob drove it in some of Houston’s biggest parades “My brother in law played Santa every year I had it. We would go to these apartment complexes near downtown Houston where underprivileged kids lived. Some of them never had a chance to see Santa Claus. We’d pull up with the flashing lights and siren blasting and he’d be up there stately looking, it was a sight to see. And the kids just loved it.” After his brother in law passed away Bob traded that fire truck for a 1973 model. He kept it a few years, then sold it. He is without one now.