Bill: “My name is Bill West, and I’ve been on the ranch here for eighty-three years. Born and raised here. My dad came out in 1919, and homesteaded, and lived the rest of his life here.”

Marge: “I’m Marjorie West, and I’ve been out here for almost sixty-two years. Arvada is our mailing address. It used to be Spotted Horse, but the government decided to save money, or so they told us, so they closed up the Spotted Horse post office.”


arvada wyoming ranchers


Marge: “When we signed the original lease, there wasn’t a whole lot of negotiating. There really wasn’t. They came out and they said, ‘We bought up these leases, and we’re going to drill on your land.’ We own some of the minerals. But all they said was, ‘We will give you x amount.’ And there was no negotiation about it. Because, I mean, they could come on our land either way.”

Bill: “On parts of our land, we own the surface, but the minerals belong to state and federal. So we didn’t have any power. They’d come onto our land whenever they wanted to.”

Marge: “None. Because the state told them, ‘Yeah, go ahead and drill.’ And the state is way behind on their mineral taxes. They just let these guys keep going and going and going. It’s been forced on us. It truly has.”



Marge: “We had no idea that an oil lease could be sold to a gas company, to drill for gas. It should be two separate leases. But it’s not. So when we signed that first oil lease, we were signed away for good. As long as they kept drilling, and the new company kept getting gas, the lease stayed with ‘em, and they could sell it to whoever they liked. And they didn’t have to inform the landowner.”

Bill: “No. They didn’t tell us.”



Bill: “The oil and gas companies have a hundred years’ experience.”

Marge: “And we had none.”

Bill: “We were beginners.”



Marge: “The first oil and gas man who came out here was from a company in Michigan. At that time, our granddaughter was about two years old, and the man just fawned over her. Boy, that just made this old grandma smile. I thought he was a fine fellow. …Well. He didn’t turn out to be very fine.”

Bill: “None of them told the truth. They all told us stories. They said there’d be lots of water, that they’d pump water out for us, and that it would right come out when they were drilling. They said, ‘You can use this water to irrigate with. You’ll be able to irrigate all the land you’d want to irrigate.’”

Marge: “Yeah. ‘You’ll have all the water you ever wanted.’ And we did. Except they forgot to mention that it’s unusable, because the mineral content is so high.”

Bill: “It was saltwater.”

Marge: “It just turned the ground to bricks.”

Bill: “It’s like putting ocean water on your pasture. It kills all the grass, and the vegetation. They even tried to grow fish in it, at one point, and it killed the fish.”



Marge: “The first winter after the gas company came, they started putting their wastewater straight onto our fields. And it killed about two hundred trees, big cottonwood trees, all along Spotted Horse Creek. Those trees had been there from the time Bill was a little kid. They used to hold church picnics down there.”

Bill: “The water built up on the hay meadows, two to three feet deep of ice, and smothered the trees. So they all died.”

Marge: “But all the energy company said was, ‘It’s not our fault. Those trees just wanted to die.’”



Gas drilling infrastructure on the Wests’ ranch.

Bill: “The biggest loss we had was our wells. We got our water from artesian wells. And of course when they pumped all the water out for drilling, all our wells died. They took all the water, and put it down the creeks, down the rivers, and we lost it. We still have some water, but we have to pump it out from way below.”

Marge: “It’s quite expensive.”

Bill: “They all go dry much quicker, and so we have to use several wells to pump enough water for livestock.”



Bill: “People think that we’re rich, and so we shouldn’t say anything. They think we should be happy with the money, and not worry about the land.”

Marge: “And we have made some money out of it. But we would’ve been just fine without it…without the money. And the land would’ve certainly been better off. Without the drilling.”



Bill: “They vented a lot of gas from the wells on our place. And it was a terrible waste of resources. They were allowed to do it very liberally. There were always accidents happening…pipeline compressor would go down, or the engine equipment, and they’d have to vent the gas.”

Marge: “If they vented enough gas, it’d make lots of noise. It would actually roar, because there was so much gas being vented.”

Bill: “Terrible waste. And we didn’t get any royalties on it, of course.”

Marge: “No. They just let it go.”

Bill & Marge West
Arvada, WY