OIL: Nettie's Homestead

For more than 20 years tough old Nettie Thompson, a revolver strung from her neck—to use on interlopers—stuck to her barren cattle land on Wyoming's Polecat Bench. She had homesteaded there in 1913 after hearing tales of a ranch hand who traced a suspicious smell to a prairiedog hole, lit his pipe as he peered into it—and woke up in the hospital. He had smelled natural gas.

There was oil around Polecat Bench all right: the Wyoming-Montana Elk Basin Field, that was first opened up by Ohio Oil in 1915, has produced some oil and gas every year since. Oldtimers say...

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