Luling, Texas: Decorative Pumpjacks and More

Luling, Texas’ Decorated Pumpjacks, Oil History and Watermelon

Welcome to Luling, Texas, home of the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum, the Watermelon Thump Festival and some of the most interesting nodding-donkey art on earth. It’s not too often you get a chance to study the oil fields of Texas and enjoy the more artistic side of the Lone Star State’s oil industry at the same time.

Luling pump jack

Thanks to Wikipedia, the world is probably most familiar with the above pumpjack, but the town of Luling, Texas has quite a few more of these decorative nodding donkeys.


Ducks in a row


Flower maid


Football quarterback


The butterfly…


…was the most interesting in terms of point of view, and definitely worth a few extra shots.

luling texas decorative pump jack

The cow jumped over the moon.

Once known as “the toughest town in Texas”, Luling was established in 1874 as the far western stop of the Sunset Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The developing importance of the town as a cattle-raising center, combined with the importance of the railroad as a shipping point, allowed the town to grow and prosper. Being the northern terminus of a freight road to Chihuahua, Mexico added to its stature. As the cattle drives to the railroad head decreased, Luling survived by turning to its rich soil and hardy folk. Luling came to be known throughout the region as an agriculture center with cotton, corn, and turkeys as its principal products.

Cotton ruled the local economy until the momentous year of 1922. On August 9th of that year, Edgar B. Davis’ Rafael Rios No.1 blew in, opening an oilfield 12 miles long and 2 miles wide. The Rios No. 1 proved to be a part of one of the most significant fields discovered in the Southwest. Thousands of oil field workers descended upon the little community. They filled every available room and constructed a tent city, called Rag Town, along the railroad tracks. By 1924, the field was producing 11 million barrels of oil per year.

Central Texas Oil Patch Museum postcard (via star1950)

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