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Well, well, well...

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Its all about feel. Its all about knowing what to do to correct the problem. I learned by watching other people and listening to old drillers.


Where water wells used to be bread and butter of the drilling business decades ago, nowadays geothermal is the magic word.


Jones and his crews spent five months drilling three hundred, 500-feet-deep geothermal wells for the new Lebanon High School complex.


Geothermal is long-term, Jones said. They figured out the heating and cooling at the school will pay for itself in five years.{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=60|imageid=378|displayname=0|float=right}


Geothermal saves electric power and does away with the compressor. Ground temperature stays the same...When its 100 degrees outside, a regular unit pulls in 100-degree air and tries to cool it to the thermostat setting, say at 72 degrees. Geothermal brings up air at a temperature of 58 degrees, so its a lot easier to bring 58-degree air up to 72 degrees than to take 100 degrees down to 72. The same thing goes with heating, said Jones, whose company also performed geothermal drilling for Oakland High School and Buchanan Middle School in Rutherford County.


Jones, who has nary a lazy bone in his body, hits the ground running mornings at 4 and zips into his Sparta Pike office by 5. He was born the son of Macon County sharecropper J.B. Jones in the community of Ebenezer, where he grew up in a house that had no running water. He was raised with four brothers, and sibling Terry (nicknamed Cool Whip) has labored with him for 30 years and takes care of the blast-hole jobs.


After spending his first three grades in the one-room Ebenezer school, Jones went five years to Cato School before graduating from Trousdale County High School. He moved to Lebanon in 1961 and for about a year worked at Southland Mobil Service Station on Highway 231 as a grease monkey.


I got to know some of the boys who worked with Eatherly and Jackson Drilling. They brought their trucks in on weekends for me to clean up and finally they talked me into going to work with them, he recalled.


{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=60|imageid=376|displayname=0|float=left}Nine years later, Jones and William Gossett started their own drilling business in Elizabethton, Ky., where he stayed from 1970 to 1973 before returning to Lebanon to do roofing and carpentry.


When Bobby Stone, a former crewmate from his days with Eatherly and Jackson, called him one day in 1975 and asked if he would consider going back into drilling, Jones quickly responded that he would be there in the morning. We needed a pick-up and a drill to get going and that was all we had.


In 2001, Jones bought out his partner. Today the company has a dozen employees and operates six drilling rigs as it covers a 50- to 60-mile radius around Nashville. Among other big jobs, the company line drilled the Metro Nashville Courthouse and the BellSouth building. (Line drilling is sinking shafts straight down for vibration control.)


In the beginning, all we did was drill water wells and blast wells. We dont do many water wells anymore. Most of the wells we drill are for irrigation wells. We do about 80 percent geothermal work to 20 percent water wells, said the man who has drilled thousands of water wells across Wilson County cutting through miles of limestone.{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=60|imageid=381|displayname=0|float=right}


City water covers the county, so the only time you get a call now for a water well is if there is no city water there. In the early days of this work, people would get excited to see water coming from a new well. They were used to toting it from a spring, Jones reminisced.


The drilling authority says that if youre gonna hit water while drilling a well in Wilson County, its likely going to occur at a depth between 150 and 220 feet.


As for the changes hes seen in a half century of drilling, Jones said, The equipment is a lot faster, and the rigs are bigger. You're also able to do so much more with them, which makes them more versatile, more efficient.


{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=60|imageid=377|displayname=0|float=left}When it comes to nuts and bolts of drilling, the cutting of rock is done by a carbide bit via an air-driven hammer. The hammer piston hits at 2,200 times a minute, so when things are going right, a crew can drill 100 feet in an hour.


Jones recollected the cost of drilling was $1.50 a foot back in 1961, whereas today it runs about $12 a foot. Fifty years ago, a new drilling rig cost $60,000 compared to $700,000 for a rig today.


Jones and his wife, the former Janet Smith of Elkton, Ky., have six children: Dwight, David, Emy, Jeri Ann, Kim and Barry as well as nine grandchildren.


When not busy overseeing the drilling of wells, Jones still finds himself scratching around in the earth.


Gardening is my hobby. I grow green beans, green onions, peas, tomatoes, pepper, cucumbers and water melons, said the holey man of Wilson County.


Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

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