50-year digger knows the DRILL
Lost Springs man still finds passion for his well business
Joe Zinn is 81, but after five decades of digging wells, he doesn’t see a need to stop now.
“I’ll keep going until I can’t anymore,” he said. “It’s just all that climbing.”
Zinn’s business started with his grandfather, who moved to the area from Missouri near the beginning of the 1900s.
Zinn didn’t join the family business until after his military service. He was entrenched in his electrical engineering work to the point that Zinn said he didn’t even take time for hobbies.
“I’d become addicted to that type of work so badly,” he said. “My folks needed help back here so they’d holler at me. I said, ‘Boy, I’m coming.’ ”
His favorite wells to dig are gravel water wells because so few people know how.
“I like doing things that other people call impossible,” Zinn said. “I grew up doing this. I had a lot of teachers.”
At the same time, he said the occupation doesn’t appeal to many people. It can be a difficult job because he is always doing some sort of physical activity, and weather conditions are inconsistent, Zinn said.
“You’re out there in the rain and cold,” he said. “You’re out there whether you want to or not, but you have to be.”
There also isn’t enough profit for some people, Zinn said.
Zinn’s business allows him to be self-sufficient.
“It’s kind of a self-achievement thing,” he said. “You design a lot of your own equipment and make your own stuff. You’re not wholly dependent on anyone on the outside except for fuel.”
In addition to the independence it grants, Zinn said he enjoys how many jobs he travels to. The Lost Springs resident tries to limit his radius to 50 miles, traveling only as far as El Dorado and Newton, or nearer.
“Everything is different,” he said. “It’s a different location, different place, and you meet a lot different people. You meet some really good ones, and when you meet some bad ones, you just have to steer clear.”
After drilling so many wells over the years, including oil, gas, and water, Zinn said it’s difficult to know how many he has worked on.
“I don’t have any idea,” he said. “None, except by going back through stuff like taxes.”
Projecting how many wells he drills is difficult because the number fluctuates greatly from one year to the next. Zinn can drill anywhere from 20 to 50 wells a year.
“A lot of it depends on weather and demand,” he said. “Everybody has to have water, and the funny thing is that a lot of people don’t know where their water comes from They think it comes from bottles.”
Last modified April 9, 2020