#Lookback: An Eastwood in Maverick Springs

    “I read an article about Clint Eastwood and he was raised in oil fields,” said John L. Sullivan, a Riverton resident, speaking to Connie Lain, a Riverton Museum director, in the late 1980s. “He and his dad lived in oilfields from camp to camp… I’d bet my last dollar that Clint Eastwood has a picture of (his dad) in (my) chaps.”

    In the early 1920s, Maverick Springs oil field, around 50 miles or so outside of Riverton, was in the process of being drilled by several oil companies, one of which was Union Oil. Around 1922, Union hired Jim Sullivan, John’s father, to be their field superintendent. While he worked in the field, John and the rest of the family lived in Riverton. John, too, worked for Union Oil. Still in high school, the younger Sullivan drove a truck after class from Riverton all the way to the field to ferry supplies and roughnecks. 

    This was no small feat in the 1920s, especially for a kid who would probably still be on his learner’s permit nowadays. Wyoming roads at that time were all gravel, mud, and rocks– it wasn’t until the mid-twenties that the first road was paved in the state, and that was around Casper, according to John. “The roads (to Maverick Springs) were just dirt. Sometimes if the ruts got too deep, you made yourself a new (road) out in the sagebrush.”

    Not only were the roads primitive, but so was most of the infrastructure a car would need to cross the plains. “The bridges wouldn’t hold the trucks,” according to John, “and if there was high water, you just had to wait until the water went down to go across.”

    Not to mention that what passed for automobiles back then probably wouldn’t be legally drivable on many highways today. The trucks that Sullivan had to operate on these long stretches of dirt road were slow, relatively difficult to handle, and a little dangerous. “There was no power steering, no brakes, there wasn’t no nothin’ on ‘em,” he said, looking back on it over sixty years later.

    With all the care and attention needed to drive these slow vehicles on the bumpy, muddy dirt roads, it would take from an hour and a half to two hours to get all the way to Maverick Springs, making it a four hour round trip for John several times a week after school.

    He didn’t seem to mind though. In the 80s, he spoke almost fondly of the characters he met in the field camps, from famous geologists, to alcoholic Ivy League graduates, to this guy named Eastwood.

    “He was a real nice guy and I’ve kicked myself ever since… I spent all one of my paychecks on a pair of white chaps. Never did use ‘em – never had a horse – but I had those darn chaps… And (Eastwood) borrowed them one time and came into town. He was a dude from Pennsylvania… and he had his picture taken in those chaps and a cowboy hat and boy, he looked like a typical cowboy.” Dressing up like a cowboy and getting in front of a camera – if this was indeed Clint Eastwood’s dad, this episode was truly a portent of things to come.

    Eastwood gave John one of his cowboy pictures, but by the time Connie Lain interviewed him, that particular photo had been lost. However, a picture of Eastwood with John’s dad, Jim, did survive – the one attached to this article. Could the man beaming at the camera in the center of the group be Clint Eastwood’s father?

    John Sullivan could never confirm his suspicion that the man who had borrowed his chaps to get his picture taken in Riverton was the father of the famous actor, but perhaps with the internet, a tool John never got to use, we can get closer to the truth.

    Just by looking up the few photos of Clint Eastwood Sr. that exist on the web, one can see the resemblance between him and the man who worked at Maverick Springs in the 20s. In the hairline and facial structure, particularly the nose, the man in the photo with Jim looks like Clint Eastwood’s father.

    But there are some inconsistencies. The birth year given for Clint Eastwood Sr. is 1906. John and Jim Sullivan worked at Maverick Springs until around 1924, so, if this is a picture of the father of “The Man with No Name”, the oldest he could have been is around 18. The man in the picture looks older than that.

    Another inconsistency: Eastwood Sr. was born in California and Sullivan specifically remembers that the man who took a photo with his white chaps was a dude from Pennsylvania. However, there may be an explanation for this. Back then, as now, roughnecks and oil field workers moved around the country from job to job, wherever there was oil being drilled. It’s possible that Eastwood had been born in California but had just come from a job in Pennsylvania (even though oil exploration in that state hadn’t been booming in quite some time by the 1920s).

    Of course, another explanation is that Sullivan’s Eastwood is another relative of the famous actor. Perhaps, taking into account the aforementioned inconsistencies and given the man’s physical similarity to Eastwood’s father, this is the most likely explanation.

    Hear more stories from John Sullivan and other people who worked in the nearby oil and gas fields at the Riverton Museum’s upcoming exhibit on the history of the local oil and gas industry, coming soon!

    By Nathaniel Griffee: Riverton Museum Site Manager

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    June 15, 7am at the Pioneer Museum, “Tim McCoy, A History with Cowboy Poetry by Schmidt” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    June 17, 10 am at the Pioneer Museum, “Historic Miners Delight Gold Mine Town Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    June 24, 9-2 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Castle Gardens Adventure Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    June 27, 9-3pm with the Dubois Museum, “Geology Road Trip to Union Pass” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    June 28, 11am at the Riverton Museum, “Local Wildlife with Renee Schell” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?