We were illegally detained by the fracking industry in Smiley

Longtime no post. Here are my excuses:

  • busy
  • broken computer

But this post should make up for my absence.

Today Alan Septoff, Earthworks Communication Director, our driver and I were illegally detained by Mr. John W. Bones, President, Black Marlin Energy Services in Smiley, TX and his wife.

We were on a road marked with a county road sign and did not trespass onto any private property. I never trespass. I’m a 5th generation Texan so I know quite a bit about trespass and the law.

The driver of our vehicle who prefers to remain nameless, turned onto a paved road with no signage other than a county road sign. If there is a county road sign on the road and nothing that says private drive, one would assume it is a county road. We stopped adjacent to the Black Marlin Energy Services gate where workers were washing down the outside and inside of industry trucks and the flowback tanks that haul fracking and drilling waste. We were just watching the process and snapping a few pictures. I observed the facility with the FLIR camera but did not record anything.

Suddenly a rather large and extremely hostile man, Mr. Bones, rushed to the car and demanded we leave. He reached into the car and grabbed my camera which was not recording. There was some argument about the legalities of taking pictures on a county road which he claimed he owned along with all 4 of the homes on the road. He told us to leave, but when we decided to leave, Mr. Bones and his tiny wife stood in front of the car and would not allow us to leave, illegally detaining us on the road that was marked as a county road. Mrs. Bones called the Sheriff. Several times we tried to leave but each time the Bones couple stepped in front of the car. Mrs. Bones called us communists.

The Sheriff’s Deputy, M. Cowan arrived to try and sort it all out. It was obvious that he knew we really had done nothing wrong, but he had to navigate the treacherous terrain created by a bully who has some political clout in the tiny town.

fishyDuring the conversation, we learned that the road Mr. Bones claimed was his property was maintained by the county, meaning the taxpayers pay for the maintenance of his supposedly private road. We also learned that he didn’t exactly own all 4 of the homes on the road.

Update: Investigations revealed that the road is indeed a county road and is not owned by Mr. Bones. He merely thinks he owns the whole wide-world and he is a bully.

At some point, Mr. Collie Boatright, a markedly less hot-headed partner in the facility, showed up. He seemed embarrassed by his partner and wife who were clearly out of control. He seemed to understand the potential PR nightmare.

Mr. Bones said that he was warned we were in the area by the owner of a recycling facility on a main road where we stopped to take video. The recycling facility owner was very nice and answered our questions. I asked him for a tour and he said he might arrange one for a little later in the day and asked for my card so he could contact me about it. Obviously he activated some kind of network alert and warned all the facilities in the area about us. I knew the industry did this but now I have confirmation.

Mr. and Mrs. Bones wanted the deputy to arrest us for “industrial espionage.” He explained that he deals with state law and industrial espionage is federal law so they would need to call the FBI. They said they intend to press criminal charges. As far as I can tell, the Bones family were the only ones who broke the law by illegally detaining us.

More to come on this from Alan.



About Sharon Wilson

Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.


  1. Tim Ruggiero says

    I wish I was the ‘driver’. Or the ‘photographer’ or ‘FLIR Camera Operator’. Even just ‘Along For The Ride’. I kinda miss my interactions with Industry.

  2. says

    So where was all the water runoff going when they were washing frack tanks? We have a right o know what kind of runoff the industry likes to expose our environment to. BTW that reminded me to work on a blog that I had marked private last year on the subject of tank washing…here it is public now..http://wp.me/p1HZ52-RE

  3. meamous says

    These SOB’s in Smiley must have learned how to operate from one of those ‘deer camp’ schools in Booger County!!!!

  4. SharonKnowsMe says

    Sheesh, they were acting like they were guilty and afraid of something. Hmm.

    Ultimate in irony: calling you a Communist. Hilarious.

    I’d be pretty pissed if my tax dollars were going to the upkeep of a “private road”. That smells like Communism to me.

  5. says

    I know how hard Sharon works, I know she is going to talk about this but I’ll just bring it up. Earthworks is partnering with other organizations on the Earth, Wind, & Fire Energy Summit Oct. 4-5. If you want to here about Earthquakes/Fracking/Disposal Wells from a seismologist from Columbia’s Lamont-Dougherty Earth Institute who studied triggered earthquakes in Oklahoma/elsewhere, then come to this event. In 2013, he was in a Science magazine article re: this subject . There are 3 other fracking discussions Early sign up ends SEPT. 2 at earthwindfiresummit.org

  6. Nick says

    Mr Bones must have a back story of some kind to over react as he did. Will you post pictures of what you saw?

    • says

      We don’t have any pictures because the sheriff told us to delete them (I didn’t have any pictures). It seemed the choice was delete the pictures or go to the Gonzales County jail despite the fact that it was a clear violation of our rights and that the only ones who broke the law were Mr. and Mrs. Bones. It didn’t seem like a good day to go to the Gonzales County jail. It was really hot and I needed some water and a ladies’ room.

      What this shows is the profound political influence the industry has in these small towns and how far they will go trying to intimidate people. Many of the facilities must have a back story since one miles away called ahead to warn others that we were in the area and to watch for us. This kind of behavior does not instill confidence or neighborly feelings. It makes me wonder what they are so intent on hiding.

      I heard the neighbors have complained about the Bones facility due to runoff and fumes but I didn’t verify that.

  7. Nick says

    Forced to delete pictures taken from a public position? Wow, that should instill the need to return for a few snap shots before they build a privacy fence.