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Comanche Trace

Resident Stories

Bill Dillard

“I was born and raised in Midland, Texas. My mother was a housewife and my father worked the oil fields his entire life. In the early days, he actually delivered oil field supplies on horseback. Then when I was 15 or 16, I went to work in the fields. I worked every oil field in West Texas. And I guess I have been doing it ever since.”

And Bill Dillard is telling the truth. He and his wife Dee have been involved in the oil industry almost their entire lives. From the oil booms of the 70s to the oil busts of the 80s to the recent price jumps of the mid-2000s, Bill has really seen it all. While that adventure has taken the Dillards to several different states, they have always been heavily involved in the oil industry. Recently retired, Bill recounts what he has learned in the industry, and how his adventure eventually has brought him to Comanche Trace.

Bill begins, “I went to TCU and majored in Business Administration. I eventually graduated in 1961—although I should have got out in ‘60, but partying interfered. At that time, IBM was in its infancy and it was a true glamour job. Everyone wanted to work there. I actually got an interview and had 3 or 4 of them. One of the final tests was to stand up, draw a word from a hat, and we were supposed to talk about that word for a minute or two. Well, I drew “CERAMICS” and they asked me to talk for a minute.  I didn’t know what in the hell a ‘ceramic’ was. I told them that, and my interview abruptly ended, and I was back to the oil fields!”

And with an unceremonious start, Bill began his career. While he makes light of his interview, Bill was quite serious about his career. “I did want to work oil, but the oil fields in ‘60 were in a big depression. My dad was a manager for a steel company that sold pipe to the oil industry in Midland, and he got me into their first sales training program. They sent me to their mill for a year in Dangerfield, TX. I worked at the mill for a year and then progressed to Dallas, New Orleans, and on to Houston over the course of 12 years.”

Dillard’s experience and knowledge in the oil industry was evident, and he rapidly progressed. “I was a sales trainee, a clerk, a salesman, district manager, and an assistant regional manager. I had 2 sons and I traveled all the time. It wasn’t good for my family life and I was married 22 years to my first wife. But that was the job, so I did it.”

Quickly making a name for himself, Dillard rapidly climbed his way up the corporate ladder, eventually landing as the President of Wilson Supply Company in 1972. Over the next decade, Dillard thrived; however, the concept of owning his own company proved too strong a temptation. “I always had the idea of owning my own company, and in January of 1982, I started PipeCo, Inc.  We were distributors for casing, tubing, and drill pipe to oil companies globally. We had accounts in Spain, Mexico, China, Germany, and all over the United States. I couldn’t have started at a worse time, though. The analysts said oil was going to be at $100 per barrel, and the rig count at that time was 4600 in operation. That was in November of ‘81, and by January of ‘82, the rig count was dropping at 400 per day, and by ‘86, the rig count was 642. Oh, and oil was selling for $10 per barrel. Obviously, not the best time to jump into the oil business!”

Though Dillard was busy with his new company, he still had time for a date. His wife, Dee, says, “We met in 1980. I met him on a blind date. I had been single for 5 years, and he had been single for maybe 6 months. It went ok, but I took my own car; I told him if I didn’t like him, I wouldn’t be staying for dinner, but I obviously did. We met in may, and 6 months later we were married in Las Vegas. And we’ll be celebrating 30 years November the 8th.”

So, though he had much prosperity in his personal life, Dillard’s business struggled to survive. He feverishly looked for ways to finance his ongoing operations. “I had merged with a public company in ‘85 and inherited a 25 million dollar debt. By June of ‘86, we couldn’t fund the debt anymore and our bank went under. It left us scurrying for lenders, which we eventually found; but, we sold out to El Paso Electric Company in a hostile takeover. El Paso Electric was diversifying – they bought a lamp company in New Jersey and moved them to Juarez. Labor was cheap, obviously. They bought a steel company and my company and some others; they bought us for us nothing and tried to run all these non-regulated businesses as a utility company. They were completely lost. In the early ‘90s I picked up the Dallas Morning News Sunday Edition and the headline was ‘El Paso Electric Company files chapter 11.’”

What might have been a stressful time, Dillard saw his opportunity to get back on the road to owning his own company again. “All these companies El Paso Electric was trying to run unregulated were outside an electric company’s realm of expertise. It went under, and our company was purchased again, this time by an individual out of Chicago. We worked for him for 3 years. We bought up a lot of inventory during that time, which made us a huge supplier. Our arrangement with the gentleman from Chicago lasted a couple of years, and I worked out an arrangement to buy my company back.”

After starting his company, losing it in a hostile takeover, fighting through new challenges with a new owner, and eventually regaining control of the same company, Dillard was back at square one. “Really, we just started all over again, and named the company PipeCo Services. My steel companies stuck with me, and we found some financing. It wasn’t as I envisioned it; there were so many bumps in the road, and looking back, there were a lot of things I would have done differently. The price of oil and gas dictated activity, and timing was everything. You can’t predict prices, although a lot of people try. But we had a great run and we were very successful. We made it through all of the hardships, and I sold the company to my employees in 2000.”

Yet even after the sale, Dillard wasn’t quite done with the oil industry. “After PipeCo, we formed WIllo Oil and Gas. We drilled several wells with EXXON as our partner on 10,000 acres south of Ozona, Texas. Four years later we had three dry holes and were looking for a way out! We sold out, didn’t make a dime, but we got out of the trap. I also invest with Hall-Houston Exploration Company – I’ve been on their board 14 years. They have a fund designed specifically to explore and find offshore oil. We are involved in that, and I have a hunting lease 8 miles from the Rio Grande. Four of my partners on that are oil and gas explorationists. So I get a daily dose of all things oil and gas during the hunting season.”

While Dillard has obviously been busy with his business interests, he has another passion that has consumed him for the better part of his life: golf. His involvement with golf has stretched from the public courses of West Texas all the way to one of the finest and most well-known golf courses in the United States, Champions Golf Club near Houston. Run by golf icons Jackie Burke, Jr. and Jimmy Demaret, it is the pinnacle of golf. “Jackie and Jimmy were icons in the golf world. Jimmy was the announcer for the Wonderful World of Golf. Jimmy won many tournaments and was one of the most liked golf people in the world. Jackie is 87 years now and still runs champions in Houston. Jackie won the Masters Tournament in 1956, and it was a true pleasure to work with him. Jimmy won it 3 times. They are amazing golfers and people in general. I was on their board 26 straight years. Burke said it must be some sort of a record, but he doesn’t keep records, so he doesn’t know. All I know is that it was a tough day that I left Champions.”

Having sold PipeCo Services, Dee was ready to put down some new roots. “The minute I found out that he was selling the company, I just said ‘I don’t care where we go, but we’re not staying in Houston.’ We wanted to move to Kerrville because it split the distance to Ruidoso where we had a summer home. When I got to the Hill Country I just fell in love with it. So we eventually sold the summer home and began construction here at Comanche Trace in 2001. We became charter members of the club and have loved everything about being here.” Dillard adds, “I love all of it. I love the club, the people, the course… everything is just perfect. We call it Paradise, and it really is. We firmly believe it’s the most beautiful place on earth.”

And for Dillard, that beauty is greatly reflected in the golf course. “I’ve played Augusta, Oakmont, Pine Valley, St. Andrews, Toonberry, and most any other famous course you can think of. This golf course in comparison to all those is as good as any of them. It’s such a great course and facility, and this community has grown from being something so small to being such a tremendous group. We have just had so much fun watching it all come together.”

Still active with his investments, and involved as a board member on several oil and gas exploration companies—not to mention his daily rounds of golf—Dillard stays busy. As for how long he intends to remain active in the oil industry, Dillard puts it best: “As long as I’m on this side of the divot, I’ll be involved.”

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