Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1941: Crooked Oil AssociationReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: October 06, 1941-October 27, 1941
"Crooked Oil Association"
Our story begins in the offices of the Daily Planet. Perry White is assigning his various reporters to cover the numerous aspects of national defense. He's about to tell Clark Kent to cover how the oil industry is helping in the protection of the United States. By coincidence, Jimmy Olsen gives Clark a letter from Tumbleweed Jones. Camanche Joe gave Tumbleweed some land to start his own cattle ranch. He and many other land owners have struck oil recently. Tumbleweed has run into trouble and needs Clark's help. Perry agrees to let the mild mannered reporter and Jimmy go help Tumbleweed in an effort to cover the oil industry's part in America's defense.
At the Lawson Valley Airport, Tumbleweed is with his oil broker Mister Dan Larson waiting for Clark and Jimmy's airplane to arrive. Larson is also trying to get Tumbleweed to join the oil association run by the local bank president Mister Abner Cheney. Tumbleweed feels something is underhanded about the organization. It is for this reason that the cowboy has bought three trucks to take his oil to the refinery instead of using Cheney's railroad. Each truck carries two thousand gallons of oil, and they'll be taking the black gold to the refinery tonight. Before Tumbleweed and Larson can continue their conversation, Clark and Jimmy's plane arrives.
On the way to his ranch, Tumbleweed explains his trouble. Most of the oil field owners in the area have joined Mister Cheney's oil association. Cheney owns the oil pipelines in addition to the railroad used to transport it, and he's charging the oilmen extremely high prices to use the trains. Only Tumbleweed and Lake McCall refuse to join the association. As a result, Tumbleweed feels that Cheney is trying to scare him out of business and wants to know the legalities of how he should transport his oil. While not a lawyer, Clark believes that Tumbleweed should be able to do what he wants with his own oil.
Suddenly, as Tumbleweed, Jimmy and Clark reach the ranch, there is the sound of gunshots. Some men driving in a fast car have shot holes into the sides of the trucks. Oil is leaking form them now. Tumbleweed wonders who could have shot the trucks as he only told Larson, and none of Tumbleweed's men saw who fired the guns. Tumbleweed thinks about how he's going get the oil to the refinery. He borrowed money for the trucks from Abner Cheney's bank and can only pay the loan with the money the refinery gives for the oil. If Tumbleweed can't pay the loan, Cheney will get the land and every gallon of oil that comes from it.
At that moment, Clark suggests having some men put some wooden planks inside the trucks to block the holes. The oil's own pressure should keep it from leaking once the holes are covered. After the necessary repairs are made, the trucks take the road near Bear River to Mystique Canyon and Balancing Rock, an egg-shaped formation that seems to be balanced at its bottom. This path will get them to the refinery in about four hours.
After the trucks have left, Clark is going to the ranch's cook house to get Jimmy a sandwich. At the same time, Chuck Conners, Tumbleweed's foreman, is calling a man named Lacey to advise him that the trucks left for Mystique Canyon. Lacey is then ordered by Chuck to stop the trucks from getting to the Bear River Oil Refinery by any means necessary. Clark overhears Chuck and forces him to reveal that explosives have been put on the rocks of the canyon. The trucks will be destroyed in five minutes. Only the speed and strength of Superman can save Tumbleweed's oil.
As the oil trucks reach Mystique Canyon, Tumbleweed hears an explosion, and Balancing Rock comes rolling toward his trucks. The mighty hands of Superman pick up the rock as if it was a cotton ball and hurl it away from the oil convoy. The oil is now safe to go to the Bear River Refinery.
Back at Tumbleweed's ranch, Jimmy Olsen has grown tired of waiting for his sandwich. He goes to the cook house and finds Chuck Conners tied up. He makes Jimmy believe a masked bandit attacked him. Jimmy then thinks the bandit got Clark Kent. Clark actually tied up Chuck before becoming Superman. Jimmy learns the truth about Chuck Conners when he goes to the horse barn with Chuck. Instead of getting the pony Tumbleweed had given young Jimmy, Chuck gets a wild horse. He ties the copy boy to the horse and sets the horse on a wild run as revenge for Clark's beating the nefarious foreman.
At that moment, Superman, who's on the way back to Tumbleweed's ranch, sees the horse running toward a cliff. The Man of Steel stops the horse, tames it and frees Jimmy before resuming his guise of Clark Kent. Jimmy tells Clark about freeing Chuck Connors, whom Clark reveals is working for those who are against Tumbleweed. They then go back to Tumbleweed's ranch on the same horse to which Conners had tied Jimmy. They have to get back to greet Tumbleweed and find Connors.
Meanwhile, Abner Cheney is talking with Dan Larson. He doesn't believe Larson's story about Superman saving Tumbleweed's trucks. Cheney thinks the oil broker is trying to cover up his mistakes with tall tales. However, the association leader's immediate concern is making sure Tumbleweed doesn't show the other oil field owners that they don't need Cheney's railroad to transport their oil to the refinery.
Just then, Larson gets an idea. Camanche Joe never signed a deed or bill of sale for Tumbleweed's ranch. This means the land is still in Camanche Joe's name. Abner Cheney can say that Tumbleweed borrowed money on false pretenses while Larson takes Camanche Joe into the hills in the guise of a business meeting. Cheney can force Tumbleweed Jones to sign a contract with his oil association, or the cowboy will go to jail on bank fraud charges.
The next morning, Tumbleweed, Jimmy and Clark are discussing Chuck Connors' conspiring to destroy the rancher's oil business and Superman's timely intervention to save the oil trucks. Conners escaped after tying Jimmy to the wild horse, and Tumbleweed wants to go after the crooked oil foreman. However, Conners will have to wait. Abner Cheney has come to tell Tumbleweed that he's in trouble with the law for borrowing money under false pretenses. Clark suggests to contact Camanche Joe to straighten out everything. Unfortunately, Joe is missing, and, according to Cheney, the people of the area believe Tumbleweed is involved with his disappearance somehow. Cheney then says that he's giving Tumbleweed twenty-four hours to sign his oil over to the oil association. Otherwise, Tumbleweed will be arrested for fraud and possibly the murder of Camanche Joe.
After a heated debate between Tumbleweed and Cheney ends, the shady banker leaves the ranch. Clark then calls Camanche Joe's ranch and discovers that the Native American rancher met with Dan Larson late last night in Lost Valley. Tumbleweed thinks it's odd that Larson would talk about business in the dead of night, but he trusts the oil broker. Clark, on the other hand, starts to put two and two together. Larson is the only oil broker in the area with exclusive license to sell oil to the Bear River Refinery. Cheney owns the only railroad and pipeline that takes oil to the same refinery. Larson arranged for Tumbleweed to borrow money from Cheney's bank. Larson was also the only one that Tumbleweed told about his three oil trucks, and he kept insisting that Tumbleweed join Cheney's oil association. Despite Clark's suspicions, however, Tumbleweed doesn't believe that there's anything underhanded about the oil broker.
After some discussion, Tumbleweed, Clark and Jimmy decide to search for Camanche Joe on horseback. The suddenly hear gunshots while they are on the way to town. The shooters get away, but a familiar body is on the ground. Camanche Joe has been shot dead. Now, it seems there's no way to prove Tumbleweed owns the ranch. It looks as though Abner Cheney's notorious plan has worked out to the banker's advantage for now.
Later that night, there is an awkward silence during dinner at Tumbleweed's ranch. Clark tries to get Tumbleweed to eat something, but he only wants to avenge the murder of Camanche Joe. Jimmy and Clark promise to stay and help catch Joe's killers.
In the meantime, Tumbleweed is worried about losing his ranch. Because there's no deed, the land will go to the Camanche tribe.
Just then, Abner Cheney and Chuck Conners, who is now a sheriff's deputy, arrive to arrest Tumbleweed. The rancher wants to put up a fight, but Clark convinces him to go to jail until this matter can be straightened out.
After Conners and Cheney leave with Tumbleweed, Jimmy becomes distraught over the recent events. It is at this moment that Clark decides to take the copy boy with him to speak with Chief Running Fox, Camanche Joe's father. He wants to try to persuade the Native American tribe leader to give Tumbleweed Jones the land on which the cowboy's ranch is located.
At the Camanche reservation, a three day burial ceremony is honoring Camanche Joe. Clark and Jimmy hear two horse riders coming and are forced to hide behind some oak trees. The horsemen are Dan Larson and a man named Slim. They talk about giving the Camanches ten thousand dollars for Tumbleweed's ranch land. Chief Running Fox is interested in the money, but he refuses to talk until the tribe is finished honoring Camanche Joe.
Suddenly, Jimmy's pony sneezes. Larson shoots the copy boy, and Superman races to take Jimmy back to Tumbleweed's ranch.
After the bullet was removed from Jimmy's shoulder, Clark Kent says that he wants to see if a ballistics report can connect this bullet to the same gun that killed Camanche Joe. He then leave Jimmy to recover and goes back to the Native American reservation as Superman.
Meanwhile, Dan Larson is discussing the recent events with Abner Cheney. The nefarious banker isn't too pleased with Larson's trigger happy methods and feels Tumbleweed Jones should be dealt with in a more subtle manner. He wants Tumbleweed taken from the jail and tied to a horse. The horse is to be lead to a patch of quicksand, where Tumbleweed will sink to his death.
However, Larson doesn't agree with Cheney's plan. He feels the oil assocation leader made him into the killer that he has become and wants nothing more to do with the bank president. Larson is now pointing his gun at Abner Cheney, who orders him to put it down. He's about to shoot Cheney when Chuck Conners enters the office. Conners left Lacey to guard Tumbleweed at the jail. Larson shoots Cheney as Conners puts a bullet in Larson's back. Larson's projectile barely misses Cheney. Cheney then decides to tie both Larson and Tumbleweed to the horse that will send them to the perilous quicksand pit. However, the injured Larson takes the horse to Tumbleweed's ranch to warn the cowboy's friends of Cheney's evil plans.
Meanwhile, Superman, whom the Native Americans call The Man Who Flies Like A Bird, is at the Camanche reservation speaking with Chief Running Fox. He shows the chief the bullet taken from Jimmy's shoulder. As you recall, Running Fox's tribe calls Jimmy Little Laughing Squirrel. Superman tells Running Fox that the same bullets killed Camanche Joe. Our hero needs one of the projectiles in Joe's body to bring his killers to justice. However, the burial ceremony and Chief Running Fox do not permit Joe's corpse to be touched by any hands.
At the same time, frantic knocks on the door of Tumbleweed's ranch house awaken Jimmy Olsen. A wounded Dan Larson is in a panic as he confesses to the crimes in which he and Abner Cheney had committed. He also says that Tumbleweed will risk death by Cheney's hands if he stays in prison. Jimmy locks the front door after Larson enters, and he's just in time. Cheney and Chuck Conners arrive to get Larson. Jimmy climbs out the window and rides his pony in the direction of the Camanche reservation in hopes of finding Clark Kent. Conners and Lacey pursue Jimmy while shooting at the copy boy before he can reveal the truth about Camanche Joe's murder to Chief Running Fox.
Meanwhile, Superman is still unsuccessful in convincing Running Fox to give him a bullet from Camanche Joe's body despite the fact that it will bring his killers to justice. The Man of Tomorrow decides to return to Tumbleweed's ranch in case Jimmy Olsen is worried about Clark Kent. He finds the young copy boy being chased on horseback by Lacey and Conners. Jimmy's pony's leg suddenly gets stuck in a gopher hole. Both the horse and Jimmy fall. The pony breaks a leg, and Jimmy lands on his injured shoulder.
While Lacey goes to take care of Tumbleweed Jones, Chuck Conners grabs the unconscious Jimmy and shoots at the boy. However, Superman stops the bullet just a split second before it hits its target. Our hero then twists Conners' rifle and scares the dishonest deputy into confessing about all that has happened. Abner Cheney ordered the kidnapping of Camanche Joe. Conners and Lacey were to watch over Joe, and Lacey shot the Native American oil field owner when he tried to escape. Superman knocks out Conners just as Jimmy Olsen regains consciousness.
Resuming his guise of Clark Kent, our hero asks Jimmy what had happened. The copy boy tells Kent what had happened when Dan Larson arrived at the ranch and of the danger to Tumbleweed's life.
Sending Jimmy back to the ranch to round up all of the hired hands, Clark returns to his true identity of Superman. He then hoists the unconscious Chuck Conners over his shoulder and flies with tremendous speeds to save Tumbleweed Jones.
Speaking of Tumbleweed, he's been tied to a horse by Lacey, who is leading the animal to the quicksand while Abner Cheney goes back to town. Despite being trapped, Tumbleweed prays for Lacey because Lacey's father is an old friend of Tumbleweed's.
At the same time, Superman doesn't find Tumbleweed anywhere in the jail. He's about to awaken Chuck Conners in order to learn where the cowboy is when Abner Cheney arrives. Using extreme measures, Superman forces Cheney to tell him where Tumbleweed is. He then flies to the quicksand pit and pulls both the horse and Tumbleweed out just in the nick of time.
The next day at Tumbleweed's ranch, Chuck Conners and Lacey thank Tumbleweed for hiring them in the oil fields. He felt that the two men were confused by Abner Cheney and that they're really good men at heart. Tumbleweed even promised the sheriff that Lacey and Conners wouldn't get into trouble.
After Conners and Lacey go back to work, Tumbleweed and Jimmy Olsen decide to play a joke on Clark Kent. The rancher has a bow from an archery set that no man has ever been able to draw, and he wants Clark to use it on a target. Both Tumbleweed and Jimmy get the surprise of their lives when Clark fires an arrow from the bow. The pointed projectile, however, misses the target and lands in a gopher hole.
While Jimmy searches for the bolt in the hole. He finds something else - a hand pounded silver arrow with an inscription that reads the following:
"1855 - I shot this arrow into the air. 'Twill fall to Earth, I know not where. If he who finds this have no fear, you'll search the stream 'neath the galloping steer."
Part of the inscription quotes a famous poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but what do the rest of these words mean? What type of mystery has Jimmy stumbled upon? What will "The Silver Arrow" bring to Superman and his friends? Tune in next week for The Adventures of Superman, and find out, boys and girls.
Did I do something wrong in a previous life? I mentioned unnecessary characters last week, and Tumbleweed Jones was mentioned. As you can see, "Crooked Oil Association" centers around that idiotic cowpoke. The Karma Police must be after me for what I said about Tumbleweed. This serial could have been easily rewritten for Camanche Joe if a sequel to "The Howling Coyote" was really necessary. Unfortunately, Joe is needlessly killed off, and Tumbleweed is left alive to annoy us throughout this story. Now, from the way this tale ended, we have to possibly put up with more of that ridiculous ol' cowhand in "The Silver Arrow." That alone makes the story arc cruel and unusual punishement.
Okay, maybe I'm going too far with that last statement. I just wish to know what was going through the writers' minds when they came up with the character of Tumbleweed Jones. He seems extremely out of place in the Superman universe. Perhaps - and this is only a theory - Tumbleweed was created because of the popularity of such western radio programs as Red Rider and The Lone Ranger among children of the time period. Whatever the reasons may be, they don't change the fact that Tumbleweed feels forced into a serial that could have easily been rewritten with another character replacing him, much like he felt lodged into "The Black Pearl of Osiris" for no logical motive at all.
Maybe my dislike of Tumbleweed is coloring my opinion of this serial, but I didn't like "Crooked Oil Association" all that much. It's not the worst serial in The Adventures of Superman, but it also isn't the best. Sure, it has some entertaining moments, but they are, unfortunately, overshadowed by two things. First, Superman pretty much feels forced into the story much like he was in "The Howling Coyote." I'm not saying that a Superman in the west story cannot be done. I just feel that he seems to be a guest star in this serial like George Reeves in that I Love Lucy episode.
Secondly, the death of Camanche Joe was completely unnecessary. Had Joe been placed in various spots throughout "Crooked Oil Association," I would not be so harsh on the story arc. I found the character to be likable even when he appeared in "The Howling Coyote." The murder of Comanche Joe seems forced like much of the rest of the serial. The writers probably couldn't think of anything more to do with the character and just decided to kill him off. That's a shame because despite my feelings for both this serial and "The Howling Coyote," I really wish we could have seen more of Camanche Joe.
Another problem with "Crooked Oil Association" is that is was extremely predictable. Now, this wouldn't be bad if I had enjoyed the story more. However, if you exclude the lead-in to "The Silver Arrow," I was able to figure out how this serial would turn out by the middle of chapter two. Too much was given away in the writing, particularly in the narration, and there was very little or no suspense to keep the listeners on the edge of their seats.
The villians in "Crooked Oil Association" are badly written, Abner Cheney and his gang have potential, but they come across like melodramatic, mustache twirling nasties that come into an old widow's house saying, "You must pay the rent!" I find it easier to take Snideley Whiplash from the Dudley Do-Right cartoons more seriously than Cheney.
All in all, I wish I could have enjoyed "Crooked Oil Association" more, but I just couldn't. The negative aspects just outweighed the positive ones for me. Hopefully, "The Silver Arrow" will be more fun, or, at the very least, be the last time we see that irritating Tumbleweed Jones. We'll find out in a week or so what will happen, Superfans. Until then, don't douch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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