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William Donald Hunt


Born: Moosomin, Saskatchewan


One of the most critical systems on a modern rotary drilling rig is the mud system, which helps counteract the formation pressures encountered while drilling a well. If the mud system is critical, the same can be said for the rig’s “mud man,” usually a representative of the company that supplies drilling fluids, or mud, to the rig.

William Donald Hunt—known to all as simply Don—might be the best-known mud man in western Canada, and judging from his history, it might also be said that mud runs in Don’s veins.

Born in Moosomin, Sask., in 1933 and raised in Forward, Sask., Don and his family moved in 1939 to Radford, in northern Saskatchewan, where Don started school while his dad, Don Sr., worked seismic for Imperial Oil in Turner Valley, Alta.

When Imperial Oil moved a rig to Radville, Sask., south of Regina, Don Sr. signed on as roughneck/derrickman and eventually worked under Vernon “Dry Hole” Hunter, the Imperial Oil tool pusher responsible for drilling the Leduc #1 discovery well.

With Don Sr. working in Alberta, the family moved again to Provost, Alta., and Don Sr. was promoted to senior mud man on Hunter’s rigs.

As a high school student in Leduc, Don worked weekends and holidays on the rigs for General Petroleums before going to work for Imperial Oil full-time in 1951. During his time at Imperial Oil, one of Don’s responsibilities was looking after the drilling mud system, a chance assignment that would set his career path.

In 1955, Don went to work for Magcobar Mud Company at Oxbow, Sask., where he became one of Canada’s first flying mud men, eventually becoming Magcobar’s regional sales manager for Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

In 1959 he moved to Edmonton as regional manager for Edmonton north. In his slow periods, he flew for J.C. Sproule & Associates, supporting geological field crews working in the Arctic Islands.

Don left Magcobar in 1961 to work for Reed Roller Bit Company as its flying bit salesman, but by now, mud was firmly in his veins, and he accepted an offer from Morley Wilson to partner in the creation of Wilson Mud Company. Lacking the financial resources to pay his partnership buy-in, Don was reluctant, but Wilson insisted, and Don was able to repay it with his first-year bonus.

Following Morley’s death in a plane crash, Don assumed full ownership of Wilson Mud and built the company into one of the largest independent mud companies in Canada, with offices in Edmonton, Wyoming, Colorado and the North Sea, and mud engineers posted around the world, including in Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines.

Don retired in 1982, but like many in the service and supply industry, he didn’t slow down much. Instead he worked to develop the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre, which opened in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of Leduc #1, and the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, which is housed within the Energy Discovery Centre and inducted its first honoured members, Hunter among them, the same year.


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