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Clay Coppedge


Texas | Columns | "Letters from Central Texas"

Boy With X-Ray Eyes

by Clay Coppedge

Around the turn of the 20th century the American public dubbed young Guy Finley the "Boy with the X-Ray Eyes" but it was a name foisted upon him and not one that he chose. The gift that earned him the tag was, to him, something unseen, an invisible means of sensing something that can't be seen with the naked eye.

Finley was about 9 or 10 years old when he told his father, Joel Finley, that he could tell where water was located underground just by walking over that ground. Joel Finley was a practical and open-minded father so he took his son at his word.

"Well son, we'll try and see if you can do it," the elder Finley said to Guy. "Show me where the water is and I will dig a well. We can always use a new well."

This occurred in the arid ranching country around Bandera and Uvalde, a place where ranchers like Joel Finley are usually willing to at least listen to anything that might produce water. In this case, taking his son for his word proved fortuitous because water was found right where Guy Finley said it would be, and at a shallow depth too.

In 1965, when Finley was 76 years old, Dallas Morning News columnist Frank X. Tolbert interviewed Finley. He told Tolbert that news of his gift had spread like wildfire through the ranch country.

"I went north of Del Rio and located three wells for a fellow named Guy Strickland," Finley said. "He got water right at first in two of the wells. And he had faith enough in me to investigate and find that the third hole was a little crooked. He put in a shock, straightened it out, and got plenty of water.

"My father and brother had a ranch out near Sanderson in the Big Bend. This was very dry country. I located a well and told them that somewhere around 60 feet they would find water. I think they hit water at 62 feet."

Guy Finley's brother, G.B. Finley, drew up contracts and charged around $500 to customers if water was found. That's when the name "The Boy with the X-Ray Eyes" was coined. The true believers claimed that he could see right through the ground but always said his gift was more of a feeling than any kind of Superman-type x-ray vision.

Later, when Guy was courting his future wife, the former Alma Margaret Wilson of Bandera, the Wilsons were forced to haul water from the Medina River to supply their Bandera County ranch. Guy Finley politely suggested to his future father-in-law that he dig a well at a certain spot, where he would find water at about four feet.

Mr. Wilson was more skeptical than Finley's father had been so he had Finley dig the well himself; he found water at about six feet. Mr. Wilson commented, "All these years we've been hauling water, and yet it was running right under our feet all the time."

In 1901, the mother of all Texas oil fields, Spindletop, came in, and an oil company was organized at Uvalde. Finley, a sixth grader at the time, was taken to Spindletop to see if he could find oil on the Uvalde Oil Company's leases.

The oilmen secretly buried a barrel of water at one spot and a barrel of oil at another and took the youngster out in the field on a dark and moonless night. Records in the archives at the University of Texas show that Finley told the company to drill at one end of the lease but, for whatever reason, they drilled at the other end and hit a dry hole. A gusher later came in at the sight Finley had picked, but a different oil company was the beneficiary of that strike.

The gift that so marked Guy Finley's childhood began to desert him about the time he got involved in the oil business. "It was a gift that was given to me to give to other people," he told Tolbert. "I started losing this power after my family commenced commercializing on my gift. I think the commercialization of my gift is what ruined it. It has been somewhat restored at times since I quit charging. But I've never again commercialized my gift."

Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" June 8, 2022 column



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