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Oil Bust Veterans Brace While Shale-Boom Newbies Swagger

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Autry Stephens knows the look and feel of an oil boom going bust, and he’s starting to get ready.

The West Texas wildcatter, 76, has weathered four such cycles in his 52 years draining crude from the Permian basin, still the most prolific U.S. oilfield. Though the collapse in prices since June doesn’t yet have him in a panic, Stephens recognizes the signs of another downturn on the horizon.