Reporting from Broken Bow in the Sandhills of Nebraska, County Seat of Custer County where the cattle outnumber the people by over 10 to 1. Known as “The Cattleman’s Paradise” with excellent grassland and abundant water from the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground water deposit the size of Lake Ontario. The aquifer underlies parts of eight states from South Dakota to Texas. In some areas of the Sandhills, water is available at the surface from fresh water springs with the majority pumped to the surface for use by the populace, irrigation and industry.

In 1937, Charlie Sargent founded Charles Sargent Irrigation providing services for the well and irrigation industries. In 1953, Larry Whitesel and Pete Kaps went into partnership; and the following year they obtained full ownership of Sargent Irrigation. Today, Larry’s son Mike Whitesel is the President of the company, a successful family owned and operated provider of water solutions. Headquartered in Broken Bow, Nebraska, they service customers from twelve facilities in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas focusing on water well, irrigation and other water related services.

They earned the reputation “The Dependable Professionals,” from their operating philosophy – Tell the customers “We do what we say we are going to do, when we say we are going to do it.” I witnessed this in Neligh, Nebraska where I arrived about 7:00 AM to find a beehive of people fueling trucks, loading pipe, supplies and leaving for the various job sites to take care of their customers.  

Not only are they successful in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas, they completed successful operations in California, Wyoming and Nevada in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Providing desperately needed fresh water in parts of the world beyond the United States continues in Mexico and Australia, where they’ve been doing so since the early 1980s, while in 1986 -1989, they completed a major water well project in Algeria.

The Nebraska facilities for Sargent Irrigation and Sargent Drilling include Broken Bow, Grant, Neligh, Holdrege, Geneva and Aurora, with additional facilities in Carroll, Iowa and Salina Kansas.

Vehicle Fleet

Sargent Irrigation and Sargent Drilling operate a fleet of over 90 F-150 through F-650 Ford trucks. Twenty-eight of the F-250s, F-350s and F-450s are exclusively equipped with Knapheide Service Bodies. They have over 100 class VII and VIII chassis for heavy GVWR support well[1]  drilling derricks, setting pumps and configuring wells for production.  Many of the Class VIII chassis utilize custom designed heavy well servicing platforms with derricks built in their state of the art manufacturing facility in Broken Bow, NE.

Why Ford? –  Mike Whitesel, President, tells us, “Over 95% of our Class I through Class V truck fleet are Ford.”

“Fords don’t spend a lot of time out of service”.

“We can depend on them for 200,000 to 250,000 miles of service”.

“We continue to use Ford products as they reduce our costs per mile of operation”.

Servicing Ford Dealers

Each Sargent Irrigation and Sargent Drilling location select and utilize Ford dealers in close proximity to their facilities in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. The ten Nebraska facilities are all in communities averaging just over 3,000 people, sometimes requiring a greater distance to find a local Ford dealer. Carroll, IA and Salina, KS have area Ford dealers in close proximity. Sargent’s technicians handle routine vehicle maintenance including oil changes, brake service and tire replacement, while area Ford dealers handle the complicated and technical service requirements.

Shout outs go to the following Nebraska Ford dealers as “They all try to take care of Sargent’s truck needs”.

Ranchland Ford – Broken Bow

Moody Motors – Niobrara

Sid Dillon Ford – Crete

Platte Valley Auto – Lexington and Kearney

Janssen Ford – Holdrege

Wolf Auto – Ogallala

Even though area Ford dealers normally do not stock red vehicles for the respective Sargent locations, Sargent’s detailed advanced planning normally does not create a vehicle shortage with normal Order to Delivery dates. Recent supply chain issues resulted in extended OTD dates.

The support of our local Ford dealer network helps us maintain our commitment to being “The Dependable Professionals”.

Dealer Communication

Mike Whitesel and all of their business locations prefer in-person, phone, or text communications while email works fine for vehicle and product quotes. Follow up in person, by phone or text is preferred to review quotes. They use no other social media platforms for business communication.[2]   

Truck Equipment

Specialty designed flatbeds and platforms for water well servicing for the Class VII and VIII chassis, are manufactured at Sargent Pipe, their state of the art manufacturing facility in Broken Bow, NE for their heavy-duty applications.

We acquire service bodies, many with rear corner mounted 3,000 or 4,000 lb. electric over hydraulic cranes and other options from LCL Truck Equipment in Hastings, Nebraska. Gary Jerman, President of LCL, in business over 50 years, understands our goals and objectives and provides continued long-term product value with Knapheide service bodies and equipment. Sargent plans ahead and orders their bodies when they order the trucks. We continually stock service bodies and options for immediate installation upon chassis arrival.[3] 

Why Knapheide

Mike Whitesel, President, stated, “We expect 200,000 to 250,000 miles of service from our Ford service trucks. Knapheide is the only service body on the market that exceeds our long-term service requirements. We will frequently use the same Knapheide service body on up to three Ford chassis. We have tried other brands of service bodies and none have met our long term service needs.” This writer found three F-250s with Knapheide service bodies, one with 15 years of service and two with 10 years of service, still being used on a daily basis.

Sargent Irrigation and Well Service Support

Sargent’s commitment to the Irrigation industry does not end with well installation. Their broad and advanced customer support services follow. Service trucks located throughout their service areas provide fast and dependable irrigation service and maintenance. Our service technicians are equipped to diagnose problems in the field. Sargent Irrigation maintains a complete inventory of all major brands of pumps and motors for fast turnaround.

Video Well Inspection pinpoints damaged casings, infiltration obstructions, breaks, encrustation, corrosion and holes that may cause serious well problems.

Sonar – Jet Cleaning, used in conjunction with the camera survey, utilizes patented Sonar-Jet cleaning devices to clear encrusted casings using explosive shock waves. This process is environmentally compatible with no chemical disposal concerns or chemical residual levels.

“PEP” Sargent Pump Efficiency Program is a complete test of your pump and well with precision calibrated equipment providing flow measurement, pumping water level and discharge pressure.

Electric Logging or E-Logging to a maximum depth of 3,000 feet measures resistivity, spontaneous potential and gamma count of formations in a test well.

Sargent Well Service and support

Sargent uses a reverse circulation process to prevent plugging of the formation by withdrawing cuttings and drilling mud from the drill hole resulting in a more efficient well.

Municipal and Industrial Well Service

Sargent Drilling specializes in drilling and servicing municipal and industrial well pumping systems. Test Well Drilling is the first process of finding a successful irrigation or municipal well.

Heat Loop Wells utilize the geothermal energy of the earth as a very efficient HVAC medium for heating and cooling utilizing the 54 degree underground temperature as a resource.

Dewatering Wells – Shallow temporary dewatering wells address high water tables around construction sites.

Sargent Pipe Company                                           

Sargent Irrigation Company, founded in 1937, added the Sargent Pipe Company in 1974 due to the insufficient supply of quality turbine pumps. The objective was to engineer a highly efficient and dependable turbine pump.

Mike Whitesel, President, shared “We hired engineering and technical people to begin development of the Sargent Turbine Pump. Sophisticated custom machines were designed and developed to produce the turbine pump and related products. By the spring of 1975, we manufactured and shipped the first Sargent Turbine Pump.”

For a better understanding of their industry leading capabilities, check out the following YouTube award video – “How its made / water pumps” [4] 

Luke Wassom, General Manager –  “We continue to produce a number of turbine pumps and expand into the manufacture of drilling rigs, pump hoists, drilling support and pump installation equipment. Recent expansions into complex industry services include pipe perforation, 2 and 3 dimensional design, custom CNC machining along with custom


Community involvement and support

Six Nebraska cities with Sargent Irrigation and Sargent Drilling locations with an average population of just over 3,000 rely heavily on their support of selected local community events, youth activities and organizations. 

This page has info for editorial use as needed.

The Ogallala Aquifer, an underground water deposit the size of Lake Ontario, underlies parts of eight states from South Dakota to Texas. The aquifer continues to provide water for all aspects of life for those living near or operating businesses that depend on the water supply lying just below the surface.  Loren Taylor, age 84 and retired from Sargent Pipe Company, shared some valuable information regarding the Ogallala Aquifer. In the Nebraska Sandhills region of the aquifer, four rivers continually flow, draining water out of the higher water elevations of the Sandhills. The North Loup, the Middle Loup, the South Loup and the Dismal River continually drain excess water from the higher elevations of the Ogallala Aquifer and have never run dry during Loren’s 84 years in the area. The Sandhills are fortunate to have a continual supply of water from the aquifer. Other regions and states are perhaps not as lucky as studies continue researching the “Ogallala Aquifer Depletion: Situation to manage, not problem to solve” as published in https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/ an excellent article to further explore the aquifer’s future in other areas. [5] 

It takes a “Tight Ship” for a successful operation in the water business. From source to delivery, Sargent Irrigation and Sargent Drilling continually rely on Ford Trucks and Knapheide products to help their customers succeed. Their enthusiasm and desire to serve their customers since 1937 is contagious and on display at every one of their twelve locations.

For all of the followers of the Ford Pros magazine, what a pleasure it has been to share useful ideas to help every Ford dealer improve their customer service. Sargent Irrigation and Sargent Drilling exemplifies the passion and enthusiasm I have tried to live by in my fifty-five years of creating customer solutions. As I finish my last article, I wish you all the luck in the world.

Taylor Steinberg

Corporate Sales Trainer

The Knapheide Manufacturing Company