Saturday, September 9, 2017

Mixed Emotions

I lived in Florida for many years and moved out to the Midwest just before Andrew decimated South Florida. Living in Florida can make you jaded when it comes to tropical weather, with tropical storms and hurricanes striking with regularity. You basically become inured to it all which can be a foolish, even deadly, thing to do. While I moved to tornado alley, my parents and relatives remained in Florida. Now they are facing a deadly storm of tremendous size and scope and I am stuck here in South Texas concerned for them. Even after all the warnings and comparisons to prior storms we still see people with that "Andrew Complex"; they believe nothing could be that bad again. Perhaps they need to speak to the folks in Moore, OK who have repetitively borne about the worst that nature can toss at you. My grandfather found Naples back in the early 70's (they even have a commemorative bench dedicated to him downtown) and made it his home. This was before it evolved from a sleepy seaside town into a enclave for the rich and famous. My parents and relatives eventually followed and some remain there. In the meantime they bought and sold a lot of waterfront real estate which, thank goodness, they have mostly sold. I say this because  have a gut feeling that Naples is going to really "take it on the chin" with this storm. My sister, her daughter and husband live south of Miami and have done yeoman's work; including not only prepping their and my sisters home, but also braving the traffic and scarce fuel to retrieve my mother and a friend from Naples. They are all hunkered down in my sisters home and I am praying for them. I have mixed emotions about just what nature is going to deal them, but as long as they survive, material things can be replaced.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Night Moves

We evacuated from our gate at the Booth Ranch located between Gonzales and Cuero due to flooding danger from the nearby Guadalupe river. Our security company had been watching the hurricane updates and quashed our plans to ride out the storm in Gonzales; they said there was a chance that the winds and flooding might be too much for our RV. So; after finally getting our release from  our Company Man, I began to break camp with plans to head to Elmendorf, close to San Antonio. Both Missy and I had both been up for a day or two, napping periodically, worried about the storm and I let her get another hour or two of rest before breaking the news to her. 

For me there s little worse than setting up or breaking camp in the dark (rain is a close second). When we left our gate we packed up between 3 and 6 a.m. Age has deteriorated my vision and memory and things left setting in the dark easily get forgot, adding to the frustration. Then there is my connection paranoia. Fifth wheel trailers use a system similar to 18 wheelers with a 5th wheel and kingpin connection to connect the tug to the trailer. Even though we follow a procedure to ensure the jaws on the fifth wheel are wrapper around the  kingpin and locked; including a tug check, I still have this unwarranted fear that we will come unhooked. Maybe a dose of worry is a good thing when you're towing 8 tons around. After fumbling around camp and with frayed nerves we finally headed out to Elmendorf. After riding out the storm for three days we received the all clear to head back to our gate. Of course, it was late afternoon and that meant setting up in the dark. After a nearly 90 mile drive, we ran into our worse fear; road blocks manned by Texas DOT folks who informed us the road into our gate was flooded. We were given directions to try to go around the water covered roads and struck out. Half and hour or so later, via two lane back roads, we topped the hill overlooking our gate and there was water as far as you could see. Frustrated and disappointed we had no alternative but to head back to Gonzales and to await instructions from our security company. Late the next afternoon we were directed to return to the company yard south of San Antonio. Shortly after arriving we were informed that there was a gate available the next morning, located just south of Fowlerton. That meant we would have to break camp and travel again in the dark! Somewhere around three hundred miles later, mostly navigated in the dark, I am sharing this with you. By the way, the 5th wheel hitch did its job and we arrived safely.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Musings of a Veteran Gate Guard

Veteran gate guard. That almost sounds surreal when referring to us. It doesn't seem like yesterday, but it also doesn't seem so long ago that we first rolled up to the Gate Guard Services facility near Whitset. We were noobs with absolutely no experience as gate guards and were posted near Kenedy the next morning. Six plus years later and I am very familiar with the Kenedy and Karnes City area. How strange those and other places seemed to us back then. Now we don't even rate an escort to our gates; it is a rare occasion when we can't figure out how to get to even the most remote and obscure places. We have worked from near Amarillo to just miles from the Rio Grande. About the only real preferences we have are not to stray to far from civilization. We are currently about an hour from the nearest grocery store, which is reaching, if not exceeding our limit. While that may seem odd to some, we simply feel that we can and should be as comfortable as possible. We don't feel the need to "rough it" anymore. As has been said "There's no sniffling in the oil patch" (or something like that) so we still take most of what we are offered. If there is any perk we receive as veterans it is the right to refuse an assignment. It used to be we were more or less directed to pack our sh*t and be somewhere. Now the conversation usually begins with a small description of what the security company has to offer with the caveat that we don't have to accept it. We had to earn that kind of treatment by accepting every kind of assignment imaginable and working through the hell that is summer in South Texas. Here's a tip; most security companies take care of their fulltimers so expect that your wait time for a gate might be predicated by a guard with more time in the patch than you, regardless of how long your wait has been. We have rarely waited more than a week for work; a testament to our diligence and the high regard our exploration company has for us. I believe being "out there" for some folks means they can comport themselves however they please. That's simply not the case and it will eventually catch up to you. You still should work on your appearance and answer the bell promptly; whether someone is breathing down your neck or not. That's really some of the most important advice I can offer. Like life in the "real world", first appearances mean a lot.

Enough of my advice and preaching. For only the second time in over six years we were forced to abandon/evacuate a gate. Those of you that know me know that as a person and former Marine, that is a difficult thing to ask. (If you want an insight into just what that means; I suffered through chest pains for almost a week before finally acquiescing and  going to the hospital. Turns out I was having a heart attack; but I just couldn't bring myself to abandon my post. I know, kind of dumb, but that's my ethos.) Unlike our semi normal routine of setting up or rigging down a work site; having to leave on an unplanned and accelerated schedule is tough. We were set up on a gate near the Guadalupe river (on a working cattle ranch) and flooding was predicted. Although we obviously can't know for certain, I believe it was a prudent move; especially given the rainfall totals and weather reports we saw. We were on a gate near Three Rivers once when a spring deluge hit (not uncommon in Texas) and I hemmed and hawed about leaving till our escape road flooded over. Luckily the water only ended up halfway up our trailer wheels. The following is my opinion. I'll say this; if you're in a situation where you feel unsafe (for any reason) and lack guidance, do not hesitate to strike camp and go. Whatever you decide you should let your security company know your intentions. No job is worth putting you and your property in harms way. That's just my two cents worth and you should take it with a grain of salt.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Changes

The month of May will be a month of changes for Missy and I. After about ten years together we decided to marry. Besides loving and respecting each other we have also become good friends. We also have started and run a business plus supplement our income as independent contractors. It has not always been easy, but after many years of not holding a "regular" job we believe we've got the hang of it. Many of those years have been spent working as gate guards in the South Texas oil fields; eventually "burning out" from the seemingly endless routine. Well, we have gotten by fairly well for about six months; but a serious income upgrade would be a great help. So it's back to gate guarding for a short (hopefully) spell. Our ultimate goal would be to have a steady, seasonal job about half the year and to gate guard some of the rest. I found a place to roost at a RV park near San Antonio which gave us a place to park and a little money to boot. Unfortunately, there is no opening for Missy here and she has struggled to find employment nearby. She also has the weight of the business on her shoulders which eats up a lot of her time. It also appears that my efforts at the RV park have shown them the need for a full time person to fill the part time position I will be vacating. I like it here, but hate working EVERY weekend and the pay is abysmal. Not to go off on a tangent, but this RV park exemplifies what ails the world of workamping. It's a great place to work, but the work hours required to cover your rent leaves little change in your pocket. Not to beat a dead horse; but I stand behind my belief that you should give a workamper a site with utilities and pay for all hours worked. Anyway, we will continue to search for a job to carry us through the months away from the patch, plus prepare for either the inevitable next slowdown or the end of gate guarding as we know it. Plus, we can't do this forever. Who knows? Our business may finally blossom into enough of a income generator to forgo us working at all. We both love working on and selling drones, plus enjoy the interaction with our customers. So; big changes are in the cards for us, but that's one of the reasons we have a house with wheels.