Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Musings yet Again

It strikes me as funny that we survived another end of the world scare and I am concerned we may not survive the Obama years. Basically, Washington is at a stand still while Obama suns himself in Hawaii and Congress has gone home for the holidays. Did anyone notice that a report was issued on Benghazi which puts the blame on the Secretary of State and her department? Of; I forgot, she is a lame duck (and home sick) and couldn't care less. Add the holidays in and the resignation of Petraeus and you have a classic "sweep it under the rug" handling of the whole mess. Did you also know we still haven't filled the vacancy at the DEA for a director? And that it's been open six years? No budget, no direction or money for infrastructure repair, no border policy, no policy for the aliens already here, no energy policy, a foreign policy in tatters, etc. I'd say we're hard at work on your campaign slogan Mr. Obama-it's just not what I call forward. Happy New Year Everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Grinch

I'm a Grinch. There, I said it. Given our families early Christmases, you'd think otherwise. A traditional Americana Christmas reigned supreme in our household throughout my early teens. I remember a lot of them fondly. My sister and I used to get new pajamas every Christmas; you know the ones with the feet. Do they make them anymore? When we were in Illinois at Christmas time my father liked to make the rounds with me wishing all his relatives happy holidays. His commitment to the Air Force made his time at home very precious. I was blessed to have great grandparents for most of my early Christmases. I remember Christmas with them very fondly. On my father’s side, it was a traditional German celebration at great grandpa Ben's house. On my Mom's side, we had huge get together's at great grandmother Maude's house. As I have said in past posts, this is where I grew to appreciate food and its preparation. None of the maternal side of my family measured anything and recipes were just a list of ingredients and subtle reminders. I think the wrenching of families from their roots and constant moving might have had something to do with my loss of affection for Christmas. That was the price one paid for being a military brat. To me Christmas is about the gathering of family and friends and Christmas dinner. When I was around my parents, some of that old spirit would come back. When my father was still working my parents would throw these huge parties for all the folks who worked with him to attend. Friends and neighbors were also invited, My mother would complain about all the preparation involved and I doubt she would have done it without mine or someone’s help. They had nice homes on the Florida coast and we decorated everything from the banana trees to the boat docked out back. These days the availability of work pretty much dictates where I roost. Finances are such that it precludes travel to see the folks I love and spend Christmas with them. At least I have some pleasant memories to fall back on. Otherwise, BAH HUMBUG! Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2012


Baktun is the Mayan term for each 394 year cycle and we just concluded one. Just like Y2K (remember that?) there has been a ton of hub bub about it. Though absolutely nothing foreboding that has been found concerning this Baktun in the Mayan culture; some are convinced that it will be the end of days. My father was an expert on the Maya and their culture. I bet he's sharing a grin with the ancient Mayans and looking down humorously at all of us. As I look out into the gloaming, it appears another sunrise is in store and I remain alive and well. Their are events that have occurred in my life that have caused me to reflect on my mortality and its fragility. This event was not one that I invested much thought in. However; as I have aged I have put more and more thought into my own end of days and find myself at peace with it all. That makes events like this Baktun much easier to face.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Happened?

Given a cursory look you might find me a bit bigoted, set in my ways, and even cantankerous. I’m actually a hold out who embraces the way this country and its people used to be; and yes, I’m opposed to change. I especially dislike the kind of change that has occurred over the last few years. I’m a John Wayne; embrace your heritage, apple pie kind of guy. Acts of patriotism such as flag raisings and patriotic ceremonies can sometimes bring a tear to my eye. Most folks that have gotten past my hard, outer shell find a gregarious, generous and fun loving guy.

In my day I caroused with the best of them. I might not be proud of some of the things I did, but I have few regrets. I lived hard and fast and partied with the best of them. It has taken me years to figure out and accept the teachings and wisdom of my parents. One of the key things I have carried from their teachings is respect for your elders and/or those senior to you. That has been a constant in my life; it is rare that I am not polite and respectful. I have always thought that the things that are wrong with this country are very simple. In my opinion it is the lack of this respect and the disintegration of the nuclear family.

We have folks these days that have absolutely no respect for figures in authority. Authorities like police are viewed as nothing more than an impediment to them. Something that is keeping them from performing or enjoying whatever nefarious activity they have planned. Most of our freedoms are tempered by the admonition of not infringing upon others rights while enjoying ours. Unfortunately we have a few that wish to trample all over their fellow citizens. Those that know me know that I abhor any further intrusion by the government on my day to day activities. Personally I think we have enough laws on the books (if not too many) to just about cover any circumstance we might encounter.

After the horrific slaughter in Sandy Hook, I gave a lot of thought as how to best address it and not offend some of my readers. I believe a blog should express the true feelings of its inventor and author. You have to have some form of integrity, or you end up building a house of cards. Of course, I guess you could publish a fictional story and make up stuff. Not me. And that is what I struggle with on a regular basis. How best to express myself and not alienate folks or disclose too much personal stuff. The unfortunate fact remains that through the years, including during the assault rifle ban, the occurrences of mass murder has more or less remained the same. Now, we again have to face a reactionary whiplash to an incident, rather than address what is truly wrong here. And we may be too far gone for that to happen. In my hopeful view of the world a man and a woman marry, have kids and raise them to respect each other and their fellow man. They grow up to be proud, law abiding American citizens and live the American dream. Unfortunately, after everything in our power is done, we still have few means to prevent a madman bent on raining death and destruction on us.

My heart goes out to everyone who has and is suffering from criminal acts perpetrated upon them, their families and friends. May God bless them through this difficult time.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Preparing for the Freeze

It’s that time of year again. You have to endure freezing temperatures every now and then; even in South Texas. Those of you surviving off of nurse trailers in the oil patch should be preparing. After much travail, we have found the best thing to do is to fill your internal tank and bring your water hose into the house. We store ours in the shower. Most of you have little to worry about as far as frozen pipes and damage to your RV goes. I forget the mathematics, but it would take many hours of freezing temperatures before that becomes an issue. Since I admonished everyone in an earlier post, I know you all have checked and run your heaters-right? And you have checked your propane levels-right? Since we are a mobile bunch, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few other things. The tires on your vehicles and RV’s need to be monitored. The lower the temperature goes the greater the change in your tire pressure(s). You should also allow the engines in your vehicles to warm up before putting them under load. So; get into the habit of checking a few things and be thankful we’re not in Minnesota.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Texas T, Bureaucracy and Baked Potatoes

Rumors abound that a new play is about to open out west. Fueling the rumors and adding to the excitement is all the infrastructure and equipment already in place in the Permian Basin. Oil; Texas T or Black Gold is what they’re after; especially sites that can produce 2000 barrels a day or higher. Big money and thousands of acres of land have changed hands in recent months. I’m not sure; but my source says they do use gate guards out that way. Maybe someone in the gate guard community can comment on that. In the meantime, the Sunday San Antonio paper had a front page article on the Eagle Ford Shale and the goings on in that area. It looks like we will be in business for a while. And, even though it currently isn’t selling well (due to depressed prices), we do have dry gas in abundance. If we could ever get the pipeline completed that might help make it more cost effective. On that note, there are gate guard opportunities on the pipeline. From what I’ve heard it does not pay as much; but the hours are shorter and the workload lighter. I even heard some gates allow you to lock up at night and roam!

We completed the involved process to become eligible to bid on government jobs. You can browse through my blogs and find updates. Basically it is a two step process requiring you to bare your soul. In short, you have to get a Dun’s number, then register the Dun’s number on the Sam’s site and then hope it is approved. Once approved you are assigned a CAGE (commercial and government entity) number which is how the government identifies you. The difficulty we encountered was that certain sites don’t recognize the browser we use. Had we known that things would have gone much smoother. Also, some of the questions you have to answer are posed in a manner only a bureaucrat could think up. The goal of all this was to try to win a bid to work as a Gate Attendant for the Corps of Engineers. Ultimately we want to be able to work winters down here and summers in the Midwest.

Yesterday the rig held its customary spud meeting and had food catered in.  This time was exceptional as ribeye steak was on the menu. The stars of the show; however, were the baked potatoes. They were eight to ten inches long and a good four inches in diameter! Unbelievable, and with all the trimmings. We also learned that they are adding more pads here and that our rig’s sister will be moving in. Unfortunately; due to the pay we already are receiving, we won’t be compensated for the extra work.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Yule Season Rant

I’m putting together yet another post on current affairs and I wanted to do that without rehashing the subjects that have polarized this country for some time. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that.

The Monroe Doctrine gone awry. It basically was a document that espoused the idea that our interests lay beyond our shores and we should protect those interests both diplomatically and with force; if necessary. It came out at a time of great change in the Caribbean and both North and South America. Countries were freeing themselves from colonial rule and we nobly supported them. Unfortunately, every time some third world country expressed an interest in Democracy, off our country went. We became the world’s democratic police force. The watershed moment for the American public was the Viet Nam conflict and the internal strife that it caused. Personally, I think our presence in Afghanistan has little or nothing to do with supporting democratic intentions. We can continue to wield our sword worldwide, alienating more and more of the world’s population, or find an alternative. Even if we were to eliminate the Al Qaeda presence there; what do you think a bunch of tribesmen are going to do then? I’d sure like to know what our future plans are. Most folks I talk to generally agree with me and it looks like we are again going to exit a conflict with our tail between our legs. All the men and women who fought so valiantly and bravely deserve better.

He said she said. I have no idea who Susan Rice is other than she is the Ambassador to the United Nations. After the Benghazi attack she was dispatched to make the Sunday morning talk show circuit to enlighten everyone as to what the United States thought had happened. I have contended from the moment that I heard of the attack that it was a terrorist strike. The CIA says that that was their analysis to and that was in the message given to the State Department. The State Department says otherwise and neither one can seem to figure out how it could have been omitted from Susan’s briefing before going on air. Senators and Representatives alike are directing their anger over what was said (or not said) both by Susan Rice and the President in regards to Benghazi. No one seems to be concentrating on finding out what actually occurred there. Susan is also the hand selected successor to Hillary Clinton for the position of Secretary of State. Because of this faux pas, that is now in doubt. To me this is a classic diversion of time and effort from what we should be concentrating on. Does anyone think we’ll ever know what happened in Benghazi?

Someone is trying to get our elected representatives off of their collective asses and make them do something about the fiscal nightmare that is our national budget. Both the House and the Senate agreed to forced cuts (now known as the “fiscal cliff”) in order to agree to disagree over the current budget. The Democrats are inflexible when it comes to entitlements such as Social Security and Welfare. The Republicans don’t want taxation messed with; especially when it comes to the wealthy. Both sides are talking; but remain unwilling to compromise. I say let’s think outside the box and try a flat tax for a year or two.

Here are some final thoughts. Our national power grid is cobbled together with worn out and outdated equipment. Our infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating. We have little protection and no uniform immigration policy on our borders. The result is a melting pot of people unwilling to assimilate and a polarized electorate. We seem unable to confront the ravages of drug abuse in this country and continue to waste resources trying to stem the tide. Unemployment is rampant and our state and national budgets are in disarray. Those that are brilliant enough to pose solutions find themselves stymied by arcane laws and an unyielding bureaucracy. We have more than enough on our plate to keep ourselves busy without expending our blood and treasure overseas.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Service Person Problem Redux

I have chronicled our repeated disasters with repair persons here in Texas; to the point that my dear readers are probably tired of hearing about it. When we started making decent money in the oil patch we embarked on a mission to perform some desperately needed repairs on our motorhome. I won’t go into detail here; you can browse through the post list and read all about them if you like.

Our latest travail began when the installer for our newly ordered satellite Internet attempted to locate us. (Geographic knowledge of south Texas isn’t necessary, but might be helpful at this point) He was in Pearsall and I tried to give him directions, but couldn’t get him to shut up long enough to relay same. I firmly and politely told him if he could just shut up a second, I would give him step by step directions. About an hour later the installer called and said he was in Dilley and could not find the road I had mentioned. Obviously I was a little perturbed at this point and my perturbed persona probably took over. I asked why he was in Dilley and didn’t I tell him take the road just outside of Pearsall? He replied that I did indeed tell him that and that he didn’t know why he wrote down Dilley. I observed that it wasn’t my fault he wrote down the wrong directions. He said he didn’t like my tone and that if he couldn’t get to me in 20 minutes he was rescheduling. After assuaging his ego with my still firm but polite, perturbed persona, I explained that even if he came straight here he was further than twenty minutes away. Then I again gave him a set of directions. At this point I wasn’t sure he was going to show up, so I called Missy (who was working our next gate as we were again covering two gates, which is another story) and updated her. I would not have wanted to be on the receiving end of the call, but she contacted customer service. Some thirty minutes later the installer called and I talked him through to my location. An argument immediately ensued over whether the purpose built stand I bought would work for the dish. He proceeded to work though, and the dish miraculously found its way onto the stand. At this point, I asked the installer if I could observe as he aligned the dish, as we would be relocating frequently. I should have known something was screwy when he said to use our Dish Network satellite to line up the Internet dish. Then he said something about making adjustments and tones. I also should have known something was screwy (and the installer should have too) when our computer would not sync with the modem and he was forced to use his. After he left our computer would not stay on line and we could not access password protected web sites. Many fruitless phone calls to customer service resulted in a technician being scheduled to come out in four or five days. Missy thought this was no bueno and let me and everyone she talked to know it. In the meantime, we relocated and I dismounted the dish to facilitate moving it. OK! First time set up of our new Internet satellite and alignment using the Dish Network dish as a reference did not work. I got frustrated and told Missy I had to have some numbers, or coordinates for the satellite. Kentucky windage was not going to work here. She was a trooper and dug for hours till she found the info via Google (the satellite tech service was again useless). Voila; we aligned the dish using a compass, dialed in the numbers for the satellite and within five minutes had good tones and Internet! Here’s the good part. Once Missy and I dialed everything in correctly all of our problems disappeared-the installer had never completely dialed in the dish!

Here’s an update on our attempts to get registered so we can bid on government contracts. First, we had to get a Dun’s number. Then we had to use that to register at the CCR (or Central Contract Registration) site, which has been changed to SAM’s (System Awards Management). Our problem with Dun’s was that the site does not recognize Google and our problem at Sam’s was that it did not recognize Internet Explorer. Kind of frustrating! Now that that is done I think we are waiting for something called CAGE. We are close to two weeks into this process and still aren’t eligible to bid. I wonder if any government types have done a trial run of this process. Another update surely will follow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updates and an Opinion

Update on becoming eligible to bid on government contracts: After spending too much time trying to register on the Dun’s website, we gave up and called them today. It turns out that establishing P.O. boxes as we wander around prevented the computer from recognizing us. We have a permanent address that we forward our mail from and use as our resident address. That didn’t work either, so I used the last address I had when I lived in a real house. Anyway, we now have a Dun’s number and now must get registered with the government. That’s the Central Contract Registration or CCR site which is now the Sam’s site. Once we are registered as a contractor we can then bid on jobs. Hopefully some of you find this informative as I will update as we go through the process.
Update on my never ending battle with my basement heat pumps: I ripped the front heat pump out of the nose of the motor home because the fan had failed. I now know how Andy felt when he removed his generator. We had a parade of folks that came through today that thought we would never get it back together; much less installed. The unit has to literally be shoe horned in and out of the space. Once it is out the fan is removed by gutting everything between the evaporator and condenser-wow what a challenge. It is back in place and working now. I like basement air; but don’t think the effort and expense to maintain it is worth it.
Update on internet in the boonies: We are stepping into the 21st century and acquiring Wild Blue satellite internet. We were content with the Virgin air card (actually a Mi Fi) that included 5 MB’s per 30 day period. Unfortunately Virgin has a limited presence in the oil patch. We then submitted to the monopoly that is AT&T (at least where we work) and acquired phones and an air card from them. The problem is that AT&T’s pay as you go plan only allows you 1 MB of data! We have debated about getting satellite internet, especially since it requires a contract, but finally relented when they had a cyber Monday special and offered free installation and setup.
I wanted to address the disagreement some folks have over blog content. Apparently some folks take umbrage over the content of some blogs, saying their content is superfluous and inane. My feelings are that a blog should be a place where you are allowed to express yourself, whatever the content may be. Some of it may disturb you, but the freedom to do that should be sacrosanct. Not all of us are talented writers and some of us apparently think that describing our daily routine is a subject of interest. Whatever your motives, I say write away. For those of you that are not pleased with what you read, just remember-dismissing it from your screen only requires a click on your part. Sometimes I believe the blogs I read are the author’s way of reaching out, sort of a vicarious way of keeping in touch and staying busy. So be it-write away my fellow bloggers!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gratitude of the Gate Guard Kind

I got to thinking about the things we as gate guards are grateful for. I don’t doubt the veracity or sincerity of the things we give thanks for. I just think we sometimes forget or take a lot of blessings for granted. This morning I realized AGAIN how grateful I am for having a level pad to park our motorhome on. For the last few months we keep returning to a gate on an incline. We have wooden pads that we made to keep our jacks off of the ground. They were not much help as once the jacks were fully extended we still were not level. We then fabricated ramps out of wood and plastic pads and drove up on them. Remember that each of these attempts required running around the motorhome and adding/removing whatever material we could find to get the front of the motorhome up in the air. Our final setup had the back bumper inches from the ground and our front bumper about waist high. We still were not level and; even though it was only nose down a few degrees, it caused problems. The shower did not drain properly and if you got up too quickly you would catch yourself stumbling. I didn't realize how much it affected my sleep till we settled on our current pad. I haven’t said much about it, but I have noticed and appreciated the cooler temperatures. Especially since we are now tackling the overhaul of our front air conditioner. I am grateful that the roughnecks we have on this rig don’t come and go at all hours of the day and night. I am grateful for a field superintendent and company men that value and appreciate us. I am grateful and also want to give a plug to J Bar. I will not publish his name, but one of their drivers shares what water he has remaining with us after he services the rig. There are many other things, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the gratitude I feel for having so many caring and giving colleagues on (and off) gates around us. I mention this because I have also met the killjoys we have on a few gates. Boy; that will make you grateful!
I almost forgot-I am grateful I have a job!!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkeys, Monkeys and Stress

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and our home is a cornucopia of sights and smells. Non perishable pies are stacked on the counters (thank God it’s not 100 degrees these days) and the icebox smells like a corner diner. We simply have no more room for storing food. This happens every year around the holidays. You would think we would learn. We seem to always snatch up the deal at the local supermarket and then can’t get rid of it all. We not only had the rig feed us, we also had a friend bring a dish from home (we babysat their gate so they could have Thanksgiving dinner at home). This year I had an idea things were again going to get out of hand so we did not smoke our turkey. We did smoke a turkey breast. Since I was otherwise occupied, Missy took on the task of smoking the turkey breast. She did an outstanding job. If there was a way I would feed the less fortunate with our leftovers.

We have embarked on the journey of becoming eligible to bid on government contracts. Since I didn’t think this would be easy (and I was right), I am going to document our efforts on this blog. We worked during two summers in the Branson area and of all the places we’ve worked that is our favorite. We both enjoy the shows and the recreational opportunities. We would like to work as gate attendants for the Corps of Engineers at Table Rock Lake. So far I know I have to obtain a Duns number and some CCR thing. I got the skinny from a Corps of Engineers employee which was my first step, especially since that would give me a human to communicate with. Today I went to the website that takes you through the steps necessary to obtain the Duns number. After many hours and failed attempts-something about their site not responding-I have given up for now. A brief excursion on the Google search engine revealed that the CCR thingee is now a SAM thingee. I’ll also pursue that later.

Things of note:
Apparently there are enough foolish people out there to cause an accident involving over 100 vehicles. I don’t know about you, but if the weather ever gets bad enough to where I can’t see I am getting off the highway. Apparently a bunch of folks on I-10 near Beaumont, Texas didn’t get the memo. I remember a memorable drive between Pensacola, Florida and Mobile, Alabama one night where conditions got that way. Fog had made visibility drop to under a hundred yards. The majority of drivers never lifted off of the throttle, at night and in a 70 mph zone. I was terrified before we found an exit.
I hope none of my readers ever react to stress by not only destroying their home; but also over thirty homes of other innocent folks. A couple is suspected of doing that exact thing. Unlike their now deceased neighbors, they were not at home. They tried to blame the explosion on a faulty heater, but the fact that they were not home and authorities feel the explosion was remotely triggered, makes them prime suspects. I can’t imagine that conversation-“Gee honey, I told you not to wait that long” or ”Wow that was a lot bigger than we planned!” You get the idea.
On a more positive note; we actually had a good encounter with a mechanic. We had him install new shocks and struts on our Santa Fe. When I went to drive it, a loud rattling (did I say LOUD?) emanated from the back of the car. A call to the mechanic resulted in him not only coming out to our site to fix it; he also admitted to having left a spacer out of one the shocks. I was impressed.
Finally, please do not ever get so stressed or out of control that you feel the need to go to your local zoo and beat the stuffing out of some poor, innocent monkey. As I like to say I can’t make this up folks. They are out there and among us!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Somebody Throw Me a Line

Well, it’s 40 some days and counting before we hit the “fiscal cliff”. This was put in place to get our representatives in Washington off their collective butts and make something happen. I believe some stop gap measure will be enacted before they are forced to take their medicine. They've done it before and one wonders how much “teeth” this “fiscal cliff” has when everyone knows there is an out. It’s odd that much of the argument hinges on taxes. You can argue endlessly; but much of the burden lies with our over bloated government and the cost to fund it. Income tax is the easy way out and the system (like much of government) is flawed and broken. If you’re going to talk taxation, you should explore the alternatives. The numbers work for implementing a flat tax or national sales tax and dumping the I.R.S. Of course the problem remains in how much we can feel secure that the folks distributing it will use it for its intended purpose. Obviously if they can’t get anything done now, the odds of tax reform are a pipe dream. How much other pending legislation remains pending or how many unfunded mandates are out there? Everyone is in a tizzy because of the timeline. I liken it to a football game where you didn't get it done and now must depend on the kicker to win the game. When our founders put all this together, they failed to implement measures to hold our elected representatives “feet to the fire”. Other than voting and anemic polls, we have little power over them.

An observation or two:
I previously wrote that the folks affected by Sandy needed to pull together to get through this horrific catastrophe. I've seen heroic efforts in this regard, with folks not even affected by the events lending a hand. Now the insurance agencies need to get in the act. I say pay up guys or at least cut them a partial check.

I have a significant passing to report. Sadly, Hostess has shut down and Twinkies are no more. Even sadder, the death throes of unions everywhere continue. The “death threat” of shutting a company down unless workers capitulate apparently is ineffective. So the bakers at Hostess have painfully learned. This is just another example of how the working man is underpaid and under appreciated in this country. 

Please don't write and deride me as being a union lover. I am far from that; but it's obvious that workers need some sort of representation and protection.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What a Tangled Web we Weave

Just to clarify-I am not puffing my chest or singing my own praises. I recently blogged on the mess in Benghazi and how uncovering the facts surrounding this event has become a world class case of obfuscation. Now we have the Generals (one of which was the director of the CIA) directly involved in the cover up of this incident involved in a sordid mess of their own. Apparently the brass has been having affairs and keeping concubines. As more and more comes to light, we find out that the whistle blower on the Petraeus affair was a woman who herself was involved with a General Officer. Apparently one hussy felt threatened by another, didn't want her poaching in her territory, and expressed her displeasure via e-mail. I can’t make this stuff up folks. You should know that military men and women have been “sowing their oats” around the world for ages. General Chenault, for example, famously provided booze and women to the pilots of the Flying Tigers back in the day. General Eisenhower never made any pretense of the fact that he was carrying on with his driver during WW 2. How do you think Mata Hari got all her information? Should I go on?
Conveniently all this has come to light just as Petraeus was set to testify on what he knew about Benghazi. Pardon me while I adjust my foil hat. This morning we had Senator McCain further solidifying what I had said all along and calling the President a liar; among other things. Additionally he called out the Secretary of state to be more forthcoming and stated her designated successor to not be worthy of the office. Can you hear the world smirking and laughing at our expense? So, with the star witness out of the way, the powers to be have inadvertently stirred up another hornet’s nest. Now at least one of the women has been shown to have sensitive and even secret documents in her possession. Again, I can’t make this up!
Is anyone listening out there? If so, at what point do you get mad enough to say something? Did the majority of you really want this administration and its clowns back in office? All of us conspiracy theorists who hold a deep distrust of our government keep seeing more and more of our “outlandish” allegations bear fruit. Amongst other things we need smaller government along with a viable third party. This belief that the government should support you from cradle to grave has to stop or we will see the eventual demise of our great country.
One more thing for all of us to ponder. How did such intelligent people believe that their e-mail was inviolable? Just so you know-everything you produce in your e-mail is on a server somewhere. This includes your drafts, trash, inboxes, etc. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

R/C Toys

We have a hobby that began as a way to keep us active and busy. It started with a remote control Jeep from WalMart that proved woefully inadequate for the terrain in South Texas. A trip to the World Wide Web revealed a slew of alternatives. As is my custom I began an investigation to uncover the best choice of remote control vehicle at the best price. I found a 1/10 scale Traxxas Short Course truck that works off of powerful motors and rechargeable batteries. They are borderline child’s toys that require adult supervision. They are also programmable to limit the top speed, which can easily exceed thirty miles an hour. Short course trucks are an actual form of racing and the Traxxas models are faithful to their inspiration. There is a touring series for both the models and the actual race trucks. There are both two and four wheel drive models. They come with working shocks and springs, driveshafts, gear boxes-most everything that a real vehicle would have. It quickly became apparent that four wheel drive is the way to go on the caliche surface that surrounds us. There are professionals and fanatics out there that modify the machines/models in every way imaginable. For us simply bashing (that’s what it’s called) around the gate area is a load of fun. Now we have discovered helicopters! I was extremely leery of any flying model. Lord knows I have destroyed my share. As a kid, frustration set in and the models would often meet an untimely death after sustaining damage inflicted from my inability to control them. Like the cars, you should do some thorough research before making the plunge. Our final choice had a retail price of over $130 and we paid a third of that. My leeriness helped cause my search to last well over a year. The reviews were more confusing than helpful. Gyros or not, how many channels, what company, what style, what size, etc. Once I finally committed, I found myself terrified that I would damage this marvel of engineering. It is beautiful and much larger than I expected. After several failed attempts to get the thing airborne, I got the idea to purchase a small indoor helicopter. Voila! I was soon flying the little helo around the motorhome. I’m not an expert or anything, but at least I could get airborne. The next trial was to apply what I had learned outside with the big copter. Wind is your enemy-little or no wind is a requirement to safely fly a model helicopter. Anyway, I am happy to report that I was able to get the thing off the ground-and land with no damage. For less than an hour’s practice, I am happy with my progress. What a load of fun and what a mental challenge. I highly recommend remote control cars, trucks and helicopters to while away the hours.

A Smell in Benghazi

The big spin machine that is politics in this country couldn't have churned up a timelier smoke screen than the one that has enveloped the terrorist assault of our Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Why more folks aren't upset about this is beyond me. Our government has controlled the release of any and all information concerning this horrific event. It has also squelched any efforts to reveal the truth that surrounds this event. It turns out that there were many requests to increase the security at the Consulate. All denied because some politico thousands of miles away couldn't find any intelligence that supported the request. Obviously our intelligence has been lacking in the Middle East for some time now. The investigative team from the FBI sent to find out exactly what happened took weeks to get over there. By that time any evidence surely must have been corrupted or gotten rid of. News teams got there faster. Included in the little information we did get was the fact that the security personnel were not only former Seals; they were actually CIA employees. Marines sent soon after to protect our interests were refused entry into Yemen. How does this stuff happen and no one seems to take notice? My curiosity is not that of a witch hunt. I have no desire to obtain sensitive information that might further compromise our interests (something others in this electronic age should consider). I also don’t want endless, inane questioning by the blowhards in the Washington committees. I’d like someone to accept responsibility and have a concise, truthful expose of the event(s) that occurred. Neither this or any of the major intelligence/operational failures of late has seemed to raise the ire of the public or the folks that should be holding the people responsible. Oh; did we forget? A helicopter full of Seals shot down in route to support their brothers in arms-all of them perished. A brazen attack on a Marine Air Support squadron which resulted in the death of their commander and the destruction of many Harriers.  I wonder who had perimeter duty that day? I understand that this is not a war with a predefined goal. I also understand that years from now little or nothing will have changed in the Mid East. Go ask the Russians. While you’re at it, ask the French about Indo China. You might also want to have a chat with Obama and Romney since they haven’t mentioned the war on terror in weeks. Happy birthday to all my fellow Marines out there! Happy (I hope) Veterans Day to all those who are serving and have served. There are a lot of us out here that support you and have your best interests at heart

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How Self Reliant are You?

For the sake of accuracy, let me state that I have a lot of fellow gate guards that I have never met. I consider most of them friends. In today’s age of electronic communication that has become the norm.  It is interesting how you can determine a person’s mindset and personality via their writing. I feel I have formed a kinship with Andy; who also has a blog (apparently more popular than mine)- www.myoldrv.com. He is also braver than me when it comes to speaking his mind.
Anyway, Andy’s topic today was the apparent lack of preparation shown by a lot of the folks affected by the recent “super storm”. More importantly, he commented on how those folks seem so dependent on government help to get by-even for a week! I wanted to comment, but held back out of respect for those suffering. Now that “the cat is out of the bag”, I guess I can make some observations. I do not know what was broadcast in the Northeast. Here in South Texas the television broadcast non-stop about the size and ferocity of the storm. Still, we had folks who apparently did not fill up their vehicles or containers with fuel. We also had folks on the coast that refused to evacuate. For those of you not familiar with basements; they flood. So much so that most basements have a sump pump in them. Yet we had a hospital with a back-up generator in the basement. Worse than that; the primary generators fuel supply and pump were also in the basement. Bet that gets changed pronto. Folks might say it is insensitive to comment while the emergency continues. Fair enough, but like Andy I have lived through a lot of emergencies. My Mom spent the first week (and many more) after hurricane Andrew working like a dog cleaning up the house. She and my Dad were resourceful and got through it. I think the type of destruction was similar to Sandy’s. Interestingly it was said that had the storm hit a little further North we would have had an impact in the Miami area. Imagine the outcry and wailing that would have ensued had that happened. As it was, the folks in the affected area felt neglected by the folks up North as they had plenty of water and electricity. More recently, we lived through almost two weeks of no electricity during an ice storm in Oklahoma. While I realize I was fortunate to have an RV, I still had to be resourceful and ration what I had. We bled electricity off of the RV generator to keep the house from freezing and slept in the RV. For some reason I never thought of seeking out a news crew and complaining about my plight. And believe me two weeks without power is a LONG time. I look back now and realize how much more self sufficient I have become since going full time in my RV. I see that folks are now pulling together and helping each other out. You have to do this when these things happen. The government folks are going to have as hard a time as you (at first) getting around. While you may smirk at the survivalists out there, there is a lesson to be learned from them. I don’t know if you need to dig a hole somewhere and stash a year’s worth of supplies. I do know it is prudent to keep some cash in the house, at least some non perishable goods and some water. I do not in any way wish to diminish the pain and suffering of those caught in this storm’s path. I do hope that it serves as a wakeup call. On a broader scale our infrastructure remains much as it was fifty or more years ago. We still have yet to revamp our electrical grid, along with the water and sewer systems. And, as Andy eluded, how much longer can our ever growing society continue to burn through money and continue basic public services. At some point the borrowing will have to stop or our society will roll over the edge. When I see reports of companies losing millions of dollars in a quarter and our cities drowning in debt; I am left to wonder how long the travesty can continue.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Fat Lady is Warming Up

I never put much credence to the saying that says politics are wrangled over in smoke filled rooms. As I have gotten older I have realized just how true that is (with the exception of the smoke). I have previously voiced my concerns about the media's election onslaught, especially it's slanted polls. Now they're dragging out boards depicting the states and their electoral numbers. No matter how they shuffle the states and votes, they show Obama winning. I guess there is just no way for the media to remain unbiased and broadcast that way. The thing that concerns me the most is how much credence folks out there give this propaganda. I say vote (first and most important) and follow your principles and moral values. Finally, it is truly a shame that our system has reduced us to voting for the lesser of two evils-or anyone but the incumbent-or change for changes sake. Lordy, do we need a viable third party!

TV in the Oil Patch

Receiving and sending a clear signal to your television can be a challenge in a recreational vehicle. My coach had top notch technology when it was built in 1996. Now the “over the air” antenna is useless without a signal decoder and the satellite dome only has one LNB which limits the channels you can receive. To receive a satellite signal with high definition and local channels you need a dish with three LNB’s. Your dish will also either have a built in switch or you’ll have to add an inline switch so that the correct LNB transmits the signal to the television. In other words, most locals come in on one LNB, high definition on another and the remainder on yet another. Read Andy’s blog at www.myoldrv.com for everything you want to know about receiving satellite. Basically you will need the aforementioned dish, an HD receiver and a HD television to receive high definition television. These days it is MUCH easier to get Dish or Direct to come out to an RV and to establish an RV account. Dealing with RV’s is still fairly new to them, so you may have to be persistent. If you feel confident, money can be saved by purchasing the equipment through E Bay, Amazon or other sources. Remember when you purchase used equipment-every receiver has a card identifying it and you need to check that number out with your satellite provider to make sure the account is not owed any money. You will need to order the receiver, the dish and the tripod to hold it. You will also need the co-axial cable to connect to the dish and short lengths to go between the receiver and the television. You can also connect the television and receiver using an HDMI cable on later equipment. Our dilemma, once everything was up and working was how to record conflicting programs. There are several solutions. You can go through an outside provider and purchase a channel package with east, west and central time zone programming. Dish network also has a Hopper option that has an ungodly amount of recording capacity.  We added a second receiver to record conflicting programming. If your partner is like mine, he or she will have their shows and this will eventually become an issue-trust me. Better to nip it in the bud while planning your installation.

Why are we Waiting on a Gate?

I was glad to see that Andy (www.myoldrv.com) again raised the alarm warning gate guards about the lack of gates down here. He has a much wider circulation than I do, so hopefully the word will get around.  I have been beating the drum for months now; especially after our field superintendent put the fear of God in me a while back. Budget concerns, the election, a very unstable market, etc. are all conspiring to put a damper on things down here. Now I am not given to preaching; but a lot of what veterans have long said is proving true. Most anyone that can get past the background checks and get licensed can get on a gate-eventually. It’s after you are released (if you last that long), that the rubber meets the road. This is when you’ll find out if you’re employer wants to keep you around or not. That’s the flip side of the surplus of guards right now. Companies can afford to be picky and hire the best candidates. They can also afford to let you go. As has been said ad nauseam, are you polite, professional and situationally aware on your gate? Do you hit the door when the alarm sounds, regardless of the time or conditions? There is little if any seniority in the gate guard world. Good performance is rewarded with continued gate assignments. You will find great reward if you simply do a good job, ingratiate yourself with the rig hands and support folks and become familiar with the “movers and shakers” with your exploration company. I have no doubt that our continued employment is in no small part due to the company men continually requesting us to be assigned to their gate. One final tip and word to the wise. Limit your calls to your service people and/or company supervisors. Make sure you truly have a problem you can’t resolve and whether waking them up in the middle of the night is justified. Very little upsets a guard company more than this.

(I had no internet when this was written on 10/21)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Things you should Pack

If you're coming down to join our merry little gate guard community there are a few things you should pack or consider doing:

A small first aid kit-not just band-aids and ointment. If you're not familiar with first aid, reading up a bit is a good idea. A lot of gates are quite a ways from the nearest urgent care facility, much less a hospital.

In a previous post I suggested you get to know the basics of how your RV, nurse trailers and support equipment work. It follows you should have a toolkit to implement that knowledge, if the need should arise. Personally, I don't think you can have enough tools. However; a tool kit which includes a set of metric and standard wrenches, sockets and drivers should do it. 

If you want to save possible aggravation a filter wrench and a spare fuel filter are almost necessities if you have diesel power. Packing a spare set of belts and the oils your rig requires is also a good idea.

I highly recommend that you have some sort of roadside service plan. Good Sam has paid for itself many  times over for us.

I know space is at a premium, but a step stool and a small ladder are necessities.

Do you have the utensils needed to cook? This is not a weekend at the lake-you need to have everything needed on hand.

Books, puzzles, television/movies, etc. are a necessity. Or whatever hobby you may have. If you have Dish or Direct satellite add a receiver and work out how you're going to mount and aim it. Having weather and news, much less the entertainment is important.

Word to the wise-AT&T is the only provider that works throughout the oil patch.

Go over your camper thoroughly-I have not found a single knowledgeable and reliable RV mechanic anywhere near the oil patch.

Before you are assigned purchase water. However which way you want-bottles, quarts or bigger. Some rigs will provide potable water; but you should be prepared. While I'm on water-drink lots of it!

Bring a chair or two. The collapsible kind for camping are best. If you have the means, buy a cheap pop up and stakes.

A small freezer is a blessing to have. RV refrigerators don't hold much.

Rain gear, sweat shirts and jackets are important to have.

I'm sure there are many other things-but that's a few for you to think about.

Read Andy's blog at www.myoldrv.com.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Almost 60 Degrees

Despite the San Antonio television stations saying otherwise, we suffered through 110 degree (or even hotter) days this summer. I also had several occasions where fellow gate guards confirmed this, having observed thermometers way above 100 degrees. Of course we were 80 to 100 miles south of town, so that made it hotter than the forecasted highs. Laredo weather is what the locals called it.  We are resting in an RV park near Van Ormy, just south of San Antonio, and temps are in the very low 50's this morning. Almost a 60 degree swing from our summer highs. I fired off the heat pumps this morning, mostly to make sure everything was hunky dory. They worked fine. Now is the time to make sure whatever form of heating you have operates and functions properly. Now is really not the time to buy a heater, but do it if you need one.  Unlike air conditioning, an RV doesn't require a huge heater (unless you're camping in below freezing temps).Our heat pumps are perfect for South Texas temperatures. The propane sucking furnace rarely fires off down here. Unfortunately everything from propane to kerosene (even firewood) is going to be pricey from hereon. While we rarely bundle up down here, it is important to pack clothing for lows in the 30-40 degree range. You don't want to be on a gate and not have a sweatshirt, jacket or coat handy. Most of the time we are comfy in sweatsuits. The cool down has been; and is, coming, so be prepared. This is also a great time to be working a gate, especially after last summer!

Friday, October 5, 2012


I'll probably be earmarked for some sort of police harassment if they get wind of who wrote this. But, curiosity has me wondering about some recent incidents in San Antonio and Houston. These are descriptions, not necessarily accurate, and just a recounting of the events as I remember them. Recently the news reported an on duty undercover officer shot and killed a "friend"s former boyfriend. She called him saying she was afraid her former boyfriend was going to harm her. The undercover officer picked her up (in an unmarked police truck) at work and took her home. Her former boyfriend was waiting in her apartment parking lot and fired several shots at them, wounding her. A pursuit then ensued with the suspect chasing the fleeing cop and then the cop chasing the ex boyfriend. Why he didn't head to the hospital or get some backup we'll never know. Anyway they ended up in front of the ex boyfriends house and a good old fashioned shootout occurred. The ex boyfriend was shot and killed. In Houston recently, a disabled man was shot in his wheelchair after he threatened and menaced a cop. It turns out he was only "armed" with an ink pen. After the initial reports, I have heard nothing further on the news. Are these guys still employed? If so, were they punished? We entertain ourselves with the local news from San Antonio. We call it getting our daily body count. This place is like the wild wild west and some of the stuff that happens is surreal.

Can't Hide This

I have a hard enough time accepting the status quo when it comes to politics these days. Every newscast and almost every broadcaster has his or her opinion. Polls seem to slant whichever direction suits the organization conducting them. Have you ever met someone who was polled? Point being, almost every poll I've seen of late has shown Romney trailing Obama. I've written about this before; but every once in awhile they publish a poll showing them tied or within the margin of error. I tried to watch the recent debate, but my interest waned towards the end. What I saw was solidly in Romney's favor. Apparently the newscasts and broadcasters could not put a negative spin on Romney's overwhelming victory. I guess we'll now be assailed with polls asking inane questions. Like; which candidate dressed better, who looked more presidential  who looked and acted more nervous...should I go on? Let's not forget Big Bird!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ticker Problems

I suffer from coronary artery disease, otherwise known as CAD. They love acronyms when it comes to cardiology. For instance, I also have had a by pass operation, which is referred to as CABG. Anyway,  I recently started having chest pains and angina flareups. Angina is how your heart reacts when its suffers from a lack of blood, which is generally caused by narrowed or clogged arteries.This manifests itself as chest pain and cramping down your extremities. Mine got so bad that I could not function without nitroglycerin which dilates the arteries and eases the pain. DO NOT TRY THIS! I self medicated till we were released from our  last gate and headed to the hospital once we got situated. As it turns out, I was fortunate in that I never suffered a heart attack. The cardiologist's determine this by checking the enzyme level in your blood. Ischemia (scarring on the heart muscle) also serves as an indicator. I was also fortunate in that I was down to my very last nitroglycerin pill. The cure to relieving the angina was having the aforementioned cardiologists (s) perform an angioplasty. Basically, they punch a hole in your femoral artery and use a wire to place a stint in the narrowed blood vessel. Besides an expertise in all matters coronary, you also want a doc familiar with the procedure and knowledgeable of the femoral artery. People can and have died from exsanguination (loss of blood) after having their femoral artery punctured or damaged. I was released from the hospital after a two and a half day stay and am feeling much better. My strength and stamina have been sapped a bit, but they will return in time.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Winter Gate Guarding

I am loathe to pass on rumors or gossip. However, you folks contemplating coming south for a gate guard position should make sure you have a position secured. This applies anytime, but especially this year. The election year has the exploration companies in a wait and see mode. Natural gas is being burned off due to lack of storage space and LOW prices. Deer and other hunts are also about to start. (A lot of land owners make more money off of guided hunts than from oil royalties).A trend has also emerged where gate guards are omitted from the contracts between the land owners and the exploration companies.The thought being that money can be saved up to and until a land owner demands guards. I guess all the legalese has to be worked out about that. Additionally we have witnessed several fracking companies using their own personnel for gate guards. Our field superintendent has said that any lag time between events on a lease will result in the guards being released. For example, they won't be leaving us on the gate in between drilling and fracking or fracking to completion. Right now, things are in a very SLOW mode and we have guards parked and waiting. Make sure you have a place to wait, if it becomes necessary, along with the funds to do so. We have experienced "log jams" down here before. This is just a word to the wise!

No more @#$%#$ Alarms!!

We were released from our gate yesterday. It was expected and we have been on gates since June, so a break was in order. We have found a very quiet RV park to "veg" in for a few days. My hound got me up, as is his custom, at 0630 this morning. I took him and Ellie for a quick walk and then crawled back in bed. We worked extremely hard yesterday packing everything up, plus we had the added chore of cleaning the rental trailer. Also everything of ours that was in the rental trailer had to be moved back into our coach. We were tired, to say the least, and I ended up sleeping till almost 0900. I never do that! It occurred to me that the alarms aren't going off and we're not having to get up and check people in. Yaaay; what a simple pleasure to enjoy!

A point to ponder: An FBI agent named Robert (Bob) Levinson remains a hostage somewhere in the Middle East. As I have repeatedly said NO ONE is our ally over their and I hope more and more patriots will take up that mantra. I also said somewhere because it appears he is not in lovely Iran, where he (and countless others) have been kidnapped. Entreaties to Ahmadinejad, the thug that runs the country, have had little effect. Information gleaned out of the talks repeatedly leads us to our old pals in (guess where kids!) Pakistan. Can you repeat the mantra? Anyway keep him in your thoughts and prayers. This man has been held since 2007 and he should not be forgotten.

The song in my head today is "Shades of Gray" by Robert Earl Keen. I almost hate to admit it, but "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" by the Cowsills also was rattling around in there earlier this week. What can I say...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ups and Downs

We have taken a site from spud to production for the first time since we started gate guarding. We usually follow a rig, so we never got to “enjoy” fracking , completion work or flow back. It’s downright comfortable out here now; especially on these 60 degree mornings. Two weeks or so ago; not so much. We had facility construction; pipeline work, fracking and a rig move all going on at the same time in the 100 degree plus heat. The dust also was beyond horrendous, with both visibility and breathing severely hampered. For the first time are resolve to conduct our daily duties was sorely tested. We made endless entreaties to various officials for the road to be watered down, with mixed results. I did better on my own, wandering out to the end of the lease road and waving down a vacuum truck. I’d bribe him with a cold drink. Anyway, we have been warned that our days on this little piece of lease land seem to be numbered. We just enjoy the limited traffic and keep our mouths shut. If and when someone comes and relieves us that’ll be fine as we are ready for a day or two off.
Some reflections:
I didn’t mind replacement officials in the NFL until they started losing control of the game. I could handle a missed call now and then (even the regular officials do that); but when it affects the flow and outcome of the game?
Libya now says it has a suspect in mind in regards to the attack on our Consulate. Problem is they are afraid to confront this individual for fear that it might provoke a conflict that they would probably lose. Seems the radicals are better armed and equipped than the ad hoc government in that part of the world. I shudder to think what might happen if we ever try to eradicate these folks.
Move along everybody. The non story that was this election is over. The news outlets would have you believe that the election is a done deal. Obama has out earned and out spent Romney so the position has been bought and paid for. Now the propaganda machines have kicked in and are spewing out polls showing that Romney is behind in every category you can imagine. Most polls are keeping the percentiles close to make it interesting.
IMHO folks that sit outside stores hoping to obtain the latest gadget must have a screw loose. Especially when you consider that same item will soon be readily available at a cheaper price. All you techies out there please refrain from sending me hate mail.

I wrote this a week ago (long before the debacle with Green Bay and Seattle). Since then the real refs have come back, and we were released from our gate. Also; are you ready for this?, the motorhome was completed!! I am so grateful for all the support we got from so many folks while we went through this ordeal.    As a final "twist to the screw" the mechanic squeezed us for over a thousand dollars before he would let us have the coach. Needless to say, I have little good to say about this mechanic.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rants & Raves

I have had connectivity problems with the internet and a power supply problem with my laptop that has made blogging near impossible. I can get e-mail on my phone; but replying using that tiny keyboard is nigh impossible for me. Hopefully some of you have noticed my lack of output. Sorry.
The never ending saga with the motorhome continues. Deadlines have repeatedly been missed and it still sits in the shop. I offered to hire a mechanic to help the guy get it done and he took offense. Apparently he is going to make up a bill for the hours worked and part(s) expense and leave it to me to complete. I have a mechanic coming in Monday, so we will see what happens.
What can I say about the Middle East? Days after the slaughter of our Ambassador in Libya, I still find it hard to watch reports about it. Some of my readers know of my experience as an Embassy Guard while serving in the Marines. The Marines have the unique and privileged task of protecting our diplomats throughout the world. Only the very best get through the rigorous training and screening required to perform this duty. The land that the consulates and embassies occupy is considered American soil and the host country is expected to treat it as such. I have worked with diplomats and am intimately familiar on how the Foreign Service conducts its business. Unfortunately; (and I am not sure why), there was no Marine Security Guard detachment at this consulate. Only a couple of former special operators (that means Seals, Delta Force, Green Berets, etc.) where there serving as RSO’s (regional security officers). Standard protocol during an imminent breach of one of our outposts is to destroy sensitive and/or classified material by burning it. Our Ambassador had made sure that everyone was as secure as possible in the annex, while he and the RSO’s performed this task. Details are still coming in; but, apparently one of the RSO’s made it out and bravely returned when he realized the Ambassador was still inside. All of them lost their lives and the remaining personnel spent over four long hours waiting for rescue in the annex. Libya would have us believe that this was just an unruly mob. They explain away the automatic weapons, explosives and rocket launchers as items commonly found in any household in Libya. Let’s also not forget the organization and logistics involved in such an operation. Can somebody say Al Qaeda out there? Shortly afterwards the American Embassy was breached in Yemen. They didn’t get inside, but did prodigious amounts of damage to the outside and to vehicles in the motor pool. More chaos and rioting occurred all over the Middle East. All this supposedly spawned by a movie ridiculing the prophet Mohammad. I have a hard time understanding a religion that advocates and supports the killing of infidels (that’s non Muslims like me) and the destruction of property. It’s even harder to understand folks following these maniacs. What especially galls me is the amount of foreign aid we shower on these folks. And this is how we are treated! Anyone know where we can get some bucks to ease our debt and financial crisis...? I may be simplistic, but if they don’t want us there-why do we stay? At the very least, Libya’s diplomats should be booted out of the US and our foreign spending should be scrutinized; especially in the Middle East. That would be a minor nod to the legacy of some very brave diplomats and patriots.

Blowing in the Wind

Peter, Paul and Mary had a hit in the turbulent sixties called “Blowing in the Wind”. If you’ve never heard of it; (I’m showing my age here), that’s too bad. Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, The Smothers Brothers, et all led the way in protesting the Vietnam conflict. Now we are involved in another seemingly endless conflict in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and a host of Emirates, Pakistan…you name it. Oh sorry! Did I offend someone by mentioning our “so called” allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? In any other scenario, the hold that Saudi Arabia and others have on us with their oil reserves would be called extortion. By the way, you haven’t seen them backing our play in the Middle East, have you? And if you think some high ranking folks in Pakistan didn’t know Osama Bin Ladin was hidden away there, you are truly misled. But; I digress, since I really wanted to write about a peculiar type of ally. A brother in arms with whom our troops have trained, ate, slept and sometimes even fought with. And now these same brethren are killing their mentors. Unless you have experienced some sort of crucible or extreme trying circumstance with someone, it is truly difficult to express the depth of this betrayal. Veterans know exactly what I am writing about. Unfortunately it took a tremendous amount of loss (any loss of this kind is a tragedy IMHO) before the powers to be finally cancelled any further training and interaction with the Afghanis by our troops. Now, if they would just figure out we are really not wanted there and put an end to this travesty. I guess the empty chair that Clint talked to is not so “far out” after all. The answer my friend is apparently blowing in the wind.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Every time I think human beings cannot act more depraved or disgusting, someone comes along doing something I’ve never heard. A couple was recently arraigned for using cats and dogs in some bizarre sex act that involved torturing the animals-primarily by crushing them. Apparently this is some sort of recognized sexual fetish? Even further disgusting, they filmed these acts and sold them to other depraved perverts out there. The charges were so graphic and disgusting that the judge stopped them from being read in court. I write this only to inform-I’m sure my dear readers will find it as disgusting as I did. Do you think they can lock these people up in kennel size cages and feed them pet food and water for life? I can’t make this up people!
While a lot of us were concerned about the Republican delegates (who are gathering in Tampa, FL) being affected by a hurricane, their handlers apparently weren’t. The powers to be are scurrying around trying to figure out how to shorten the convention to three days and not offend those who will be scratched from the speaking schedule. Apparently there is also a logistical nightmare in the works because umbrellas are not allowed inside the convention center. Got to have those priorities folks!
Moving onto the RV repair-we have tried every method of persuasion that we know of to get the mechanic motivated to no avail. I am so stressed out that my health (and Missy’s) is being affected. The dogs and cats are tired of living in a shoe box, too. If I had a pot of gold I could have had the engine changed in about a week. I just couldn’t afford to pay Freightliner or Cummins that much money. The transmission has been serviced and the old engine has been removed. The replacement engine needed some things swapped over and adapted to it. I sincerely hope they are installing the replacement engine this week.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

There's Gold in Them Thar' Hills

I truly believe that some business folks have not taken a hard look at South Texas. Let me say that I’m always the dreamer; the guy that’s always concocting schemes and ideas. I am not very good at transforming them into reality. I have had folks tell me that it’s an infrastructure thing and companies are concerned about recouping their investment. If you ever have the opportunity to walk into Wheeler’s Mercantile (especially in the morning) in Tilden, Texas, you would immediately see what I mean. Two gals and a facilitator (in case anything slows the process) working the registers. Mostly oil field hands in their FRC’s lined up twenty deep in three lines. And they’re gladly paying up to a 100% mark up when compared to your average Walmart pricing. That goes on from “oh dark thirty” to about nine a.m. every morning. Lunch repeats the process with plate lunches and sandwiches. And traffic continues to flow into the parking lot long after they lock up at nine every night. I bet folks who bought acres of this “worthless” sand and scrub brush are smiling now. $1500-2500 and acre is a thing of the past in the oil patch-more like $10,000 and up now. And you can forget about getting any mineral rights with it. I still think there is money to be made in the rental trailer business or catering. And I don’t mean oil field catering-a lot of folks are in that business. I think a lunch truck could kick some major a** here and someone refurbishing and renting older trailers could get a business going. A lady in the North Dakota oil patch did just that (and made millions) after seeing people sleeping in tents, cars, trucks, etc. If I was Papa Johns, Burger King or Taco Bell, for instance, I’d have a portable kitchen set up somewhere out here. And how come you can’t get a USA Today out here anywhere? And don’t even get me going about RV repair. You could make a fortune just repairing “gate guard” RV’s out here. Did you ever notice there are no tire shops for big trucks out here? Forget about tires-how about diesel repair? We regularly have tire shops send out repair trucks from over 60 miles away. I cringe at the thought of having to pay that bill. And after over eight hours on the side of the road waiting for a tow, I can tell you there is no heavy wrecker service in the oil patch.  Finally; I am surprised that there are not more watering holes out there. Not that I have looked for them; I rarely get time off of the gate. These hands are finding time to drink somehow because $10 six packs fly off of the shelf at the few stores that stock it. In fact, for such a boomtown atmosphere, you’d think vices would be more readily apparent. Evidently I’m not only getting old-I must be losing my vision.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Warnings and Suggestions

I warn anyone that thinks they can make an easy buck doing gate guarding to rethink their plans. This is not a day at the beach or a walk in the park. No offense meant to the snowbirds; but you really have to spend a summer in south Texas to understand what I mean. Summer brings not only the heat but winter dust amplified times ten. Yesterday I had to get the company man to water us down because the dust was so overwhelming. We have a new rig moving in, our old rig winding down and getting ready to move and a casing crew getting started. We’re still not doing the 12 pages a day some of you have written about and we get to experience air conditioning occasionally. Still, this is a hot, dusty and oft times busy vocation. Some things to remember (and I am only trying to inform you). Purchasing and stocking necessities normally is a challenge. Only once has a grocery store been less than 20 miles away from all the gates we have worked. Which reminds me to remind those of you contemplating this job-your social life will be difficult at best. Having an established network of friends and acquaintances is invaluable. If socializing is not a big thing with you, at least involve yourself with the cyber gate guard community. A lot of us out here only know one another from sites like My Old RV and Forum, Woodalls and others. It is a rich resource and can be invaluable in a time of need.
Speaking of the social networks; some of our fellow guards have been asked to sign NDA’s (non disclosure agreements). It has caused panic on the part of some that blog and otherwise use the social networks as a sort of diary of their adventures. Some even communicate that way. Blogs and forums are being shut down and people are overreacting, in my opinion. PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOT A LAWYER. NDA’s have been a part of the corporate world for a very long time. They are not very common in the blue collar community, but corporate folks have routinely been forbidden from disclosing proprietary and corporate info (recipes, methods of operation, schedules, etc.) by the use of NDA’s. Those of you that disclosed well names, locations, drilling and exploration company name(s), drilling activity, etc. should have known better. We were made aware of it when we first began this gig. It may make you feel better; but airing your grievances in cyber space and including the company’s name while doing it, is also not very smart. You can discuss a wealth of things without disclosing proprietary info. I understand you don’t want to lose your job or get sued. However, don’t let anyone cower you into not communicating at all. One of my pet peeves about our judicial system is that the common working man can rarely afford to take on anyone legally. Use common sense and think before you react or overreact. Freedom of speech is a privilege we can ill afford to lose. Learn to respect others in your communications, but don’t stop communicating. The slope is far too slippery.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Multiple Posts

My internet is wacko and intermittent at best. If you received multiple posts of my last blog entry I apologize.

Swaying the Vote

Do you think the “suits” holding the caucuses in Washington already have a winner in mind for this presidential election? Whether you believe it or the not the news media has a way of slanting things to their way of liking. It can be subtle or even subliminal and it seems as if it’s always slipped into the news between the “real” news of the day. For several nights now NBC has said that Obama holds a solid lead over Romney based on polls I’ve never heard of. The most recent one was a quickie inserted between the Colorado shootings and the civil war in Syria. I am not a big fan of statistics or polls-Nielsen has never asked me what I watch. And I don’t recall ever participating in any polls. My concern here lies in the fact that our electorate (that’s you and me folks) seem pretty fed up with the state of affairs in this country. That affects the voter turnout, which is pretty pathetic on its best day. All we need is for someone to propagate that the election’s a done deal and really turn people away from the voting booths. Let me say here that I’m a Libertarian held hostage by our electoral system. By not choosing Republican or Democrat, I am limited on not only who I can vote for, but also the issues I can vote on. And seeing that we don’t have a viable third party I don’t see it changing anytime soon. I am not versed enough on the goings on in our government to be judgmental. I do know that something is very wrong and we need to change course soon. Whoever gets voted in needs to be able to get some fence mending done muy pronto and get things clicking again. The legislative branch of our government has turned into a morass of diatribe and endless debate. The house has spent untold millions of dollars repeatedly passing a bill rejecting the Obama health care initiative. Like thirty plus times-I mean REALLY? And everyone knows it’s dead on arrival in the senate. Meanwhile the judicial branch-specifically the Supreme court- has turned rulings on issues presented before them into a crap shoot. Forget liberal or conservative; their reasoning behind the decisions has become borderline wacko. Their support of Obama care was explained as not wanting to contravene the congressional approval of the bill-in effect legislating from the bench-which to them reflected the will of the people. It must be really windy in D.C. because there are a lot of people bending with the wind. I love this country so don’t interpret my criticism as anything otherwise. Therein lays perhaps my biggest source of consternation. I just don’t seem to see any grassroots rebellion growing here. As mad and frustrated as people seem to be there seems to be no unifying effort to get our concerns aired and acted upon. I feel as if there is an attitude of resignation sweeping this country. There are so many issues that polarize and divide us. It seems to me that we need to get back to our roots. I do not want alienate, irritate or disenfranchise any portion of this great country. It just seems we were so much better off when immigrants assimilated with us, families did things together, nuclear families still existed and basic civility and morals were the order of the day. Finally I’ll add that I’m uncomfortable (if that’s the word) having to preface everything that seems non PC with conciliatory and apologetic comments. 
BTW As I go to publish this the news just posted a poll saying 36% of the population disliked Romney...REALLY?!?

Friday, July 27, 2012

The RV Lifestyle Dream...or not

The economic conditions of today enhance the allure of chucking it all and heading out on the road in an RV. The hard truth is that you must be creative and resourceful to succeed at it. I have written previously about workamping and the difficulties we encountered when first starting out. That perhaps explains why you find those that still maintain a stick built home and hit the road part of the year. You will be better served if you have some sort of income to fall back on - maybe a pension or social security or both. One of my regrets is not having made the plunge into gate guarding to begin with. I had made a call to Timekeepers from their posting on the Workamper News website. At that time they required you to make the trip to Boerne to apply with no promise of employment. I just wasn’t willing to risk it and our funds really wouldn’t allow it. After discovering Andy’s site at www.myoldrv.com I realized the potential of the job; but that’s another story. Our experience with workamping was mostly disappointing, with pay at or below minimum wage. Also most places won’t work you more than 35 hours to keep you from becoming a fulltime employee. That keeps you from earning any benefits. Some do not even offer workman’s compensation. We do know a few folks that have established a rotation between jobs working up north in the winter and south in the summer. That is another difficulty in Workamping. Winter employment is difficult to find as everyone wants to head south for the winter. You must acquire summer employment by late fall and winter employment no later than spring or early summer of the year previous to the one you wish to work. Occasionally opportunities present themselves that do not require such advance planning. Either way it pays to have a resume typed up and saved along with some pictures of your rig, wife/partner and any animals you may own. We really enjoy gate guarding and have modified our lifestyle and plans around it. We have just not been able to find a job that pays as well in the workamping world. We are working on taking about 60-90 days off next summer. We may or may not work, depending on the pay and/or location of the opportunity. That will hopefully help us miss some of the extreme summer heat here in south Texas.
Unfortunately, there is no update on the motorhome. We are at the mercy of our mechanic and he does not like to be rushed. Payday is just around the corner and I’m sure he won’t mind a visit from us then. I am a bit concerned that the motorhome has set so long-they do not like not being used! I’ll update you as soon as I know something.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cyber Space and Nuts and Bolts

We have finally got internet back! As some of you know, we arrived in the oil patch with Virgin mobile phones and Mi Fi. That worked fairly well till we ended up west of I-37 out Tilden way. Sounds like a ballad, doesn’t it? The “cell phone company de jour (or is it de reguir)” is AT&T out here and, when someone says they can’t get their phone to work, it inevitably is some other brand. That meant another investment in phones and an air card. We were trying to get by for a while, and were keeping our Virgin equipment active, by using an AT&T “burn phone”. This was just too impractical for the long term, especially for perusing the internet, hence our current status. One reason I mention this is because the “burn phone” was already in use and it became mine. So my Virgin number faded into cyber heaven. I mention this because it is frustrating to some people that my number seems to change every once in a while. And it drives my poor mother up the wall. Just for the record, our original phone number has remained the same and is the one with the 417 prefix. Anyway, we are back on line, but heavily restricted on our usage. I am doing as much offline as possible using Word, my cellphone and willpower. We’ll see how it goes.
The saga of the motorhome engine replacement project continues. Our purchase of the replacement engine was mostly delayed by funding. (or the lack there of) The first replacement engine was a dud, with profuse oil leakage emanating from the cylinders via the exhaust. When there is a hiccup in a major project like this you are looking at least a ten day delay. Chunks of time just waste away. Let me say that if we had had the funds we probably could have gone to Cummins or Freightliner and had the job completed by now. The tab would have been close to double what we will end up paying though. Therein lies the rub. As the clock ticked and our funds dwindled, it became necessary to get back to work. Once we did that we lost day to day control of the project. Now logistics rears its ugly head because it is a 160 mile round trip to the repair shop. My dear readers that follow this blog should also review my previous missive concerning the “manana” world we live in down here. I have confidence in the mechanic, I just doubt he has the same sense of urgency that I do. Now that we have a replacement engine and everything is a go, I hope we see some progress…soon.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I am writing this outside, on the gate, in hopes that it can be copy/cut and pasted to my blog. I have failed to keep everyone updated primarily due to lack of internet access.
The motorhome saga continues as the replacement engine showed signs of oil leakage (which the mechanic furthered substantiated by tearing into the engine) and would have cost too much to repair. I paid a premium price for that motor, but knew the company that sold it to us would stand behind its products. Sure enough another engine has been sent. Unfortunately it keeps drawing out the length of the repair. That also means a longer stay in our rental trailer. I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, but 2 dogs. 2 cats and 2 persons is just too much for a sub 25 foot travel trailer. I also wanted my readers to know that we have been good stewards of your donations. In fact they were extremely helpful in getting us over the hump when we were not working and completing the purchase of the engine. This saga started over five weeks ago and we have burned through almost six thousand dollars. We have left some funds in the account for miscellaneous expenses which I’m sure will occur. Sort of an out of site out of mind thing. I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I have my fingers crossed that the replacement for the replacement engine will be a sound product!
We are on an EOG gate and love the folks we work with. We wound up with the same crew we were working with before Missy took her sabbatical. This after we were told we couldn’t follow the rig. Something to the effect that EOG doesn’t do that. We further broke the mold by accompanying them to our present location. Seems the company men both really like us. Speaking of EOG; we had a HS2 (I think that’s the name) leak on the valve of a pipeline right behind our location. I told the company man that something was stinking up the pad we were on and he came down to verify it. Talk about all hell breaking loose! Our field superintendent was notified and people appeared like magic and disturbed ants on an anthill. Two truckloads of roughnecks were rousted from nearby jobs and told to report to our pad to help us relocate. I mean the sh*t hit the fan buddy! They delivered gravel, cut out a new pad and leveled it and had us relocated in under two hours! I thought a company man cut a wide swath, but it pales in comparison to what a field superintendant can accomplish.
I cannot complete this blog entry without extending a profound thanks to all who have supported us as we go through this process. That includes Good Sam ERS who towed us three times to make sure we got where we needed to be. It also should include J & G (I am NOT promoting them-just stating the facts) and Justin French for keeping us in mind and fixing us up with a trailer, so that we could get $$$ coming in. Plus, I don’t know how long we could have remained in our coach with no hookups! Finally, both Missy and I are moved by the kind words we have received, especially the ones that came from those of you who donated despite hardships of your own. Very cool!! I hope to have an update soon; hopefully one which states we are back in our motorhome!

Monday, June 18, 2012

More Musings

My dear readers never know what to expect when I title my post with musings. Actually it allows me to rant, rave and ramble. 
Do you torque the lug nuts after a tire change? Do you recheck their tightness after about 100 miles as suggested? I'll admit to occasionally checking the tightness, but rarely using a torque wrench. I am now a convert and will be checking the security of my lug nuts in the future. We came off of a gate and drove to San Antonio for a break. We ran around town quite a bit for a day or two; and then, after dinner one night, I thought I noticed a weird sound emanating from the rear of the vehicle (at 60-70 mph!). A WalMart parking lot beckoned and we went to a quiet spot where I got out and attempted to identify the noise. We won't get into how strange I looked, walking in a crouch by the car while Missy drove slowly. It took a bit to put two and two together, but I finally discovered the loose wheel. Lesson learned!
We are still trying to sell the Jeep. Can you help me with my command of the English lexicon, please? Example one: "My wife has gone to the bank and gotten the money, we'll be by later to buy the Jeep". Example two: "I'm very interested and will be out to look at it after work". Example number three (after explaining thoroughly the condition of the vehicle): "I still would like to buy the Jeep and can charge that much to my Visa card. How about you deliver it since I work alone and can't leave my job?" Obviously none of these individuals bought the Jeep. Am I strange in that I thought at least one of these folks was serious? 
Have any of you navigated the streets of San Antonio? (Sounds like a song title, doesn't it?) For some reason I cannot get anyone to give me any quarter in traffic. Are they just ignorant or rude...or both? Merging onto the interstate seems like a life or death experience. Then the tension is compounded because, instead of making a cursory glance of my surroundings, my focus is fixed on the oncoming vehicles in my lane because they will not honor my turn signal. In other words I'm focused on looking to the rear via mirrors and neck crane instead of concentrating on flowing into traffic. And then you have a multitude of Interstates, US highways, Loops, Spurs, Farm to Market roads and; of course, the upper and lower choice. As if I needed more choices! And then you have the mega short distance that the signage affords you in which to make your decision. And don't even get me going about downtown-have you been there?
Lions, tigers and bears...oh my! Did you know South Texas has been the home for exotic animals for years? It has a lot of folks upset; but controlled hunting has resulted in many endangered species flourishing here. Supposedly even an extinct animal or two. It is big business with most of the cheapest hunts costing $5000. A water buffalo will cost a hunter $50,000! I'm glad I knew this when we were traveling towards Tilden the other day. We saw a bunch of zebra and antelope on a ranch. The really high fencing is a good sign you've found one.
For some reason the song "Shades of Gray" by Robert Earl Keen comes to mind. Check it out sometime.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Some Personal Thoughts

I wonder as I grow older if they still have romances that start as youthful infatuation, blossom and last for a lifetime. Do kids still grow up in small towns where everyone really knows everyone and there is a poor side of the tracks? Are there still kids that wander around barefoot because shoes were a once a year purchase? Heroes were made on the gridiron and in the gym and celebrations were held at the Tastee Freeze. If you lacked the money for college you went to work in the coal mine. Or you joined the military, maybe the Air Force, and started out as an airman. No stripes, bottom of the barrel and you worked your way up. Back in the day they offered what was known as the bootstrap program. It allowed for intelligent, hard working non coms a way to become a commissioned officer. Go from turning wrenches on aircraft to maybe actually flying one. So now you have a wide eyed kid from a small town learning how to fly. His adventures in the depression, which included hitch hiking through the dust bowl to sunny California from that small town in Illinois, had only fueled his sense of adventure and desire to explore. Now the military would provide the means to see the world-and take that pretty girl from the other side of the tracks with him. as his wife. Hard separations became the order of the day. Serving his country in times of war and putting himself in harm's way for a way of life he believed in were part of the course. That young man moved from prop planes to cutting edge fighter jets. Children came along and he raised a family. Somehow time was found time to earn a college degree and he advanced in rank. He parlayed that into becoming a command pilot and full Colonel. Eventually his time in the military came to an end and he transitioned to civilian life. He distinguished himself there, becoming a noted explorer, humanitarian and active member of the community. Yes, I wonder if there are still men and women cut from that same cloth. People who take hardship in stride and understand that it's part of the cost of success. I hope there are and you get to know some. You will be forever enriched and it will kindle your desire to better yourself. I did; and loved and admired such a person. He was my father and we shared many an adventure together. Happy Fathers Day Dad!