Monday, February 27, 2012

Am I Nuts?

One of the privileges of having a blog is that it provides a forum for me to express my views. At the risk of coming across as ignorant, am I nuts for for believing that we are wasting our blood and treasure in the middle east? Previously I posted on how the last American units to leave Iraq skulked out of the country out of fear of  a Taliban ambush and reprisal. Is that how a supposed world power conducts itself when engaged in enforcing policy? Especially in a country where we invested over ten years of battle-which included trillions of dollars and over 5000 of our country's brightest and bravest lives? Now we remain in the quagmire that is Afghanistan; a country that lacks central authority just about everywhere and can't even define its borders. It is a primitive, hostile place mostly governed by semi nomadic tribes that have allegiance only to themselves. They don't even have a common language other than Pashto (and that is an Iranian dialect) and they are governed by the iron hand of often brutal tribal elders. A thriving, unregulated economy flourishes vis a vis the poppy farms which are harvested to make opiates. Am I nuts for believing that a lot of Americans don't even know these and other facts. I also believe that; other than the loss of life, they really don't care about what goes on over there on a day to day basis. Now our forces have committed an error; albeit a major one, by desecrating their beloved Koran by placing it in the garbage and burning it. This act occurred in a prison and the Koran was allegedly being used to disseminate information by the Taliban. Even after our in country leaders apologized profusely, the riots and bloodshed continue. The people of Afghanistan have made it abundantly clear that they do not want us in their country. Now two more Americans have died by the ultimate form of betrayal; at the hands of a supposed ally. Yet we remain and life continues as it has for thousands of years. Before he passed my father expressed his displeasure over our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. This from a man who served his country faithfully and bravely for decades and went into harms way countless times. It was both cathartic and shocking to hear from him. I said long ago and I stand behind my believe that nothing will change by our continued involvement in the middle east. We prevailed in a cataclysmic World War because our people were united and determined to defeat the Axis. And this was when we were linked just by print media and radio. People knew who Hirohito, Stalin, Churchill, Mussolini and others were and we were determined and steadfast in our resolve. Unfortunately, the American people are not behind this fallacy that is our foreign policy these days. I may be nuts, but I believe that the majority of us are just tired of our continued involvement in the middle east. Call me crazy, but if we somehow prevailed, I seriously doubt that a "free" and "democratic" Afghanistan will keep the Taliban or any other terrorist organization from acting any differently than they do now.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


This post isn't about Boomtown, the Toby Keith CD. The title did remind me of it and, if you're going to listen to that mass produced dribble out of Nashville, it's arguably some of his best. There are signs of an oil boom all over the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas. New pickups are a dime a dozen and the landowners lucky enough to have mineral rights are dressed like dandies strutting into town on a Friday night. The locals have their hackles up; bitching about the hyper inflated prices for everything, while happily pocketing the proceeds. Some of the worst food you've ever eaten is being served in the local greasy spoons and people are liking it. To be fair you can find some decent eateries around, you just have to look. Almost condemned buildings are seeing new life and formerly "dead" main streets are buzzing again. Except for Walmart, most of the big box stores haven't made the plunge yet. So your only recourse is to pay the aforementioned hyper inflated prices and hit the local Ace Hardware or Super S Store. Plots of hardscrabble land, barely good enough to graze livestock on, have become part of a real estate boom. Very few can afford to purchase the land now; but, those that have it have turned them into RV parks and terminals for oil equipment. Local land clearing and heavy equipment companies are running night and day to make pads. RV's are parked on top of one another on what I call bald ass prairie (little or no shade anywhere) and workers are glad to have the spot. Contract help has to drive over 100 miles daily to and from the rig because all the local flop houses are full. Even then a game of room hopscotch occurs as the hotel struggles to honor prior reservations. I don't know what happened to McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and others ( maybe the high land prices), but they are few and far between. Only Dairy Queen seems established out here and they are doing a land office business. Epic drives for consumables are the order of the day, so an accurate list is a necessity. You don't want to drive 80-100 miles only to find out you forgot the bread or bacon. Now you know why we are really enjoying being only a few miles from town. If you have a skill, you can almost name your salary. Truck drivers/CDL holders are seeing 4 and 5 figure bonuses just for signing on with a company. Most stay under the 100 mile trip limit to stay away from logging and work day and night. Graduate students fresh out of college, knowledgeable in geology, have a  "golden ticket" here. Then you have the army of vendors that work the rigs day and night. If they need it, they do not want to wait for it, and hotshots are in demand. I bet some in and around Houston wish they'd bought up all that oil equipment when the bottom fell out in the 70's. A little time down here and you start knowing where places like Refugio, Nixon, Yorktown, Three Rivers and Carrizo Springs are. You learn to embrace the Hispanic culture and admire the mostly hard working folk that comprise it. Along with their language there's the language of the rigs to learn. Words and phrases like tripping pipe, reaching TD, fracking, company man, spudding, the cellar, etc. Yep, it's boom times down here and if you can laugh at all the craziness and put up with the inconveniences, there's money to be made.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I'll Huff and I'll Puff

Having spent years in Oklahoma and traveled to many places, I've seen my fair share of windy locales. I have to say I have never seen the wind blow like it does in South Texas. Although Chicago sometimes is called the "Windy City" in reality it's not even close. Dodge City takes the prize with Amarillo a close second. Last night, and continuing through today, we had sustained winds of over 30 mph with gusts in the 40's. The motor home was rocking and the wind howled  and swirled outside. At "oh dark thirty" we stumbled out of bed to the cacophony of the slide out awning extending, flapping and retracting with the wind. It's not a simple process to retract the slide out because we try to make our little coach a home. Therefore a lot of stuff has to repositioned first. Those of you that live without slide outs have my admiration-I don't know what we'd do without the extra space. I'm sitting across from the couch in my recliner and I can touch it with my feet. Too cramped for me. But, I digress. In the close to six months we've been down here, the main awning has been out over a period of days maybe twice. And that was when we were in a spot where we could tie it to a fence post. Lately, we rarely, if ever, extend the awning. In contrast, one summer in Missouri we left it out most of the time. I have tried the tie downs, but in this windy environment they just slow you down when you have to stow the awning. It's not mentioned often but; a part of Gate Guarding in South Texas is managing and dealing with the wind. You may want to check out this website which shows the extremes of weather we have in the U.S.-how about 134 degrees in Death Valley, California and -80 degrees in Prospect Creek, Alaska. Or that Nowata, Oklahoma got to thirty below zero last winter (2011) Fascinating!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All Part of It

They have been working on a huge production pad right in front of our RV for about two weeks. It looked like a test facility for Caterpillar. They supposedly finished and it rained. The next morning we had a large lake out front. Needless to say, they went back at it again with bulldozers, graders and the like.The noise and dust has been horrendous. All part of it. I believe they finally think they have it level because they have brought in concrete trucks (15 of them) to add to the pad. Now we have added concrete DUST to the mix. All part of it. Well we finally succumbed to it all and have closed the RV up and turned on the air conditioning. You can't step outside for very long as you'll start coughing. All part of it-gotta love working the gate.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tired of the Bell?

Living and working out of an RV requires a certain mental attitude. Some fall right into it and others never do. Lack of space and confinement are intolerable to some. Normal (if there is such a thing) "rving" is Mom and Dad, the kids and the dogs at some resort about a days drive away. The RV serves as a base and they are caught up in a ton of activities away from it. Heck, dinner is usually outside under the awning by the campfire. The big adventure for them is when they actually travel for the entire vacation and see the sights. Out of that bunch usually comes the "full timer"; the hardy few that decide to make a lifestyle of it. I'm sure there are those that retire and jump right in, although I'd bet they have some kind of "rving" experience. Of course you have aberrations; like those that still maintain a stick built house and can't quite make the plunge. Then you have the workamper; usually "full timers" that work to supplement their income. For some it is their only source of income. Then you have the gate and site guards which I refer to as a whole different animal. That bunch is normally stuck in or near the RV, with some one's presence required at all times. In prior posts I have described and suggested activities to keep one from feeling captive or bored while gate or site guarding.  Occasionally one of us will take a day trip and recharge our batteries. Even a trip to town now and then is refreshing. I have even been known to spring for a "spa day" for Missy. Lately, we have been encouraging guards to get together at luncheons and such. Missy likes to network via the Internet, and even jumps in the car and drops in on nearby guards now and then. We also like to get away, as a couple, for a day or two when we find ourselves between assignments. We also know couples that take the job, put their noses to the grindstone for a few months, then head somewhere else for a change in scenery. Some have a regular rotation they follow, sort of like a nomadic snowbird. So; before you get "tired of the bell"; try getting away for a bit.

(For those of you unfamiliar with gate guarding, there is usually a device/alarm that is tripped by  traffic entering and exiting the site, to alert the guard. For a lot of us it's a bell, similar to ones at old gas stations.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ladies Luncheon

Today was our second ladies gate guard luncheon held at Chili's in Beeville, TX. There were a total of 13 ladies that showed up to eat and talk about gate guarding. The first luncheon we only had 8 so it was great to see that the group is growing. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Time Is It?

Working a gate in the oil fields will give you a quick lesson in their work schedule. The rig may have a schedule for the hands; but forget about the suppliers. If they need it, they will find someone to deliver it-no matter the time of day or the weather. Salesmen/women usually follow the 9-5 routine. Hotshots (the guys with a trailer and a pickup) and semis will deliver whenever. In fact, I've seen semis go places I've never seen one go, sometimes with the help of a bulldozer. Back to the rig hands. If you're working a gate you have to get used to them coming and going at all hours. Consumption of adult beverages is frowned upon, especially on site. So you'll get a few that go out for that. Then you'll have a dinner/breakfast crowd. Finally, all the different support personnel  and rig hands get relieved. And never at the same time. The people that have to conform to all those schedules are the gate guards. And as big a challenge is familiarizing yourself with most of them. Why, you ask?   Well it makes your job easier and its a vital part of security-knowing who does and doesn't belong there. Now you have an idea why two people come in handy and a gate's duty hours are characterized as being twenty four hours long.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Update on Kenai

Kenai has continued to suffer seizures. We took him to the vet and had blood work done along with an exam. He is now on medication and we hope it relieves the symptoms. I'll keep you updated.

One of the really big Elephants

I don't wish to offend anyone or speak ill of the dead; but how did Whitney Houston somehow become relevant? I said goodbye to her and mourned her loss in the late 80's.  By the mid 90's she was tabloid fodder and her voice was gone. I do not deny her talent and beauty, I just don't think it rates the impact it seems to be getting. I am not stating or implying she died of  a drug overdose-prescribed or otherwise. I am saying it certainly had something to do with her eventual demise. Enough on that-we can argue it endlessly. The legacy of all the celebrity deaths should be Americans (and society in general) getting off their collective duffs and doing something about the scourge that is drug abuse in this world. The elephant in the room is the cost these drugs have on society and our inability or lack of willpower to do anything about it. Our jails are overflowing with folks that; other than a minor drug offense, were valued and productive members of society. We have the vicious circle that feeds enforcement and abuse at the same time. Unfortunately, if you cannot dampen or control the demand, you will never control the abuse. I believe that almost every criminal offense in this country is intertwined with drugs and its culture. Six degrees of separation doesn't even apply here. The fact that law enforcement has had little impact on it seems to not have lessened their zeal. As in so many things these days that seem to have grown beyond our control, we become polarized and seemingly unable to correct it. We need to seriously consider controlling it through legalization and equanimity in enforcement. Eliminate all the skulduggery and criminal element. Look what happened with prohibition. There is an answer here, if we face our demons head on. I think there are more productive places for the occasional drug user than jail. I think once the mystery and intrigue is removed from it, drug abuse will abate and first time users won't find it to be such an attraction. You are always going to have people that push the envelope, that seek that elusive "high" in their lives. It's how we deal with them that needs to be addressed. Hopefully the loss of luminaries, much less common citizens can galvanize us into action.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lost History

For years I have been enamored by stories of the explorers and adventurers that collectively make up so much of the world's history. Algebra, English, Science-no way Jose. I was a middling student and could not grasp the  essentials of many subjects. But, give me a book and a good adventure yarn and I'm there. Of all my subjects in school, world history was the one I enjoyed. The tales of Vasco de Gama, Cortez, Columbus, Heyerdahl, Hillary and others captivated my imagination. The stories of the settlement and defense of their conquests reverberate through history. Our recent time off found us visiting the Alamo and it made me remember a history professor I knew. He said; and I agree, that it is a crime that in today's public schools teachers do not teach much further back than World War One (and brush lightly over that). I have always had an affinity for historical places and the events that occurred there. I guess that I am strange in that I think an understanding of where we came from and the events that got us here are a part of who we are. I can't imagine an education without stories of our discovery, the turmoil of the Civil War and the subsequent westward expansion. Places like the Alamo, Gettysburg and the site of Custer's last stand stir my soul. Odd as it may sound the vast, open West makes me realize how fortunate we truly are. Can you imagine a transcontinental crossing in a Conestoga/Prairie Schooner? No truck stops, roads, motels-having to hunt for sustenance; not to mention having to ward off Indian marauders and vicious predators. Those explorers and the trails they blazed make up many of our roads and highways today. The names of the cities and towns are mostly from the hardy folks who originally settled them. There may not have been a Ponderosa, but there was a Virginia City which exists today. Talk about history-I wonder how many folks knew what I meant there? Much has been made of how kids today spend their time. At the risk of sounding like my parents, they should be wrenched away from the idiot box, video games and other hi-tech devices. Schools should encourage reading and activities that exercise the brain. Many a time I went into space, chased Indians and became a small town's hero as their sheriff. Isn't imagination wonderful? How many kids can say that today?

BTW-Vasco de Gama opened the spice routes, Cortez was a Spanish explorer who conquered the Aztecs in central America, if you don't know who Columbus is..., Thor Heyerdahl championed transmigration-the belief that even the ancients crossed the oceans and explored-and built a raft out of reeds to prove it. If that story doesn't excite you, perhaps Sir Edmund Hillary (whom I have had the pleasure of meeting) conquering Mount Everest will.

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Gate

Its inevitable in the Gate Guard world; you eventually have to pick up and move to a new gate. Despite a bunch of indecisiveness we ended up back with our rig. We were notified around 7 p.m. the night before and told to be on site between 7 and 8 a.m. It was cool, rainy and muddy when we got there and our pad had not been built yet. Not to worry. Our exploration company brought in two bottom dump eighteen wheelers of caliche rock and a talented backhoe driver to spread it. Voila!-a pad. After slogging through the mud and the muck we have finally "roosted" on our pad. The sun has come out and things seem to be looking up. As in most things in life my supposed proficiency with the satellite setup came back to bite me. This time the setup took me about six to eight hours working off and on the night before and the following day. Suffice it to say a "satellite finder" has been ordered. All of these things are part and parcel of the nomadic lifestyle that is gate guarding. After six months of doing this, we have become accustomed to the lifestyle.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rambling Man and Woman

Well folks, here we go again. After a scare-we thought we wouldn't be moving with the rig-it appears we will move near Karnes City, Texas. Our exploration company was going to get rid of it's drilling partner and that kind of put a hitch in our giddy-up. Remember my last entry about communicating?? Well it appears our company man didn't think we would be needed at the new site. That person has now rotated off the rig and his replacement assured us they wouldn't be getting rid of us. We have been with this bunch on six different holes and two locations and we are comfortable with each other. We will be closer to civilization and near where we first started gate guarding. So we know the territory and, best of all, where everything is located.  Just signed someone in and he brought us two huge rib eyes! That's the part of this job we love. Yesterday we got chicken and steak fajitas with all the trimmings. Tonight we are cooking up some gator tail that the company man brought us. Maybe I should have titled this about food. Anyway, we should move within a week-mo later!

Oh!, I almost forgot-I have signed on with a company called Ad Sense and Amazon. They are the one's posting the ads on my blog page. Every time you click (HINT!) I pick up a peso or so. Hopefully you all don't mind. Publishing the blog is far more important than any revenue I might make, so removing them is no biggie.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Communication...or the lack thereof

We are in a age of exploding advancements and improvements in the world of communications. The handwritten missive or telegraph is almost a thing of the past. When I was a part of the "regular" workforce it seemed the preeminent reason for either the success or failure of a task. I remember the boss saying "See guys, when we communicate and work together we can accomplish anything!" Or; "You dumb asses didn't communicate and look what happened!" Which brings me to my point. Now we have lightning fast texting, video conferencing and e-mail. Yet; I sit and wait for a response to my calls and e-mails. Somewhere in all this advancement, Heloise wasn't brought aboard and etiquette got lost. I try to set an example by responding to all my communications as rapidly as feasible. One other thing, as far as etiquette goes. Rarely do I get the call, text or e-mail which says I have received your message and will get back to you as soon as I have the time or an answer. If you're tied up or it's going to take a while to get back to someone, let them know. I actually have people I've tried to get a hold of for months! I'm not going to even begin to get into the etiquette of how to properly use your communication device in public. Apparently Heloise wasn't invited to that meeting either. I think a lot of my dear readers get my point. None of this stuff is rocket science-it just requires some common sense on everyone's part. Unfortunately, I can't change how people behave with my blog. Hopefully a seed can sprout here and there.