Saturday, December 24, 2016

An Altered Meaning for Christmas

We have been in the drone business for almost a year and this will be our first Christmas as retailers. We are quickly finding out why retailers claim to make their biggest percentage of sales from Black Friday to Christmas eve. It has been difficult to get the traditional holiday tasks accomplished and keep up with the demands of the business. The difficulty is amplified because we refurbish store returns; so all of our drones have to be opened, evaluated, catalogued and finally repaired. We don't have a shop either and are doing this out of our 5th wheel RV. We have expanded slowly over the months; finally ordering a pallet load for the holidays, versus the boxes we had been getting. A pallet load of drones works out to approximately 140 - 150 drones; a daunting challenge, even for us. Today we will complete a five day marathon (out of the last seven) at our local flea market. Unfortunately, we do not have a storage space on the markets property, so we have to run by our storage locker and load and reload as needed. All in all it has been a rewarding experience. We have given and shared our products; the smile and gratitude we get make it so worthwhile, and also made money. That is success in business, in my opinion.

If; in all the hub bub, we neglected to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season we apologize. We have done our best to keep in the spirit of the occasion and hope you have as well. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Adventures in RV Buying

We have purchased six recreational vehicles; all of them used. We have owned gas powered, diesel pushers and 5th wheel trailers. I now know a seller will tell you just about anything in order to sell his or her RV. While this may not be surprising, buyers need to be especially wary because repairs can cost thousands of dollars. If you're a full timer this can be particularly concerning because you lose your home while repairs are conducted. Here are just some of the things we have experienced since diving into the world of RVing.

Water damage is the number one thing to look for. Walk away from any damage, indicated by delamination (bubbling of the gel coat or outer skin), stains, sealant in odd places and soft spots on the roof. By the way, an annual roof inspection and reseal will pay for itself over the life of the RV.

If you purchase a motorized RV, you really need two inspection specialists to help you. One to look over and inspect the drivetrain and one to inspect the RV side. They are two distinct specialties, like cardiologists and podiatrists.

Before you tour a unit give the outside a thorough look over. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if it has been cared for. The key here is that you do not want to buy a project.

Tires are especially important, with age being the dictating factor most of the time, due to RVs sitting so much. There is a date code on every tire and you can Google how to translate it. RV tires should be changed every 5-6 years, regardless of how good the tread looks. Two tips. Most trailer manufacturers put the cheapest tires they can get away with on RVs; usually a LT or light truck tire. Because of blowouts most trailers can greatly benefit from the installation of G rated tires (it means more plys or belts, making it a meatier tire). Get with a tire pro as you can sometimes up the tread width, giving the trailer a wider contact patch, which spreads the load and increases traction. Finally; purchase a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) and/or check your tire pressure every time before you move. It's cheap insurance.

I believe that an inspection by a certified RV technician is a good investment, especially if you're not familiar with the inner workings of an RV. Make sure every major component works while connected to water, sewer and electricity. Then disconnect the unit and ensure everything needed to be self contained also works. You cannot take too much time conducting this inspection. Believe me, you will discover things you missed after spending some time in the RV and then it will be a lot harder to get them repaired.

There is a world populated by predators out there that take advantage of folks with limited funds and lower credit ratings. We went that route couple of times while we worked to pay off debt and increase our credit rating. It was very frustrating in many ways, especially because the selection is limited and the condition questionable. We are dealing with a reputable dealer these days and the change is palpable. We are treated better, the selection is better and the knowledge that we have a reputable dealer to lean on is invaluable. It would be nice if everyone selling RVs would just be honest and above board, but that simply is not the case. Ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research before making the plunge.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Fulltimers Story

I thought I knew much more than I really did about RVs when I finally purchased one. (Where have we heard that before?) I had coveted an RV and the lifestyle that went with it for most of my life. Other than my turn in the Scouts our family did not camp much, if at all. I remember a disastrous trip that my parents had in California. They rented a small Class A gasser, packed up their things with their friends and set out; only to break down on the road. That was the end of RVs as I remember it, until my sister got into them. She purchased a Class A diesel coach which I loved. I decided to make the plunge and bought a Class A gasser built by Fourwinds. Other than a minor roof leak, it was great place to start. I sold the Fourwinds and purchased a diesel pusher and then the economy and my health crashed. Unbeknownst to me, I had set myself up for a fulltime life, working out of a RV. After heart surgery and with limited opportunities for employment, we set out to make a living on the road. At the time I had a Holiday Rambler diesel pusher, which served us well till we exposed it to the caliche backroads of Southern Texas. After nearly starving as workampers we decided to try gate guarding in the oilfields; but that is a different story. The Holiday Rambler ate more money than we should have put in it and; after a radiator hose blew and cooked the engine, we decided to get rid of it. Ironic as it may sound, we still believe for a life traversing the highways there is no better RV to do it in than a diesel pusher. They just aren't meant to sit for extended periods and don't hold up well on unimproved roads. We ended up trading our diesel pusher for a 5th wheel, something I believe we should have done to begin with. The thing that held me back was the requirement and purchase of a reliable, strong truck to pull the 5th wheel. A one ton pickup dually (with four wheels and tires on the back axle) of any decent quality costs upwards of thirty thousand dollars, usually much more. Basic math puts a small 5th wheel and pickup truck at well over fifty five grand. We have bought two diesel pickups and I believe we need to find a third to finally get the necessary power and hauling capacity. The problem with towables is not so much having the ability to haul it, it is the ability to stop all that mass. Even though the oil field gate guard gig pays well my health issues and other circumstances have held us back. We are on our sixth RV and our third 5th wheel and have finally purchased a quality 5th wheel. Fate has conspired to prevent us from owning a decent RV till this point.  I see a light at the end of the tunnel for us; really, I do. I want a toyhauler with a 12 foot garage and a one ton dually to haul it with. I believe that will eventually happen one day. If you want to full time and work out of an RV I recommend you purchase a quality, used 5th wheel and the proper pickup to tow it.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Guess Who Won?

Trump won the electoral college vote. It was clear and a overwhelmingly fair process, according to our law(s). I believe the vast majority of Americans have accepted this fact. I am particularly concerned that there are pros fomenting and riling the malcontents. Although I am sure that in elections in the past that organized protests occurred, this election saw a whole new level. Instead of individuals, we saw organizations paid and supported by the opposition, used to thwart the democratic process. This all leads up to folks with nothing better to do getting swept up in the dangerous nonsense. I would love to see more of a focus on apprehending and punishing the perpetrators of assault(s) and destruction of property. Publicize the cost of rioting and make it prohibitive and (IMHO) you will see less folks joining the fray. Peaceful protesting is part and parcel of our democratic process, up to and including civil disobedience. It is a right that should be cherished, not abused.

I believe that there are radical organizations in our society willing to go to great lengths to protect and promote their agenda(s). While at face value this may not seem like something to get alarmed about, you could not be further mistaken. A great percentage of our problems in this great country can be directly attributed to our porous borders; especially our southern one. People have illegally immigrated to this country for years and we have done little to stop it. It's a dirty little secret in this country that whatever onerous task we choose not to do, we farm out to immigrants. That unfortunately has led to illegal immigrants having a sense of entitlement as to their status. We encourage and abet them by allowing them to occupy a gray area in our society that allows them all sorts of financial support from governments, organizations and others. We even allow them to serve in our armed forces and protect them in so called sanctuary cities. We allow passion and emotions to obscure the simple fact that they are here illegally. I do not want to see anyone hurt, but stopping this and the degradation of our nationalism is paramount. The very fabric of our country is being torn apart, just because some segments of our society refuses to assimilate. I am no expert, but I believe a lot of this can be accomplished by simply enforcing existing laws. We have allowed immigration to get so far out of control that we risk not being able to stem the tide. And I have not even begun to mention how terrorists can and do use our immigration policies to their benefit. As an American and patriot this should alarm you. How odd that the people most up in arms about it are the ones here illegally and those that support them.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Getting Off the Merry Go Round

I kind of wandered through life. I grew up in the sixties and seventies, just as life long professions started to die out. I was also born with a wanderlust and insatiable curiosity. After a stint in the Marines I tried several professions and finally ended up in the airline industry. That was at the cusp of upheaval in the business when the government deregulated it. Start up airlines sprung up like weeds and stalwarts like TWA and Pam Am faded away. It was difficult to maintain employment at one particular entity. About the only thing I got out of the airlines industry was realizing that I enjoyed managing and leading a group of people in pursuit of a common goal. I also was woefully inept at the politics which are part and parcel of life in business. When I had had enough I found what seemed to be one of the few professions that would take someone in their fifties and train them and put them to work. I drove eighteen wheelers for the next ten years till my heart started to go south. As I recovered in a recliner Missy started packing up the house and we decided to semi retire and work out of the RV; something that is known as workamping. I cannot speak for everyone, but to succeed in workamping you have to have supplemental income. Most campground/workamping opportunities will not employ you full time to avoid having to treat you like an employee. It turned out to be a love hate relationship; I loved what we were doing but I hated nearly starving to death to do it. We had heard rumors of work as gate guards in the oil patch of South Texas. We were terrified that we might end up in the boonies somewhere in South Texas with our last $20 in our pockets. Research finally led me to Andy of fame. Through him we gained the confidence and knowledge needed to get licensed and started as gate guards. I have endeavored to pay if forward since then and now, over six years later, we find ourselves reflecting about the journey.

This is our experience and my opinion(s). You truly need a boatload of patience, a sense of adventure and some money in your pocket to become a gate guard. There is so much more help out there these days (in comparison to when we started), especially on social media. It has also taken on some aspects of a regular job in that it has become more and more competitive and demands on guards have risen. It is no longer the "gold rush" and "wild west" of years past. There are simply too many quality guards available for too few openings. Full time guards are especially revered and usually get first dibs on any openings, further limiting the available gates. If you're determined to become a part of this demanding and rewarding profession I recommend that you establish a relationship with an active guard(s) and mine their knowledge to get started. I DO NOT recommend that you come down to Texas and jump in, expecting to go to work right away. It just doesn't work like that; especially these days. We have made a great many sacrifices in pursuit of decent wages and a sense of stability. Our weekends and holidays are non existent and long stretches away from family and friends have become the norm. We do, however, get to meet some of the most intriguing people in the world, get to commune with mother nature and learn the invaluable lesson of how to live off the grid. If you want to get off the merry go round and make some money having an adventure, gate guarding might be the answer for you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Oh no! More Mark's Musings

I do not wish to gloat, but I am extremely happy with the results of the election. The entrenched establishment in Washington should prepare for a long needed and awaited shake up. The silent majority has really spoken this time. America could not find a way to support a proven thief and liar and the Clinton Mafia suffered a devastating blow. Hopefully they will fade away and off the national scene. I believe that Hispanics finally realized how unfair allowing their illegal brothers and sisters to circumvent the system was. Too many of them had worked through the process and followed the necessary steps to become citizens. There is nothing radical about Trump's plans for our borders; he simply intends to enforce the laws that are already on the books. No other nation on earth has such a lax immigration policy. Having illegals run amok and not assimilate undermines what America is all about. It will be sad and traumatic for some illegals but it is a cancer that needs to be excised. I am extremely pleased to see the leftist, liberal media (and pollsters) proven wrong. The relief in the oil patch has been palpable; people are relieved that oil, along with other fossil fuel exploration, will grow and expand. I firmly believe that an issue near and dear to my heart will finally be addressed. I have long written about our failing infrastructure and power grid and I believe we finally have a President that will address that. Change is coming and I hope we have the courage to support it. Fiduciary responsibility instead of deficit spending will finally be the order of the day. This election has proven that your vote does count. Hopefully that will embolden the American people to take action and change the course we're on.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


I chose to title this conclusion, rather than the end. After the dust settles on Election Day I don't believe it will be the end. Far from it, I believe it will signify the conclusion of an acrimonious campaign and the beginning of yet more polarization and dissent. 

After all the innuendo, backstabbing, smearing and who knows what, what will be left? I want to try to verbalize this without sounding prejudicial about either candidate. I have held a disdain for the Clintons for one simple reason. I grew up where the office of the President of the United States was respected, regardless of who held it. Bill Clinton shattered that belief, with a push and assist from the information age. A generation has grown up without ever knowing what Camelot was all about. Ironically, I have to admit the much revered Kennedy administration (and others) was as corrupt and disrespectful of the office. It just wasn't publicized as much. Respect for the office precluded such behavior. That aura and mystique is gone and cannot be recovered. The Clintons are demonstrative of  a system that is corrupted and broken by money. They have mastered the acquisition of it and adroitly maneuvered in the sewer that high finance and politics creates. It is painfully significant that a vote for a Democrat is a nod to big government, more intrusion in our lives and support (and fear of losing) the welfare state. You are correct if you're thinking how is Trump any better than the alternative? For one thing, his purported indiscretions are far less damning than anything the Clintons have committed. The worst of it is dredged up from over a decade ago. Yet, he is another example of someone bending the American Dream to fit his rabid pursuit of power and money. If he prevails it will be revealing to see how he comports himself in the most powerful position in the free world. If this campaign accomplishes anything it should serve as a reminder that our system is irrevocably broken. One of the hallmarks of America and what it stands for, has been the protection and support of freedom loving people anywhere and everywhere. It would be a shame if this campaign signifies the end of that.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Rolling in the Muck

Fair warning; this will be political in nature. I am left to ponder and grieve over the loss of civility in both our nation and its election process. I have long maintained and will keep repeating that the ills of this country can be attributed to a loss of morals. It really is that simple. Both the candidates for president are from the cusp, or transition, of the end of what was known as the greatest generation. I think the degradation started with the beat generation and then the wholesale change that evolved from the turbulent sixties. I remember growing up amidst that change thinking how odd it was that we had a household so steeped in structure and discipline. I now know that that was the last of the era of the nuclear family. I also realize that it made me who I am. Flawed as I am; that discipline and structure saved me many a time in life. I do not consider myself a homophobe or the judge of how others comport themselves. But; in my eyes, having that nuclear family and being raised with discipline and morals makes an overall better person. We have had several generations grow up in this new, loose and undisciplined world and I defy you to say we are better off. I do not know how you close Pandora's box and I doubt that you can. This leads to the Sodom and Gomorrah world we now live in and the candidates it has produced. Say what you want about either one, but they are both full of malice and infected with avarice. They have both lived a life so detached from the "average Joe" that they have no feel for the pulse of this country. With the degradation of morality came the influx of sin, with money being the fuel behind it. Money has destroyed our political process and, along with the fear of losing power, causes even the best of men to stray from the path. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this whole deal is the manner in which we are perceived by the rest of the world. You don't suppose that the candidates have thought about that; do you?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Change of Seasons

The change of seasons is upon us and that means beaucoup changes in the pucker brush. Funny; I first noticed it in the shower. All summer long mother nature heated our black water tank and I simply used the cold faucet to bathe in. Now I have to dial in a little hot water to be comfortable. The air conditioners aren't working as hard; in fact, they have been off all day. The much more tame and hardly noticed snowbird invasion has started. That would be one of the biggest changes I'd say that has come out of the slowdown/oil glut. Used to be that basically anyone that showed up in or around labor day could find a gate to sit on. Not anymore. After the winter debacle of a couple of years back, along with dire warnings from full time gate guards, the winter migration slowed tremendously. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised to find many more opportunities for snow birds this year. I won't pretend to be your Mom or Dad, but let me forewarn you that; along with fewer opportunities, expectations are much higher for guards these days. There are simply far too many highly regarded guards available. We have also begun prepping the house as is our custom every spring and fall. RVs will reach out and slap you in the back pocket if you don't look after them. Along with a host of other things, we will check and reseal the roof, clean all the air conditioner coils, flush the hot water tank, clean out the vents and fire off the house heater (even though we probably won't need it), adjust the refrigerator, check and service the house battery, etc.

I hope you are enjoying the respite from the heat; fall is one of my favorite seasons. We have high hopes that our drone business will literally "take off" this holiday season. We are blessed to still have an exploration company that is going great guns in the brave new sub $50 a barrel world. There has been little shortage of work for us. As most of you have noticed I haven't published much lately, but I will endeavor to get something out before years end. Especially with all that is going on in the world around us. That could mean either a political diatribe or more of my famous musings. C Ya then!

Monday, July 11, 2016

No Drivel Zone

Many a blogger has admonished fellow bloggers not to publish just for the sake of publishing. Such is the plight I have found myself in. I apologize that I've not regaled you with some sort of post for over a month; but not much is happening. When the wind got taken out of the sails of oil exploration; due to over zealous exploration and production (amongst other things), and things slowed to a crawl here, so did most of the fodder for my blog.

The writing was/is on the wall and it's foreboding as far as gate guarding goes. Not to blow my own horn, but I said repeatedly that slackers would eventually have a hard time finding work. Conversely, I also said that those that showed a little initiative and carried themselves professionally would fill what positions were left during/after the glut. Well, all that and more has come to fruition. Positions/gates are slim to none (even for summer) and only the best; for the most part, are filling them. We have supported and remained loyal to J&G and they have been very good to us. They gave us short term and 12 hour gates during our medical issues (plus free rent) and; during the worst of the slowdown, found us private security work outside of the oil field.

Knowing what we know, plus a host of medical issues, has provided impetus to our  search for alternative employment. Plus, I'm not getting any younger. Recently we tested the waters of the small business world; purchasing, repairing and selling drones. Things have progressed to the point that we have opened another outlet at a second flea market. This week was our best in sales yet! Logistics are slowing our expansion as we just don't have the room in the 5th wheel to take on more inventory. That may be for the best now, but eventually we'll need to figure something out. Wish us luck!

Finally, I find it hard to keep my opinions in check, what with the status of this country. We have two equally corrupt (each in their own way) candidates with no alternative choices. The old men smoking cigars in the backroom have reared their ugly heads as never before. The fix is in and the popular vote ain't going to mean squat this election cycle. I mean no disrespect to supporters of either candidate, but can you rationally step back and truly say yours is the answer to the crushing problems of this country? I mean, what does it say about us when all we have to offer is Trump and Clinton?

As far as race relations go; a lot of folks just need to get their heads out of their asses. And those that would turn this and other issues into a "gun grab' should be ashamed of themselves. I sincerely hope that the ambush and killing of police officers and other law enforcement personnel is not a portend of the civil war I have feared. There are deep rooted issues in play here; but the erosion of nationalism in this country; in my opinion, is the primary issue. Uncontrolled borders and lack of assimilation has destroyed what America is all about. Americans are not from Africa or Germany or any other country you might want to mention. We are simply Americans (or should be), united under one flag, and damn proud of it. Plus, I dare say, the vast majority of those calling themselves anything other than American, have not come within spitting distance of the country they supposedly came from. It's gotten to the point that displays of patriotism are a rarity and even looked down upon. How sad and "nuff said".

Monday, June 6, 2016

Experience has Changed Us

Well, we're back on a 24 hour gate, working out of our RV. We rolled in on pure chaos; a workover rig settling in and the equipment that follows a frack crew right behind them. All this in a sea of mud and muck and us just thankful we have four wheel drive to help position our 5ver. To add to the nuttiness, there is no pad here, just a grassy field softened by inches of spring rain. It seems like a long time ago and a distant memory when we could just dial up the area superintendent and have rock trucks and a back hoe make a pad for us. Boy, are those days gone. As it is, we are not cowered or the least bit disturbed (there's no sniffling in the patch) and set to making the best of things. Time was I'd drop setting up camp and attend to the flow of vehicles. Not so much anymore; I pretty much know who does and doesn't belong. As far as recording goes, the company should have got me here before the flood gates opened (no pun intended). My priorities have changed and I kind of have a system in place and getting settled is the numero uno priority. As far as the mud and muck goes; it ain't worth fighting and sweeps up when it dries. We have a bunch of old towels at the ready and we lay a couple by the main door and set one aside for the dogs paws. It's funny how things change when viewed from a different perspective. Somehow the traffic associated with a frack is no longer daunting and has become part of the job. There's a sense of comradery as you inevitably run into folks that you've crossed paths with over the years. The gate even settles into a routine as folks seem to know how we run things. Maybe it's because we haven't seen a drilling rig for as long as I can remember or maybe experience has changed us; a frack ain't no big deal anymore.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Set in my Ways

After almost 6 years in the patch I have reached a level of comfortability on a 24 hour gate, living out of our RV (home). We have worked shacks, windfarms, roving patrols (sometimes in our POV) and a variety of temp work in our vehicles. None of those compared with being able to walk out of the door of the RV, sitting in a chair and being at work. Recent illness has caused me to reflect on our profession as gate guards. We are parked at our company yard and working whatever job our company can come up with. Whether it's a temp security job or workover rig, we are doing it. Some are just a one day gig, but most last a few days. As is my practice, I will not comment on our pay; suffice it to say our security company is very generous. The jobs all share some things in common. It's almost always a long drive, in your vehicle, to the work site. The work day is usually 12 hours or longer; with the commute added in it's even longer and rest even more scarce and precious. Creature comforts are most time missing, making hygiene interesting. You have to be self contained as leaving your post is not an option; which can make a diet difficult to follow. Fatigue is a common partner, making trying to stay alert a challenge. You're exposed to the elements, with heat and cold the least of your worries. While we are grateful for the work (and free rent), it does wear on you after a while. Our health issues also have an effect as we fatigue easy and our stamina is not at full song. My hats off to you seniors, I'm not sure how you do the work. My fondness for working out of our RV has not waned. My distaste for 12 hour work has grown even stronger. Maybe I'm just set in my ways, but I can't wait to get on a traditional gate with my RV.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

An Easy Decision

For as long as I can remember, we were champions of J&G Security. We took some flack for it, but we persisted. So much so that some thought of us as paid recruiters. Although we occasionally were rewarded for our efforts, we were never on the payroll. Little did anyone know, but I actually was a "go to" guy for guards for several companies. I'm still doing that, it's just the phone doesn't ring as much these days. I took great pleasure in helping others and felt like I had to pay it forward after the help I received (thanks Andy!) J&G had a tarnished reputation because of dealings I'm not familiar with and won't comment on. Justin French was in the process of gaining control of the company when we signed on. Therefore. I think it's unfair to saddle past mistakes with him. We have seen the company grow from a half dozen gates or less to well over two dozen during the $100 a barrel craziness. Thankfully, during the current collapse and glut, our main customer rewarded J&G with an exclusive security contract, ensuring that at least a core group of us would still have work.

I could spend paragraphs citing examples where J&G went above and beyond to help us out and/or keep us employed. However, for me, the best example has to be their caring for both of us during our recent health issues. When I recently suffered a heart attack on a gate, they had subs in place before I could get in the truck to go to the hospital. Through the years at J&G we have been surprised by their candor and rewarded for our efforts. We always know where we stand, making the choice of who to contract out to an easy decision.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Medical Emergency in the Oil Patch

.As some of you may know I recently suffered a heart attack. I've had cardio problems for years so I'm familiar with what to expect; or so I thought. My initial experience came after a lack of vigor and notably slow blood flow. I had my first experience with the cath lab then. Most heart procedures are handled by the cath lab, so named because of the catheter the cardiologist uses. They make an injection in the patients groin or arm and, using dyes and cameras they navigate around the arteries of the heart, looking for blockages. Once a blockage(s) is found the cardiologist can either insert a stint (to widen the vessel or artery) or; if things are too bad; he can opt to pull out and perform a bypass. That calls for open heart surgery. That's what eventually happened to me; I ended up with a quadruple bypass. Throughout all the years of cardio problems, I'd never suffered what I call a "classic heart attack". You know; like the guy doubled over in pain in the old movies screaming for his digitalis. In fact, the only way they were able to tell I had had a heart attack was scarring on the heart muscle and elevated enzymes in my blood. I had felt no discomfort. That all changed with this heart attack. I started to feel like something wasn't right a few days before the event and it got progressively worse. I really wanted to cause as little fuss as possible and tried to find someone to cover our gate, with no luck. The last two nights I awoke to extremely acute angina, something that had never happened before. Finally, I could not take the pain and could not move more than a few feet in any direction. I messaged my boss and told him I needed to get to a hospital. Many remarkable things happened after that, mostly from the kindness of guards; some that were strangers and some that we knew. Everyone of them had to drop what they were doing and some had just worked a shift. I am VERY grateful to all of them. We were rolling to town in less than thirty minutes. No offense meant to all the very capable medical professionals in all the small towns we passed through, but we knew we needed a cardiologist, so we didn't bother to stop. We also knew it would take time and that they would more than likely put me on a life flight to San Antonio, so we pushed on. One of my fears of dealing with heart disease in the oil patch has been the remote areas we work in. I have to say this fear was realized because it was a long, painful ride. On top of that, the first hospital we stopped at did not have a cath lab or even a cardiologist on staff. Let me say that. the folks at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital went to great lengths to diagnose me and alleviate my pain. Unfortunately, I only remember the name of the gorgeous nurse that attended to me; thanks Priscilla! As an aside, let me tell you that you have no dignity when those folks are poking and prodding. All I know is that I had to pee something awful and no one missed a beat while I stood up and peed into a portable urinal. That was strange, but at that point I simply wanted the pain to go away. I had a goofy doctor (no offense meant, it might have been his bedside manner); that knew what he was looking at. Amongst all the chaos in the small room I was in, he burst in and trumpeted to all who could hear that I was suffering a heart attack. I'm not sure why, but it kind of reminded me of a scene from a Groucho Marx movie. He then dropped the "bomb" that they didn't have a cath lab or cardiologist on staff and that I would be transported by an ALS ambulance to Baptist Hospital in downtown San Antonio. I had some morphine in me by then (here I go again with my wild thoughts) and all I could think of was Mr. Toads Wild Ride in Disneyland. I had a pint sized lady for a driver and she made Danica Patrick proud. Everyone could learn a lesson from the communication at Baptist Hospital(s). They were expecting me at the ambulance door and a armed security guard shepherded us through a warren of passageways and elevators(all requiring his key card) till we reached the cath lab on the sixth floor. There, an entire cath lab, a cardiologist and assistants awaited me and knew who I was. Amazing! By the time Missy arrived from the other hospital, they had started the procedure. I can't say enough about the staff at Baptist Hospital, especially downtown. The remarkable things continued to happen, because I also ended up with a top notch cardiologist looking after me. Now; if I could just improve the food. I am on the road to recovery and need to mention one final thing. I have some of the best people you'd ever want to meet at the security company we contract out to. J&G Security has always had our back and this time was no exception. They have let us roost in their yard; both this time and during Missy's recent health issues. They have also kept some money coming in by assigning us twelve hour gates. Our trust of each other is mutual and we go out of our way to represent them professionally.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Worth of a Gate Guard or Workamper

This subject has been hashed about ad nauseam. Several blogs have dealt with everything from work environment expectations to rate of pay and beyond. With the over abundance of oil and the subsequent slowdown have come the expected cuts in pay and decline of the RV as a guard shack/home at a ranch gate. So the subject is worth revisiting.

First, let me speak on the subject of workamping. Having tried it, I remain skeptical of anyone making it on the road workamping unless you have little debt and some sort of supplemental income. I have kept tabs on the workamping scene and it has gotten worse, especially with the advent of having to pay for your site out of the meager income you do make. The rational from some pundits is that it is an ideal job for retirees and; if you need money, you can always get a part time job. Let me say that there is no way I could do the work I was asked to do at my current age or beyond. As far as finding secondary employment, I was never able to make anything fit in with my workamping obligations.

On to gate guarding. This has always been a tough gig as the aforementioned blogs will attest. Noobs that came in without doing their fair share of investigating faced an uphill climb to success and lots gave it up. Woe to the person(s) that thought they would kick back in their camp chair and pickup some easy money. There have been and continue to be sweeping changes in the industry. I thought guard shacks would take over the industry (they may still), but I've seen some resistance building. There are a whole lot of negatives for shack work, most notably the drive back and forth and having to pay for a place to park your rig. The most striking change has been the decline in pay for gate guard work. Most of us knew it was coming, but sub $100 for a 12 hour day even surprised me. The only advice I can give you, is know what your getting into and the rate you agreed upon. A man's word is still his bond in Texas and you should abide by it. I'm one that believes you should finish the task at hand before moving on.

IMHO the day may come when this gig is not worth doing; especially in the hell that is called summer in South Texas. However; every time I think to myself that there is no way someone is going to take a job, someone jumps into the saddle. I, for one, am making preparations for a future outside of gate guarding. It just makes sense to me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Value of Experience

Other than a couple of occurrences; me for some heart work and Missy for "woman" issues, we have remained fairly healthy. Some time after we moved down here to work in the oil patch Missy started having prolonged coughing spells. For convenience, and since we didn't have insurance, she went to the local clinic and hospital. Although they noted a high calcium count in her blood, they failed to put that together with several other issues she was experiencing. If they had correctly attributed her high calcium count to a problem with her parathyroid glands, the calcium wouldn't have caused stones to accumulate in her gall bladder. Now she is facing surgery to remove her gall bladder and to remove tumor(s) from her parathyroid gland. As it turns out, the pesky cough that the clinic diagnosed as whooping cough (along with several other symptoms) were the result of her calcium filled gall bladder. The specialist in the "big city" figured that out after just a few minutes spent reviewing her chart. Skills vary in every profession, but to get the best out of our legal and medical system requires deep pockets and/or insurance. We can all learn from this and try to get a second opinion, especially with prolonged symptoms.

While I was composing this Missy had her gall bladder removed and is doing better. Her parathyroid surgery is next.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Prepping, RV Style

You don't have to be some fringe lunatic to be a prepper. A lot of perfectly level headed folks are doing it. And you don't have to dig a big hole in the yard and stockpile it. IMHO everyone should have a "go" bag and a plan to egress, or exit, their home; especially a RV. Have undies, toothpaste, a bottle of water or two, medications, etc. (about a weeks worth) in a bag, ready to go. Have all your important papers in one place; we have a portable fire proof safe. There is more than the apocalypse to prep for. We have gate guards that have had to abandon their RV for all sorts of reasons; from floods to storms. We had to evacuate a gate due to a methane leak after the BOP failed. At the very least I would like for everyone to increase their situational awareness. Have a plan to get out should something happen. Finally, check ALL of your detectors and replace their batteries regularly.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A New Environment

The price of crude oil has recovered. Before you get all excited, let me say that that simply means it is no longer hovering at or below $30 a barrel. The bad news is that it seems to have found a ceiling of around $40. And, although its volatility seems to have settled a bit, it still has yet to level out. I stand by my prediction that it will take at least three years before things settle down. Unless there is some sort of apocalyptic event I also feel that the days of $100 a barrel (or more) oil are gone. The world of gate guarding is rapidly adapting to this new environment. I am very surprised that we have not seen more consolidation and bankruptcies with oil security businesses. Regardless, gate guards are feeling it as fewer and fewer gates are available and pay is starting to reflect the loss of demand. Twelve hour gates are paying $100 or less and 24 hour gates are trending downward. Gross pay for a 24 hour gate is actually lower because a lot of guards are sitting for longer periods between gate opportunities. How far are we from having security companies offering gates with hookups in exchange for your work? Sort of  like what we're seeing more and more in campground jobs. Scary, huh? It's past time to "batten down the hatches" in the gate guard business.

I leave you with this. Either Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our next president. The ramifications of that on gate guarding should be a clarion call for all of us.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Flip Side of Retail

I have had mixed results trying to come up with ways to supplement my income. Most of my experiences have been negative. What I lack in business acumen I more than make up for in persistence. I seem to be able to come up with great ideas, but fail to bring them to fruition. Someone once said, "Do something you like or love and you'll never work a day a day in your life". As some of you know I have developed a fondness for drones. I have tried radio controlled helicopters and seemingly lack the coordination to fly them. Not so with drones, most of which have a 6 axis gyro system. Simply put, by nature they are very stable. It takes a bit to get the hang of it, but even I can fly them. There are three basic levels, or grades of drones; toy, hobby and professional. Before you laugh all this off, take note that the United States Air Force has sent recruiters into grade schools looking for future UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle or drone) pilots. It is one of the fastest growing career fields in the military. The hobby and professional level drones start at several hundred dollars per drone and climb (pardon the pun) from there. Other than a few basic models I have no desire to spend thousands of dollars on a drone. I also have no need to take professional pictures or to send a drone off on a GPS coordinated mission. As it turns out, like a lot of people, my interest was piqued by a drone I saw in a retail store. A lot of toy drones are sold this way and most are cheaply made in China. I bought and returned three to a store before I started serious research on the subject. After watching a ton of You Tube videos and spending hours researching, I finally found my way to Syma quadcopters. (quad, because of the number of propellers they have) I ended up purchasing Syma quadcopters because they support their products and parts are readily available. I'll not bore you, but here are other companies like Hubsan, UDI and World Tech Toys that equally support their products. Which brings me to my point, for those of you still awake out there. Most toy drones are manufactured in China and are cheaply made. They use brushless motors and cheap components, They can be fragile and their motors tend to burn out frequently. Unfortunately, it is at this point that a lot of folks return their toy drones. As a lot of people will tell you, I am always looking for a bargain. It was on one of these saving investigations that I stumbled on drones at cut rate prices on E Bay. Further research revealed that most of them were listed as inoperative, with some malady or another. It turns out that most of them were returns by dissatisfied customers. A light went off in my brain and I wondered how hard they would be to repair and resell? I purchased one and it arrived with a slightly dinged up propeller; but otherwise looked new. We changed out the propeller and it flew like a bird. Next came the big gamble. I contacted one of the resellers on E Bay and told him what I proposed to do. He wanted me to commit to a pallet load before making a deal! As most of you know, we live in a 5th wheel and that was not going to work. I finally got him to agree to send us a dozen to start out. I guess store personnel  are just as ignorant as their customers because we were able to get everyone of them flying in less than a half hour. Some were extremely simple (like knowing how to "pair" the transmitter with the drone) and none were more complicated than a motor replacement. We even had some that just had the propellers installed in the incorrect position! While both of us are good at making repairs, it is Missy who excels and enjoys repairing the drones. Next came the second big gamble; could we sell them? We spent the weekend at a local flea market and the answer is a decisive YES! We have tried a few other things at the flea market with little success, so this was a pleasant surprise. By Sunday afternoon we were sold out and had the frustrating experience of not being able to meet customer demand. Now, we just need to figure out how to work our regular job and get to the flea market on weekends.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Some Random Thoughts

I like to talk and I like to write; so I'm no stranger to writers block. Honestly, I'd rather not write anything at all if my heart just isn't in it. For the first time in my life; especially my publishing life, current events have served to diminish my zeal for writing. Obviously I have had events occur in my life that affected how and what I wrote, but it rarely, if ever, kept me from the task. The crash of the price of a barrel of oil has done just that. As I've said previously, being so close to the well head provides a glaring view of the unfolding tragedy. And, make no mistake about it, this is a tragedy. All businesses suffer from some sort of contraction at some point; but it is rare to have a collapse such as we've seen in the oil market. We're talking layoffs of thousands of folks; not a dozen or so. As a on the scene witness it is hard to digest and accept. One drilling company we provided security for initially sent out layoff notices to everyone with three years employment or less. I think oil was semi holding at around $40 a barrel then. As we all know oil prices continued to fall and the ax fell on employees with five, and then six years of service. It was breathtaking and painful to watch. Morale has hit new lows on most job sites. An unfortunate cottage industry has sprung up from the ashes; gate guards are now being utilized as security over stacked equipment and bank repossessions. It almost seems unfair and selfish to be held in such good stead by the security company we contract out to. That last sentence didn't sound right after I wrote it, but it correctly reflects how we feel. I don't chat that much with the rest of the gate guard community and now even less so. So many guards are out of work and so many are looking that we are guarded about what we say and share. Ever hear the saying, "There's no joy in Mudville?" I am fairly certain that we have at least a year of semi steady employment left; hopefully, by then the price of oil will have at least leveled out. It's impossible to cover this subject and not touch on politics, because strong leadership is sorely lacking; and not just when it comes to oil. As long as fossil fuels are regarded with disdain by the powers to be, the suffering of those in the industry will little matter. Ups and downs are an unfortunate part of the energy business. That doesn't mean I have to like being a part of it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Allure of Sub $2.00 a Gallon Fuel

Americans are jumping on cheap fill ups and both spending and putting the savings in their pockets. The unfortunate consequences, however, are beginning to be felt. A concoction of events has served to mire the economies of both the United States and China; two of the world's largest economies, in an economic tailspin. Meanwhile, while demand is down, more oil than ever is flooding the market. Two recent, significant events have further depressed the price of oil. Iran is coming back on the market after years of sanctions and several long term offshore projects are due to come on line. I stand behind my belief that Saudi Arabia and the members of OPEC had directional drilling in the United States in mind when they refused to cut production as the world's economies slowed. It remains to be seen how long OPEC can hold out with oil at nearly $20 a barrel. Here in the South Texas oil patch the effect has been devastating. Thousands have been laid off and machinery is stacked all over. So many other industries are affected that it is hard to count. There are (or were) caterers, house cleaners, porta potty folks, welders, office staff, rail workers, truck drivers, laborers, security companies, office staff - I can go on for a long time. All of those have a symbiotic relationship with professions and jobs that have little or nothing to do with the petroleum business. We also have leadership that sees petroleum and coal products as dirty fuel and seemingly could care less what affect their policy has on those who make a living working and producing it. Meanwhile, the average American rejoices as he or she sticks that fuel nozzle in their tank. I believe the effects on the rest of our economy will be profound as the "oil recession" makes its way through it. The economies of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio are already seeing depressed home sales and a significant uptick in foreclosures. Working near the well head gives you a unique perspective on things. Every time I get more and more news of layoffs, bankruptcies and cutbacks I am left to wonder when it will finally settle down. Remember that I said this. We will not see $100 plus a barrel of oil again in my lifetime. I have had the privilege of witnessing a historic event as I chronicled the boom in South Texas. Fortunately it made me slow down, enjoy and take in everything. So often in life we miss out on experiences going on right in front of us. Though I doubt I will be so privileged again, I sincerely hope I am. I would love to see the craziness of a few years ago again.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Biding our Time

Well, we didn't win the Wednesday draw for Powerball. Neither did anyone else and the total has reached mythological proportions; almost a billion dollars. I'm bad at math, but I think a thousand million is a billion? My father had advised me to contact an uncle of mine for advice should I ever win the lottery. Whatever the advice is, I would hope that I remain the same person I am now. It would be my desire to pay off all my debts, set up a foundation for philanthropic purposes and ensure that sufficient funds are set aside to allow my family a comfortable life in retirement.

Back to reality. We are setting, waiting on the call for a gate. Though most, if not all, of our expenditures were necessary, it has been an expensive week for us. We both needed an eye exam and glasses and three blowouts (two recently) demanded that we replace the tires on the 5ver. At least almost everything we needed to accomplish is done.

Unfortunately, oil has hit even lower lows which has stymied any upswing in activity in the patch. By my reckoning, this will be the third year in a row without a significant uptick in activity from first quarter funding. All this means we might be sitting for a while, something I am loath to endure. I keep a positive attitude knowing that we will eventually be offered a gate. Lots of our colleagues in the oil and gas industry will not be that lucky. Reliable sources say that our primary customer has just 5 rigs and 5 frack crews working in South Texas. That adds up to a few gates, especially when you consider not all of them require guards.

That leaves us with time to enjoy a few of the simpler pleasures. We both like getting out and about and we share similar hobbies (except I don't crochet). I derive great pleasure from flying my drones. Unlike some of my fellow operators, I enjoy keeping them in sight and the mere challenge of controlling them. No complicated, GPS coordinated photographic missions for me. The fragile nature of these awesome machines (plus the fact that the majority are made cheaply in China) makes for a steep learning curve. Luckily parts are readily available and most repairs are pretty straight forward. FWIW, if you are contemplating succumbing to you or your kids desire to own one; you'll save yourself a lot of heartache if you do your research first by ascertaining the availability of parts. The last time we bought a drone, we called the manufacturer in the store to ensure they supported the product. Note this. If you fly you will eventually crash and parts will fail. Part of the hobby is repairing them. I recommend the following makes that support their product and or have ample parts available: Traxxas, Syma and World Tech Toys. All are available on Amazon. Here's hoping you join me in this enjoyable hobby.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, New Challenges

We were released about a week into the New Year. We had suffered a blowout on the 5ver heading to the gate, so we were aprehensive about coming off the gate. I made sure all the tires were inflated to the correct pressure and that, combined with the cool weather, led me to believe we would be okay. Six miles outside of Jourdanton, about halfway to the RV park where we planned to rest, one of the tires blew out. I was following Missy in our car and it sounded like a cannon shot while debris rained down on me. Fortune was on our side as we had a fellow gate guard that was nearby loan us a spare. (Our spare was used for the first blowout) We finally arrived at the RV park tired and frustrated; then the front jack motor wouldn't work. We couldn't disconnect from the truck till we got the jacks at least planted. That left the cramped space between the truck and trailer to troubleshoot the problem. After manually planting the jacks our friendly RV repairman helped us locate and fix a loose ground. Such is the life of the fulltimer and it does no good to whine about it. Things have to look up and we still have a few days to relax before returning to work.b