Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Tribute

Carol Rae Bass is gone. At least she no longer physically fills the lives of all those she knew and affected so profoundly. Almost everyone, when speaking of a mother, will speak of her in superlatives. To broad brush my mother  like that would be a mistake and disservice to the legacy she leaves behind. It is truly difficult to explain and describe how much in words she meant to those that were blessed to know her. She was an aunt, a sister, a mother, a grandmother and great grandmother and truly the matriarch of our extended family. Great people do things out of kindness with regularity and seek no notice for their deeds. That was my mother and the void she left behind is impossible to fill. As an Air Force family we travelled the world together and my mother was put in the position of raising and caring for the family. There is no way that my father could have achieved the things that he did without the strong woman that was my mother at the the helm of our family. My fathers duty to country simply kept him away too much. Strong, caring women with innate leadership capabilities were the hallmark of the Keene family and all of my mothers sisters were blessed with it. God could not have provided a better example of the "older sister" and she filled those shoes with grace. To me her legacy will be the shepherding of so many people through the difficult path that life sometimes puts before us. Especially the lives of her grand children and great grand children. Rest in peace Mom.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mixed Feelings

Sometimes, when you read or hear "mixed feelings" it has a negative connotation. In this case I simply have a bunch of feelings that are all mixed together. Perhaps you could call it information overload. We are heading out into a brave new world; life outside the confines of gate guarding. We have strayed before, but it was performing basically the same vocation; protecting a wind farm instead of a petroleum site. One might ask the roots of these mixed feelings and I would have to say it is the scam that is workamping itself. Let me first state that things may have changed since we  "workamped", but I somehow doubt it. When we did it, pay and benefits/perks were downright awful. I don't know how anyone can do it without a secondary source of income such as retirement and/or social security. Our best compensation package was $1350 a month, with a site provided, between the two of us. From what I have gleaned from watching workamping opportunities over the years is that things are even worse than before. Wages have remained stagnant and more and more facilities are asking that the already beleaguered workamper pay for his site. Let me clarify that there are seasonal opportunities out there where RV'ers can make decent money. These include selling Christmas trees, fireworks and pumpkins, assisting with the annual beet harvest or working for Amazon. I will say; if you can make it work, that it is a challenging and rewarding vocation. The "catch 22" is that most of us will be in the autumn of our lives, probably in declining health, when we achieve that secondary income stream. We were determined and set out to workamp after my cardiac issues began to effect my work. Those were some of the toughest years of my life. We were at the brink of failure, worn out emotionally  and beaten down when gate guarding came to our attention. We pulled into Whitsett, on a bet, almost seven years ago with maybe $100 between us. So, leaving gate guarding is not easy; especially for me. Even though the demands of the profession  mostly require some one's presence 24/7, I have mostly enjoyed life on the gate. I enjoyed the challenge and meeting new people, along with learning what it takes to extract oil from the earth. I also will never forget how we scratched and clawed to get by before we got here. It makes someone both wary and grateful. The difference this time (hopefully) is that we are on firmer financial footing. I have retirement income and we have a burgeoning business. Still; I am both wary and excited. There is so much to do, picking up and moving all our belongings, much less relocating ourselves and a business. Thank goodness the Internet and modern day communication negate the drawbacks of relocating a business. We will remain at the same address in cyberspace, if that's what you call it, and our e-mails and phone numbers won't change; for now. I really enjoy life in the pucker brush and Texas/Texans themselves. I am also very excited to return to Florida, where most of my family resides. I love my entire family, but I especially love my mother and look forward to seeing her on a regular basis. I also have a sister that has grown from a sworn enemy (when we were much younger) into a trusted friend and confidant. Then there is my niece and daughter and their kids that I relish to spend time with. All of them have supported me unconditionally over the years. So; we are not saying goodbye permanently (unless you ask Missy (-; ); just so long for now. I finish with a grateful thank you to all of you that have supported this blog and my Facebook page. Knowing that there are those of you that actually enjoyed my drivel over the years has rewarded me immeasurably. Thanks so much; there will be more! 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Life Happened

Somewhere along the line I accepted the fact that I would not be some famous, remarkable person blazing a path for society. I didn't give up, I simply accepted my station in life. My biggest frustration has been my inability to grow and develop ideas; leaving me a frustrated dreamer. My father was very successful and accomplished any number of things (not the least of which was his service to this great country). My greatest successes in the "nine to five" world were marred by my inability to navigate the world of corporate politics. Chasing the proverbial carrot left me mostly living paycheck to paycheck and bereft of the freedom to go places and do the things that others so easily did. My failing health, amongst other things, led me to the world of workamping. I struggled mightily at that vocation which eventually led me to the world of gate guarding; basically providing security for the oil exploration industry. This job requires a person(s) with initiative and a sense of responsibility as you are given very little, if any supervision. It is a job; mostly performed by partners out of their personal RV, that requires dedication, as someone has to be on duty 24-7. I enjoy the solitude and especially not having someone constantly breathing down my neck. The job also pays well and has allowed me to start and build a small business, refurbishing and selling drones. I also met and married a wonderful lady along the way. Now circumstances find us leaving this job and Texas behind. We are headed to Florida, for at least the winter, to be closer to friends and family. That all started when we were gifted with tickets to the Nascar race at the Homestead Miami Speedway. Since the race falls in the holiday season it also made sense to try drone sales in Florida. We also have the security of knowing that, if all else fails, we can return to gate guarding. Reintegrating with family will most likely be a challenge but one that I relish and look forward to. The last ten years of my life have tested my mettle, but also have been some of the most rewarding. I have been blessed with wonderful partners, both in business and life. I look forward to the fresh start and inevitable change on the horizon.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Musings are Back!

I acknowledge that our current President can be bombastic at times; which, unfortunately, alters the intent and purpose of his message(s). It stirs a variety of emotions in people but the worst (IMHO) is not taking him seriously. What stirred my emotions was the stand POTUS took in regards to patriotism and the protests of Colin Kaepernick and others, including the unflattering comments of Seth Curry. He disinvited Seth  from coming to the White House and may have included his teammates. Additionally, POTUS advocated disciplinary action against the NFL players that refuse to conform, including firing them. First off, in my opinion politics, religion and whatever personal beliefs one may have, and your job shouldn't mix. Freedom means many things and you can express your dissent without shaming our flag and anthem, especially in public events. What you acknowledge by at least standing and facing the flag is that you respect it and your country. Somewhere along the line nationalism got wrapped up in things it never was all about. It pains me that respecting your country and its sovereignty has been broad brushed with every "hot button" issue of the day. So, if you remotely think like me (and I believe a lot of you do), don't be ashamed by showing your patriotism and respect for this country and the values it REALLY stands for.

On to the rash of hurricanes a lot of the planet have been affected by. Kudos to the grass roots uprising that resulted in untold lives being saved after the flooding in Houston and the surrounding metroplex. Unfortunately, it takes a disaster of this proportion to galvanize people and for their best to be exposed. Apparently, we need a second wind as some of the areas literally destroyed by Harvey and Irma's wrath seem forgotten. So, here's a gentle reminder to remember places like Port Arthur and Rockport, where some people apparently are so distressed and baffled, that they are attempting to live in the squalor that is the remains of their home. Finally, a proud nod to my niece, her mother and a whole lot of other folks who have coordinated with local charities and are hand carrying supplies to the devastation of the Florida Keys. The best part of this relief effort is that it goes directly to those that need it the most. No executives and self important people here, diverting funds from where they belong. Just a group of local folks that care about their fellow man. Which brings me to several large corporations that I solicited for just a little bit of help. What I got, in reply from Coca Cola, Publix and others was a dissertation on all the monies that they had donated to the Red Cross and others. I had a previous experience when I requested assistance from American Eagle, a Budweiser distributor. After a few short questions they were all in and donated more than I ever needed. Kudos to them. It shows it can be done at a local level when you empower your employees to do the right thing. If you feel so inclined you can read about one of the charities that my niece supports at www.brightseasons.org.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Mixed Emotions

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Night Moves

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

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Musings of a Veteran Gate Guard

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Changes

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Holiday?

Easter and the annual Spring renewal have arrived. I can't help but think this is a holiday heavily modified by Christians, as are most muddled by the fog of time. The  resurrection and the events that surround it fittingly coincide with the vernal equinox, a renewal itself. I am not one of those bible thumping sorts, but I think I follow Christian values in my life. (For the sake of full disclosure it wasn't always that way) It would be interesting to see how Jesus and his disciples would look upon the traditions that have aligned themselves with the resurrection. The Hispanic and Tex Mex cultures like to make it a family event and camp out for the holiday weekend. I don't know a lot about it, but it has evolved into sort of an early Memorial day for them. Fiesta also coincides with the Easter holiday, yet another Hispanic and Tex Mex event. How odd that, for some, Fiesta has evolved into an event heavily laced with alcohol and partying. As a lot of you know I embrace the Hispanic culture, so feel free to correct my observations. Just remember I meant no malice or disrespect, so enlighten us. For my family and I Easter was a celebration of the resurrection, but we kept things mostly separate. The holiday (for some reason I don't like characterizing Easter as a holiday) also centered around Good Friday and Easter itself, not a multi day or weeks long event. On Easter Sunday we would go to church; sometimes in new clothes, but always in our Sunday best. Then we would gather at one of the family residences and have a big dinner. That was the time that we conducted Easter egg hunts and other traditions that have evolved over the years.

Whatever your beliefs, Spring has arrived and nature is on full display. Take time to be grateful that another Winter is behind us and go out and enjoy the all too short "window weather". Celebrate your beliefs, whatever they may be, and be glad that we are in a country where we can do that. Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Busy Routine

As a lot of my dear readers know I have cut back on my publishing; simply because I do not wish to bore you. We have settled into a semi routine existence with Missy working at Six Flags Fiesta and me working in maintenance at a local RV resort. Since I work weekends Missy has also taken on the responsibility of keeping our drone business up and running. Missy is still suffering from the burn out that can come from working 24-7 for years on an oil field gate. I kind of liked the routine (and the money), but will allow Missy to return when she sees fit.

The drone business is slowly growing and we celebrated a year in business in February. That's a milestone for a lot of reasons; as I understand a great percentage of businesses fail to last a year. We had several celebratory events with camera drones for $30 being the most popular. We now have at least two wholesalers we can depend upon and recently established a relationship with a large company near Dallas. They have accounts with truckstops, Amazon and Walmart, to name a few. They cannot keep up with their tech support so we have assumed that responsibility in exchange for drones. That has added yet another dimension to our business as the tech support line has resulted in us sending drone parts all over the USA. Finally, we have established and published a web page which you can visit at www.thedronedoctor.net.

It looks as if the RV park where I work will be slowing down as the winter Texans head north. It remains to be seen if my health will allow me to perform the more strenuous activities they'll expect of me as traffic ramps down. I may shorten my work week and perform some gate guarding or just gate guard part time. Having the security license opens up a lot of opportunities. As I have said in the past, if you feel "trapped" gate guarding because of the income (or other reasons), you can wean yourself away from it. It has not been easy, but we now know we don't have to be dependent on it.

I will continue to update as warranted. Spring has arrived and the annual renewal with it. Time to spiff things up, get organized and enjoy life. Happy Trails!!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wake Up America!

You cannot run a country forever with deficit spending, porous borders, and; especially, a polarized government. That's only mentioning a few of the things ailing our great country. I consider myself part of the grass roots movement that swept Trump into office. My support and faith never wavered even to the point of sending financial contributions.

I find it almost humorous that the entrenched politicos and others potentially affected by Trump's stated policy changes are "running for the exits". All you "nasty women" (her words, not mine), enviro wackos and fem Nazis; to name just a few, your day of reckoning is upon you. We have pandered to the minority and ultra sensitive for way too long.

I'm against federalizing our police forces, but have tried for a long time to highlight the slaughter and semi anarchy in the streets of Chicago.

I feel for the anchor babies and others that have innocently been dragged into the immigration controversy. However, we cannot allow sanctuary cities and illegals to run the streets and rob our nation of its identity and resources.

I feel we cannot be the worlds police force and support a mobile, quick reaction military whose strength is second to none. We seem to have forgotten the painful lessons of Vietnam and continue to find ourselves mired in untenable situations.

I find myself extremely disappointed that our countries infrastructure has eroded around us while little seems to get done.

I am supportive of proven alternative energy sources. but feel proven fossil fuel sources should remain as a first choice.

I feel we are at war with China and Russia who continue to rob our country in innumerable ways; including, but not limited to technology.

For too long we have been a rudderless nation with the three branches of government seemingly unable to function as the founders intended. It is the Executive branch's responsibility to set an agenda and lead the government. We have lacked an effective manager and leader for this country for a long time. Hopefully, those that have lived off of the largesse of our corrupted government fear the impending day of reckoning. Instead of fighting change, perhaps we should embrace it and see where a well led, fiduciarily responsible country can go and what great heights it can achieve.          

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lifestyle Changes

Just about every one of the past six years has found us on a gate as fulltime gate guards. This year, six plus years in the pucker brush finally wore us down. Eventually everyone grows tired of answering the bell or just says "no mas" and moves on. We are suffering from "gate guard burnout" and need to recharge our batteries. I have suffered through the yearly assault of mountain cedar, pneumonia, every type of bronchial infection you can imagine from the dust and a heart attack. Except for the heart attack, we managed to soldier on while remaining on the gate. Add to that, I "officially" became a senior citizen by tapping into my social security account, which also restricts the amount of income I can earn. We remain on the books at J&G, although their response has been tepid, at best. Our plan has been to work day gates and relief, but our phone has not rung much. We worked very hard as contractors and our reputation in the oil field was second to none. We also, for the most part, enjoy(ed) working for J&G. Missy and I are somewhat surprised because we expected that J&G would be more supportive of our lifestyle changes. As my friend says, "There is no sniffling in the oil patch", and the patch remains notorious for the ebb and flow of work, so hopefully things will eventually pick up for us.

The drop in income has caused some belt tightening around here. Along with being more cautious with our spending, we have also cut what bills we can. I have taken a part time job at the RV park where we are staying which pays the lot rent and puts a little jingle in my pocket. Missy not only works the flea market, she also has started working in the home health care business again. The drone business is growing and we derive income from that. We recently received our biggest shipment yet (150-160) drones and have been very busy inventorying and repairing them. Those of you hesitant to break away from the income stream that gate guarding provides should know that it can be done. You might even realize that you enjoy taking a break now and then.

We are both looking forward to 2017, especially with my health issues, which makes me value every day that I am given. We consider ourselves members of the conservative movement and supported Trump in his campaign to get elected. No matter the outcome we remain resolute that changes had to be made. It is telling that the Democrats continue to stall at every turn; even though they soon will be the minority party. Apparently eight plus years of infighting, along with a polarized Congress, has failed to make an impression on a lot of politicians. How ironic that just the threat of running our government in a fiscally responsible way has a lot of folks running for cover. For those of you with a different perspective, there is always impeachment, or you can take solace in knowing it can only last eight years. After all, we suffered through eight years of ineptitude...