“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton
It was exactly like that except for the part about the rain. We haven’t had any rain for 4 months. And, there wasn’t even a hint of wind. Also, of course, this is Texas, not London. The treetops did seem to be rattling, but that could have been snakes or pig hunters. The tea lamps put out very scanty flames.
I was writing. Henry was having disturbing dreams, making little yelps in his sleep. Of course he may have been dreaming he was back in Oregon, chasing sea gulls on the beach. Anyway, a part from Henry, it was very quiet. Even the rig site seemed still.
Then suddenly everything went black. It was no longer just quiet, it was silent. No generator hum. No suicidal moths flinging themselves at the lights.
Something tackled me. Startled into flight by the silence, Henry bounded onto my lap, spilling my coffee. Sadly that was the last coffee I was to have for a long time.
I sat in the dark, holding Henry, waiting for everything to be restored to its natural order.
I’m of the school of thought that if it’s broken, don’t do anything and maybe it will fix itself.
It didn’t. My keen problem solving skills kicked in. I was about to wake Heidi up to ask her what to do when out of the vast blackness came a thump and a whisper.
What’s going on? Heidi murmured. After 4 months of gate guarding, if there’s anything that feels unnatural about sleeping it’s darkness and quiet.
Heidi sprang into action! She does not believe in waiting for spontaneous restoration. Armed with 1 LCD flashlight, we systematically secured the perimeters.
Sleeping snakes, hungry hogs, mad bulls, crazed coons and all other unknown lurking creatures failed to manifest themselves. The shadows were deep since we live in a jungle of mesquite and live oaks, but if something was hiding, it remained hidden.
Heidi restarted the generator. Hum! Silence.
She tried again. Hum! Lights! Silence.
After re-checking every plug and valve and socket and giving the key one final turn, we retreated, defeated.
Heidi left a message for our Field Supervisor while I lit candles.
It was close to midnight by this time so we knew we wouldn’t hear from Gate Guard Services until the a.m.
I don’t do a lot of reading at night because I read myself to sleep. I was fairly certain I’d fall asleep in the soft candle glow with the last of my coffee coloring the rug.
No generator means no air hose which means no bell. It was 44 degrees and dropping, so I ruled out leaving the door open to listen for trucks.
As I waited for this dilemma to resolve itself, Heidi once again took action. After shining the flashlight in all the dark places, she rummaged under the RV and pulled out a modern battery operated Coleman lantern.
I’m usually fluorescent phobic, but not that night. I settled by the fluorescent beam to finish BAD LOVE, which turned out to be only mildly suspenseful.
Heidi talked to our FS, Junior just before 7 a.m. He was sorry but he had to move a gate guard and couldn’t come out.
She called Jamie, our boss whom we’d never met. He said he’d leave work and come out (100 miles or so) and take a look. We believe it’s important to make a positive first impression…
The generator blew its belt. Jamie fixed it. By 10a.m. we were back up and running. Later in the day when I was walking Henry, I noticed a yellow sticky note on the trailer plate.
I asked Heidi what it meant but she had no idea. Jamie must have left it as a warning for Junior.
If you’re considering Gate Guarding, it helps to be brave :), flexible and to have a sense of humor.
And if you’re in a remote place, as many of us are, remember the words of the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca :
With their souls of patent leather, they come down the road. Hunched and nocturnal, where they breathe they impose, silence of dark rubber, and fear of fine sand.