Home » Gate Guarding » That was then…

That was then…

The move, which was scheduled for Tuesday and changed to Thursday, took place on Wednesday. We’re still on the same ranch, between Yoakum (population 5400) and Cuero (population 6500).

We were at a gate right by a major highway. The definition of a major highway in southeastern Texas is a road that has two lanes instead of one and has asphalt instead of caliche or hard pack.

In our auspicious career as gate guards, we’d only worked with two companies. We spent almost a year following a rig with an oil company until they stacked last November. We subbed for a vacationing couple for two months.

Now, we’re once again following a rig and so is the caliche with another company.

For those of you who aren’t a part of the gate guarding community (which isn’t remotely like a gated community) there are a variety of jobs. Working with a drilling rig is all that we’ve done, with the exception of our first 3 1/2 weeks, guarding a water tank in Tilden.

If you’re assigned to a drilling rig, you stay with them through one hole. Some folks stay on location from drilling through fracing. Some follow the rig. Following the rig isn’t a given. If the Company Man (Men) like you, they may ask you to stay with them when they finish drilling and move to the next site. If you like them, you may want to go. If it isn’t a good match, the rig moves on and the gate guards go back to the yard to wait for another assignment.

This is our second hole with 441. It seems like it’s going to be a good match. At the first gate, we were about a mile from the site.


We couldn’t see the rig, even at night, through the tangle of mesquite. I drove back once to pick up dinner. I went into the Safety Trailer by mistake, but I guess if you’re going to go in the wrong trailer on an oil rig, the Safety Trailer is probably the best one to stumble into. πŸ˜€

We’re on a 200 acre ranch that has multiple activities going on. Being on the gate, on the highway, meant we handled the traffic for all 6 sites. It was crazy busy. I was really happy it was March instead of July!


For 5 weeks it was kind of like those videos you see of traffic cops standing in the middle of the street, blowing their whistles and wildly waving their arms. That was then…



We moved about a quarter of a mile on Wednesday, and into an entirely different world.


This is now…

I think you’ll have to double click on this photo to get a perspective.



The white trailer in the right hand corner is where the drilling crew stays (12 guys, two weeks on, two weeks off). You can sort of see the our big green septic tank just in front of the tree on the right. We’re maybe 8 yards from the actual pad. It’s an unusual location. We’re sandwiched in between the guys and the rig. They walk on and wave.

It’s certainly quite a view! We’ve been close before, but never this close. If we were any closer, they’d have to issue us hard hats and protective clothing!

For those of you who read Fork for stories of pigs on pokes and cows on the carpet, there will be more of those to come. In this business, it’s pretty unusual to be quite this close to the action, so I’ll likely do another post with just photos, then it’s on to the tale of the three tails.

27 thoughts on “That was then…

  1. Nancy –
    You know Texas. It happens when it happens.:D
    I’ve gotten used to stopping everyone to make them sign in and out. The gate guards before us just waved at everyone and initialed and check marked for them (which would have been OK with me but it was NOT OK with the safety guy). Of course all of the rig buys blamed us at first – that extra 45-60 seconds it takes to stop and sign out is a BIG imposition on all of them.

    However, they seem to have forgiven us now that Heidi’s done some baking and they’ve been told at the safety meetings that it’s required. Our SM redesigned the sheets for us so they’re horizontal now instead of vertical.
    That means we have about 25 on a page instead of 40. The line are actually big enough to write in now! πŸ˜€

    So happy for you that you get to beat the heat in MI!

  2. Hey you! Wow … it’s sort of green down yonder too. You are smack dab in the middle of rig-central. Thanks for the photos. Man, this is one interesting gig for two sweet ladies. Nice! XO Mel

    • Hey there, Mel!
      Rig central – I like that! Maybe that’s what I should call my next post!
      We do have more green here than usual (although most of it is mesquite and cactus). After last summer’s drought, any green is great!

  3. Hi again Debbie,
    When you’re on a rig, does someone have to be there 24 hrs. per day? I suppose you need our own washer and dryer, or can someone go the the nearest town? The piece and solitude look wonderful.


    • Hello Dell!
      Yes, someone has to be in the RV and awake, 24 hours a day. We traded a 32 foot motorhome in on a 40 foot 5th wheel last Sept. We do have a washer and dryer now.
      We didn’t have one in the class A. For the first year, I would usually stay up in the mornings so one of us could drive to the nearest town and do the laundry before it got too hot. None of the laundromats we went to in the little towns down here were air conditioned. Since we had 64 straight days of 100+ temps last summer, it was good to do the laundry before the heat started rising.

      Now, typically, Heidi begins working around 5:30 a.m. I try to be asleep by 6 and get up around 2. We split the hot afternoon hours and then Heidi goes to bed by 7:30. I’m on from 7:30 p.m.- 5:30 a.m..Each gate guard does it a little differently.
      I’m much more of a night owl by nature, so this works well for us.

      Until this move, the peace and solitude have been one of the things we love most about the job.
      We don’t have much of either on this site since we’re positioned between the crew and the rig (I’m posting more photos tonight to try to give you a better idea) but we’re enjoying the action. It wouldn’t be my preference every time, but it’s been really fun so far! πŸ˜€

      Thanks so much for commenting.

  4. Oh Debbie, I love seeing where you girls are at now! You have opened up a whole new area for me. I had no idea about any of this ! Thank you and I’m ready for more pictures! love – the other deb

    • Hello Deb!
      I think this will be a picture book week.
      So many readers are new to Fork and gate guarding. I’ll try to post a few of the basics with a bunch of photos later tonight (when the bells quite ringing). πŸ˜€

    • Steven-
      Well, it’s a brave new world for this Midwestern city girl.
      I’ll put up some pictures to give you a better feel for it.
      I thought this one would only be interesting to other gate guards.
      Thanks for being such a sport!

      • Nope. Me too. Me too. I think I noticed that most all your comments came from friends or fellow gate keepers. But, I’m still interested. I look forward to more pictures and more “About me” stuff. BTW I grew up in a small town in Iowa called Shenandoah (pop. 5000).

      • Steven –
        Small world getting smaller!
        Heidi and I did several seminars for the hospital in Shenandoah in the 90’s.
        We also did CEU classes in Creston and Council Bluffs, so many of the health care folks from Shenandoah were in one or the other! πŸ˜€

        The friends that comment here on Fork are a mix of fellow gate guards and mostly, new friends that have found their way over here from Two Minutes of Grace! But they are friends, indeed.

        Several gate guards have blogs – and we try to keep in touch with each other. It’s a fairly small, but ever growing community.
        Fork is a hodgepodge blog – some gate guard post, some Texas tales, a few bits of musings (like the Lessons from a Laundromat).
        Thanks taking this path with me,

  5. Hi gals! I can see that it’s getting close to time for me to bone up on the vocabulary part of this webinar (can’t believe I just used that word–Lordy, Lordy). This is way better than the Discovery channel, because I sorta know the 2 main characters. God bless you both–love, sis Caddo

    • Hi Bobbie!
      It’s taken some adjusting.:D
      In the beginning, there were 39 lines per page which meant it was almost impossible to squeeze a license plate number in the tiny space. Our safety guy redesigned them so they run horizontally now which is much better.

      We’ve never had to have folks initial and check the “I didn’t get injured” box on the way out before. Once we knew our crew, we just waved them out. Now everyone has to stop every time. I can see the reasoning. Sometimes the guys can’t! πŸ˜‰

    • Hello Sherrie – More images to come the next couple of days. Heidi and I’ve taken about 500 pictures with every set of 15 looking pretty much a like (I’m the one that takes all the repetitive shots). I’m trying to get it down to a few interesting ones. πŸ˜€

      • I am a repetitive photo taker, it pays off latter when I have so many choices for my edits. I am in love with digital, so much easier than all those negative strips piled everywhere and me wondering which one will look best in print! I look forward to seeing what’s next!

      • Sherrie –
        Heidi gives me a hard time about my 15 shots that look just a like.
        It was worse when we lived in Oregon. I love the ocean, so I have thousands of photos of waves! πŸ˜€
        The joy of digital!
        I have a nice Nikon that’s never been used. It’s too dusty down here for anything but a rough and tumble camera.

  6. We are sitting up in MI by the lake for the summer. I love reading your stories. We always enjoyed the work. We were right on the site by the pad once. It was a work over and I was told by the boss that the men would change there clothes after they finished work and to look the other way.
    It is interesting being that close and watching the men work on the rig.
    Keep on smiling.

    • Linley – πŸ˜€
      I don’t look behind me at the crew trailer much for that reason!
      On site, everyone has to wear protective clothing. They walk on in shorts and flip-flops, or even barefooted, but they dress in the trailer. πŸ˜‰
      It’s all good – and certainly interesting.
      So glad you’re by a lake in MI. You two deserve double pay for the wild spots they place you down here!

  7. Every rig assignment comes with it’s own set of challenges. I’m surely hoping this location and being in the midst of the action is not going to be ‘normal’. The biggest drawback for me in living in an RV has always been tight quarters in some of the RV parks. This is no park.

    I’ve never lived amidst so many rednecks and so much noise. Wait a sec. Have I forgotten my youth? My nuclear family is not so different, actually, and who was it that always turned up the radio to full volume?

    In all honesty, I have to say that the crew is very respectful and the management is treating us extremely well. This is all just so different than our previous experiences that it feels a little like starting over. I no longer feel seasoned as a gate guard. But I still really like the job. There’s no accounting for it.

    • Heidi – It is an interesting, never a dull or quiet moment, spot!
      It’s sad how hard it is for me to recognize the guys outside of their cars/trucks/SUVs! Gotta get the names down before they all leave Wednesday and the new batch arrives!

  8. Hi you 3, we got back on gate Thurs, outside Fowlerton. We have never moved with the rig. We stay on site from begining to ending. They, Cheyenne Oil have 5 sites close to each other with gate guards at each site, and move the 3 rigs from site to site and back again. Starting Monday they will start pads for 2 more wells on our site, 3 are up and pumping now. With all the extra stuff Woody brings, freezer, canopy, etc. I’m not sure we would like moving too often.
    Never done it so who knows what we might like.

    • Mickey – Is it pretty typical with Cheyenne to have you stay on site the whole time? It certainly would be an education to watch the whole production!
      Sounds like moving would be a bit of a production for you guys. We have it down to about 40 minutes now, start to finish! πŸ˜€

      I know two couples who move with a washer and dryer in their truck. I can’t imagine. Obviously, we couldn’t do that. One of them follows a frac crew and moves every 7-10 days!
      We usually move every 4-5 weeks (occasionally 3). That’s about right for me. I’m ready for a change of scenery (not there is much change) and it doesn’t give us time to forget how to hitch up and unhitch in-between! πŸ˜€

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