Home » Full Time RVing » Stacking the Deck

Stacking the Deck

Some things are meant to be stacked –  things like pancakes and books and rocks.

But most of the time when you hear the term stacking, it’s tied to the deck, which isn’t such a good thing.

I grew up in a family of really good card players. Not competitive card players, but good enough to hold their own in Bid Euchre or Pinochle or any of a dozen other card games. Playing cards was something we did after dinner at virtually all family gatherings.
Everyone was pretty equally matched except for my Uncle Max who was a border-line savant and counted cards. Playing against Uncle Max was like playing with a stacked deck.
The only person in my family who didn’t play cards was my Grandma. She quit playing Go Fish with me when I was 4 because she said I cheated. I didn’t. Each fish color had a different expression so I always could tell what she was holding. My Grandma was pretty cut-throat.

The only other not fun card playing experience I can remember was when my sister brought Ray home from college. I was in first or second grade. He asked me if I wanted to learn a new card game? Thrilled to be included, I said Yes! He took the deck of cards, did an impressive one-handed shuffle and then shot cards out of his hand all over the room. That, he said, is 52 Card Pick Up – and you get to pick them up.

He thought that was really funny. If you’re a clever but unscrupulous card player, you may have an idea how to stack the deck. Ray probably knows how to do that, too.

We’re stacking here but it’s not cards and it’s stunning and not a bit funny.

Our ability to adapt is amazing. Our ability to change isn’t quite as spectacular. ~ Lisa Lutz

Stacking an Oil Rig: To store a drilling rig on completion of a job when the rig is to be withdrawn from operation for a time.

Since becoming TSAs, we’ve bounced around only a little bit – surprising little for this business. Our first job in December of 2010 was on a hunting ranch way down south. It was such a Top Secret Job, we didn’t even know what we were guarding. It was short – 3 1/2 weeks. The day after our TSA ended, we got a call to join a rig. We stayed with them for almost a year, until they stacked in the winter of 2011.

We subbed for a couple of months. We took a break to replace the side of the brand new 5th wheel that we’d owned for 2 weeks when I ripped it off on a baby palm tree.

Then, almost a year ago, we joined a new TSC with a drilling rig that was less than a year old and we’ve been with them ever since. We thought we’d be with them until we retired. They thought we’d be with them until we retired. Turns out, the rig is retiring and we’re all looking for work.

We have about a week left until we stack. We don’t have a job or a place to stay to wait for one. This time of year the yards and RV parks and campgrounds are all flooded with Winter Texans. The day we learned the news, we signed back up for Workamper and started a job search. It lasted for about a half an hour. Then we stopped. The thing is, for quite a number of reasons, we really love our job as TSAs.

What’s been striking about stacking is that everyone, up and down the ladder (with us being the bottom rung) has had the same reaction: It’s so hard because we’re like a family. That doesn’t usually happen but it did here.

We’ve been saying goodbye to guys we’ve prayed for every day for a year. That does something to your heart, I think. Something good. It’s been a gift for us.

We aren’t likely to get another assignment like this one, which was pretty close to perfect, but we’re counting on being assigned some place, eventually, that’s good for us for other reasons and, hopefully, we’ll somehow be good for them in return.

I’m not inclined to worry so I’m expecting another job and a place to stay until then. I don’t often get scared about practical things. I was scared the other day when there was an enormous spider on the ceiling. Not enormous like a tarantula, more like a golf ball enormous.

When I get scared, I’m kind of the deer-in the-headlight type. Heidi, on the other hand, gets mad when she’s scared. Except when she used to get mad at me, I’ve found this to be a greatly beneficial opposite reaction. She was scared of the enormous spider, which of course, made her very mad. She got right up on a stool and walloped it with her sandal without even staining the paint. She hollered, Henry hid and I froze. It all worked out.

And it’ll all work out with a new job, too. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I like this job that I seem so ill-suited for. We have minimal internet access but if I can stay connected, I’ll write about some of the quite unexpected things I’ve learned as a TSA.

In case you ever want to try stacking Multi-Grain Cheerios, it helps if you lick them first… just sayin’. I found this out quite by accident.

29 thoughts on “Stacking the Deck

    • Hey there Susan!
      I’d already forgotten I’d said that. 😀
      You’re one thorough reader! I’ll get on it.

      “If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.” ~ Dr. Seuss

      Sage advice!

  1. Okay, I want to start with, You Are a Genius! I don’t know where my head was, but I thought you were stacking those chicken rings from White Castle…..but in retrospect that makes no sense at all.
    I am sorry you are having to change jobs. I know you will make everything work for good, but wow you are handling this with such amazing wit and charm!

    hugs, Sherrie

    • Sherrie – you’re so funny!
      I haven’t thought about White Castles in years!
      There are only 11 states with White Castles: Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, New York, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin (I’m not sure how NY and NJ got in that mix?) 😀
      I think I’d have to go to Tennessee to get a chicken ring or a really greasy slider!
      All is well here. No certain job yet, but we’re enjoying each day!
      Thanks for the memories (we used to ship White Castle burgers to my cousin in California – back when you could do that kind of thing)!

  2. We are Winter Texan’s too and come from Michigan. You Debbie and Heidi will be out on a new SL before you know it. We arrived down here in November and were only here less than a day and were out on a SL, we followed the same neat guys around until we went off to Florida for a week in January. We could of gone back to them but was offered something else. We are busy but enjoy it.
    I know the yards are full but I am sure you won’t have to use one. Good Luck it would be good to see you again one day.

    • Oh Linley –
      Heidi and I think you and John are the greatest! I so wish I hadn’t mentioned Winter Texans. I didn’t mean it as a complaint at all! I was only trying to explain why it’s not the best time to try to find a gate or a place to park the RV.
      We’ve had offers from all over the country inviting us to come and stay – so nice!
      Some very kind gate guarding friends have generously offered us their spot at an RV park in Bracketsville where we can wait until a gate opens up. We’re so grateful!
      We would love to see you two again. I certainly hope our paths recross!

  3. Hello Debbie. My understanding is that with your “time on the job” so to speak, your company will give you priority over others, is that not right? Anyway, I’m sure you’ll get a new TSJ location soon. And if not, there sure are a lot of GG companies out there. I’m ABSOLUTELY positive everything will work out as it should. There is a motto, not sure from where, that I have found to be true more times than one. It goes something like, “Sometimes we are forced in directions we should have chosen for ourselves” or something like that. I am sure that whatever happens next will be what is meant to be. Thinking of you guys.

    • Hey there Penny!
      To be honest, I don’t know if we have any ‘time put in’ status or not when it comes to our gate guard company. But,our oil company is trying to keep us with them… somewhere. 😀
      You’re so right – it’s been when I’ve been forced to go a way I probably wouldn’t have chosen that I’ve learned the most.
      That’s probably why this gig on a rig has been so surprising to me!
      Maybe that will be my next post: This Gig on a Rig – what do you think? 😀
      Thanks for the kind words!

  4. Thinking of you and praying too! You two are truly inspirational. I will love to hear about some of the things you’ve learned as a TSA .. .if time and internet allow! Love you and God bless you as He readies you for what’s next.

    • Hello dear Debbie!
      The internet seems to set with the sun here but I’ll try to write soon.
      As always, I’m grateful for your love and prayers. It is well with my soul! 😀
      Tell Aub I saw 2 walking sticks today!

  5. After reading your blog and the forum, I feel guilty being one of those winter Texans with a job. It is like we should pack up and go home so the ones who work 12 months a year have a job. But it is too cold in Michigan to go home!!! LOL In this business, the only thing I know for a fact is that you never know what is going to happen one day to the next. When this rig asked us to stay with them a couple of weeks ago, they said they would be in this area for a year but we know how quickly that can change. And who knew our old rig was going to have to move to a ranch that the landowners hired their own gate guards. I am a firm believer that when one door closes – another one opens. You and Heidi are excellent gate guards and will not be waiting long. I am more worried about you stacking cheerios!! LOL I am still trying to get over your way. As you know working 12 hours, sleeping 8, only leaves 4 hours. It is hard to fit in everything you need to do in 4 hours!! I wish you could come here and we would split the money until you find a new gate. However, as you know, our pad is so small we don’t even have a spot for our truck. Great place but no wiggle room! ANYWAY, I know there is a rig out there with guys just waiting for your wonderful cupcakes and brownies. God will make sure of that!! Love you both!!

    • Oh Jill –
      You know that I love you dearly and I’m GLAD Michigan is too cold so you’re forced to join us in the winter!
      I only meant the WT comment as an observation about the uncertainty of where it stay in-between jobs – not as a complaint!!!
      My favorite gate guards are Winter Texans!!! 😀

      Now about the Cheerios. I have no excuse, really. Since our gate guard company asked that we not post pictures of our location, I was looking around at night for something inside the RV that I could stack…
      I had so much traffic that I kept washing my hands and then I’d get back to my composition. Since I didn’t always take the time to really dry my hands, i found out that the damp Cheerios were sticking together really well! 😉

      We’d love to have you visit anytime! I SO understand that small 4 hour window. We’d come and see you and Mr A once we’re unemployed if it weren’t for your tiny parkless pad! 😀

  6. Glad for the update, Debbie–I decided worrying about you was pretty unproductive, didn’t benefit me much. I’m confident God has a good place and position picked out for y’all–you’re high up on His priority stack, I suspect. God bless y’all BIG–love, sis Caddo (greetings to Henri)

    • Hello dear Caddo –
      I’m sorry to have been out of touch.
      We’ve had sketchy internet for the past couple of months – none at all for over a week here and, as it is, it pretty much shuts down at night so I’m rarely up when all the connections are firing.
      We’re focusing on enjoying each day we have with these guys instead of fretting about what is – or isn’t – ahead. 😀
      Your Henri is in town at a coiffure appointment (he’s keeping up his appearances on the off chance you drop in some night!)

  7. Just hang in there, soon the Winter Texans will be leaving and surely your work record will account for something, to get a good new posting. Our company sure takes all of that into consideration.

    We have been at our gate for almost a year now and as you love the people as well.

    • Hello Marie!
      The oil company we work for has been so kind to us. Even our boss’s bosses have made phone calls, trying to arrange a new job for us when this one ends. Couldn’t find a nicer bunch to work with.

      I’m hoping another oil company will pick up this drilling rig. They’re such a great bunch of guys and really work well together.Everyone was pretty stunned to learn the rig was stacking. I’m more concerned about them finding work than us right now.

      I’m so glad you’re in such a nice situation! Wow! A year at the same gate. I can’t imagine that! You must really be doing a lot of holes?
      Take care and thanks for writing! 😀

      • Debbie our place is established. No drilling etc. just maintenance, as in checking the pressures on the gas pipelines and the oil wells. Then we have a lot of exotic wildlife as well, Our gate is locked at night and only authorized people are allowed in here.

        Nice cushy job!

  8. Morning
    I’ve started prayers for you and Heidi – God’s Will is sometimes confusing
    We also thought we would stay until retirement in CA and then WA and then OR and in NV – but – God had other ideas
    We called this our “wandering in the desert” phase
    Now that we are “here” and settled we see what God had planned for us all along and it WAS to settle in the desert (tee-hee)
    Praying for God’s Will in your lives
    God Bless

    • OH, yes. I’ve called this my desert years for two of them, now! I get it. It’s so funny how we’ve felt like this is exactly what we should be doing and then how can we lose it?

      The two realities are not necessarily incompatible. The problem is that I tend to think in black and white and very long range! I do believe we are doing what we should be…today.

      Tomorrow or next week? I don’t need to know, do I? We can plan and trust Him for the outcome. I was a happy camper thinking I already knew the whole plan. In retrospect I’m so glad I didn’t know this was ending until I had to. We had some very happy days that might have been sad, had we known. The challenge is to bring my heart into alignment with whatever the next part of the plan may be. I know Him to be sufficient and to be meeting our needs. He has a perfect track record, that way! Doubts, be gone! Please.. Just for today I am trusting and happy again. Tomorrow I can start over. In that way, it will be perfect, won’t it? Thank you for the encouragement and the faithful prayers, Susie!

      • Ok. I was just going to leave my two bits under Susie’s comment and not make a second one, but I need to explain my great hunter attack mode of all eight legged bugaboos.

        Just to be sure I had my facts straight (I document and double check my sources) Here’s what Wikipedia says, “Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom.” Any wonder that I get a bit defensive? It also says, “Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica” and now you know where we’re heading if this gig doesn’t work out!

        I wasn’t just loud and quick and lunging… I was praying out loud, too! God has helped me protect myself on any number of occasions. If nothing else, it intimidates them into staying still, awaiting my slapping sandal. I’m a much better shot with that than a fly swatter.

        Ok. At ease. Back to whatever you were doing. I’m done. Besides, this isn’t my post.

    • Hello dear Susie –
      I have to say in all honesty this is the last place I’d ever thought I’d be living. If you’d told me, even just a few years ago, that I’d be in the south in the heat in an RV on a an oil rig, I would have been able to give you 100 reasons why that wouldn’t work for me! Show what I know, huh?
      I love your “wandering in the desert” phrase! It looks like we both landed in one, doesn’t it?
      We so appreciate your prayers and encouragement.
      All is well. 😀

    • Hi Judi –
      No doubt my Cheerios tip will be very useful to you down the road! 😉
      We’re grateful for your prayers and our hearts are happy.
      I’m confident that the Father will provide whatever it is we need. I’m hoping we didn’t come all the way to Texas to work on my arachnophobia and that we don’t need too many tarantulas or golf ball spiders! 😉
      Life is good and we’re more than blessed – your new friendship is a sweet part of that blessing!

  9. I hope you find a wonderful new position soon. Gate Guarding is an interesting adventure….so many people can’t understand why we enjoy it, but it suits us very well.

    • Hello Phoebe –
      It’s the weirdest thing, liking this job so much, but we do. I never would have believed it if you’d told me I be living in Texas in an RV working with an oil rig.
      Henry sends his best regards. He’s currently at the groomer since we’re not sure where we’ll be and it can be a lot of miles between groomers down here! 😀
      You girls take care.

  10. I thought they were bagels!!!! (The Cheerios). Oh, Debbie. I don’t know what to say. It truly sucks that you guys have had to “stack” so quickly. I am (at least) glad that you and Heidi can go through this together. Hopefully, that is not a stupid thing to say: But the only blessing in this mess is that you have Heidi: AND, Heidi has you. AND loads of people will be praying for you to find something REALLY quick! I know how much you love your TSJ(s). I’d love to read an Ode to TSJ(s); present – tense. XO MEL

    • Hey there Mel!
      We were sad, me especially – attachment issues. 😉
      We’re neither one worried.
      The end of one adventure is the beginning of another, right?

      We’ve been blessed with such a perfect situation here. I’m focusing on being grateful for what we’ve had instead of grieving what we’re losing (I was kind of glum there for a couple of days).

      Someone offered us the wonderful cabin in Colorado where we could stay as long as we needed. Now isn’t that just something! 😉
      We can’t go, but it was sweet.
      We really need to stay Deep in the Heart of Texas so we can go to a new gate the instant one turns up.
      I’ve been losing my internet at night but will try to write some fun things soon!

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