Heigh-ho, Heidi HO

It’s been a while since I’ve written so it may take a little time to catch you up. I’ll start with Heidi HO. Heidi HO is her legal name, which she gave herself. It’s a long story…

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
It’s home from work we go…

Do you remember the Seven Dwarfs whistling and singing this song?

Well, it’s just like that here except there are no diamonds or rubies and we’re never off work and the lyrics are more like:

Heidi HO, Heidi HO
It’s home at work she goes…

Believe me, this woman works! And ever since the first week of February when I ripped my meniscus, she’s been working overtime, fighting the elements, the intruders and warding off the possibility of any misconceptions (I’ll get to that part in a bit).

For starters, Heidi finds multiple reason to walk around on the roof. First there were bees gathering in the vent (she had a can of hornet spray too, not just the fly swatter). Then there was the squeaky bathroom fan.

Then there were two tiny, tiny leaks.

The bees are gone. The squeak is better and the leaks are sealed but I’m sure there’ll be something else up there to check on any day now.

I’m not allowed on the roof since I fall off the  steps.

And when she’s not on top of the RV, she’s often under it.

Oops, wrong legs! Too hairy. That pair belongs to our mobile RV repairman that had the less than glamorous task of replacing our grey water valve and our toilet.

This is the picture I meant to use. Heidi is very diligent when it comes to warding off the encroaching caliche, making sure our slides slide and our jacks jack and our steps don’t freeze in place.

She’s constantly baking – for us and for the guys on the rig. She bakes so much she wore out the microwave/convention oven and we had to buy a new one.

This one is scary smart. It may be even smarter than my phone. It can sense when I’m looking at it with confusion and it starts frantically flashing messages at me. Press, Set, Choose etc… This makes me nervous so I push Sensor Heat and let it have it’s way.

Heidi’s also been doing more adventurous things. There was the recon trip which included ditch diving, rolling under barbed-wire and crawling through burrs and stickers to get what she thought was a right-side-up wild bore’s head. It turned out to be an upside-down cow skull but she was still very, very proud.

You already know about the onslaught of rattlesnakes. Heidi Ho is very comfortable with a hoe. Just sayin’…

For a day or two we had a rattlesnake head coming out of the eye socket of the recently procured cow’s skull. She says: Hey, we’re just two women with a hoe a long way from nowhere. Heidi is very symbolic and loves to send “messages”. Pretty sure this is supposed to mean best not mess with me.

The problem with the snake’s head in the skull, apart from the fact that it was truly creepy, was that most likely, the resident bobcat would come at night and snatch it like he did the first one. And if not the bobcat, then a hawk or raccoon or coyote or something…

So she planted the head in a bucket (not in hopes of growing baby rattlers). We’ve been told, but are somewhat skeptical, that in the bucket the ants and things (?) will eat all but the skull which Heidi wants to add to the cow skull to make sure we’re truly sending the right message. Hmm…

It’s been there for a while now and grass is starting to grow on top. Haven’t dug any deeper yet. Last time she looked, the nose was still intact.

Heidi’s also been fending off cows with bowls of water again. I don’t know why the cows here are so adverse to water, but they are and if we don’t deter them, they munch on our fake green carpet and eat our satellite cables.

Catch you on the backside – a good ole southern saying takes on new meaning when Heidi has a bowl, or a swatter or a hoe in her hand! While Heidi’s been doing all of this and so much more, I’ve mostly just been stylin’ in Stir-Fry. More on that next time.

Slip Sliding Away

I’m not clumsy. It’s just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies and the walls get in the way. ~ unknown author but it could have been me

Three months ago, on a dark and stormy night, much like this one, I took an embarrassing tumble – more of a slipping sliding landing on my seat stumble, down my RV steps. I was pretty sure this fall was a little more complicated than the last or 20 or so I’d taken. Usually I fall over and bounce right back up like a Bozo the Clown punching bag.

Maybe my problem is that I still cling to the imagine of an entire P.E. history of A+’s and I haven’t come to terms with my past mid-life clumsiness. Truth is, I tip over a lot. In this instance, however, the steps were wet, I was in a hurry so the guys at the gate wouldn’t have to wait, I went down and I didn’t bounce back.

My not so subtle landing on the last step (there are only 4) shook the RV like an explosion (always a possibility in our business). Heidi woke up, got dressed and was out the door in about 57 seconds. I’m pretty far past stoic when it comes to pain but this time I just sat there. It’s hard to describe. It felt like someone had just rammed a fiery poker through my knee.

I wrote about this back when it happened. I fell the first week of February which was fortuitous, if a fall can be fortuitous, since 10 days later we had a week off between the stacking of our old rig and our Company Man calling us to follow him at his new rig.

During the week off I did all the things you do with a bum knee. I sat – a lot – with my leg elevated and wrapped in ice.

I tried Ibuprofen and Aleve and Aspercreme.

When it was time to get back to work, Heidi bought every kind of knee brace Walmart carries. I have 1 that I can wear under my black pants which are loose and 1 that I wear over my jeans which aren’t and 1 that I sleep in so the other 2 can air out.

After 3 months of being afraid to exercise or move really, our rig came back to the area where my PA is located. I went in this week and it took her about 2 minutes to determine that I have a torn meniscus – a common injury of athletes and old people.

My PA referred me to an Orthopedic surgeon who would do an MRI and then would prescribe surgery or PT. Self employment has it’s benefits but medical insurance isn’t one of them.

For some reason, the diagnosis discouraged me. I don’t know why? After 3 months of quite a lot of pain, what was I hoping she would say? I already knew it hurt – a lot – so why I thought a torn meniscus was bad news, I’m not sure.

Here’s what happened that night. The gate was quiet at my TSL.  I watched 3 old episodes of Glee and 2 of Jeopardy. Pathetic, I know. It’s was during the “Think music” that I got over myself and started thinking.

I made the uncharacteristic decision to be ‘pro-active’ – a word I’ve never even used in a sentence, let alone applied. I Googled torn meniscus, read about 20 articles and looked at 5 or 6 sites with rehab exercises. I picked the WebMD exercises because they have a good reputation and pictures. I need pictures. I get confused without pictures.

I wrote every  exercise out in detail. Then I got the great idea of putting the computer on the floor (so I could study the pictures) and I plopped myself down beside it. The first exercise was called a Quad set. The exercise required a towel under the ‘injured leg’. I started to get up to get a towel and found out that, well, no, getting up wasn’t really an option.

I know me. I was pretty sure that once I managed to get up, I wouldn’t get back down again so I scooted over to the chair and grabbed the yarn, needles and all – stuck the yarn under my leg, prayed for no traffic and began my rehab.

During those 30 minutes, the bell didn’t ring even once. I eventually rolled myself over to the sofa and dragged myself up. I felt entirely better. My leg hurt maybe just a little worse but my attitude changed completely.

I was very impressed with myself. When Heidi got up I shared my new rehab plan with her. Ever the practical one, she thought probably it would be better to carry out this choreography while she’s up and can get the gate. True.

Yesterday was rehab day two!

Gig on a Rig Tip# 3 – I Recommend Pleasant

I’m taking a snake break and returning to some more of the things that help me enjoy this Gig on a Rig. Tip #3 – I recommend pleasant. I think pleasant is often wrongly thought of as being nicey-nice (fake) or placating.

Being pleasant isn’t an affect. Pleasant is an attitude. If you’re not sold on the synonyms, take a look at the antonyms!

Synonyms: affable, agreeable, amiable, amusing, charming, cheerful, civil, civilized, congenial, cordial, delightful, diplomatic, enchanting, engaging, enjoyable, fine, fun, genial, good-humored, gracious, kindly, likable, lovely, mild, nice, polite, refreshing, social, sweet, sympathetic, urbane, welcome
Antonyms: bothersome, disagreeable, hateful, nasty, troubling, unacceptable, unfriendly, unhappy, unpleasant,

I spent almost all of my professional life in a job where there weren’t any sick days or personal days. You couldn’t call in and cancel a seminar because you had the flu or a fight or a heartache.

For Heidi and I, most of our presentations were scheduled a year or more ahead. In the seminar business, you show up and you’re pleasant. Being pleasant was part of being a professional.

Being pleasant is also a way of saying I’m not the only person who matters here, you matter. And professionally or personally, I care how your contact with me affects your day.

I think I first learned this from Jimmy Stewart. I fell in love with Jimmy Stewart when I was 4 and he was 51. Really, I fell in love with George Bailey.

George Bailey, I’m going to love you ’til the day I die.                       ~ It’s a Wonderful Life

Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of George Baily earned him the number 9 spot on the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 greatest screen heroes. You can click on to their interesting link here:AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Heroes and Villains. George Baily’s probably not what most folks today think of as a hero, but he was always number 1 on my Hero list.

However, it was another Jimmy Stewart character that convinced me of the value of being pleasant.

Years ago my mother said to me, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me. ~ Elwood P. Dowd

 

Harvey is my all time favorite movie, mostly because of Jimmy Stewart and the wonderful Josephine Hull. They didn’t just make me ‘see’ a giant Pooka named Harvey, they taught me early in life about the immense value of being pleasant.

Pleasant is a practice, not a feeling.

My last Gig on Rig tip was Be Happy. Maybe you aren’t. Sometimes life is so hard you can’t be. But being pleasant is always an option. Being pleasant isn’t circumstantial. Being pleasant is an action, not a reaction.

So in the words of the wonderful Elwood P. Dowd, I recommend pleasant.

Once Bitten Twice Shy

One day a snake dropped out of a tree and landed on my Grandma’s head. This happened when my Grandma was in her 30’s. She lived to be 102 and she never got over it.

“Once bitten by a snake, he/she is scared all his/her life at the mere sight of a rope.” ~ Chinese Proverb

I’m not particularly afraid of snakes but I’ve never had one bite me or drop on my head which may be why I’m more afraid of spiders. 

Last month was the beginning of a new year on the Chinese Lunar calendar: The Year of the Snake. Swell. I’m not superstitious but the sound of it doesn’t give me a warm, pleasant feeling. However, folks who are into that type of thing are more optimistic:

Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve. ~HanBan.com

Hmm… This is just a guess, but I’m thinking a snake in the RV would mean H, H & I in a motel room which would mean our family might eventually starve. Anyway, we haven’t seen any inside but we have seen several outside snakes since relocating deep in the heart of Texas. Most are just the regular garden variety.

Around this time of year down here it’s the Season of the Snake. When the snakes start sunning, the tails and the tales start spinning. Everyone that comes through the gate has a story.

A fellow couldn’t wait to show this one to Heidi yesterday.

A 5 footer - I'm not sure if that was with or without the head.

And a friend stopped by to show us another.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m arachnophobic. I’m shy with spiders having been more than twice bitten – I think.

All I know for sure is there have been red bumps on my legs and squished spiders in my sleeping bag/bed on more than one occasion.

And I’ve bitten back. This I know this because the other half of the spider was still swimming in my Grape Nuts.

I used to catch garter snakes in the back yard when I was little. They didn’t bite but they do kind of pinch if you stick your finger in their mouth, which I did. I came close to being bitten when I caught a 5 foot water moccasin on a hiking trail. It was almost, but not quite, dead which is probably good or I might have been almost, but not quite dead, too, since I was only about 6 or 7.

Anyway, everyone has a snake story now. Last night, the guys at our TSL said the buzzards were feasting on a rattlesnake just up the road a ways. I’m hoping it was one of the 3 or 4 that have been spotted circling the wagons this week.

I was standing right beside this one when I took the picture, but one of the guys had made sure he was already under the weather.

It may be that I’m not afraid of snakes because I’m not real sharp or maybe, like I said, it’s just because I’ve never had one drop on my head – yet. I figure if we stay in Texas long enough, anything can happen!

The upside of having snakes around (it’s good to try to find an upside) is that it should keep the mice population under control and out of my door.

Although, I’m beginning to rethink that. The other night, the guys stopped to tell us about a bobcat that was 15-20 yards from the RV. Heidi was real disappointed not to have seen it. Me, not so much, although I would have liked to take a picture. Anyway, I was telling that to one of the guys who said:

Hey, I’ve got a picture for you. My boss just sent this from a rig about 30 miles from here.

OK, that kind of took the comfort out the mouse prevention bit.

I looked at the picture and then at Henry VIII. The upside of not getting enough exercise is that Henry has put on a little weight and is now officially bigger than a rabbit.

Last night, a driver was warning me about the rattlesnakes. I told him about the picture and he said:

Oh ya, I just saw one chasing a rabbit across the highway.

Really? I think we may have a crop of rabid rabbit chasing rattlers this year!

The folks at Shorty’s BBQ and Grill seem to have found a solution that works for them.

We have Wasp spray.

I just had a driver come in and say:

Be careful, Mama (they say Mama a lot here), I’ve seen six 6 foot rattlesnakes in the last half hour. They’re on the move!

It makes me feel like I’m in Tremors and they’re going to start popping up through the caliche!

I’m trying to remember to stop for a second and scan the area before I fling myself out of the RV in the dark. I don’t expect a snake to charge me, but I doubt he’d be keen on being stomped on. According to Buzzle (lots of rattlesnake facts here), rattlesnakes hunt mostly at night and can bite even after being beheaded. OK…

I’m issuing a warning to any kind of snake out there even thinking about coming too close, I’m pretty sure I’m a dead-eye with the Wasp killer. I haven’t ever actually tried it, but I’ve always been able to handle a spray can! And then there’s always the long, long-handled hoe.

As the African proverb says:

A weapon which you don’t have in your hand won’t kill a snake.

So y’all take care and be safe. Remember to keep your weapons handy and keep one eye on the ground and one on the sky. You just never know.

And Happy Easter  – again this week!

If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Texas

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium Texas. If you’re not old enough to remember the movie, never-mind. It was pretty forgettable. Just like the day of the week or the month of the year is forgettable when you’re a Top Secret Agent in Texas.

Life as a TSA is jam-packed with redundancy.

We work every day  – all day and all night. Heidi and I are year-rounders so we work every day and every holiday and every birthday, which makes every day pretty much the same.

That’s a fact, not a complaint. We’re extremely grateful that we’ve almost never been without a job since we started gate guarding. It’s just funny to hear someone say on the news: Have a great weekend! That’s something you never hear in the oil field because we just have days – not week days and weekend days and holiday – just days.

I’m writing this on Saturday but it might as well be a Tuesday in Texas. I may not know what day of the week it is or sometimes even the month or season but I always know I’m in Texas. It’s the unforgettable part of life as a TSA.

Texas won’t let you forget you’re in Texas.

The Texas flag flies high and proud everywhere. It’s often accompanied by the Confederate flag which seems like a little bit of a contradiction to the US flag to me, but there it is.

Michener sums it up for us Yankees.

What you northerners never appreciate…is that Texas is so big that you can live your life within its limits and never give a (darn) about what anyone in Boston or San Francisco thinks. ~ James Michener

I can’t count how many Texans I’ve met who’ve never been outside of Texas. Seriously. Not ever. Grown-up people who’ve never once been out of this state. We worked for a rancher (a retired postmaster) who had never been out of his county. Hmm…

We’re well into our 3rd year now as Top Secret Agents. People are always asking us how/why we’re here working as TSAs in TX.

It’s a great question. If I had a bucket list, which I don’t, Texas might not fit in it because I’m a:

  • Water lover
  • Forest lover
  • Bug hater (spider fear-er)
  • Cool temperature lover
  • Nature (involving things that don’t want to bite or sting me) lover
  • And an avid walking on the beach type of bum

You can find things like water in Texas but you’re not likely to find a TSA job nearby.

I lived most of my life in the Midwest of Grant Wood. It was lovely. I don’t miss the freezing winters but I do miss having 4 real seasons.

For the three years prior moving to Texas, we lived on the southern Oregon coast. Growing up in Indiana, my family spent almost every Spring Break in Florida, where I fell in love with the ocean.

But Oh! the ocean in Oregon with the mountains and forests falling off into the sea; the whales spouting; the fog horns; the crab boats; the lighthouses; the agate and jasper covered beaches. It seemed like a place people made up in books.

Walks in Oregon were in the beautiful old growth forests or, if Henry got to vote, on the beach.

Henry enjoying a romp and stomp with the seagulls
Henry’s favorite thing was a wild romp and stomp with the seagulls, no leash, ever. Those were his halcyon days – and ours!

Heidi and I both worked as managers at a beautiful ocean front resort. The location was idyllic but the chest pains that Heidi started having from the stress became alarming. At the end of a particularly hard week, I made a just catching up phone call to Joanie who used to work for me at the resort. She and her husband were full-time RVers, gate guarding in Texas.

To tell you the truth, the job didn’t really appeal to me but it was clear we needed to make a change. Heidi already owned a motorhome which was sitting empty in a lot since we had a 2 bedroom apartment at the resort.

Acting on impulse and with no idea what to expect, we talked it over, took the Level II Security tests and headed to Texas with the assurance from a gate guard company that they’d find us something eventually after we got in state.

We started working the day we called to say we’d crossed the border. And oh gosh, it hasn’t been anything like anything either of us have experienced before. Not Texas, and not gate guarding.

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Odd Interlude

Fate isn’t one straight road…there are forks in it, many different routes to different ends. We have the free will to choose the path. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Fate has presented some interesting forks lately. I read Odd Interlude by Dean Koontz during my own odd interlude last week. I don’t have enough internet umph tonight to write about Pleasant (which includes, I hope, a short video clip) so this will be an odd interlude of its own.

Life, or the joy in life, is largely a matter of perspective, don’t you think?

We’ve had an interesting couple of weeks.

  • The rig we’d been following for a year, stacked… that was sad
  • Our Company Man called and said he wanted us at his new rig … that was great
  • There was a week lag time and we spent it at Choke Canyon State Park … that was lovely

It’s was lovely and so very quiet. Although I always say I live a quiet life, I think I may mean something more like a life of very little stress, not very little noise. With the tons of trucks coming and going all day and all night and the gas station hose bell ringing and ringing, and the portable generator continually humming, it isn’t as quiet as I thought. The park was really, really quiet.

I took this picture through the window from my chair with my propped up leg but Heidi lived outside all week

  • Heidi spent almost all of her time outside bird watching
  • I spent almost all of my time inside reading with ice packs on my knee (I had fallen down the steps at the last job. I landed on my well padded seat but really wrenched my knee)
  • I did hobble down to the lake twice to go fishing
  • The glow in the dark night-crawlers the convenience store lady sold me were all mushy
  • I traded the $4 night-crawlers in on a $4.29 bag of chips which I left on the counter
  • The lady was out of minnows so she sold me frozen shrimp
  • I’ve never fished with frozen shrimp and I kept ripping their heads off with the hook
  • I didn’t catch any fish but a very big stick put up quite a fight
  • I also hooked the camp chair once

It was fun to camp for a week. I loved the cooking and you can’t beat the clean up.

Well, the clean up was easy for me. I just stuck the fork in the fire. Heidi, on the other hand, worrying about the wind that had picked up, put the fire out with hands full of sand. Sand that had hitherto been the happy home of hundreds of fire ants.

It took a lot of Epsom salts and Lanacane spray before the swelling went down. We’d been working 24 hours a day for 6 months (which isn’t s big deal – we worked 264 days straight last year) but Heidi’s hands were stinging and it seemed like a great time to visit our favorite local hot spot in Tilden,Texas which was only about 15 miles from the park.

We began our career as TSAs in Tilden so we knew that it’s hard to beat the ambiance or the Nacho’s Supreme at Max’s Cafe and Motel.

After a week of not really fishing, really reading and intense bird watching, we headed for our next gig on a rig at a new TSL.

  • We started to set up
  • The Safety Man said to wait, they were dozing a pad for us by the rig
  • We worked the not busy gate for 4 hours from the dually
  • While waiting, we discovered 2 bad tires on the truck

  • A carpet of cacti and mesquite and tangled weeds were dozed away
  • Sunday evening we moved to our new spot and settled in

  • Monday we had an entire day of Texas dust devils and 55+ mph winds

  • During the peak of the whirling-dervishes, our new pea gravel pad was spread around us
  • The winds also covered the RV and truck with little drops of oil based mud

  • Tuesday SA H made it to town to get 2 new tires for the dually
  • Wednesday was pretty regular
  • Thursday a mobile repair man came out to look at the toilet that runs on its own and the VCR that doesn’t run at all and the convection oven that cooks in 3 time zones all at once and the valves that are becoming resistant to releasing our grey and black water (all under an extended warranty)
  • Friday we moved back to the spot where we had been on Sunday
  • Saturday rig washers dropped by to power wash the oil based mud off the RV

  • The rig washers had never washed an RV and they inadvertently flooded the vent to the frig, frying the mother board.
  • When power washing the truck, that high pressured water hit the windshield and the small poc from a rock picked up on the way to our new TSL cracked a 15 inch line

Nothing is worse than being alone on the evening of the day when one’s cow has exploded. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

See, that’s what I mean about perspective. Two new tires, 3 moves, a cracked windshield and a dead refrigerator are nothing compared to an exploding cow. We did, however, take the fork that led to remedying our new dilemmas. Special ordering the tires was simple, the windshield is temporarily on hold but the frig was the real puzzle.

  • We called our dealership back in Iowa and got instructions
  • SA H set out with a hairdryer to try to dry out the soggy mother board
  • Being very tenacious, she did this for a long, long time

  • We gave it the night to repair itself  – it didn’t
  • Sunday I asked our CM if he would give away our food as we were having some frig issues (I didn’t mention the rig washers)
  • He had an extra refrigerator in his trailer so we hauled our bags and bags of food down there (the double frig and double freezer were pretty well all stocked up)
  • Saturday and Sunday we ate a lot of cereal to use up the remaining warm but not spoiled milk
  • Monday SA H called the manufacturer and got the name of a certified roving repair man
  • This great guy talked SA H through a magic magnet fix
  • Today we will retrieve our food and wait to see what new adventures await

All in all, it was an interesting week. We SA’s are grateful for a multitude of kindnesses and blessing and even for the bell that rings all day and all night. As always, Henry remains cheerful and optimistic.

Loyal companions are an unequaled grace. ~Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

After struggling with the internet for months, it looks like SA H may have found a solution. If so, I’ll get back to Gig on a Rig Tip #4 – Pleasant next time. As Odd would say:

Being polite is not only the right way to respond to people but also the easiest. Life is so filled with unavoidable conflict that I see no reason to promote more confrontations. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Gig on a Rig Tip #2: Don’t Worry Be Happy

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Don’t worry, Be Happy. I remember when Bobby McFerrin released that chart topping hit in 1988. I remember it mostly because Heidi’s son, who was 7, loved it! I thought it was kind of catchy but trite. And I thought he only loved it because he was 7.

I’ve come to think he loved it because he was smarter about some things back then than I was – things like how worry will rob you of happiness. If you don’t remember the song or if you do, this is a mini-version (all my limited internet can handle):

~

~

I tried to address the Don’t Worry part with Tip 1. Be Flexible but I’m adding Be Happy. I’ll be honest here, I used to roll my eyes when I heard people say things like Happiness is a Choice. I didn’t discover the truth of it until years and years after Bobby McFerrin’s song.

Of course everyone is circumstantially unhappy sometimes. Bad things happen. Sad things happen. But there are people who have a happy constitution. Others not so much and y’all know the type. Just like being happy seems to come naturally to some folks, it’s as foreign as French to others.

I was reading a blog a while back  written by a writer who keeps a list of things that annoy him. It’s a long list. It’s a growing list because once you start looking for things that annoy you it’s real easy to become a collector.

Anyway, this whole Be Happy spiel is a bridge between Tip 1. Be Flexible and Tip 3. I Recommend Pleasant – which I’ll write about tomorrow if the internet is happy and smiling on me after sunset.

Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad.  ~Norm Papernick