Gig on a Rig Tip #1: Be Flexible

Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.                       ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Do you remember the 1995 movie starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman called While You Were Sleeping? In the movie, a guy wakes up from a coma to find he has a fiance (Bullock) and a life that he doesn’t remember. He wakes up in a whole new world.

That’s a lot like working nights as a gate guard on an oil rig, except for the coma and the fiance part. I usually go to bed around 6:30 in the morning and when I wake up, 6-8 hours later, it’s very possible my world will have rotated sideways.

You get used to it like you get used to the way the Big Dipper hangs at the wrong angle in the sky down here.

For years, Heidi and I taught a seminar on change called: As Long As You’re Green You’re Growing… But As Soon As You’re Ripe You Rot.

If you’re going to be happy as a gate guard, you need to stay green.

That brings me to my first tip on a Gig on a Rig: You Have To Be Flexible

You may get a 3 week assignment that lasts for 3 months. You may go to sleep believing that you’re about to be moved to Smiley and wake up to find you’re headed 300 miles north to Paradise instead. Smiley’s a long way from Paradise!

Even though I taught seminars about it, I haven’t been a huge fan of change. There’s something comforting to me in the knowable and the predictable. Gotta tell you, this job isn’t that.

Take this past week as an example.

  • I went to sleep last Thursday morning thinking I had the next 4 years all planned out, following this great rig, with these great guys, working for a great oil company
  • I woke Thursday afternoon to the news that our rig was stacking, the yards and parks and campgrounds were all full and we would be out of work in a week with no place to stay
  • I went to sleep Friday morning, wondering how to find a spot for the RV
  • I woke up Friday afternoon to news that fellow gate guards had offered to let us stay in their spot in a lovely RV park for as long as needed (we’ve only met once) – now that’s kindness
  • I went to bed Saturday morning feeling encouraged that we had a place to park

I don’t think a whole lot changed on Superbowl Sunday. I guess it did for fans of the Ravens and the 49ers, but not so much for me.

  • I went to bed Monday morning  counting down the 3 days until our job ended and we left for the RV park
  • I woke up Monday afternoon to the news that we had a new job, 35 miles away with our same oil company but new Company Men and drilling rig
  • I went to bed Tuesday morning with plans to meet the gate guards we’d be replacing to get the lay of the land on Saturday
  • I woke up Tuesday afternoon to find out we wouldn’t be done here until Sunday so we couldn’t meet anyone on Saturday
  • I went to bed Wednesday morning, grateful for a new job and a few more days with this rig
  • I woke up Wednesday afternoon to the news we wouldn’t be done until here until Tuesday
  • I went to bed Thursday morning (yesterday) thinking the two moves were in sync since the other gate guards would be finishing up on Tuesday
  • I woke up Thursday afternoon to find out that we now had two job offers – our Company Man had been given a new rig and put the call in for us to join him
  • I’ll go to bed this morning knowing that we’re moving 90 miles instead of 40, that we’re moving south instead of west, that we’re rejoining the Company Man we’ve loved working with for a year now, instead of starting over with a new rig… at least I’ll go to sleep thinking that I know all that

I have no idea what I’ll wake up to this afternoon. I’ll get up, start the coffee and hold my breath until Heidi’s done filling me in on how my world has changed – While I Was Sleeping.

Another Fork In The Road

It turns out that the poem by Robert Frost that was the original inspiration for the name of this blog is a bit of a mystery.

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The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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The only reference that I could find directly attributed to Robert Frost about the poem comes from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference where is it quoted that he said:

One stanza of ‘The Road Not Taken’ was written while I was sitting on a sofa in the middle of England: Was found three or four years later, and I couldn’t bear not to finish it. I wasn’t thinking about myself there, but about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other. He was hard on himself that way.

Frost’s biographer, Laurence Thompson says that, in the end, he finished the poem to poke a bit of fun at his friend, Edward Thomas’ tendency to second guess himself and inability to make up his mind about things.

You’ve likely heard The Road Not Taken, or parts of it, quoted often with many grand themes and schemes attributed to Mr Frost. That’s the funny thing about this little poem. People have taken it so terribly seriously.

That’s just what happened to me this past week. When the edict came down to all those who work for my employer (sorry that I didn’t make that clear before) to adhere to a new NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), I took myself way too seriously.

Laugh at yourself and at life. Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity, but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression, and help you to put in perspective that seemingly terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come. Never take yourself too seriously. ~ Og Mandino

I was in a two-day funk. I’m rarely in a funk at all and never in more than just a momentary funk. It’s been years since I’ve been really funky! I was feeling a lot of something: mad or sad. I’m terrible with negative emotions so I couldn’t decide which, I just knew I felt bad. 😉

I had a true bout of tunnel vision. I think I’m over myself now.

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I have pages of comments that you’ve written regarding my last two posts which I deeply appreciate. In the spirit of the NDA, I can’t publish anything relating to the company I work for or the industry I work in, so I can’t make those public – but thank you!

There are still many blogs relating to Level II Security Jobs on ranches in Texas written by those working for other companies. If that’s why you read Fork, take a look around. Don’t limit yourself to just one. As I’ve said all along, we all have different styles and experiences and no one has a corner on the truth about the job.

To once again quote the great philosopher, Yogi Berra:

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

I have and I will. I’m going to take a breather and then come back here and take another Fork in the Road and see where it leads.

If you read Fork for reasons other than my job, then let me know where you’d like to go and I’ll see what I can do. The gate is wide open!

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Lessons From a Laundromat

We made the big 1/2 mile move today. Technically yesterday. My days are really afternoons and nights. I went to bed at 10 instead of 5 a.m. and I’m oddly off kilter tonight. The move went without a hitch  (or rather, the hitch worked just swell) and we only had one minor mishap. I’ll write about that when I can think in whole sentences again.

This shot clearly was not taken anywhere near Cuero, which is our closest city (pop. 6500). I wrote this a while back on a short-lived blog I started in Oregon.

The lessons continue, even if I no longer have to go to the laundromat (oh, and I am 55 now so I hope I’ve done some changing). 😀

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I made my weekly trip to the Laundromat. Surprisingly, I was the only person who choose to spend their sunny Saturday afternoon soaking and tumbling at the Duds and Suds. Since I forgot my book, I resorted to my typical fall-back mode of ‘straightening things’. It’s actually a pretty clean laundromat, so all I could think of to do was organize – maybe even alphabetize- the magazine rack.

Shuffling the magazines, I found quite a variety of reading materials:
The Holy Bible (KJV)
Our Daily Bread
AARP
The American Legion
Allen Brother’s (The Great Steakhouse Steaks)
ACLU: At War with America
Freedom 1st
The New Yorker
Popular Science
Horses.com
Handy: The Handyman Club of America
Cigars International
Cabala’s
The Progressive Farmer
Voice of the Martyrs

My first thought was: I’ll bet the folks who donated these wouldn’t much like each other. I’m afraid the reason I thought that will become too clear in another paragraph. It’s always easy for me to make obvious, or even profound life applications for others.

There are those whom I know that read The Daily Bread that think the ACLU is the devil’s spawn (literally), and believe AARP is almost as evil. I also know folks who order from Cabala’s and have nothing but scorn for anyone who would read Popular Science.
I don’t know anyone (as far as I know) that reads The Progressive Farmer, so I have no idea how they might feel about Allen Brother’s Steaks.
But the small-minded, bigotry just jumps right out at you, doesn’t it?

And there I stood, thinking that exact thing. I started thinking about whether or not I would like the people who donated certain selections. Really, Debbie? Based on what magazines they read?

I found myself drowning in the misconception that other people should share my enlightened views. And if not, well, possibly they wouldn’t make very charming dinner companions.
Funny that I remember feeling that way at 15 and 25 and 35 and 45 and since I’m not 55 yet, maybe this is the time for a change.

Change doesn’t come as easily to me in the rest of life as it does at the Laundromat. There my old currency is converted into something shiny and useful and helpful with the power, along with just a tiny bit of potion, to cleanse and restore.

I’m ready to change. I don’t want to read a bumper sticker and think: Doubt he’d be my cup of tea or form opinions of people based on their yard signs. The rush to judgement that I have to keep in check is the sign of a very small heart  in a very large world.

Change. It’s time for some. The old still has it’s place, there’s room for so much new.

Any time I think I have the corner on the truth, it’s probably time to take a different fork in the road!

Learning Curve

I wasn’t really prepared for the learning curve. After almost a year of gate guarding, everything is new. There’s the RV of course.

There’s been a little greater learning curve with that than I’d expected.  😀

More on that another time.

I wasn’t expecting the learning curve to be quite so great simply due to switching companies.

We’re actually back where we started last December, with one oil company. But we only worked for them for 3 1/2 weeks opening and shutting a hunting gate at a Frac pond so there wasn’t much traffic. We left without ever knowing there was such a thing as a Company Man or a drilling crew.

I didn’t anticipate that everything in every area would be different. Instead of MI SWAKO and Thermac and Newpark and Deep South, we have Stage Three and Austin Chaulk and Rig Runners and Spitfire. I didn’t realize how well I knew, not just the guys, but all the service companies and sales folks. I’m right back to asking everyone what it is that they do again.

But, no Vicky, I no longer think they’re saying ALL and make them spell it. ALL OIL comes up quite a bit in this business. 😉

These are some things that are the same, so far:

There’s a lot of traffic which gets real close to the RV.

The internet/cell tower is far away. Apparently the farthest it’s ever been since I can rarely get on-line, can’t get into my gmail or on FB and all our calls keep dropping.

It’s suppose to be 86 today so the air conditioner is still running.

Halliburton means cement (not only cement, but for sure cement) and Halliburton apparently has a corner on the market down here.

We were blissfully almost caliche free in Wharton. Once again, there’s so much caliche that I wait to dust until about 30 minutes before Heidi gets up or she won’t be able to tell it and then I won’t get any credit. 😉

The cows are still curious. Today they tried to eat the air hose for the bell (you can see this young steer holding it in his mouth just before Heidi threw a bowl of water on him). Later, the curious cows picked up the fake grass carpet, hoping for a snack. They ended the evening tangled in the cable lines temporarily un-satelliting us.

The good new is 8 straight nights with no mice!

Many of you are just getting started at gates. If you don’t have a blog and want to share your experience here, let me know if you’d like to guest post. If you have a blog and want to be on the gate guard blog roll at Fork, let me know and I’ll add you.

Again, I can’t get on-line often here in Westhoff – we must be on the wrong side of the hill, but I’ll post when I can, unless the cows find a way to climb up and get the booster antennae, too!

Mission Statements Out… Mottos In

When I moved to Texas and became a Level 2 Security Guard, I prayed that God would use birds to restore and encourage me. (Telling God how to operate…I know.) I’m thrilled to say that my prayers have been granted. Today I was lured outside by a Long-billed Thrasher, which I’d never seen or heard. This is it. You might have to use your imagination as it was early and cloudy.

Long-billed Thrasher

Compare that with last year at this time. I was about to turn 59 and having chest pains from anxiety. I had taken a writing and consulting job at a small beach resort in southern Oregon. That torpedoed into Asst Mgr in less than 2 weeks. I found myself in charge of far more than the proposed freelance ideas: social networking, mission statement, newsletters, and office forms.

Being an incurable problem solver, I was like a bee during pollination! So many flowers, so little day light. I had lost my goal. The whole idea of living full-time in the 32 foot RV was to escape the hectic professional life and simplify. Leaving the resort management position and becoming a gate guard has helped me regain the focus on simplicity.

After leaving Oregon, I wrote this post on the topic of RVing compared to bricks and mortar. Simplify is my chosen motto. It doesn’t suit my busy bee ambition very well, but I’m learning to modify the revving of my inner drive for accomplishment. My new life focus is to find ways of slowing down, reducing stress. I even like the way it sounds: simplify.

For years the word had taunted me. I read magazine articles about it, Googled it, bought books on the topic. It called me.

One year Debbie bought this Good Life* tee shirt as a gift for my birthday. I’m convinced it helped unclutter my life and spur me on in a new direction. Imagine cleaning your garage and stopping to wipe the sweat from your face when you look down and see this on your chest…

I don’t have the Adirondack chair in the RV, so how do I simplify?

Reducing the excess helps me simplify. I can focus on the essentials without being distracted by excess. In the RV, I quickly learned to keep only what was necessary. I have 3 skillets and two pans. Period. In my Iowa house that I’ve rented to friends, I had a whole cupboard of pots and pans. I still used only a few of those. Excess creates confusion and clutter.

Working the early morning hours helps me simplify. One of the riggers, a geological guy with two college degrees says he loves to work at night because people don’t bug him, there’s very little traffic around the rig and he doesn’t get distracted. I get that. I try to finish blogging before 8 when the gate traffic picks up.

Not having to multi-task helps me simplify, slows my mind. Being a gate guard at an oil rig can be fast-paced, but it happens in spurts, so I never become exhausted. It also never seems overwhelming because I’m not trying to answer the phone, prepare for a meeting, and be creative at the same time that someone walks through my office door and demands my attention. The job description of gate guarding is so basic. Get the information, get it down on the clipboard and let them in or out. I’ve rarely had a challenge.

I tried to think of one as an example and it took a while. That’s encouraging! Okay. One rough-neck wasn’t thrilled with having to stop at the gate and check in so one day he just buzzed on through. That same guy found me in the middle of the road the next time he wanted to leave the site. We came to an ‘understanding’ and now we’re on good terms. That’s easy to explain. ‘Don’t ignore the English teacher!’ It’s a former motto!

* I have obtained permission to use Good Life product pictures in my blogging as long as I make it clear they are not subsidizing me and that although we share a love for optimism, the views I express are mine, not necessarily theirs.

Frost and Fork

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost

Since we named our blog from a line in this, one of the most famous poems ever published, I thought I’d comment on the misuse of it. I was reading some modern commentaries about Frost (how do you think I made it through college as an English Major?) and realized what I’d forgotten about it.

Unlike the graduation cards that recite parts of this poem, the road less traveled by is not less worn, evidenced in because it was grassy and wanted wear; though as for that, the passing there had worn them really about the same.

The telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence actually is the author’s forecast of telling an untrue version of the walk in the woods. He is saying that in the retelling he will dress it up a bit, poetic license, if you will, gives him the right to say that he chose the one less traveled by. In fact, they were equally untrodden…. hmm.

For two grandmas who left the Midwest in 2008 in an RV, we’ve maybe chosen the path less traveled but it wasn’t because Frost or because M. Scott Peck made a fortune with a turn of the phrase, however inaccurate… but for other reasons.

What’s reasons, you ask? I don’t know. Let’s ask Debbie tonight when she takes night duty again. (When she gets up. She sleeps during the days while I guard the gate.)

Why Gate Guard in Texas?

I’ve been drawn to the simple life as long as I can remember.

“In the popular mind, the phrase simple living has often been associated with self-denial… In reality the phrase can just as easily be associated not with what is lost, but with what is gained.” Frank Levering.

It’s not what I had to lose that got me here, it’s what I hoped I’d gain.

  • No yard work means I’m picking the wildflowers and weeds from beside the road and in fields.
  • No basement, attic or garage means I’m free to make organization under the RV into art form.
  • No critical or nosy neighbors means I can be pleasant to everyone at the gate because they are transients like me and we’re not placing expectations on each other.
  • No walls to paint or wallpaper to strip means I can focus on the symbolic and treasured art I’ve chosen to hang in the RV.
  • No evenings planning ‘fix-it’ lists because I can fix things quickly or I call someone to help us.
  • No snow to scoop or leaves to rake means I have joy in taking pictures of the seasonal changes.
  • No bushes to trim or gardens to weed means I have fun collecting bits of nature and putting them outside on the bench or picnic table.
  • No holidays to plan means that whenever I want I have time call my son and my mom and I have time to pray for them during their hectic seasons or their crises.
  • No large surfaces to clear means my stuff is right where it should be and easy to find.
  • No bookshelves, display cases or end tables means I can rotate all my precious things and focus on them.
  • No weekends spent housecleaning because it takes 15 minutes or less to completely vacuum and pick up.
  • No dust collecting for weeks in a spare room. Now it takes 5 minutes to dust the whole RV.
  • No storage sheds to rent and sort out means I give my extra things to people along the way.
  • Fewer chores means I have time for writing, reading and praying.
  • DVR and direct TV means I never watch TV by accident anymore. I have time to listen to the birds.
  • No big closets or cupboards means I know where everything goes and I have only what I need or love.

Not attending to what matters little so I can gain freedom to do what matters most.

Life Is Good: Simple words from Jake and Rocket

Simplify. I could fall back into that word like a child leaning into a hammock: Swinging and gliding gently to rest.