Somewhere Near Nowhere

I’m watching the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics while I write this (recorded earlier) and while I work the gate at 3 a.m. I’m not sure why I’m watching the Parade of Nations? Maybe just because it’s a nice reminder of the humanity behind the politics.
Plus, how else would I have known that the owner of a Malaysian gold mine has offered a Gold Bar worth $600,000 specifically to any Malaysian athlete who wins a gold medal in Badminton? For that matter, how would I have known Badminton was an Olympic sport?

This post is part 1 of 2 about what you might expect if you decide to head for Texas Tea/ Black Gold country. Reading my blog, or even the majority of blogs about gate guarding, you may be under the impression that it’s a job where you guard the gate for a drilling company.

Sometimes.

Our first 3 1/2 weeks on the job we were on a hunting ranch in Tilden, guarding water we never saw, working for a Company Man we never met. We opened and shut the gate after each truck, or stream of trucks. It was one big, heavy gate!

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From there we joined FO and Lantern 16 (drilling rig). We followed them (by invitation, we weren’t stalkers :D) for 11 months. The roughnecks (which are now called employees) were a wild bunch and certainly made that first year interesting! They were good to us and we decided then that we really liked following a rig. We’d hoped to follow them right into retirement, but they stacked in November.

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We subbed for some folks on a drilling rig for a couple of months over the holidays last winter.

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A typical gate for us

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When the gate guards came back, we joined the Winter Texans. I’ve mentioned before that Texas, unlike every other southern state in the nation, does not have Snow Birds. Texas brands everything so down here it’s Winter Texans.  After a week or so of waiting, we spent 1 long week 500 miles straight south of  Nowhere, Oklahoma which wasn’t near Anywhere in Texas.

I can understand why the group, Cross Canadian Ragweed, sang about Nowhere in Texas because I’ve been there.

Why don’t you roll with me baby down to Nowhere, Texas
I got nothin but time
Jump in the cab of my 70 Chevy
Leave Oklahoma far behind
My good friend told me once Texas is big enough
That a man could get lost
Roll down that window
Open that glove box
Give that road map a toss

A woman could get lost in Texas, too. I know. I do it all the time. 😀

Texas is also big enough that you may not have a tower for your satellite TV or your internet or even your cell phone, which was the case for us Somewhere that felt like a long way from Nowhere. This gate was kept shut and padlocked at night, even though we had traffic. It was kind of eerie going out at 2 a.m. and fumbling with the combination while blinded by headlights.

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2 days into the job, for the first and only time ever, we called our mgr and asked for a replacement. We stayed 5 days until he found someone. I took a bit of flak here for that decision. It goes back two posts. We each have to do what makes us comfortable and we weren’t comfortable being that isolated.

Since I’d ripped off a part of  the side of the brand new RV the second week we had it as I cut too close to a tiny palm tree, we left a week early for our appointment in the Houston repair shop (Bob Jones RV – really great folks to work with if you need someone in Houston).

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On the way to the Texas Bayou to wait for our repair appointment, we picked up a stone that shattered the back window. Heidi got really creative at Home Depot!

My son, who lives in New Jersey, had a February conference in Houston so we’d scheduled the repairs to coincide with his trip.

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After the visit, which was grand, and the repairs, which took 10 days – there was a whole lot of repainting involved –  we headed back to wait for a gate. It was a long wait. By now, we knew what we wanted so we waited.

Heidi and I will never strike oil, but we do seem to have struck gold with an oil company for the second time. Before I get into that, I’d like to share a little more about some other options you may have if you hit highways and they carry you south to the unique world of Texas Tea and Black Gold. But not tonight since this already too long. I’ll close this with Dave Barry’s ever wise words:

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic. ~ Dave Barry

Be Prepared

This gate guarding business isn’t a complicated job. The environment is our primary challenge.

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Given that, it pays to be prepared. I’ve already gone through all of the weapons in our attack and conquer closet but there are also practical, everyday ways to be prepared – or so I’m told (by Heidi).

I was in Brownies. I liked it quite a lot. (I’m the one on the left w/o glasses.) This picture was taken in 1966 as you could probably guess from the car across the street. It was the summer before I turned 10. I think we were marching in the 4th of July parade (there were more than 2 of us – the rest of the troop must have been somewhere else). 😀

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I can’t remember why I only was in Girl Scouts for 1 year but I apparently it wasn’t in long enough to fully absorb the always Be Prepared Scout motto.

Heidi, who dropped out of Girl Scouts after 1 week because they wouldn’t let her light her own Bunsen Burner, was born with Be Prepared tattooed on her brain. She was the kind who would start her term paper the day the assignment was announced and have it done weeks ahead. She used to be an English teacher so you get the picture.

Heidi has a system for everything. She asked the Safety guy to redesign the log sheet, despite the fact this oil company has a standard form that everyone uses. He did! I guess her constant supplies of baked goods are persuasive. 😀

She Velcroed a pen and a clock to the clipboard. It couldn’t be easier.

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And in case of rain, she has a separate, waterproof  container to keep the log sheet and pen in.

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Rain has been a new thing this year. We didn’t have any last year. As y’all know, the drought in Texas was terrible.

It’s been raining lately. A lot in the sense that it’s rained a lot of times, not a lot at a time (with a couple of exceptions). One minute the sun is shining and the next minute the sun is shining (it refuses to give up down here) but it’s also pouring.

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Anyway, when we’re anticipating a weather event, which is what locals call rain, Heidi get’s everything ready. She bungees down the lights. She has a dozen boulders anchoring down the fake grass carpet to keep it in place. She keeps her rain coat in the closet, right inside the door, and an extra set of dry clothes and shoes ready to change into.

All day long, even during weather events, she works while I sleep and things go seamlessly.

Heidi goes to bed early – 7-ish.

Then I have a weather event, like yesterday. I’d forgotten to get dry clothes. I have a jacket but I didn’t take the time to put it on. I forget about the special blue case. All the ink ran and the page was so wet the pen ripped right through it.

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I have no explanation, really.

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I blame it on being a Girl Scout drop out.

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This is the last portion of the English translation of  Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse which could also be rightly be retitled ‘Ode to an English Teacher’:

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

I know an old lady who swallowed a spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she’ll die

Well, you know the rest. If you don’t, I’ve added a video of Judy Collins singing this on Sesame Street.

I’m feeling a lot like the old lady in the song. I’ve never swallowed a fly, as far as I know,  just a few moths and at least a half of a spider, but I am combating entomophobia with a touch of DOP.

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I don’t know what these are but we’ve had thousands of them!

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Two different conditions are recognized that relate to an inordinate fear of arthropods like insects and spiders. Entomophobia (“entomo” = insect + “phobia” = fear) refers to an unreasonable fear of real arthropods. The key here, as with other phobias, is that the fear involves a real stimulus, in this case an insect or spider, encountered in everyday activities. For example, a spider found inside the home might trigger this intense fear reaction.

A condition called delusions of parasitosis (DOP), or delusional parasitosis, on the other hand, is a severe, debilitating reaction to an imagined infestation. Delusions are a mistaken belief and in this case the person believes, wrongly, that they are infested with an insect or mite, or that they are being repeatedly bitten.

~ Jack DeAngelis, PhD, OSU Entomologist

My latest troubles began with the bee-like thing with pincers that nested in my hair while I was logging in a truck and burrowed into my head. The harder I pulled at him, the deeper he went. I had a sore head for days. He’s looking a little worse for wear in this photo. I took a picture in case I broke out in hives or went into anaphylactic shock (which was more likely to happen from eating the crawfish, but still…). That way if  Heidi found me passed out on the floor, she would know what bit/stung/pinched me.

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Of course, there was that cricket the size of a Dorito thumping the mouse trap.

The last few nights have heightened my entomophobia. There was the furry spider on the door, the creepy spider with white spots that lives on the night lights and the red spider that spins in the wheel well at night.

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Then, night before last, it was the giant winged thing that came in stealth-fully (again, probably in my hair). I’m beginning to redefine hair-net as: my hair that nets every winged creature! He came in quietly. I didn’t notice. Hours later, he dropped down on my head from somewhere while I was reading. I can’t tell you how much I hate arthropods dropping on my head.

You can’t really get a true idea of this from the picture but he/she was about the size of a monarch butterfly when it spread it’s wings… and u g l y!

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He fell on my head. I jumped out of the chair. Henry flew out of his bed. The giant flying thing went all kamikaze on us – bouncing off the walls and ceiling and even under the table.

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Henry isn’t much of a mouser but he does go after bugs, but this one was too much for him. He couldn’t get to it. I was disappointed to wake up and have Heidi say the winged creature disappeared shortly after she got up. He resurfaced just  few hours ago. I was a little more prepared tonight. I knocked him out with one of Heidi’s Crocs before he could get fully airborne.

I carried him outside.

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We’re pulling out of the hole right now which mean there were non-stop cement trucks and tankers. By the time I’d logged everyone and returned inside and sat down to read again, my DOP kicked in big time.

Although I knew it wasn’t possible, I felt the giant winged thing crawling down my back.

It wasn’t possible. It wasn’t that giant winged thing. It was a this giant winged thing.

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I’d rather have DOP, but I don’t think I do. So far, everything I’d hoped I was just imagining was crawling on my skin, was real and worse than I’d imagined.

I may have entomophobia but there’s something about being phobic that implies it’s a little irrational and I don’t think that’s that case either.

I think I just have boundary issues.

And, all things considered, I think they’re pretty reasonable. I’m saving the snakes and frogs for another day. I actually love the frogs but I wish they’d eat the giant winged things.

It’s supposed to be in the 90’s this week. Still, a hoodie is starting hold a certain appeal!

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