Do What You Like – Like What You Do

~

The pictures on the front of the Life is Good t-shirts vary but their trademark philosophy is always same: Do what you like. Like what you do. Optimism can take you anywhere.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are actually quite a variety of jobs you could be assigned as gate guards. Some you might like better than others. These are the most common ones:

  • Jobs where you live right on the site and work safety, wear flame retardant clothing. and keep track of where everyone is at all times. I don’t see myself ever doing that but I’m guessing some folks like it.

OK, this is one of our guys, but can you imagine an already hot-flashing 55-year-old woman suiting up in 100+ degree temps? Me, either! I’m pretty sure I’d become the safety issue on the rig! 😉

  • Jobs where you work just FRAC (tons of traffic) and follow a FRAC crew. This involves moving every 6-10 days. The gate guards I’ve talked to that do this, love it. I have no idea why? We have way too much HUAD for that one!

  • Jobs where you start with the drilling rig and stay on site through FRAC and completion.

  • Jobs where you stay at a production site (we have friends who did this for over a year). They had all their meals catered and locked the gate at 10 each night and opened at 6 every morning while making the same pay we all make on a 24 hour gate. I wouldn’t hold my breath hoping to get one of these.

  • Jobs with multiple active holes where you make a little extra for each drilling hole if someone is living at each site.

  • Jobs with unfortunate placement. We worked a gate by the highway where the traffic for 6 sites stopped by us on their way to: our rig, or the FRAC (which had their own gg), or the construction of our second pad, or the production plant, or the pipe line, or the 2nd well (which also had their own gg )… It wasn’t a big deal, but it was really busy. We were sort of like the traffic cops in the middle of the street and blow whistles and point a lot. 😀

~
I’m sure there are other industry related gate guard jobs, but the majority work in one of these areas, or like Heidi and I, follow a drilling rig. With the 2 brief exceptions noted in my last post, following a rig is all that we’ve done and we like it quite a lot. The kind of experience you have following a rig depends on a lot of things – chemistry mostly. Sometimes you click and sometimes you clash. We’ve been very fortunate to always click.
~
~
We loved our year with our previous gig, and we’ll never forget those guys! It was quite an introduction to gate guarding! It’s hard to forget people who bring you tarantulas in a crock pot or rattlesnakes slithering around in their truck bed or the snare wild hogs right outside your window at night! We were so sad for us and happy for them when the rig got called back to their home state of Louisiana.
~
~
There are many, many nice people to work for and with in this business and, I’m told, some that aren’t as nice. This isn’t a glamor job (clearly) 😉 and attitudes toward gate guards vary. The Texas Railroad Commission requires gate guards, so to some companies the position is just a necessary evil and to others, it’s a part of their team that they value.
~
~
We’ve been fortunate to make the team for the second time. We’ve struck gold with this company and drilling rig. We’ve enjoyed every day (well almost every day ;)) of the 5 months we’ve been with them. We’ll be taking a few weeks off in a few weeks with the repeated assurance that when we return, they expect us back because we’re “family” now.
That’s really nice. You can see from the photo below, we practically live on the pad.
~
~
You certainly can find something wrong with any job. This one is hot and dusty. It’s a long way from home no matter where you live, even if you live in Texas!
~
The pay, before taxes, comes to $5.21 an hour. The only thing that makes this job financially viable is that we work 24 hrs a day(no napping on the job since we always try to be out the door in under 10 seconds). That, of course, means we work every weekend and every holiday. As year-rounders following a rig, we work 100 or 200 or 300 days straight. It helps to take a couple of weeks off about every 6-8 months.
What it comes down to mostly is your outlook. It’s like the Life is Good shirts. Do what you like. Like what you do. We focus on what we like about what we do. Like right now, it’s 2 in the morning and I can do my job well and still blog (when the internet is favorable) and watch the pre-recorded Olympics in between trucks. There’s virtually no stress or conflicts to resolve since no one cares what we think because we don’t know anything about whatever the problem is!
As for the last part of the Life is Good philosophy: Optimism can take you anywhere, be careful with that one. I’ve always been pretty optimistic and look where that took me! 😉
~

I’ve Been Everywhere

This first video is the original by Brian Burns. The video at the end was shot by someone who visited every town in the song on a motorcycle! Actually, it seems I’ve Been Everywhere (in Texas, that is), has inspired many a road trip.

After a year and a half in Texas, I was surprised at how many of theses places, that even most Texans haven’t heard of, I lived in or been through.

Remember, as with most videos, once you start playing it, you can click on the partial square in the bottom right corner of the video and it will full screen.

~

~

I’ve been everywhere in the song, almost, and tomorrow I’ll be somewhere else. 😀

We’re done here drilling here in Concrete. There are still legions of trucks coming and going as we begin to rig down.

Tomorrow we head SW (out in the country between Beeville and Kenedy) about 75 miles. This would be kind of bad news to us overheated Yankees in Texas, in the Spring (which is really summer since it’s already 90’s every day), except that we’re moving with the rig and we have such a great group to work with!

We’ve been on the same ranch (2 different holes) since March 5th.

The day we moved to this site, it looked like this:

~

~

I’ve been to Waco, Hico, Hondo, Navasota, Winnsboro, Jacksboro, Hillsboro, Santa Rosa, Austin, Houston, Galveston, Texarkana, Frisco, Buffalo, Conroe, Corsicana,
Goliad, Groesbeck, Glen Rose, Red Oak, Post Oak, Live Oak, Lone Oak, no joke…

~

~

Before long the pad was filled to overflowing.

~

~

I’ve been to Kruegerville, Pflugerville, Van Horn, Val Verde, Brackettville, Bartonville, Beeville, Bulverde, Bear Creek, Cedar Creek, Mill Creek, Mineola, Maypearl, Monahans, Telephone, Tuscola, Redwater, Round Rock, Round Top, Round Lake, Sour Lake, Southlake, Spring Lake, for Pete’s sake…

~

~

I’ve been to Greenville, Gatesville, Gainesville, Alameda, Kerrville, Kellyville, Bastrop, Benavides, Somerville, Smithville, Stephenville, Prairie View, Luckenbach, Longview, Plainview, Idalou, Justin, Junction, Panorama, Pasadena, Angelina and Lorena…see what I mean-a…

~

~

Two nights ago the semi lights stretched for miles waiting for their turn:

~

~

Now let me see I’ve been to Valley Mills, Pine Mills, Dime Box, Duncanville, New Home, New Hope, New Deal, Liberty Hill, Rockport, Rock Creek, Bridgeport, Brownwood, Cleburne, Comanche, Cut & Shoot, Cottonwood, Bayview, Bayside, Baytown, Bay City, Falls City, Center City, Bridge City, what a pity…

It’s wildly busy tonight. I’ve had about 40 trucks in the past hour so I’m giving up on the computer and shifting my attention to tucking away fragile things.

~

~

We’ve packed up, backed up and done everything but hitch up. Tomorrow begins another grand adventure!

~

A River Runs Through It

A river runs through it, or at least it did … all night last night.

~

~

And all night a solo vacuum truck came and went, hauling the river away.

When the CM said he had a vac truck coming in to do some clean up, he wasn’t kidding!

~

~

It worked kind of like a gigantic shop vac, sucking up thousands of gallons of water.

And all night, the guys on the rig continued to work. It’s such a regular part of life on a drilling rig, no one even comments.

~

~

Except me, since I’m not quite as Texas-seasoned as the rest. I surely appreciated  having an automatic awning. When it wasn’t windy, it helped. When the wind picked up, it came back in.

~

~

The rain stopped just in time for Heidi to meet 15 semis of casing  yesterday morning. By evening, most of the remaining river had seeped into the greedy Texas ground.

~

~

During the storm, not being remotely mechanical, I worked in the dark, in the rain, without outside lights or a bell. We’re so close to the rig, the lack of lights wasn’t a big deal.

But no bell meant I had to keep the shade up all night. I felt a little like a mannequin with poor posture and an ugly orange vest in a window display after closing time at Macy’s. Not that anyone was looking. 😉

I know how to reset the switch on the generator. And I did. Several times, but it would trip instantly. I’m easily resigned to fate.

~

~

Heidi, on the other hand, lives to problem solve.

By the time I got up yesterday afternoon, the problem was solved. 😀

~

~

I know it worked because it stormed again tonight and the lights stayed on and the bell rang at many appropriate times!

The bugs in the above picture are kind of like Texas-sized flying ants and are so thick the ground looks like it’s moving.

~

Two-legged creatures we are supposed to love as we love ourselves.  The four-legged, also, can come to seem pretty important.  But six legs are too many from the human standpoint.  ~ Joseph W. Krutch

~

Thanks to all of you gate guards who kept in touch. In spite of the wind and the warnings, it sounds like everyone came through it OK.

And so ended another action packed day here on the ranch.

~

~

In a couple more days, we’ll be back up to our ankles in caliche. If we could just get the vac driver to swing back around for that:

He’d be riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels.                              (odd Texas saying)

~

~

When your dreams turn to dust, vacuum.

It’s a Man’s World

If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.    ~ Yogi Berra

~

~

To quote the late James Brown, it’s a man’s world, at least it is in the oil/natural gas industry.

~

~

According to Catalyst it looked something like this in 2011:

Male-Dominated Industries in Canada and the U.S.

Industry

Women’s Share in Canada, 201110

Women’s Share in U.S., 201111

Agriculture

29.5%

N/A

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting

N/A

24.7%

Construction

11.2%

9.2%

Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping

16.0%

13.7%

Forestry and Logging with Support Activities

14.8%

N/A

Mining (including oil and gas extraction)

19.0%

12.1%

Utilities

24.7%

22.2%

Women in Management in Male-Dominated Industries

Those stats are just management. By the time you get to a drilling rig, or FRAC or production or completion, the percentage of female employees is next to nil.

I just want to thank everyone who made this day necessary.     ~ Yogi Berra

~

~

We have deep depth.  ~ Yogi Berra

~

~

Gate guards, which are made up of about 55% men and 45% women, don’t count since we’re Security not Mining. There are still several men who work gates solo but only a couple of women. We’ve met  two other women teams –  a mother and daughter and two that are good friends. Needless to say, in this man’s world, men do not work in teams at a gate. Can you imagine 2 men living in an RV? They can’t even sit next to each other at the movies! 😀

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else. ~ Yogi Berra

~

So yes, it’s a man’s world.

He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.             ~ Yogi Berra

In a year and a half, we’ve worked with 1 woman who was our geologist, 1 woman who was a safety trainer and maybe 2 or 3 female semi drivers.

~

Other than the women in sales, we live in a man’s world, deep in the heart of very macho Texas!

~

~

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility. ~ Yogi Berra

Heidi and I spoke to groups of health care professionals for nearly 25 years,  90% of whom were women.  Yogi got this one right – at least partially. 😀

~

~

It isn’t the heat (or the gender), it’s the humility, the attitude, that makes the difference between people who are good to work for and with, and those who can make the day really unpleasant.

These guys get a lot of credit. I know it was a shock when their gate guards arrived in this man’s world and we were both women! We’ve gotten used to each other over the last 7 weeks. They’ve decided we’re “family”.  It’s mostly a man’s world, but it’s our world, too. 😀

~

~

Riggin’ Up Day 2

Texas is neither southern nor western. Texas is Texas ~Senator William Blakley

The derrick came in on Day 2. It took one more day to get everything rigged up and operational. I’ll post several photos in a slide show and then a smaller batch separately so you can click on them and take a closer look.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The diagram below from Wikipedia shows the details of many of the components you see in these photos.

List of items

Simple diagram of a drilling rig and its basic operation

  1. Mud tank
  2. Shale shakers
  3. Suction line (mud pump)
  4. Mud pump
  5. Motor or power source
  6. Vibrating hose
  7. Draw-works
  8. Standpipe
  9. Kelly hose
  10. Goose-neck
  11. Traveling block
  12. Drill line
  13. Crown block
  14. Derrick
  15. Monkey board
  16. Stand (of drill pipe)
  17. Pipe rack (floor)
  18. Swivel (On newer rigs this may be replaced by a top drive)
  19. Kelly drive
  20. Rotary table
  21. Drill floor
  22. Bell nipple
  23. Blowout preventer (BOP) Annular type
  24. Blowout preventer (BOP) Pipe ram & blind ram
  25. Drill string
  26. Drill bit
  27. Casing head or Wellhead
  28. Flow line
  29. hook

Joe Btfsplk and Other Wonders of Nature

For hours days I’ve been going to sleep to the sound of rain pattering and periodically pounding on the RV roof. I love the sound of rain –  when the slides don’t leak and the wind doesn’t tear off the non-retractable awnings over the four slides that magically transform this little trailer on wheels into a home.

I sleep and dream of the ocean. For three years, I often fell asleep to the sound of rain. I lived in the tiny town of Gold Beach tucked away in a little southern crook. With its temperate rain forest climate, there are more sunny days there than any other place on the Oregon coast. Although I often slept to the sounds of rain, most days offered a generous helping of sun.

For 14 months, I’ve lived in the drought stricken state of Texas. I’d all but forgotten the sound of rain on the roof. It hadn’t rained until I began my period of necessary unemployment. Since leaving the gate Thursday morning, the rain hasn’t stopped.

I’m beginning to feel like Joe Btfsplk! Do you remember Joe from Li’l Abner? Me either, but I’ve read about him. 😀

Joe Btfsplk was a character in the satirical comic strip Li’l Abner created by cartoonist Al Capp.  A small, dark rain cloud perpetually hovered over his head. Btfsplk and his ever-present cloud became one of the most iconic images in Li’l Abner. The rain cloud was supposed to represent Joe’s unfortunate tendency to bring bad luck.

This past week, our job came to an abrupt halt;  Heidi’s renters moved out 7 months before their lease was up; the house requires $5000 in repairs; the RV insurance rate doubled due to my palm tree tango; a random stone shattered the living room window; and the weather forecast is for another week of rain.

Just call me Joe. 😀

I may just be a rain carrier. We head east tomorrow to check out the Texas bayous where the rain is expected to continue.  I consider it my gift to a thirsty state. I’m hoping to leave the bit of bad luck behind. I think, just to be safe, Heidi better drive. 😉

For those of you who are interested in the oil business down here in south Texas land,  Andrew sent me this great link about the Eagle Ford Shale play.  The Houston Chronicle article lists everything from the average salaries to the local economic impact.

More from the bayou tomorrow or the following day. I still have some Louisianan bayou tales to tell. Until then to end with a couple of Capp-isms: good is better than evil because it’s nicer. 😀

To be corn-tinued

What’s at Whitsett

The nice part about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else does!  ~ anon

Whitsett, population 150,  is best known as being the setting for the 2008 horror film The Wild Man of the Navidad.


If you’re not from Texas, mostly likely you’ve never heard of Whitsett, TX. If you are from Texas, most likely you’ve never heard of Whitsett, TX . 😀

So, what’s at Whitsett? Well we are, along with 5 other gate guards and a whole bunch of service wagons, waiting for assignments.

Below is the view from the front door. We only have one door and it’s on the side, but I think, in an RV, that’s still considered the front door?

But there’s more to Whitsett than gate guarding. We took a trip to town today to find the post office and took a few pictures of the town along the way.

The lady at the post office, whose name I’m sorry to have forgotten, couldn’t have been nicer.

She said she used to read books and fall asleep until someone came in ringing the bell and waking her up.  That was before Eagle Ford Shale. She hasn’t read a book in a year!

I loved it that they have anonymous mail. What is anonymous mail do you suppose? They have signs for it and bins of it. Maybe all post offices do, I don’t know. I didn’t ask because I thought it might be a government secret or something. 😀

A small town is a place where there’s no place to go where you shouldn’t go. ~ Burt Bacharack

To read the papers and to listen to the news… one would think the country is in terrible trouble. You do not get that impression when you travel the back roads and the small towns. They do care about their country and wish it well.  ~Charles Kuralt

We couldn’t resist. We split a brisket sandwich and Heidi got a giant pickle, all for under $5. The decor in the tiny gas station/ convenience store/ deli was what we’ve become accustomed to down here. 😉

Possibly should have clarified that it was, indeed, beef brisket since I took this photo just across the street…

We couldn’t really find any town or J & B TACOS.

So just in case the question of what’s in Whitestt has been weighing on your mind, now you know!

Welcome Neighbors!

This a Welcome letter and a bit of a farewell.  As you may have noticed, I’ve added 2 new blogs to my blog roll, which makes 4 in the past 6 weeks.

My blog roll. Every time I say that I think I should buy jeans with stretchy waistbands, particularly when you combine the words blog, roll and Fork. Anyway, my blog roll here at Fork is limited to blogs written by gate guards – except, of course, for my TMG blog and Heidi’s Good Life. That’s the perk of proprietorship. 😉

Introducing the two newest blogs:

Travlin Terriers – Gate guarding as seen from the perspective of Phoebe and Hannah – two cheeseburger eating Terriers

Blue Heron – The official title is Full-time RVing… Our Journey into Gate Guarding. I shortened it to Blue Heron (their URL) because the real name kept rolling off my blog roll (hope that’s OK Vicky?)

Andy, Bob and Penny continue to write regularly; Luke writes as his internet connection allows; and Kit and Jerry are back in the field, daily journaling.

That means that there are at least eight of us now with gate guard blogs. If you know of others, I’d be happy to add them to the roll. 😀

I just watched the local news, which, for some reason, is from San Antonio. I don’t get that since we’re 55 miles from Houston and 180 miles from San Antonio but ABC, NBC and CBS are all 3 determined to give us locals, San Antonio news. Anyway, the headline story was that the Eagle Ford Shale is predicted to have a 20-50 year play in southern Texas.

They interviewed Judge Nelson Wolff from Bexar county. I have no idea why they interviewed a judge unless he’s really a mayor whose first name is Judge? Or maybe a judge is the go-to guy in Texas? Judge Wolff was very excited to announce that EFS drilling will be spreading north into Bexar county.

Judge Wolff also said that the average semi driver, hauling oil, makes over $100,000 per year.

What does this mean for you and me? Well,  job security looks good if you’re a gate guard and truck driving looks even better.

And what does the proliferation of gate guard blogs mean for you and me?

For you it means there’s a veritable smorgasbord of blogs to choose from. No two are remotely alike. I’d encourage you to check out each and every one!

For me it means I’ll be writing less often and possibly won’t limit my posts to just gate guard/RV related topics. Since I do live full-time in an RV and continue to work as a gate guard, both will come up frequently, but I may also branch out a bit when I do write.

Every time you publish a post, Word Press says something like Cool! or Extraordinary! or Rad!. This is my 203rd post here at Fork. I forgot to see if Word Press said anything cool when I hit the 200 mark. What has been cool has been the 200 or so of you who regularly read. Thank you.

I’ll keep writing from time to time, but check out these other blogs and give a hearty welcome to the new neighbors!

P.S. Thanks for all the mouse trapping hints. Another One Bites (bit) the Dust last night. It’s 2:15 a.m. and all’s quiet on the (south) western front, so far…  Of course, I’m still rolling up my apple cores just in case.

Rigging Up – A Pictorial (2)

After spending 3 hours trying to make a slide show, I’m giving up. I’m afraid you’ll have to keep on scrolling – which rhymes with rolling – which is what we’ll be doing this morning. After a month and a day with Lantern 3, we’ll be moving 10 miles to Smiley to re-join one of our former Company Men who’s bringing up Lantern 17, a horizontal drilling rig  from Louisiana.

Maybe we’ll stay with17 until we retire?  Hmm… When I went to bed yesterday morning, I didn’t know we were moving today so it’s not likely! You just never know in this business. 😀

We’ve been at this site for 4 days. I still have some interesting (I think) shots of rigging up here at Lantern 3, so I’ll continue to post them for the next few days.

Everyone  is lined up and waiting to unload, which didn’t happen for another day.

The whole process is, of course interesting to the locals. While no one (except the owners) is allowed inside the gate, we do get a lot who stop to watch from the road!

~~

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about the position this guy’s in that makes me kind of uncomfortable. He survived, though!

I believe this is called a ditch witch – JoJo – you can correct me if I’m wrong.

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

~

~~

~

The night ended with some real tired guys heading home. These three are characters. Jared (driving) is the son of a preacher back in Idaho. Cheyenne and Dakota (brothers) say their Momma watched too many westerns. 😀 Stay safe, guys. It was great fun getting to know you!

~

They left as the next group arrived. A couple of guys are  from east Texas and the rest are from Arkansas. It’s a long commute to work  from Arkansas: 11 1/2 hours, which means they spend 2 of their 7 days off, driving.

More tomorrow.

All lit up but still down

All lit up but still down.

Rigging Up – Up Close and Personal

When you’re a gate guard, you can be miles from the site you’re guarding. We were so far away from the frac pond in Tilden, that we never saw it! It’s different here.

It all began at sunrise

At this location, we figure we’re about 100 yards from the site. Since I doubt we’ll be this close again (and I’m not sure I want to be), I thought I’d share some pictures this week. (I know you aren’t all interested in gate guarding – I promise to mix in other topics soon).

This is where things stood – or laid at the end of the day yesterday.

John was the first crew guy in from the old site  at 6:30.

Always  a cheerful: “Y’all have a good day!”

The day started out with a whole lot of traffic and quite a bit of caliche as the rig move continued.

The traffic didn’t slow down until around 7:00 p.m. I’m writing this at 3:30 a.m. and I still have a truck about every 15 minutes.

Just like moving your RV, it isn’t the distance, it’s the packing up that takes the time.

~

~

Eventually, the rest of the derrick made it in.

~

~

~

I’m having some ‘technical difficulties’, so I can’t put these in a folder or a slide show tonight. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. You’ll just have to keep scrolling down. Maybe I’ll get it fixed by tomorrow.

~

Lantern 3 is a comparatively small rig – about a third of the size of the 16 and 17 that do the horizontal drilling. Still, you get a feel for how big everything is when you see the guys on it!

~

 The derrick still isn’t up but will be by the time I wake up today.

It was around 104 for most of the afternoon. Thank you to Heidi for taking the majority of these shots. It was so hot that the owners even had to go home to gulp some air conditioning before coming back to take more photos. I really don’t know how the guys do it. This crew will all finish up their tour this morning and head home for a week and a fresh group will pick up where they left off. I’ll pick up where I left off tomorrow night, too.