Angry Birds

Angry Birds are everywhere. They may not be much of a factor in your life, but they’ve become a huge deal in mine!

In Angry Birds, players control a flock of multi-colored birds that are attempting to retrieve eggs that have been stolen by a group of evil green pigs. On each level, the pigs are sheltered by structures made of various materials such as wood, ice and stone, and the objective of the game is to eliminate all the pigs in the level. Using a slingshot, players launch the birds with the intent of either hitting the pigs directly or damaging the structures, which would cause them to collapse and kill the pigs. ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angry_Birds

Angry Birds has been sweeping the nation  world since it’s advent for Apple in December of 2009.

If you know about Angry Birds, there’s no need to explain more and if you don’t you probably aren’t all that interested.

Before I elaborate on my relationship with Angry Birds, I need to add some disclaimers.

I’m not a gamer. When I bought my Verizon Droid very smart phone in 2010, it came with 3 games – Tilt, Bejeweled and Angry Birds, none of which had I even heard of. Tilt was pretty easy to master, so I moved on to Angry Birds. At that time I was a manager at a beautiful resort on the Oregon Coast. Because I was the front desk supervisor and guest service manager, I was always pleasant – always.

At the end of the day, I would go to bed and play Angry Birds. Maybe there was something cathartic about pulling back a virtual slingshot and flinging birds at walls of wood and stone and ice to kill green pigs.

I was on level 5 when, after moving to Texas to become a gate guard in the wilderness, I had to switch to a less smart AT&T phone which not only didn’t come with Angry Birds, but for which the app wasn’t yet developed. Clearly not a student of the game or of the strategies, I never did know why the birds were so angry.

I have a different phone now which is only slightly smarter and I did recently buy Angry Birds for a couple of dollars. I haven’t played it much since I had to start at level 1 with my new phone,  but I did find out why the birds are angry. Somehow the green pigs (which have only heads – and sometimes helmets, but no legs) managed to steal the eggs (which are golden) from the birds. This, understandably, made the birds very mad.

As unlikely as the scenario might seem, the task was no doubt made easier for the pigs by the fact that the birds are wingless. Fascinating concept: disembodied green pig heads stealing golden eggs from wingless birds.

All this leads to my latest personal crisis. The local feral pigs have taken up serious nighttime screaming. This starts sometime after midnight. They rotate with the coyotes. This was already semi-creepy. Then about 3 nights ago, around 2-3 a.m. a persistent thumping ritual has begun, moving back and forth across the RV roof.  We’re sitting in the middle of absolutely nothing, unless you count the giant alien weeds.

It’s a LONG way to a tree and the ladder is too high off the ground for a raccoon. I’ve seen some bats at dusk but unless they’re also forming a Union, I’m left to conclude that the screaming pigs have managed to, once again, steal the golden eggs, causing very angry birds to flock to my roof.

Texas Vs Minnesota

In many ways, being here with 40 some men is bringing me (Heidi) full circle with my upbringing. My brother and I, unlike many siblings, really were inseparable. I can see now that this was partly by design, as Mom wanted my tattle-tale attributes at her ready disposal. But beyond that, our growing up years in Iowa and Minnesota were a full of comedic adventure.

Bass caught on a live frog

We caught frogs along the lane in the swampy edges and used those for bait as we fished from the canoe for Bass. It was often a contest to see who could keep their frog alive the longest as we’d cast them under the birches along the bank, working our way along the edge of the lake.

We hunted squirrels and rabbits and other monsters in the woods with our modest .22’s and shotguns. We explored the bear trails behind the property for miles into the wilderness on a Trail Ram. (This was before I ever heard of a four-wheeler.) It was an off-road sturdy framed motorcycle with wide stump-jumping tires and lots of torque. Mom always asked which direction we were headed so she could send ‘someone to look for the bones’ if we didn’t show up again.

That was Minnesota. This is Texas. Both states, if truth be told, can be rather individualistic in a rough and rowdy sort of way. Lumber jacks versus cowboys, I guess. I find a lot of similarities, though. If boys will be boys, certainly rough-necks will be rough-necks. One of the riggers said he has a friend from Minnesota and I was curious what kind of comparison he was going to make in his comment. All he said was, “He was a nice enough guy but up in there Minnesota, their food ain’t got no taste: no Tabasco, no hot sauce, no spices, no flavorin’s!”

Rancher on drill site

The current crew at the rig bring my brother’s antics to mind. We have become more acquainted with the rough-necks and mudders of the company lately. Don’t you just love the mental images of rough-necks and mudders and tool-pushers? I see Bluto’s size and Popeye’s wiry bravado. Add to that Tonto’s survival tactics and Rowdy (Wagon Train) with his mischievous knack for getting into trouble and shooting his way out of it. Pretty good description of our crew, actually. Well, minus the shooting part. No weapons here.

The crew is starting to treat us a little like family. One of them said, “We’ve got sisters at home so you just tell us if you need any help. We’d be happy to do it.” I think they were referring to killing snakes and such.

My brother wasn’t always so helpful, of course. I was a crack shot and sometimes he’d get tired of the competitive spirit we shared. I was pretty easy to spook so he liked to share his Outdoor grizzly bear stories with me that came from our Grandpa’s collection. The grizzlier the better. He’d toss the extra gory magazines up into my loft. I can still see the cover story pictures of huge teeth and slimy wide-open jaws of the bears.

My bedroom was a loft accessible by ladder only and 4 foot at the tall end. I’d get dressed lying down on the mattress and keep my clothes in knapsacks along the side wall. I loved that room. At the end of the day, I’d have a lantern and a book. Lying in bed I could put my chin on the window ledge while I looked out through the pine needles at the lake. I remember trying to figure out what the noises were as I’d lie there. It’s not so different now as there is a window at the head of the bead in my RV. When it’s not too hot, I crack it open just to listen. Coons? Coyotes? Wolves? Bears? Bobcats? I’m used to all of those. Tarantulas? Alligators? Rattlesnakes? Wild Boars? Not so much.

Henry’s House of Horror

There’s a bit of a Louisiana swamp feeling to our present drill site. The guys on the crew that are from Louisiana say it feels like home. It apparently feels like home to just about everything that lives in southern Texas.

Approaching our RV from the drill site

It’s really quite pretty, thick with mesquite (of course) and live oaks draped in moss.

I saw my first kangaroo rat today, which I understand are partial to mesquite. I was talking to a local at the time so I’m confident in the identification. For my fellow Yankees who may never have seen one, they look, as you might expect, like a fast furry hopping rat.

It’s been a jumpy day. I saw a very quick snake, heading for the feral pig hang out to the East and my first armadillo family of four. Sadly, the armadillos crossed in front of the gate after it was too dark for a picture.

The night noises have escalated. The bulls seem to be  particularly riled up and the lady cows have been mooing mournfully since dusk.

Separation anxiety?

The guys told me today that the hog they’re grilling tonight they actually caught about 10 yards from my window (on the back, dark side of the RV).

I think it’s revenge of the herd tonight because there’s an excessive amount of squealing and screaming.

I mentioned a while back that there was a raccoon sitting on my steps one night (the same one that was doing the balancing act on the barbed-wire fence). For some reason, Henry slept through the first visit.

I doubt if he’ll get a wink of sleep tonight. If it had come from any dog but Henry, I would have been temped to ignore his low guttural growl, given the cacophony outside. But since Henry is so quiet that he’s nearly mute I thought I’d better check it out.

I couldn’t see anything moving but Henry stayed on high alert. I took a couple of steps out onto the fake grass rug, flashlight and garden hoe in hand. Coming from Iowa, carrying that hoe around always makes me feel so American Gothic.

Almost instantly, I saw the offender. The step-sitting raccoon had returned with a couple of cousins. As before, I grabbed my little point and shoot and scattered them with a flash.

I find eyes that glow in the dark kind of creepy

Satisfied that I’d protected the homestead, I gave Henry a Greenie (isn’t it funny that the treat that cleans dog’s teeth is green?) and sat down to read Bad Love by Jonathan Kellerman about a child psychologist and a stalker.

I’ve been reading Kellerman for light reading because he was a child psychologist before he started writing novels and I like the psychological aspect he adds to his work.

However, I’m re-thinking my choice of late night fiction. I’d only turned a few pages when Henry tumbled down the steps, knocking open the screen door.

I yelled! He yipped! Then he scrambled back in. Since I didn’t see the footfall, I’m just guessing he tripped on the rug that was a little bunched-up?

Henry's pre-fall bull watching

He made enough racket to scare away whatever had scared him. Who says Schoodles can’t be watch dogs!

I held him until his heart stopped racing and put him in his bed which is up on the sofa at night beside my chair.

There’s a window right over his bed which was open to let in the little bit of breeze that was stirring. I had read maybe 2 chapters (they’re short) when something slammed against the window screen and Henry tumbled to the floor, again.

I looked up just in time to see the raccoon, clinging momentarily to the outside of the screen, looking in at the spot that used to be Henry.

The raccoon lost his grip about the same time I lost mine.

It was pretty warm today, 93 degrees and it’s still 81. I decided it was time to close the windows, pull the shades and turn on the air.

I don’t know if the air conditioner is supposed to hum or not, but tonight I’m glad it does. Whatever is out there screeching or snorting or prowling about, Henry and I can no longer hear or smell or see it.

Do you remember the picture of Jodi Foster in Silence of the Lambs with a butterfly over her mouth? Creepy.

It could be a long night...

I just picked up my coffee and drank a fluttering moth. Guess it’s going to be that kind of night…

It seems fitting to close with this traditional Scottish prayer:

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Happy as a Dead Pig in Sunshine!

The hole began caving in yesterday. Rocky, the Cement Man (in cases like that, don’t you wonder if it was the job, or the name that came first?) is here cementing. Re-drilling is beginning.

JoJo our Total Safety guy!

JoJo  explained it all to me in great detail today. I’m pretty sure if I tried to write it out here, I’d have you as confused as I am.

Fortuitously, Tom commented on yesterday’s post and included an excellent video that explains horizontal drilling. Since I’m not sure how often anyone goes back and reads comments on previous posts, I’m re-posting the link here. Thanks, Tom!

http://www.northernoil.com/drilling.php

Speaking of reading comments, John added a Texas joke to my old Texas Truisms post today. You may want to just scroll to the comment to see it. He confirmed my Coke suspensions! (click on John’s name to go to his blog)

We’re a little bit sick here. I have a sinus infection (maybe) which I’m pretty sure is from dust inhalation. My air-card for my laptop has a fever, literally. It’s almost too hot to touch. I ordered a new one which should arrive Monday, if they can find Parr site 1852 at 572 County Road 534, Smiley, Texas. It would be so much easier if they’d let us use a PO box.

So tonight I’m keeping it short. I’ve been reading quite a bit about Texas and about southern sayings.

I’ve noticed there are a lot of sayings about pigs.  There’s:

Neighbors 30 yards to the East

Go Hog Wild!

and

Go Whole Hog!

Last night the guys went hog-wild and lassoed a whole hog.

He’s going to be their dinner tonight. I have the full and complete story about that one, but I’m not thinkin’ you’d really want to hear it. They figure he weighed about 120 pounds so he’ll likely be a bit gamey.

When they catch a littler one, they’re going to bring us dinner. 😀

There’s: Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then!

Neighbors 50 yards to the North

OK. I don’t really get that one, but if hogs eat acorns, he must have gotten lucky.

There are the common sayings like:

Pig Out!

Holler like a stuck pig!

Don’t buy a pig in a poke (I wrote a whole post on that one)

As crooked as a pig’s tail !

Don’t be a pig !

Scenic drive to Luling

Then there are the truly weird ones:

As happy as a dead pig in sunshine!

I took this picture last week on the way to Luling and I’m pretty sure they got this particular expression wrong. The buzzards were happy, but the pig, not so much.

and

He don’t need it no more than a pig needs the New Testament.

I have absolutely no idea…

And of course:

Slick as a greased pig !

The little ones are pretty fast. The guys may have to settle for gamey!

Neighbors in our driveway

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

I didn’t used to be afraid of the dark. As recently as 4 months ago, I was fairly fearless. Apart from my arachnophobia, I’ve  always been moderately brave (or not quite sharp enough to be afraid). I’ve stood on the front porch and watched tornadoes and stood on the beach to watch 30 foot swells. I may even have been a bit under-afraid. But there are nights out here in southern Texas when I’m just a little uneasy. These are some of the things that have happened in 3+ months of gate guarding that make me jumpy after midnight.

1. The potential rattlesnake napping under the RV when I go out to talk to a driver

2. Henry suddenly dashing to the door with fur and ears standing straight up

3. The smell of cigarette smoke in the middle of the night when I’m 1/4 of a mile from the rig

4. The raccoon sitting on my front step looking in at me at 2 a.m.

5. The barrage of  large, unidentified insects flinging themselves like hail on the screen door

6. The screams and screeches of feral pigs, bickering coons and other unnamed nocturnals

7. The snorting, stomping and very loud mooing of many mad bulls

8. The great white sharks

9. The sudden knock on the door when no traffic has rung the bell to alert me

10.The bats falling off the awning onto my head (one fell on our geo-scientist this week)

11. The pickup idling for an hour with lights off, sitting on the road but never coming to the gate

12.The continual snapping of brush and branches

13. The yipping and  howling of circling coyotes

14. The tarantulas who want to be my friend

Of the afore-mentioned, all except an occasional green beetle or moth have been courteous enough to stay outside. The raccoon almost made it in but was scared off by my camera flash. All except the sharks.

According to the American Movie Goer Consumer Research Group, the primary target market for movies these days are 16-24 year old males. Based on what’s hot at the cinema, that’s believable. I’m speculating that this is also Snicker’s target market.

In this Snickers commercial, animated great white sharks are participating in a focus-group. A pleasant lady asks them in a blind taste test of people they’ve just eaten/sampled, which one they liked best. The sharks preferred Steve who had eaten Snickers Peanut Butter Squared, over Lisa who had eaten a peanut butter cup.

As I sat down to write tonight I Googled the ad and found it’s been pretty controversial. I was surprised at how strongly people felt. Some have sworn off Snickers forever.

Others thought it was the funniest thing they’ve seen on TV. As I read the reactions, it struck me as interesting that the people who, for a variety of reason, don’t care for the ad, were accused of having: no life, no brains, and no sense of humor.

All that over disagreement about a 30 second commercial. Can you imagine a debate something substantial like the terrorism returning to Northern Ireland or Libya’s oil industry? Possibly that would be less intense. Hard to say.

I like Snickers. I’ll probably continue to buy the one or two bars a year I usually buy. I don’t like the commercial. I don’t think there’s a correlation between this and my hobbies, my intellectual prowess or my sense of humor. I just have enough things that might bite me, sting me, charge me or land on me at night to not want to add something that wants to eat me, too.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have an extra-active imagination, but I’m in danger of develop one. Desert or not, add sharks to the screaming and mooing and screeching and slithering and stalking and it starts getting down right creepy. It’s well after midnight and shapes are shifting  in the shadows of the mesquite and mossy oak. Might be a good time for a Reese’s peanut butter cup!

Holy Flapping Fangs, Batman!

I have arachnophobia. Henry has bovinaphobia. Heidi’s pretty much just afraid of  TV shows with serial killers. We spent the last 3 years on the ‘Wild Oregon Coast’ where the most dangerous thing I ever encountered was a sneaker wave. I’ve been in Texas for a little over 3 months. I think I’m adjusting pretty well. I work the  night shift as a gate guard for an oil rig. I live in a 32′ RV in an environment where what doesn’t want to shoot me, wants to eat me, or at least take a sample.

I’ve accepted the fact that I’m surrounded by wild boars and feral pigs; rattlesnakes and copperheads; tarantulas and black widows; scorpions and free ranging mad bulls. Tonight I’m adding bats and rats; and horned (lizard) frogs and alligators (one of the roughnecks just told me we have alligators both our ditches and displayed on fence posts).

NewsWatch 12 reported unusually high bat activity in the area. There are always a good number of bats in Texas, but it appears they’re on the upswing. Oklahoma and Texas are the only 2 states in the nation that have an Official State Flying Mammal. Both claim an out-of-stater: the Mexican free-tailed bat. Holy Flapping Fangs, Batman! Really? An Official State Flying Mammal?

In Austin you can go on Capital Cruises’ internationally famous bat watching excursions. You board the boat at dusk and take a ride under the Congress Avenue Bridge to see, as you might expect, bats. Actually, you’ll see the largest urban bat colony in the United States. A ticket for this exciting event is only $10 unless you want to customize your excursion with dinner and cocktails.

It’s hard to image a more enchanting evening than floating gently down the river, eating ‘Pan Roasted “Broken Arrow” Axis Deer – served with forest mushrooms and organic wheat berry and roasted corn pilaf’ and a nice glass of Chardonnay, while gazing at the enormous flock of bats alternately flapping and hanging overhead.

Friday, I folded a spider in my underwear at the Laundromat. In spite of my neurotic fear of spiders, I shook it out and gave it a stomp. It wasn’t a tarantula or I would likely have just left the Laundromat, donating all our clothes to the next patron.

This might be a good time for a disclaimer. If that statement offended you because you think spiders are people, too, you probably ought to quit reading this blog. While I will concede that all of God’s creatures have a purpose, they have no business in my underwear and I wasn’t willing to chance that something that fast with 8 legs might take a quick spin around the post and scurry back in the pile as soon as my back was turned.

Holy Ram Invasions, Batman! Before starting this job, about all I knew about Texas was that it’s BIG. I didn’t know that every creepy Reptile, Amphibian and Mammal living in North America would be snacking in my neighborhood! I was reminded to today to check the wiring in the RV and the Jeep since we have a significant rat population. There are even Rat Rescue Groups, yes, really, and the Rat Association of Texas welcomes all rat enthusiasts.

After the late night news, I read a bit about the horned frog (technically they’re lizards, but frog worked better for TCU). 26 states have official state reptiles. I have no idea why. In Texas it’s the  horned(lizard) frog. Texas Christian University has chosen the Horned Frog as it’s mascot. Initially I thought that was a little wimpy (not as wimpy as the Upper Iowa Peacocks, but still…) until I began to read about horned frogs.

F-R-O-G-S F-I-G-H-T
Purple, White, Horned Frogs Fight
Victory, Victory, Right, Right, Right

OK…

Although they aren’t poisonous, the horned lizard frogs have earned their bad guy reputation by being exceptionally aggressive, as in attacking animals many times their size. And yes, I’m told they do live on this ranch. Horned frogs have extremely wide mouths and steel-trap jaws. In the Midwest, the greatest danger I ever faced from a frog was a wet hand and mythological warts (although I think the warts are more toad-ish).  A frog with steel-trap jaws, seriously?

I’ve read that they lie in wait, springing out and fearlessly chomping down on their chosen prey, or any unsuspecting trespasser that happens to spook them.

There’s a simple lesson here: try never to startle a horned frog.

To top it off, they also bellow like bovines.

Poor Henry.

Looks like I’m going to have to start carrying him on his walks.

When I moved to Texas, it was the heat I thought might kill me.

Now I’m pretty sure it’s the neighbors.

40 Days and 40 Nights

We’ve been in Shiner for 40 days and 40 nights. Like Noah, when we arrived it was dry land and construction began. Unlike Noah, the rains never came, but the freeze did and we spent parts of 2 weeks with frozen lines and a flower-pot toilet.

After 40 days and 40 nights we’re deconstructing. Our site is coming down. Day and night, trucks are trundling away bits (literally) and pieces. This mass and mast of metal will be entirely gone in a few days.

Deconstruct means to dismantle. I’ve been gong through some deconstruction myself.

For starters, I’m living in one of the last places I would ever have expected to live. I live in Texas and if I don’t self-combust this summer, I expect I’ll be living in Texas for the next few years. This has required some dismantling.

I have flat hair and not a whole lot of it, so big hair is completely out of the question. I’m a Mid-Westerner,  in love with the ocean, living in  Texas, where  I’ll always be a Yankee. Being from Iowa, I’ve never thought of myself as a Yankee. I only recently became an Episcopal.

I now have an accent. People here say “I knew y’all was from the north cause of your accent”. I always thought one of the truly bland things about the mid-west was our lack of accent. Another misconception in need of dismantling.

I’m neither naturally suspicious or cautious. What I am is naturally friendly and clumsy. Which is why I don’t own a gun, concealed or otherwise. I can only sometimes remember to take my phone with me for emergency protection so I can shoot pictures of would be attackers with my HTC Surround during my daily walks with Henry.

Henry and I  try to avoid unnecessary confrontations by never veering off the dirt road and keeping a vigilant eye out for: men walking with backpacks large enough to accommodate assault weapons; feral pigs and wild boars; rattlesnakes; arachnids (so far I’ve only seen black widows on our generator, but there’s a significant tarantula and brown recluse population); bulls (all cattle upset Henry, but the bulls are preoccupied with the lady cows right now); coyotes (I’ve only seen 2 in the day time but I do hear them singing at night); scorpions (I leave the rocks alone) and jumpy armadillos. Watching for all these potential attackers keeps me from enjoying the scenery which consists of trucks, mesquite, cows and cactus.

Then there is the issue of dirt. I don’t like dirt.  Enough said. My idea of clean now is to take a shower after walking Henry since I come back looking like I applied a nice even layer of Coppertone. I’m beyond dismantling on this one.

I’m a gate guard with level 2 security clearance. My bright orange vest says so. When I was 22, I quit my job as a correctional workers after 6 months, but not before I’d furnished an entire apartment for a resident, in for her 3rd DUI, who pawned everything for booze two days after release. Clearly I’m both tough and street smart.

Gate Guarding is a 24/7 job. I work evenings and overnight. I have sleep issues. I have about every sleep issue there is: RLS, PLM, sleep apnea and a mild case of narcolepsy. I’ve never been able to sleep if I were too hot or my nose was too cold; if the room was too light or if there was any noise at all. I sleep from 6 a.m. to around 2 p.m. in the hot middle of the bright daytime in a bed 8 feet from a cattle crossing which is continually rattled by giant trucks. I’m sleeping well.

Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always had a close circle of friends that I shared my thoughts and my heart with. These special people have always been women. I like men. As a matter of fact, I was just confirmed as a friend of C.S. Lewis (who has been dead sice 1962) on Facebook last week. The requirements for friendship stated “you must have a personal relationship”.

I also like many men who aren’t dead. However, men are rarely conversant in areas of the emotional exhaustion, motherhood or the woes of menopause, so while I like them, they’ve never been in my coffee-klatch. Can you feel the deconstruction coming?

I live on an oil rig site. The world outside of my RV is composed entirely of men. The few women that work in sales on well sites come in the daytime while I’m sleeping. Except for Heidi, the only time I even see another woman is during my every other week trip to the laundry mat where men still out number the women. I don’t know if that’s because single men don’t own washers and single women do? Maybe the laundry mat is a magical place for men, just like in the detergent commercials. A guy dreams of starting to wash whites and darks together when a lovely lady saves him from pink boxers, which inevitably ends with a romantic dinner.

Anyway, my entire social circle is now male: old men and young men and in-between aged men. Lots and lots of men. There are the 20-30 that saty on site, many who work in 7 day rotations so that number is really doubled. And then there’s the other 30-50 that make up our daily gate traffic: the drivers, the repairmen, the welders, the ranchers, the inspectors, the supervisors etc…

Our Company Man, Jimbo, was clearly at a loss when we showed up for work 40 days ago. He looked at us, kept shaking his head and told us to come back in the afternoon after the sand/clay was spread for our pad.

Gate Guard Services will usually give you a couple of hours notice before your gate shuts down and you have to leave. You never know how long it will be between jobs or where the company will send you next. Last time we had a day to go to Wal-Mart and a day to drive to the next site. This time it’s different. We’ve known for a couple of days that our site is finishing up. We’re ready to  roll out on Monday.

We even know where we’re going. We’re moving from Shiner to Smiley (they give their little towns such happy names here in Texas). We didn’t really want to go to Smiley. We were hoping to go NE instead of SW.  But with all the deconstruction going on, our guys are going to Smiley and so, so are we. Jimbo was willing to keep us. Gate Guard Services approved it. I’ve had just the right amount of dismantling to be pleased.

I don’t know what the next 40 days and 40 nights will bring. There are a lot of armadillos in Texas. I haven’t seen one yet.  I’m thinking of asking the guys where the nearest armadillo race is. They know about things like that. I’m told armadillo racing involves getting on the ground and blowing on the south end of a north bound 9- banded critter, encouraging him to victory. Sounds like a true Texas experience! I’m just learning about armadillos. I guess they can jump 3–4 feet straight up in the air if sufficiently frightened. Looks like Henry and I have some exciting walks ahead!