When Things Went South

Since we last talked, things including but not limited to us, have gone south. The actual origin of the phrase, going south is a little uncertain, although it’s universally understood as going bad. Here’s a summary of what I found @ wise Geek.com.

One idea is that when sales or the market numbers are good, they rise toward the top of a chart (North geographically), and when they’re bad when they flow toward the bottom (South). Another explanation, which is much more popular in the North than in the South, is that after the Civil War, the South seemed to be associated with losing. Now that I’m living in Texas, I don’t think I’ll use that one. 😀

The phrase is thought to have originated in England, sort of.  People didn’t say that things were going south, instead they referred to a worsening situation as going west. Possible explanations:

1. The sun sets in the west.

2. Stories of prisoners from London traditionally heading west to the gallows.

This didn’t work as well for Americans who were fond of saying Go west, young man! where the West was associated with a place to seek one’s fortune. Over time, going west became going south which is now used by all around the world, except not so much here in Texas. 😀

To pacify you true Southerners, no one says things are going north to indicate a great improvement in circumstances! Anyway, just before things went south, we spent 2 weeks in Whitsett, waiting for our plumb assignment. We continued to meet nice folks there. More newbies:

Linda and Bobbie (Jim and Jim missed the photo op)

We got a kick out of Mary and Darrel from Arizona. Such fun folks!

Finally, after 2 weeks, the gate we’d been waiting for opened up. Jamie said to be ready at 9 a.m. so of course we were ready at 7:30 (1st law of gate guarding, always be ready hours or days ahead of when you expect to move). Mark was there to move us at 8:00.

Heidi and Mark setting up our ‘permanent digs’

The oil company was Murphy (nice folks by the way). The gate was expected to be easy. It was our first non-24 hour gate. Open it at 6 a.m. and close it at 8 p.m. according to Wayne and Barbara (the folks we replaced). It seemed so right, but right away, went so wrong!

They’re building a plant so the job security was great. It looked like a place we could stay for a year or two. The scenery wasn’t much, but gate guards are used to that.

After 14 months in this business, we’re considered seasoned gate guards. Not experts, just seasoned.  But this time, we made some first-timer errors. The fact that the same couple had been at the gate for 4 months and that our FS had phone service gave us a false sense of security. We didn’t want to spend the money to drive 100 miles to check the gate. Big mistake.

Mark got us set up and drove off. We got out our computers. No internet. We have both Verizon and AT&T internet cards and a Wilson booster… nada.

Heidi made a call to AT&T on her phone. They said we were way too far from any towers (and that the internet and the phone towers are separate).  The call was apparently a fluke, because we couldn’t call out again from the RV – to anyone.

I closed the gate at 8 as instructed only to have guys coming and going until after 11. I stayed up until at least midnight every night and slept like you do when you have a newborn – half way awake, listening for the bell. The padlock was terminally jammed so it was kind of, sort of locked. Heidi got up at 5, which was good since we had people on site by 5:15.

The second day, neither phone worked. My phone found this to be so discouraging that it simply quit altogether and it’s bits faded from view until none could be found. It’s now in the AT&T recycle center.

After 5 trips to Fowlerton (pop. 62) to call the office, we finally got a hold of Jamie and asked for a replacement. 50 miles from a grocery store or Walmart was fine; but 50 miles from a cell tower, not so much. We couldn’t even call 911. That was on Monday.

Jamie said he’d have someone there Tuesday unless we could wait until Wednesday. No problem. Tuesday, Larry came by to say they could have someone there at noon on Thursday. No problem, although I was starting to feel like we were playing out a cheeseburger scene between Popeye and Wimpy.

The traffic from 97 was non-stop and so loud that we had to raise our voices to hear each other, which made Henry VIII think we were yelling, so he threw-up in his bed. Hmm…

Henry in his post-crisis mode

You know the old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Yep. It was. Wednesday evening, we looked out the window at the ditch to see a river running through it. The liquid (something – never quite sure what since it was bubbling) was racing toward the RV.

Pre-flood photo

It was too dark to take a picture by the time we finished trying to build a little rock dam to stop the flood. Heidi drove into Fowlerton to call the only number we had for someone associated with the rig, since the CM wasn’t on site.

A really nice guy came out, crawled around in the dark and found a partially open valve of the something… and stopped the flow about 20 feet from the RV.

We were told to be ready to switch out the gate at noon on Thursday. We hitched up, just past dawn, in the drizzle in 3 minutes! Heidi says she’ll never time it again, since she doesn’t want the pressure to do it any faster. 😀

We had just turned around and pulled out of the spot at 7:30 when the new gate guards arrived. Larry was there by 8:30, and by the time we were have supposed to be ready to leave at noon,  we were already set up in a little RV park south of Seguin.

The 3 hour trip was uneventful, except that we apparently were the target of a random tire-stone- toss. We were already waiting to see if  the RV shop in Houston could move our repairs (from my palm tree tango) up a week or so. Of course, now they have to see how long it will take Coachman to ship out the window from Indiana. 🙂

Otherwise, all is well. We’ll use the time off to tackle taxes. Don’t ask. We don’t know anything yet. We’re talking to a CPA to help us out this year. I may continue to write here at Fork, but since we’re not on a gate, I’ll be writing about rather random topics. If you only read here for gate guard info, please check the side bar for other gate guard blogs. 😀

Pray for Rain

Everywhere you look, the buzzards are circling. Not a good sign. I’m afraid to stand still for fear they might mistake me for something dead and delicious.

Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.  ~ John Updike

We’re getting precariously close. Today is officially our 35th straight triple digit day. According to one of the ranchers at the second-hand grocery store, in the ten or so miles between Nixon and Smiley, we’ve had 2.4 inches of rain in 11 months. Another said that’s an exaggeration – 2 tops.

I passed the chicken houses on my way to the post office. They’re silent except for the constant hum of the giant fans. The drought is hostile to all but my alien foliage.

In Austin, only watering by hand is permitted during the day under current Stage 1 rules. The next stage would further limit watering to once a week, shut down the city’s fountains and allow water to be served in restaurants only upon a customer’s request.  Water bills are running as high as electric bills for Austin residents, prompting the city utility service to initiate a summer extended plan. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2087489,00.html#ixzz1UhAo3Hui

There’s nothing left of the fields but dirt. Even the cactus are dying. Three summers ago, I left a city underwater. Cedar Rapids is still struggling to recover. I don’t know what it will take for Texas to recover. The ranchers said they’ve quit praying for rain. They’re praying for a hurricane. They said  that may be the only thing that can save them.

I’m not a Texan. My own daily gate guarding life is a little hotter and a little dustier than it would otherwise be. An inconvenience, not a devastation. But you can’t live in a community of people, even temporarily, without your heart breaking for their suffering and their loss. If you’re given to praying, would you pray for rain?