Heidi’s Response: Milking Stools and Trapping


I’m posting in self-defense, here. My trapping efforts snagged me two hides today! No kidding. I love trapping. My brother was fairly successful at it and used to take me with him on his trap line down by the creek on the Smith farm.

I seriously considered pictures but Debbie censored the idea. No sense in gloating, I guess. Plus there’s probably someone in blogland that thinks mice are people, too. We don’t need PETA on the trailer steps.

Milking stool? Ha. This is my baby booster that sat in the green kitchen chairs at the farm table. It was top of the line, being designed by Grandpa Smith Inc. He was a talented man with the usual Midwest farming talents plus some extra special skills that neighbors came for. He could shoe horses, build barns with the best of ’em, plow a line that looked like the work of a surveyor, erect fences that held for decades, plus weld and repair almost anything that needed it. He was also the neighbor tooth extractor in a pinch… (yes, people, not animals). Did I mention more left brained than right? Not a touchy-feely guy.

I not only know every inch under the belly of the RV, but I’ve even duct taped some of the steel wool I stuffed into seams, so I can tell at a glance if anything is messing with me!

I’ve taken Kevin’s advice and I’m headed for the little rod behind the pedal as I finish this. Of course I have duct tape and WD 40. If this doesn’t work… I also have Grandpa’s hammer.


Wow! Some of you are really sharp! In spite of the tiny print (which I can’t seem to make any larger) you’ve already found the new section I just added to Fork. (Upper right), called Ask A Question.

I’d like this to be more of an open forum, instead of you asking and only getting my thoughts. Many gate guards and full-timers have been doing this much longer than I have, and old pros or newbies, we all have didn’t experiences.  I’m hoping you’ll all jump in. There are already a couple of questions here that I don’t know the answer to. If you do, please comment. You certainly don’t have to be a gate guard or even an RVer to post a question or a response.

Thanks in advance for your participation. I’ll work on shortening my answers – the last one was as long as a post!

To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask?  ~ Jim Rohn

We all need a little help sometimes!

Anthropomorphically Speaking, Don Was a Dud

Don turned out to be a dud not a dude, at least here in south central Texas. We have an ever decreasing chance of getting some rain today, then it’s back to an indefinite stretch of 100+ temps, elevated humidity and lots and lots of sunshine. You certainly don’t need a happy lamp in Texas!

Don was indeed a dud. I blame it on the name.

I understand the alphabet naming system for hurricanes but if they’re going to anthropomorphize the weather, then I think they should at least do it with some aplomb!

There’s a lot to a name. Donald means Ruler of the World!

But Don, stripped of his -ald just means little ruler. If they were stuck in the D’s, maybe something like Devlin which means Fierce or Decha which means Strength would have held together better.

Back in the Midwest, we didn’t name our tornadoes. We avoided anthropomorphism’s all together by simply calling them devastating. Actually, that seems to be the pattern with most natural disasters: tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis…

Hurricanes are different. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, the first use of a proper name for a hurricane (tropical cyclone) was by an Australian forecaster in the early 20th century.

He gave hurricanes names after political figures whom he disliked and by properly naming a hurricane the weatherman could publicly describe a politician as ‘causing great distress’ or ‘wandering aimlessly about the Pacific’.

If that system were still in place this week, I don’t think this one would have been named Hurricane Don!

During World War II, hurricanes were informally given women’s names by US Army Air Corp and Navy meteorologists, naming them after their girlfriends or wives. However well intended, it turns out that this caused a significant strain on many relationships, since not all women were keen on having a  tropical disturbance named after them.

For a couple of years, in the early 50’s, hurricanes were named by standard radio names: Able, Baker, Charlie etc.. Then in 1953, the US Weather Bureau switched back to women’s names (clearly, very few women worked for the Bureau at the time). Eventually women insisted on equal opportunity naming and in a “politically correct move” in 1979, the WMO and the US weather Service (NWS) added men’s names.

As of January of 2000, tropical hurricanes in the Northwest Pacific basin are now being named from a very different list.  The names, by and large, are not personal names. There are a few men’s and women’s names, but most are the names of flowers, animals, birds, trees, and food. Food. I’m not kidding!

I like this idea in theory but I wonder how seriously people will take Hurricane Pansy or Hurricane Wren or Hurricane Willow? I’m not even touching Hurricane food of some sort… I can’t imagine which food group they’re using. This all brings us back to Don.

While I wasn’t looking forward to being in the eye of the storm, it would have been just fine with me if we’d been caught in its peripheral vision as our poor ranchers struggle to feed and water their cattle.  Just about everybody that passed through the gate yesterday kicked at the caliche and said things like: “Looks like we aren’t even gonna get a quart.”

Un-hurricane Don was a dud. But as the sun set last night in south central Texas, a new hurricane appeared on the horizon. Emily means Rival. It’s not a fierce name, but maybe it’ll be just enough to bring some rain.

We’re Definitely Not in Kansas Any More

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.

We never were actually in Kansas, but we’re not in Iowa either. One of the things we don’t have a lot of in the Midwest are hurricanes. I lived in Cedar Rapids during the devastating flood of 2008 when we had 450 city blocks underwater.

I’ve watched dueling tornadoes from my front porch (not a great plan, but I was little and was holding my Dad’s hand) and Ive watched dozens from my back yard.

I lived on the West coast when we had a Tsunami warning and watched the ocean rise in 35 foot swells.

Tonight, Tom (see Joe Series – The End ) posted a comment to watch out for Hurricane Don. A definite disadvantage to watching very little, and mostly only prerecorded TV, is that things are often over before I know about it. Usually that just means there was a special I  might have liked to see, but this time, it has a more direct application. Thanks, Tom! I guess I’d better watch the News Mix live a little more often.

Interestingly, Tom’s comment came on the heals of news that we’re moving to Wharton on Friday or Saturday. We’re already directly in the projected path, but moving to Wharton would put us about 45 miles from the coast. Hmm…


Time to Batten Down the Hatches! I left out hurricanes when I was writing about the weather the other day. There are some things you can plan and prepare for, but we don’t have much we can batten down. With a fried converter, we may not be able to move Friday – anywhere (the new part is supposed to be here Friday or Saturday). I would consider moving away from the storm for a day if it seemed warranted, but right now our rolling home doesn’t really roll.

You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you’re confusing courage with wisdom.

If I don’t post for a day or two, you might look up and see if there’s a 32 foot Mirada sailing over your house!

We do certainly need the rain.

Joe Series – The End

Well, folks, I think that about wraps it up for my Gate Guard series. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of gate guarding stories, because for now, at least, Gate Guards Are Us! 😀

For example, it was 105 today. A mobile RV repair man drove 100 miles to diagnose our we just killed the three brand new batteries we paid $287 for problem. We have a fried converter. We should have a new one in a few days (and yes, we have a triple charger now).

It only took a day of no power to the frig  to sour the milk and melt the ice cream. As a matter of fact, everything melted. Armed with a hair dryer and towel, I unstuck the bags of ice cubes and hamburgers and ice packs and 1 sorry little package of peanut M&M’s from the freezer.

That’s RV living some days. I looked at the empty freezer and thought how great it was that I started a diet 2 weeks ago. Then, about an hour later, Kenneth, one of our Company Men from Lantern 16 who didn’t go to Louisiana, returned to this site after his two weeks off. He stopped to say hi and that he would be sending more ribeye steaks our way. I guess the freezer won’t be empty long. 🙂 That’s gate guard living a lot of days.

~ You’re coming into focus, kid! ~

I don’t know if this series has helped bring things into focus for you or not? I hope so. Feel free to continue to write if you have specific (or general) questions that I haven’t covered here. What I don’t know, which is quite a bit, some other gate guard may.

It’s a wonderful job, but it’s not for everyone. I’ve tried to highlight the most common drawbacks and the perks – both from my perspective and that of many other gate guards. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re finding that Life is Good and that you’re enjoying some adventures in your journey.

One final clip from Joe vs the Volcano. My son used to sing this song in a quartet in high school. Now he has a lovely wife and a 2 year old daughter and he just became the father of a little boy about 3 hours ago.

Welcome to the world Sam! It’s very big! There’s so much to learn every single day. You’re going to love it!

Corny Sunday Funnies

I’ll finish up the Joe series with some gate guarding Pros next time. But in light of yesterday’s pretty intense post, and in keeping with the old-fashioned Sunday funnies I thought I’d share something a fellow gate guard sent to me (thanks Penny)! It seems appropriate since I think it’s hot just about everywhere right now. Corny, I know.

Stay safe, and be cool!

Warning from a Fellow Gate Guard

Instead of continuing with the Joe series, I’m posting a portion of an email I received yesterday from a fellow gate guard (with his permission).

I’d like to add a few comments first.

1. I really love this job. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I try to see the events around me with as much humor as I can, even in Texas in July. Because I post quite often and because many of my posts are light-hearted, I want to offer some balance for those of you who are considering gate guarding or who just wonder what it’s like.

2. Having spent almost all of my life in the Midwest, I’ve been both uninformed and naïve about border issues.

3. This is one person’s irrefutable experience, so please honor his perspective by not using this as a format for political discourse.

4. I want to reiterate that I don’t mean, in any way, to be disparaging or indifferent to people’s struggles.

On illegal’s,  we have had 6 of them picked up from this gate. We had one water Hauler while closing a gate up at the Frac Pond had one get in his truck and try to run off with it.( Lucky he did not know how to drive a tractor and trailer). On another occasion some of them stole a ranchers car, the Ranger shot out the windows while they were trying to get away then the Border Patrol and Sheriff got them stopped about a mile below our gate. And not to scare anyone, we also had a Welder killed about 5 miles from here they cut his head off and took his truck and all his personnel belongings. So I do not think it is a good Idea to give them food or water and to have the Border Patrol Number and Sherriff’s Number close at hand. Above all if you see them in time get inside and lock the door.

I had already heard about this and several other lethal incidents over the course of the past 3 or 4 days from two professionals (non-gate guards) that work in the field. It’s a great job and I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing it, but I do want you to know what the reality is.

In 7 months, there have been over 20,000 hits here at Fork. While that’s miniscule by blogging standards (some have more than that in a week, some have more every day) I know many of you who read are, or hope to be full-timers, and are interested in working as gate guards. Gate guards are quick to help each other out. The more we know, the more we can take precautions.

To my gate guard friends, thank you for sharing your stories and be safe.

Let’s Talk About the Weather

Hey, thanks y’all for responding to my questions in Hmm…
I’m still open to your feedback so please keep commenting if you haven’t already.
Based on the emails from you who are too shy to post (which is perfectly fine), Facebook comments and the ones here at Fork, I’d say you’re a mixed up group. 😀
There’s quiet a bit of interest in gate guarding so I’ll try to include bits on that in most of my posts.
I’m sort of, but my not entirely, over my Yankee cultural shock so I’m not as continually stunned by my surroundings or by the spit and chew and drawl as I was the end of last year. Still, there’s plenty to tell.
The most frequently asked question is: What is a regular gate guarding day like?
You might want to check out these blogs:
Andy and Miss K @http://myoldrv.com/
Kit and Jerry are currently taking a break from GG but will be back at in the fall. @http://www.kitandjerry.com
Not only are our blogs different, but so are our experiences.
So to answer the question, it all depends…
It depends on which Gate guarding company you work for, which oil company you work for, which company man you work for, whether or not you follow a rig, what you’re guarding etc..
There are so many variables, that tonight, I’ll just start with the weather.
1. Are you thinking of gate guarding in Texas?
If that answer is yes and you’re asking about right now – then its pretty blazingly hot. You know its hot when the locals begin to complain.  Jill, a friend and fellow gate guard, sent me this today. I’ll quote part of the piece and add a few notes as we go:
The birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of   the ground.
The trees are whistling for the dogs…
Hot water now comes out of both taps.
As you can see in this picture, our water tank is big and black. So you know what that means. Yes, the cold water is hot. On the extra hot days, we have to use our holding tank water, just to get it cool enough to take a shower and I never turn on the hot water in the summer, even to do dishes!
The generator is in front of the water tank in this picture and the diesel is in the back and yes, its red. They dye it so no one steals it. Apparently this happens from time to time. Hard to imagine but it does. There’s a huge fine if you’re caught running red diesel in your vehicle or RV.
You can make sun tea instantly.
You actually burn your hand opening the car door.
You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron..
You discover that in July it only takes 2 fingers to steer your car..
We’ve burned our hands on the RV door, the outside bins,  the Jeep doors, so you can imagine how hot the seat belt buckle gets!
The temperature drops below 95 and you feel a little chilly.
This one is kind of sad. I have the weather forecast for the next 5 days on my phone. I’ll take a look and say “Great news, it’s going to be cool this week, only one day over 99”! If you’re not from Texas, the heat cycle is really different. It’s warm in the mornings, hot in the afternoon and really hot in from 3-8pm!
Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, ‘What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?’
You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at  7:30 a.m.
I’m writing this at 1:00 am – the temperature is 83. It’s supposed to be 77 degrees at 6 am today but the humidity is expected to be 82%.
This isn’t Arizona – it’s a humid heat, at least in our part of the state. Flat hair goes flatter and curly hair curls twice. If you don’t have any hair, you’ll be cooler but you’ll certainly need a hat.
The potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and add butter, salt and pepper.
Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.
The cows are giving evaporated milk.
Ah, what a place to call home. .
God Bless The State of  TEXAS !!!
As I’ve talked about in other posts, summer is about 7 months long, so don’t limit your hot weather thinking to June, July and August. And in the winter it can be really cold. If you’re new here, you might want to read about what happens when it gets so cold in Texas that your pipes freeze and you have to buy a flower-pot.
God Bless Texas, indeed!



I have to admit, you’ve got me stumped. Isn’t that an odd saying?  I can’t find the origin.

If you’re a politician, a stump is a campaign stop. If you’re from Iowa, like I am, there’s a whole lot of stumping up there.

If you’re a tree, well, I guess being stumped doesn’t bode well for your future, unless you’re The Giving Tree, where all stumps are redeemed.

Many years later, the boy, now an old man, returns and the tree sadly says, “I’m sorry, boy…but I have nothing left to give you.” But the boy replies, “I do not need much now, just a quiet place to sit and rest.” The tree then says, “Well, an old tree stump is a good place for sitting and resting. Come boy, sit down and rest.” The boy obliges and the tree was very happy.

Like the tree, I’m happy to give but I’d like to know more of what you want.

For the first 5 months, I posted daily. For the past 2, it’s been a few times a week. I just scrolled through the list of subscribers to Fork. I know 9 of you personally, none of whom are gate guard or live in Texas so I’m pretty sure that’s not why you read. A few of you I know through your blogs and the rest, well… hmm… And since only about 1/5 of you readers subscribe, I’m completely in the dark.

At this juncture, I thought it might be a good idea to ask you why you read Fork? It’s such an eclectic blog that I’m fairly certain the interest value for you must vary widely from post to post.

I’d like to know what you’d like more of?

Are there topics, within my limited areas of experience (note here that I’m saying experience, not expertise) that you’d like addressed?

Do you have questions about something from a previous post that I can answer, or attempt to answer?

I know some of you read because you’re interested in gate guarding. If there’s something you’d like to know about that, I’ll try to answer or send you on to other blogs that might help.

Since I’m not aspiring to get Freshly Pressed (you bloggers know that one) I’m not limited to by topic or style, so I’d welcome your input.

I will add one caveat. The web is such a public arena, so there’s a limit to how much personal information I want to share. After my last post you probably know more than enough about me anyway! 😀

I’m very open to making this a more interactive site. It’s always more interesting when other people comment.

I’ve heard from one person about what he doesn’t want here – politics and religion in particular.

I’m not well enough informed to offer political commentaries and I started my grace blog as a place to express the things I’m thinking about that reflect that aspect of my life.

So now’s your chance. What are some roads, well-traveled or overlooked, that you’d like to traverse here.  If I don’t hear from you, my next post is going to be about how I’m afraid of the man in my phone – so if you want to be spared that one, write a comment and let me know what you’re looking for when you click on Fork.

Not all arrive here via a search engine, but I’ll close with the things folks have typed in this week to land here. It might help explain my lack of direction.

As always, I’m honored that you read Fork. It truly mystifies me, but I’m honored. I appears that if I could just be a gate guarding,snake handler on the moon, this blog would be a smash! 🙂 ~dlb

2011-07-08 to Today

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10 O’Clock and All’s Well!

I haven’t been completely successful in tracking down the origin of 10 o’clock and all’s well! In medieval towns, night watchmen guarded against invasion, thieves, and fire. Town criers made their alarm or all’s well announcements on the hour. I’m uncertain what happened if a fire should start, at say, 10:20.

During the Civil War, the prison camp guards, North and South, were required throughout the night, to call out their post and the hour:

“Thus,” recalled one prisoner, “at ten o’clock the cry would begin ‘Post number one — ten o’clock and all’s well.’ ‘Post number two — ten o’clock and all’s well …

In  rural southern Texas, we don’t have any town criers and I’m the only guard within hollering distance. We have some rural roosters, but they’re pretty quiet until the early morning hours. Still, at 10 o’clock all is well.

11 o’clock, now that’s a different story.

Almost nightly, between 11 and 12 o’clock, some persistent banshee incantation must subconsciously enter my hitherto alert brain and lull it into inactivity.

If I’m typing, my dyslexia manifests itself in five out of ten words.

If I’m knitting I drop stitches. By the time I’m alert enough to know I’ve dropped them, it’s usually many rows, some times many days later. At which point, I resort to taking a piece of yarn and tying the hole together in the back.  I’m a persistently unambitious knitter of long rows and squares.

If I’m watching TV, my finger stays permanently indented on the fast forward arrow until I’ve skipped, not only the commercial, but the next 9 episodes of Cold Case.

If I’m reading, my eyes slowly meet in the middle, lose focus and flutter shut.

The feeling of sleepiness when you are not in bed, and can’t get there, is the meanest feeling in the world.  ~Edgar Watson Howe

I wouldn’t say it’s the meanest feeling, but with the bobbing of my heavy head, the startlingly loud ringing of the bell races my heart as I leap to my feet! It’s akin to a mild panic attack.

This doze zone seems to last for about an hour or sometimes two. I’m almost always quite wide awake at 6 am when it’s time for me to go to bed.

It’s a cruel season that makes you get ready for bed while it’s light out.  ~Bill Watterson

What is this strange malady? I get up around 2pm. At 11, I think it’s time to go back to bed. It’s crazy. It’s dark of course and quiet (now that our wild pig snaring men have left for Louisiana) but still, with my schedule, it’s early. When I used to get up at 6 in the morning, I wasn’t particularly tired at 11.

I think I may know what the problem is. 11 o’clock is my afternoon.

Since I get up at 2, 11 is like 1 or 2 in the afternoon for a regular person.

You know how it is when you get that mid-afternoon haze at work and nobody’s made fresh coffee? You need some even though it’s too hot for coffee anyway, and you drink the dredges because you can’t write a complete sentence without it.

Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation.  ~Author Unknown

The only thing that seems to keep me awake is too much coffee and food. I don’t often fall asleep while eating. The problem is this method requires constant input which has led to every pair of my jeans straining to contain me. So now I’m on a diet. That means I’m now hungry and sleepy.

I’ve only been at this for 6 months: working nights, not dieting. I’ve only been at that today. Some night are certainly better than others. Maybe I just need a little more time to adapt.  How about you other night owls who work, or have worked nights? Do you have any tips?

The fog has cleared for now. 1 o’clock and all’s well, again!

I’m not asleep… but that doesn’t mean I’m awake.  ~Author Unknown