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.