Lost in Translation

Last night I wrote about getting physically lost. Tonight I thought I’d add a note about being conversationally lost. Folks talk funny here. Working in the oil business, there are so many terms that are unfamiliar to me:”tool pusher”for example. Besides new terminology, there are tons of Texas colloquialisms, and then there’s that sweet, undecipherable southern drawl.

The internet is full of accent reduction courses and techniques. Google get rid of your accent and you’ll get 251,000 results in .06 seconds. Google get rid of your wrinkles and you’ll get 1,300,000 results in 13 seconds. Google get rid of your personality and you’ll get 4,810,000 hits in .05 seconds. I think you lose a little of a person when the accent and wrinkles dissolve. I don’t want the guys to change the way they talk. I just want to break the code.

Working as a gate guard, I’m beginning to see the hazards of not knowing Texan speak.  On a busy day, we may have 50 or 60 trucks checking in. When I first started, I would ask a guy to repeat himself (his-self) 2 or 3 times until I felt too self-conscious for holding up traffic and I’d wave him on in. I’d smile and nod in that special way you do when you have no idea what the person just said and then I’d take my best guess. I wonder if GGS will ever look at my logs and be surprised to see how often I waved in a “toe pusher ” or a “flower worker’?

I love accents. I think it’s a shame Hugh Laurie had to lose his British accent for House. He said on Letterman that the hardest word for him to pronounce (Americanized) is murder. Good thing he’s not on Criminal Minds where the word murder surely must be on every page of the script.

Accents are compelling. The most popular guy in my freshman class in college was David from Australia. He was about 5′ 7″ and very average looking, but  the girls on campus went crazy whenever he asked them to pass the salt in the dining commons. And then there’s the Geiko Gecko. Would anyone be interested in a little green lizard from Ohio?

I’m determined to do my part to help maintain the rich tradition of the language of Texas. I may even add syllables to my words. I don’t think there are any one syllable words in Texas. Cat is more like ka-yut and Heidi swears that floor has at least 3 syllables (see yesterday’s post).

I’m taking this on as a serious course of study. If you, too, would like to learn to speak like a Texan you can go to How to speak with a Texan Accent. Here’s just an example of a great tip from that site: “To talk with a Texan accent, your long “i” sounds need to sound closer to a short “a” sound. Texans don’t get in “fights.” They get in “fahts.” They don’t “buy” something at the store. They “bah” it. They don’t do something “nine times.” They do it “nahn tahms.”

I’m trying to learn to Texas speak. Here are some things I’ve picked up from listening to the guys:

1. Texans leave out the g in the suffix ‘ing’

2. “ah’mo” means “I am going to”

3. to get somewhere you go “over in through there”

4. “blinky” means sour/spoiled

5. a “frog strangler” is a whole lot of rain.

It’s a slow process but now I know what the guys  mean when they say:

“Ah’mo fixin’ to go over in through there bee foe the frog strangler to bah me some milk seein’ mine’s gone blinky.”


North by Northeast?

I’m longitudinally challenged. Today was our 9th day at the new site near Smiley. It was the first time I’d left the rig since we got here. There’s a reason for that. Several, actually, but the main one is that I’m void of all sense of direction. Neither maps, nor hand-written directions, nor GPS (no signal available) seem to guarantee I’m facing in the right way.

35°45′38.81″N 119°33′41.52″W / 35.7607806°N 119.5615333°W / 35.7607806; -119.5615333. These are the longitude and latitude markers for Hitchcock’s  famous Cary Grant being chased by a crop-dusting plane scene in North by Northwest. In the movie, this supposedly took place in northern Indiana but it was actually shot on Highway 155 near Wasco, CA.  The shots of the cliffs high above the ocean that were supposed to be in Long Island were really shot on the California coast. This was partially for “national security”‘ reasons and mostly because there are no cliffs high above the ocean in Long Island. Just goes to show, you aren’t always where you think you are. I’m often not where I think I am.

My agenda for a trip to town today was the usual: laundry mat, car wash, library, and a brief stop at the grocery store for coffee and creamer. Should have been easy. It’s 4 miles of dirt road and 3 miles of blacktop to Nixon. Smiley doesn’t have a laundry mat, a car wash, a library or a Super S.

Nixon is a town of a just over 2000. The laundry mat is next to the car wash. The two stall, $1 car wash is apparently the central gathering place for teens in town. The Super S is right on Main. I was gone for 4 hours. I could have hit the River Walk and a Mall in San Antonio and been back in less time.

I drove 31 miles. 8 miles to get there and 23 to get home. I got to see a lot of the county-side.  And gosh, it all looks pretty much alike. Cactus, cows, lots and lots of open ranch land, and dust, no need for a crop-duster.

I left here around 2:00 and made it home in time for a few hand of Whist before Heidi needed to go to bed (7:00). Our guys rotated out last night and today. That means we have our second group of 7-ers. While I was getting familiar with the area,  Heidi had the Camry boys (we only have 1 car on the site) spell F L O O R for her. After 2 months, we know all the guys, so Heidi thought she’d find out what each one does. Andrew and James tried telling her several times before resorting to spelling. They’re floor workers. They’re also very southern. Turns out floor is spelled the same way in Texas as it is back home. I guess tomorrow, I’ll stay here and talk to the guys and Heidi will go to town and get groceries. Probably will work out better for all of us.

Car 54… Where Are You?

December 28, 2010 Day 1 of our Gate Guarding Adventure by Heidi

On December 28th we dropped the trailer at the local U-Haul and feed store combination in Junction, Texas, 120 miles north of our original destination in San Antonio. It was a relief not to be towing the Jeep any further.

57 miles later, we stopped along Interstate 10 to confer about directions. We were trying to find the best back road way to a beautiful respite campground with trees, river and grass. When I pulled away from the busy roadside and checked the mirror, I found Debbie disappearing behind me. I pulled over again and called Debbie. She said the Jeep was dead. Just clicking. So I locked Henry in the RV along the road and walked back to see what we could do now.

It was apparent that the battery was dead, not having run long enough after being inactive for 10 days on the trailer behind the RV. What to do? I called 911 and the lady on the phone wanted to know which mile marker we were on. I offered to walk the portion of a mile back and find one, but really, didn’t she have my location on some device at their end????

After calling 911, we waited for a cop car to find us. Debbie had set the odometer when we left the feed store so we told them that we were exactly 57.5 miles from Junction. Using that, not some tracking device (this is Texas), Mike from Kerrville PD, pulled up behind us about 10 minutes later.

Just after I hung up and was trying to figure out how to get out of emergency mode on my cell, the phone rang and it was Jamie from Gate Guard Services. He had a job for us if we could make it to Tilden about 100 miles south of San Antonio. I was grateful and excited. Sure!!! As soon as the cops come and rescue us and we get escorted across an emergency police ditch crossing and back West on Highway 10 to the car parts store in Kerrville.

We bought a battery and a tail light, which the cop pointed out that we needed. The helpful auto store personnel also routed us to our new assignment in Tilden, using back roads and avoiding San Antonio traffic. An hour later we went back to Highway 10 East 5 miles South of Kerrville where Henry was locked in the RV and used another emergency police ditch crossing to return to Kerrville and our new route.

When we reached Jordanton, we realized we were 30 miles from our destination and decided to stock up on groceries and water. We parked in the large parking lot at a Catholic church and locked Henry in the RV once more while we set out to find a store. The one in Jordanton looked pretty small, so we went to the adjoining town of Pleasanton to the WalMart.

Getting turned around in the parking lot, we lost our way, lost Henry and the RV and had to Google the Catholic church in Jordanton to get back to them again! What would we do without our Droids???

I called Jamie and got instructions for how to get to the new job site. 30 miles later we lost phone service, which meant we couldn’t call Jamie and tell him we were running late, couldn’t notify the campground that weren’t going to be showing up for our reservation and couldn’t call my mom for the second night in a row.

Following the directions from Tilden, we turned on a dirt road (now mud because it was raining all day), right after the school on a curve in the highway and watched the odometer. Our site was supposed to be 3.5 or 4 miles back into the country. At 5 miles, I waved down a pickup and asked the man if I could use his phone, which of course, I couldn’t because it was smarter than I am. Handing it back to him I asked if he’d be willing to dial it for me. He chatted with Jamie for a while. Turns out, the man I waved over is a land owner and has wells of his own out here, so he was a good person to talk to. He led the way down the road another couple of miles (now we’re at 5.8) and then waved me over to the right gate.

Jimmy was in his flatbed truck with the generator and water tank waiting for us. He showed me how to check the oil on the generator. Stepping out of the Jeep, mud went over the top of Debbie’s tennies! I was leery about putting the RV in the mucky clay, but that’s where we had to park.

We got an 20 minute crash course on gate guarding, advice on weapons and keeping the site clean … etc. He hooked up the water and left. Shortly thereafter, we discovered the water didn’t work, but we have a little in the RV and will be able to ask someone soon, hopefully…

We had hot wings and poppers for dinner. It seemed like a good initiation to this Texas life.