If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Texas

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium Texas. If you’re not old enough to remember the movie, never-mind. It was pretty forgettable. Just like the day of the week or the month of the year is forgettable when you’re a Top Secret Agent in Texas.

Life as a TSA is jam-packed with redundancy.

We work every day  – all day and all night. Heidi and I are year-rounders so we work every day and every holiday and every birthday, which makes every day pretty much the same.

That’s a fact, not a complaint. We’re extremely grateful that we’ve almost never been without a job since we started gate guarding. It’s just funny to hear someone say on the news: Have a great weekend! That’s something you never hear in the oil field because we just have days – not week days and weekend days and holiday – just days.

I’m writing this on Saturday but it might as well be a Tuesday in Texas. I may not know what day of the week it is or sometimes even the month or season but I always know I’m in Texas. It’s the unforgettable part of life as a TSA.

Texas won’t let you forget you’re in Texas.

The Texas flag flies high and proud everywhere. It’s often accompanied by the Confederate flag which seems like a little bit of a contradiction to the US flag to me, but there it is.

Michener sums it up for us Yankees.

What you northerners never appreciate…is that Texas is so big that you can live your life within its limits and never give a (darn) about what anyone in Boston or San Francisco thinks. ~ James Michener

I can’t count how many Texans I’ve met who’ve never been outside of Texas. Seriously. Not ever. Grown-up people who’ve never once been out of this state. We worked for a rancher (a retired postmaster) who had never been out of his county. Hmm…

We’re well into our 3rd year now as Top Secret Agents. People are always asking us how/why we’re here working as TSAs in TX.

It’s a great question. If I had a bucket list, which I don’t, Texas might not fit in it because I’m a:

  • Water lover
  • Forest lover
  • Bug hater (spider fear-er)
  • Cool temperature lover
  • Nature (involving things that don’t want to bite or sting me) lover
  • And an avid walking on the beach type of bum

You can find things like water in Texas but you’re not likely to find a TSA job nearby.

I lived most of my life in the Midwest of Grant Wood. It was lovely. I don’t miss the freezing winters but I do miss having 4 real seasons.

For the three years prior moving to Texas, we lived on the southern Oregon coast. Growing up in Indiana, my family spent almost every Spring Break in Florida, where I fell in love with the ocean.

But Oh! the ocean in Oregon with the mountains and forests falling off into the sea; the whales spouting; the fog horns; the crab boats; the lighthouses; the agate and jasper covered beaches. It seemed like a place people made up in books.

Walks in Oregon were in the beautiful old growth forests or, if Henry got to vote, on the beach.

Henry enjoying a romp and stomp with the seagulls
Henry’s favorite thing was a wild romp and stomp with the seagulls, no leash, ever. Those were his halcyon days – and ours!

Heidi and I both worked as managers at a beautiful ocean front resort. The location was idyllic but the chest pains that Heidi started having from the stress became alarming. At the end of a particularly hard week, I made a just catching up phone call to Joanie who used to work for me at the resort. She and her husband were full-time RVers, gate guarding in Texas.

To tell you the truth, the job didn’t really appeal to me but it was clear we needed to make a change. Heidi already owned a motorhome which was sitting empty in a lot since we had a 2 bedroom apartment at the resort.

Acting on impulse and with no idea what to expect, we talked it over, took the Level II Security tests and headed to Texas with the assurance from a gate guard company that they’d find us something eventually after we got in state.

We started working the day we called to say we’d crossed the border. And oh gosh, it hasn’t been anything like anything either of us have experienced before. Not Texas, and not gate guarding.

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Why Mow When You Can Moo?

We’re getting ready to skid over to drill a second hole sometime next week, so there’s not a lot of activity. There’s also been NO connectivity. Even though we have both AT&T and Verizon air cards, the internet seems to go down with the sun each evening.

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We’re still in the same spot, somewhere south of Kenedy (not misspelled – just one n – Texas is a red state, y’all). We’re maybe 150 feet from the rig. I’m really not much better with feet and yards than I am with north and south so that may be way off but, as you can tell from this photo, we’re close.

Our RV is in the left front, then the rough-necks trailer and then it’s time for a hardhat. We’re sitting in pea gravel. To a gate guard, pea gravel is pad heaven. No caliche! Well, that’s not entirely true, there’s always caliche, but it’s on the road, not under us!

The picture below is rather remarkable. I took it a few days ago when we had clouds. We almost never have clouds.

No matter which side of life she was looking at, Judy Collins would have nothing to sing about if she lived between Beeville and Kenedy. Except possibly, next week if Tropical Storm Debby (don’t you hate it when they name something destructive after you – at least they spelled it wrong) takes the path predicted and turns away from Florida, landing here about Thursday.

Just a reminder, in the right margin, you can always check your weather at Weather Wunderground or track Hurricanes and Tropical Storms by clicking on the live links.

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One of the guys came by to pick up our garbage. Heidi was asleep and I don’t know where she keeps it. I know, how could I not know that? There doesn’t seem to be any anywhere. 😀

It’s probably bagged up in the truck but I didn’t want to make him wait. It’s that or the shoemaker’s elves. I did get a partial picture out of the right to your door service. Sorry I cut off the forks which, of course, is where the garbage goes.

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Since moving to Texas we’ve spent a surprising amount of time with cows. I don’t have a farming background. My Mom grew up on a farm, but I’m more of a town/city girl.

What makes the picture below rare is that this cow was actually on the other side of a fence from us. Normally, we just share the space, so I’m getting to know a lot more about cows.

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We had  a lot of cows in Iowa. I saw them from the window of the car. There are a lot of cows in Texas. They lick the window of the car and just about everything else.

This cow is a good example. I stopped to take a picture because she was just wandering along the side of the road. She walked right up and licked the truck.

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There doesn’t seem to be an unappealing part of our service wagons.

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The picture below was taken when we were in that really weird patch of 8 foot tall weeds last fall. I think this is where Heidi mastered the art of throwing water on the cows (calves) since they were bent on eating our satellite.

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In the end, we bent it ourselves. In a missed relay from me to Heidi to the ground and it fell on its nose. We now have the little dome kind that finds the settings for you and is impervious, so far, to cow licking. Which is kind of surprising because it looks a whole lot like the salt licks we used to have back home.

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As apparently so do I (look like a salt lick).

Those of you who’ve been reading for a while, know about the night I tried to open the door to check out the constant whacking sound and it wouldn’t budge.

When I finally got it open there were cows and calves everywhere – swatting flies and the RV at the same time.

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I literally tumbled onto one. Although he was temporarily startled, I was soon surrounded and received some serious licking. I had my camera in my pocket. I have no idea why I thought this was a great photo-op moment.

The little bit of white in the bottom of the picture is my t-shirt – clearly salt-lick looking.

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Their joy came to a halt when I had to wrestle the lawn chair away from one and the leather tire cover away from a particularly hungry guy.

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I took this photo yesterday. I’ve heard of people keeping goats so they don’t have to mow. Our neighbors have gone Texas BIG and substituted cows for goats! No mowing, just mooing!

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Notice the open gate in the above picture. It’s not at all unusual to have to pull over and wait to see why the cows crossed the road.

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She always says, my lord, that facts are like cows. If you look them in the face hard enough they generally run away. ~ Dorothy L. Sayers

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Dorothy Sayers was a great writer who clearly didn’t cross the pond to hang out with Texas cows.

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Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem. ~ A.A. Milne

When the bulls talk, we listen. There were 3 (although you can only see one in this video. There was another behind him and one across the road – not fenced in of course. We asked the rancher (this was a while back) if we needed to be worried since the not-fenced-in-bull hung out right outside of our RV.
Apparently they were all three trying to impress the lady cows, so Yep.
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Greatness alone in not enough, or the cow would outrun the hare.  ~Proverb

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All is not butter that comes from the cow.  ~Proverb

I now know this to be a fact.

The Night the Lights Went Out in Texas

It was the night the lights went out in Georgia Texas. And Oh What a Night it was!
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I’m writing as lightning gives the illusion of dawn.
We lost the outside lights and bell hours ago.
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It took me a long time to remember I have scare lights and a porch light.
There’s a remedy for the lights but it’s hailing and I’m already soaked so wading over to the generator will have to wait until morning. My mega flashlight is adequate for tonight.
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The rig is set to move tomorrow so the traffic has been non-stop all night. I unplugged the laptop (old storm habit) and it’s running low on battery life.
This is just a quick post to say I hope you all are OK?
The hospital Heidi and I used to teach for in Creston, IA was hit by a tornado yesterday. Thankfully, no one was killed, but six in Creston were injured, one critically.
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We were able to get in touch with our friend, Jean, for whom we did dozens of seminars over the years. The roof was ripped off of the building at the college which houses her office is but everyone is OK.
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The guys on the rig are wet and weary but no injuries.
There’s much to be thankful for!
Our Tuesday move is to a swamp.
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It was a swamp before the rain.
Hmm…
We’ve been here for almost 5 weeks.
Yesterday, for the first time, they watered the road. 😀
Ya’ll take care. Stay safe. I’ll try to write a real post soon.

Six Degrees of Separation: By Tooth and By Song

Six degrees of separation refers to the concept that everyone is somehow only six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth. It’s a theory that I’ve been re-examining this week.

Last night a guy pulled up at the gate and asked me if I’m from Canada?

He said: You know y’all have that Canadian accent. Hmm…

I said: I grew up in Indiana.

He said: Hey, I’ve got kin that go to some Amish swap meet thing in Shipshewana? You ever been?

I said: That started after I moved away but I used to go to the dentist there.

(Really? Someone in Westhoff, Texas has heard of Shipshewana, which had a population of 300 back in the 60’s!)

I grew up about 7 miles away in Middlebury. I was looking at a manual for the RV, only to find some parts were made in Middlebury! The RV, which we bought in Iowa, was made in Elkhart, where I was born (Middlebury didn’t have a hospital).

As you know, we also bought a truck from the Iowa RV dealership. The truck was originally purchased, brand new in 2006, in Texas and traded in for a Class C in Iowa. It still has a Longhorn emblem on the back window. Really, we drove 1250 miles from Texas to Iowa to buy a truck from Texas!

I read a wide variety of blogs. I’ve been following an interesting exchange between a Mel who went to high school in Iowa City, but now lives just outside Chicago, (where my daughter-in-law is from); and Jen, who lives in Colorado, and went to the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa.

They’ve been talking about Hayden Fry, former football coach and the inspiration of the TV show Coach, and the Hawkeyes of  the Universityof Iowa, where my daughter had her dental implants done and my son got his PhD.

My son is now a professor at a college in New Jersey. My new blogging friend, Ruth, writes about New Jersey and sent me regular updates on the weather when Hurricane Irene hit NJ in August.

Last night I turned on TV about 2 a.m. and Little Shop of Horrors was playing. This was the musical my son kept begging the drama coach to produce so he could play Seymour. When I turned it on, Steve Martin was singing I Am a Dentist – no kidding!

Yesterday, Heidi went to Nixon to have a wisdom  tooth pulled by a dentist who hopes to retire just north of the California border on the southern Oregon coast, where Heidi and Henry and I lived for 3 years before coming to Texas last December.

My family drove through Gold Beach in 1962 on our way from Indiana to California to visit my cousin Trudy and her Mom and Dad.

My sister, me and exchange student from Germany

I couldn’t wait to go to Disneyland! It’s a Small World! That also happens to be my cousins’ favorite spot in Disneyland.

Mom. me, my Aunt - 1962

I’m going to spend Thanksgiving with Trudy in New Orleans this year.

When I got up yesterday, Heidi, who rarely watches  TV, was listening to a channel called BEST, which appears to be a continuous advertisement for the  TIME LIFE Country music CD collection of 158 classic hits from the 50’s and 60’s.

The song that was playing when I got up was El Paso by Marty Robbins. When I turned it off  the song of the moment was The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton.

And there you have it… a small world connected by teeth and blogs and song.

You’ve probably seen this video, it’s been floating around You Tube and FB for a long time, but it’s true, It’s a Small World After All. 😀

Misery Loves Company

Actually, I’ve never cared for that saying – misery loves company. It sounds ill-wishing at best and sadist at worst.

Likely it’s a bit of both since it comes from the play Doctor Faustus in which the not-so-good Doctor sells his soul to the devil in exchange for twenty-four years of immense power.

Anyway, I think the appropriate phrase  here would be: There is consolation in commiseration.

Since I’ve begun to recount a few of my recent mishaps, I’ve found true consolation in your commiseration!

So many of you have shared here at Fork, and in emails, your own interesting RV, boat, trailer, truck, hitching up, setting sail misfortunes.

Bless you! How very generous of you!

Encouraged by your empathy, I’m prepared to share a little more, going back to Peculiar.

After the experience there of getting in the wrong diesel line, waiting for 20 minutes, then sheepishly slipping over to the plainly marked RV fill station, I set off, clear of all trucks and trees, with an eye on the gas gauge.

My least favorite part of traveling with an RV is getting gas. That may even surpass my very un-favorite part of paying for the gas! In the class A, the gas tank was in the center of the back of the 32 footer, in front of the blue ox tow and the Jeep. It ran on regular.

Can you see the problem? We couldn’t pull through at a truck stop diesel pump where there was lots of room. No, usually we were angling into a Casey’s or a Valero where the RV prevented all those who were inside  buying rolling hot dogs from exiting until the tank was full.

Nine months of gate guarding in the same county meant zero trips to the pumps and driving back to Iowa this time was much easier without the tow.

Now, with the 5th Wheel and the big truck, we could go to the big truck stops and just pull right through.

I’ve never driven anything with a diesel so I was completely unaware of the fact that, should you route yourself, as I did, off the interstate in states like Oklahoma and  Texas, there aren’t any big truck stops.

Although there are fajita plates at Exxon.

There are really hardly any gas stations at all.

There are hardly any towns.

Just  under 1/2 a tank, I considered filling up – but it was a toll road, and after already paying $13.75 in tolls, I feared exiting and returning would add another $3.50, so on I went.

I’m not a button pusher. I try not to push people’s buttons, and I’m loath to push buttons on moving vehicles.

Possibly it comes from seeing Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang 3 times, I don’t know, but I’m afraid to push any untried button while driving 70 miles an hour on unfamiliar roads, towing a giant rolling home, although taking flight was beginning to sound appealing.

Had I pushed the buttons, I would have seen the one that told me just how many miles were left at my current rate, until there would be no more gas to go.

As I drove on (while Heidi talked on the phone and Henry slept) I watch the needle fall to a quarter and I began to do that squinty thing you do when you’re trying to see better, as if anyone can see better with their eyes half-shut, in hopes of seeing some sign, any sign of gas or villages or lean-tos on the horizon.

I finally pushed the magic button.

22 miles until empty. We get about 12 mpg towing. It didn’t look good for the home team. There was no help in sight and no towns on the GPS (which is usually wrong anyway, but hey – desperate measures for desperate times).

This saga has gotten too long and I’m desperately tired, so it’s time for the changing of the guard here in Wharton. I’m off to try to reset my day/night clock. More soon. The suspense is palpable, I know…

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Everything but the kitchen sink  – and the Direct TV – seemed operational when we left Paris for a  2 night stop in Livingston to join Escapees.

I think I left out the sink from my list of mishaps – must have been a bit of Freudian slippage.

I was doing the breakfast dishes which consisted of a Pyrex dish, 2 cups and 2 forks (couldn’t find the little plates so used paper) the second day in the new RV.

Unable to find the spray Pam, we had used not enough butter on the dish and the poppin’ out of the tube caramel rolls held their ground with great resolve.

I ran hot soapy water in the sink, soaked and scrubbed.

I didn’t have the drain completely shut. Heidi came back from visiting some friends to see bits and pieces of roll taking a slow slide down the grey abyss.

Stop! Stop! she shouted and flung her hand, a dishcloth and a stopper in the drain, all at the same time. Apparently too late.

A week later, we left Paris thinking all was well, but landed in Livingston yesterday with a backed up kitchen sink. It was just a little bit of roll and caramel, really…

We tried hot water.

It just got fuller.

We went to WalMart and bought a plunger. The other one, not the one I got struck in the middle of the  floor in the plumbing aisle and never could budge – it may still be there. Again, no luck.

We even took a chance with a little drain unplug gel. Nada.

As an aside, I do now have my own special sink appliance for the times I do wild dish scraping or wash my hair. I had one before but I lost it in the move.

Defeated and really tired, we called the Escapees office and got the number of the only RV service person who would come to the park. In the mean time, Heidi removed the trap and drained the sink – nothing but a lot of water.

Since we couldn’t do dishes yesterday, we went out for steak last night (first time in over a year). At least there was an up side to my sink blockage. 😀

Jerry, the RV repairman, arrived today at noon in his service truck with no tools. I mean, literally, nothing but a hammer and a Flathead.  He was going to run hot water and take the trap off. Hmm… Nope.

We’d already called the dealership back in Iowa several times, trying to troubleshoot. Was there a second grey tank valve outside, we asked? NO.

We asked twice. NO.

Any other ideas? Have the guy bring a snake and an air hose. He came back with the snake. After 20 feet he found 2 little pieces of plastic and no caramel roll residue.

20 minutes later he went outside and opened the 2nd non-existing grey water valve (hidden behind the back tire) and we once again have water freely flowing for the low, low price of $95!

Next time I want to pay $100 to have someone open a non-existing water valve for me, I’ll try to make it someone I know – like a relative or at least someone with  cool tools. I asked him if he could fix the awning clamp? Nope – no screws…

All the same, the coffee cups are washed and we’re headed to the Italian restaurant we passed on the way to the odd little steak house last night.

They’ll be plenty of time to do dishes and only two more evenings when eating out, eating together and eating anything that isn’t Mexican is an option.

Tomorrow it’s off to drop the RV (hopefully, deliberately) in Victoria and then down to Smiley to retrieve the Jeep and back to Victoria.

Saturday night it’s Victoria and then back on the gate in Wharton by Sunday noon! Boy, do I have some stories to tell you next week!

Shazam! Go-l-l-y! Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise!

As we begin our amble back to Texas tomorrow, I’ve been thinking about all that’s happened the past two weeks.

Do you remember Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors )? He was continually amazed by the simplest things and would verbosely share his enthusiasm by saying things like: Shazam!  or G-o-l-l-y! or Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise!

When Gomer was on screen, he was in a state of almost constant surprise. That’s kind of how these past two weeks have been. I’ll share some of them in the next few posts.

You know how I said I don’t like trucks? Changed my mind. I now almost, but not quite, love trucks.

Time to swallow some caliche and eat my words.

I’ve seen the light!  Actually I’ve seen the lights. This truck has more lights than a furniture store! It has lights on the running board and lights on the big sticky-out fenders. It has spotlights so you can see in the truck bed at night and arrow lights on the mirrors. I especially like the arrow lights on the mirrors – I don’t know why, I just do.

I’m used to having a phone that’s smarter than me. Now I have a truck that’s smarter than me, too. It has tells me to pick a language (I only knows one but it knows multiple languages) and asks if I want to use the metric system (nope, don’t know that either).  It tells me the name of the song and the artist playing on the radio, when I need a new fuel filter and asks if I’d rather have my horn beep or my lights blink when I lock the truck.

Go-l-l-y! The Texan who owned this truck, must have really liked trucks! I never even had a Bose stereo in my house. I still don’t. Maybe I’ll just live in my truck although a dually with a long bed does take up a lot of room in the WalMart parking lot. In addition to my regular caliche clogging and stepping (4 steps now instead of 2), I’ll be adding the ever popular Hiking to the Far Away Truck to my exercise routine!

OK – liking the truck was the first surprise and the only one I’ll go into today except for the fact that I no longer seem to be allergic to ragweed.

How did that happen? It’s in full bloom and the county park we’re in is full of it.

I think I may have developed a gene for ragweed resistance which has evolved via months and months of caliche inhalation!

As you know, we drove more or less, straight through to get here since we had a tight deadline. We won’t be doing that going home to Texas. (Yes, I did say home to Texas – topic of an upcoming post!)

We had 12,000 miles of practice, driving the motorhome, and we’ve only driven 30 miles with the 5th wheel, so we’ll be taking our time. Another sur-prise from these past two weeks, I forgot how tired, tired can feel. I don’t think I’ve been this tired since my kids were 1 and 3!

Mr Adventure, if you’re reading this, I’m thinking of using you as a role model and following your traveling schedule of 200 – 300 miles a day! This may be a necessity since entering the strange new world of 4 slides and a truck bed with a hitch.

We should get back to Texas, eventually…  Since Lantern 17 is in Wharton now and the Jeep is in Smiley, we have to take a side trip before we head back to the gate. By this time next week, I’ll once again have a clip board in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Until then, I have a few more surprises to share, and hopefully not too many more on the road.

Happy trails to those of you who’ve written saying you’re also headed south and best of luck to all of you who are just beginning gate guarding! I can’t wait to hear your stories!