Just Right

The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears Debbie and the Four Stairs

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She  went for a walk in the forest . Pretty soon, she came upon a house. She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.

You know the rest of the story, Goldilocks eats the bear’s food, breaks their furniture and takes a nap. She was, however, pretty hard to please.

The first bowl of porridge was too hot,the second was too cold. The the third bowl was just right. so she ate it all up.

The first chair was too big, the second was too big too, the third was just right but when she sat in it she broke it all to pieces.

And,finally there were the beds. The first  bed was too hard, the second, too soft but the last was  just right. She fell asleep in the just right one. When she woke up, she saw the bears, screamed and ran away.

So, here’s my parallel story.

Once upon a time, there was me. I took a tumble and then a twist. There wasn’t any forest – just caliche and cacti. Eventually (after 6 months), I came upon the office of an Orthopedic Surgeon. He took a look, ordered an MRI, told me to call him in the morning – just like the song: Put the Lime in the Coconut !

And now, the rest of the story:

When I was 19, a drunk driver slammed into me going 65 mph. After the Jaws-of-Life peeled open my door, the EMTs had to remove the steel rod that had once held the steering wheel of my Dodge Dart, but was now buried deep in my knee.

If your tire is flat, you may be able to patch it and air it up. But if you have a blow out, you need a new tire. My knee was patched up with 48 stitches and a cast back then, but this time, I had a total blow out. Dr Elmer said my meniscus looks like a shredded tire not a flat one.

I’m too old for a meniscus repair (by about 10 years). He said I need a total knee replacement.

But, I’m too young for a total knee (by about 10 years).

So I’m too old and too young which means I must be just right!

Thank you all for your emails and well wishes and prayers. That’s the story. Whenever I write again, whatever I write about, it won’t be about my joints. (It’s like going to a nice restaurant and listening to people beside you talk about their gallbladder all through dinner!)

Dr Elmer suggested Cortisone shots or Rooster Comb shots. We’ll see. For now, I’m getting by and keeping my pants on. Life is very good!

Life comes from physical survival; but the good life comes from what we care about. ~Rollo May

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Do What You Like – Like What You Do

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The pictures on the front of the Life is Good t-shirts vary but their trademark philosophy is always same: Do what you like. Like what you do. Optimism can take you anywhere.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are actually quite a variety of jobs you could be assigned as gate guards. Some you might like better than others. These are the most common ones:

  • Jobs where you live right on the site and work safety, wear flame retardant clothing. and keep track of where everyone is at all times. I don’t see myself ever doing that but I’m guessing some folks like it.

OK, this is one of our guys, but can you imagine an already hot-flashing 55-year-old woman suiting up in 100+ degree temps? Me, either! I’m pretty sure I’d become the safety issue on the rig! 😉

  • Jobs where you work just FRAC (tons of traffic) and follow a FRAC crew. This involves moving every 6-10 days. The gate guards I’ve talked to that do this, love it. I have no idea why? We have way too much HUAD for that one!

  • Jobs where you start with the drilling rig and stay on site through FRAC and completion.

  • Jobs where you stay at a production site (we have friends who did this for over a year). They had all their meals catered and locked the gate at 10 each night and opened at 6 every morning while making the same pay we all make on a 24 hour gate. I wouldn’t hold my breath hoping to get one of these.

  • Jobs with multiple active holes where you make a little extra for each drilling hole if someone is living at each site.

  • Jobs with unfortunate placement. We worked a gate by the highway where the traffic for 6 sites stopped by us on their way to: our rig, or the FRAC (which had their own gg), or the construction of our second pad, or the production plant, or the pipe line, or the 2nd well (which also had their own gg )… It wasn’t a big deal, but it was really busy. We were sort of like the traffic cops in the middle of the street and blow whistles and point a lot. 😀

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I’m sure there are other industry related gate guard jobs, but the majority work in one of these areas, or like Heidi and I, follow a drilling rig. With the 2 brief exceptions noted in my last post, following a rig is all that we’ve done and we like it quite a lot. The kind of experience you have following a rig depends on a lot of things – chemistry mostly. Sometimes you click and sometimes you clash. We’ve been very fortunate to always click.
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We loved our year with our previous gig, and we’ll never forget those guys! It was quite an introduction to gate guarding! It’s hard to forget people who bring you tarantulas in a crock pot or rattlesnakes slithering around in their truck bed or the snare wild hogs right outside your window at night! We were so sad for us and happy for them when the rig got called back to their home state of Louisiana.
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There are many, many nice people to work for and with in this business and, I’m told, some that aren’t as nice. This isn’t a glamor job (clearly) 😉 and attitudes toward gate guards vary. The Texas Railroad Commission requires gate guards, so to some companies the position is just a necessary evil and to others, it’s a part of their team that they value.
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We’ve been fortunate to make the team for the second time. We’ve struck gold with this company and drilling rig. We’ve enjoyed every day (well almost every day ;)) of the 5 months we’ve been with them. We’ll be taking a few weeks off in a few weeks with the repeated assurance that when we return, they expect us back because we’re “family” now.
That’s really nice. You can see from the photo below, we practically live on the pad.
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You certainly can find something wrong with any job. This one is hot and dusty. It’s a long way from home no matter where you live, even if you live in Texas!
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The pay, before taxes, comes to $5.21 an hour. The only thing that makes this job financially viable is that we work 24 hrs a day(no napping on the job since we always try to be out the door in under 10 seconds). That, of course, means we work every weekend and every holiday. As year-rounders following a rig, we work 100 or 200 or 300 days straight. It helps to take a couple of weeks off about every 6-8 months.
What it comes down to mostly is your outlook. It’s like the Life is Good shirts. Do what you like. Like what you do. We focus on what we like about what we do. Like right now, it’s 2 in the morning and I can do my job well and still blog (when the internet is favorable) and watch the pre-recorded Olympics in between trucks. There’s virtually no stress or conflicts to resolve since no one cares what we think because we don’t know anything about whatever the problem is!
As for the last part of the Life is Good philosophy: Optimism can take you anywhere, be careful with that one. I’ve always been pretty optimistic and look where that took me! 😉
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Smile and Nod

All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.  ~J R.R. Tolkien

I’ll try to finish up the story of how we got into gate guarding tonight soon (lately, the internet has been evaporating after 10). In the interim, I thought I post a couple of short conversational recaps, just for fun.

Some leave little option but to smile and nod. 😀

I used to have a Life is Good t-shirt that had the second portion of Tolkien’s quote Not all who wander are lost on it. I loved that shirt. I decided it was my lucky t-shirt the day I caught the almost 6 pound bass when wearing it as pictured in: In A Land Far, Far Away.

Then, one day last summer, I got overzealous and added too many quarters to the dryer in the already steaming hot laundry mat in Nixon and transformed it into a 4T.

Still, Tolkien was right. Not all who wander are lost. And neither are all who ask for directions. Variations of this conversation have happened several times (no kidding)!

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Trucker: Are y’all familiar with this area?

Sorry, no I’m not.

Trucker: Aren’t y’all from around here?

No, Iowa.

Trucker: Well then, that explains your Canadian accent! 

?  (smile and nod)

Trucker continues: I was going to ask you for directions.

I have a Texas map, would you like to look at it?

Trucker: No, that’s OK, I’m from around here.

(smile and nod some more)

I’ve quit dressing like Johnny Cash. Now its blue jeans and I’ve traded in my Steve Jobs black for  white t-shirts – the absolute thinnest they sell at Walmart – to wear under my not as cool as one might hope, jailhouse orange security vest.

But Heidi, who unlike me, no longer feels like it’s 127 degrees when it’s really only 107, mostly wears Life is Good T’s. We both love the company and the are happy to advertise the optimism.

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I threw Heidi’s t-shirt over a pillow. She’s long asleep by now, which is why it’s headless! I did dress it up in my vest, so you could get the full colorful effect! 😀

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Today a delivery guy made an interesting comment on Heidi’s optimistic Life is Good t-shirt:

Delivery Guy: Hey, cool shirt!

Heidi: Thanks!

Delivery Guy: Just like the Army!

Heidi: (smile and nod…)

Heidi thought the exchange was funny. She had no idea what he was talking about but we’ve kind of gotten used to that since arriving in Texas. 😀

I’m guessing that he was thinking of the Marine motto Simper Fi –  Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful / Always Loyal).

Simplify and Semper Fi – two great concepts for the job and for life! That and smiling and nodding…

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Life is Good! 😀

Joe Btfsplk and Other Wonders of Nature

For hours days I’ve been going to sleep to the sound of rain pattering and periodically pounding on the RV roof. I love the sound of rain –  when the slides don’t leak and the wind doesn’t tear off the non-retractable awnings over the four slides that magically transform this little trailer on wheels into a home.

I sleep and dream of the ocean. For three years, I often fell asleep to the sound of rain. I lived in the tiny town of Gold Beach tucked away in a little southern crook. With its temperate rain forest climate, there are more sunny days there than any other place on the Oregon coast. Although I often slept to the sounds of rain, most days offered a generous helping of sun.

For 14 months, I’ve lived in the drought stricken state of Texas. I’d all but forgotten the sound of rain on the roof. It hadn’t rained until I began my period of necessary unemployment. Since leaving the gate Thursday morning, the rain hasn’t stopped.

I’m beginning to feel like Joe Btfsplk! Do you remember Joe from Li’l Abner? Me either, but I’ve read about him. 😀

Joe Btfsplk was a character in the satirical comic strip Li’l Abner created by cartoonist Al Capp.  A small, dark rain cloud perpetually hovered over his head. Btfsplk and his ever-present cloud became one of the most iconic images in Li’l Abner. The rain cloud was supposed to represent Joe’s unfortunate tendency to bring bad luck.

This past week, our job came to an abrupt halt;  Heidi’s renters moved out 7 months before their lease was up; the house requires $5000 in repairs; the RV insurance rate doubled due to my palm tree tango; a random stone shattered the living room window; and the weather forecast is for another week of rain.

Just call me Joe. 😀

I may just be a rain carrier. We head east tomorrow to check out the Texas bayous where the rain is expected to continue.  I consider it my gift to a thirsty state. I’m hoping to leave the bit of bad luck behind. I think, just to be safe, Heidi better drive. 😉

For those of you who are interested in the oil business down here in south Texas land,  Andrew sent me this great link about the Eagle Ford Shale play.  The Houston Chronicle article lists everything from the average salaries to the local economic impact.

More from the bayou tomorrow or the following day. I still have some Louisianan bayou tales to tell. Until then to end with a couple of Capp-isms: good is better than evil because it’s nicer. 😀

To be corn-tinued