Year in Review Part 9 – One Year of Sharing

Our first day on the job as gate guards was one year ago today! Wow! Seems more like 5! 😀  When I turned  Fork into a gate guard blog on December 28th of 2010, I was really just writing it for my kids, my Sis, my Cousin and a couple of friends. I was a most reluctant blogger since I don’t like to write, I’m a terrible proof-reader, I’m dyslexic and I type, maybe, 30 wpm.

I wrote a post a day, every day for the first 5 months. The entire world was so new to me and I found just about everything to be fascinating. Things like the proper way to drive in Texas – 75 mph regardless of road conditions and spending the majority of your  time off-road driving.

I learned to choose the restaurants with the best ambiance:



I found signage in Texas to rarely be understated.





Texas State Rifle Association - Defending the rights of Texas gun owners since 1919! If You Can Read This You're In My Effective Range


And this sign is perhaps the least subtle of all.


After 5 months, I cut back to posting every now and then. Still, you stayed with me. Do you remember the Sister number from White Christmas?



The song was all about sharing and so is this post.  😀


I want to thank you for sharing this wild ride with me!

When we started gate guarding, the only gate guard blog I’d ever read was Kit and Jerry’s@ Welcome to the Bertelsen Web Site. Reading Kit’s accounting of their daily life at the gate was like gate guarding 101 for me. They introduced us to two other blogs: Luke and Inez @ The McKnight’s Luke and Inez Making Memories and John and Terry@ The Adventures of John and Terry. Before long Andy and Miss K @ MyOldRV introduced themselves and it was just the 5 of us for the longest time.

Now, as you can see, there are a dozen gate guard blogs on my Blogroll and those are just the ones I read. More are popping up each day. With that in mind, I’m thinking of taking a step back from Fork. I’ll finish the Year in Review, which will likely spill over into next year since there are still many stories I’d like to share with you. Then I plan to lay down my lasso.

It’s been an amazing year gate guarding and an incredible year blogging about gate guarding. I had 5 hits that last week in December. (I think all 5 were my daughter) 🙂

There were 307 views the entire month in January. As I write this just before midnight on the 27th, there have now been 50, 572 views. In the blogging world, that’s tiny (some blogs have that many in a week), but in my world it’s incredible and I thank you!

In this past year, you’ve made  me laugh and made me wonder! 😉

You’ve shared your wisdom and questions and advice. In a year, I’ve written 240 posts and you’ve made 1592 comments! Thank you!

If you’ll stick with me a little longer, I have a few more stories to tell and then I think I’ll toss the rope to the new folks. It’s been fun! You’ve made it fun! And I thank you!

Year in Review Part 8 – Port-A-Pot

The first week of February, 2011 was also the week the temperatures in Shiner dipped into the mid-teens. We set the furnace at 60, afraid we’d run out of propane since we weren’t very portable. Henry and I stayed swathed in blankets at night as the freezing air seeped in through invisible cracks and crevices. We coped pretty well for the first 2 days.

This was a record-breaking cold. Schools went from rolling brown-outs to closing all over southern Texas. Folks from across the nation worried that they wouldn’t able to make it to Dallas to claim their $4500 scalped tickets for the Super Bowl.

We had our own bowl issues. We’d disconnected the outside hose to our water supply since we knew it would freeze right away. We carefully monitored both sinks every 30 minutes, keeping a slow drip going. I had no idea how quickly slow dripping  can empty an entire RV water reservoir.

The third night, I unwound  from the blanket, paused the DVR, and then I heard it: the Sounds of Silence.  The kitchen faucet wasn’t dripping. My fear was confirmed when I couldn’t get any water from Bad, Bad Leroy Brown either. BBLB was the name of the bathroom sink. Heidi stuck a BAD label on it so I’d quit brushing my teeth with the non-drinkable, bad tasting and you don’t know where it’s been, potable water. I named the sink Bad, Bad Leroy Brown because I started humming the tune every time I reached for my toothbrush.

I didn’t name any of the appliances, although Mr. Coffee, which came named, was next on my list of problematic necessities. Coffee is my friend. On that cold, cold night, Mr Coffee began tripping breakers, no matter where I plugged it in: on the counter where it belongs, awkwardly placed under the dinette etc… I eventually disconnected the bell and perked a pot outside while watching for monster trucks and white pickups through the icy window.

Back to bowls: the real crisis was the toilet bowl. The automatic septic pump was no longer automated. Apparently there was bit of a dam somewhere in the sewer line so the restroom had to be closed for thawing.

The rest of the story remains a bit of a mystery to me. Of the two of us, I’m much, much more easily embarrassed than Heidi.  But for some reason, that I can no longer recall, (maybe I lost in Rock, Paper, Scissors – I never did really get that game) it was determined that I should go to the nearest Walmart (Gonzales) in search of a temporary solution. Heidi suggested I buy a 5 gallon bucket. The only 5 gallon bucket I could find included the cement, so I wandered the isles. I knew the blue plastic pail for $1.50 couldn’t possibly handle the stress. The bait buckets had holes. The trash cans looked sturdy enough but the logistics were insurmountable.

The store was teaming with frozen shoppers when I finally found my solution.

I was pleasantly surprised to find they had a fairly wide variety of acceptable planters.  I checked the bottom for holes and for weight restrictions, but all I found was a drowning warning. I felt confident there was no danger of falling in.

I’ve accidentally done a number of things that drew quite a lot of embarrassing attention to myself (fallen off the stage in front of hundreds of people, left the convention for the restroom with my cordless mike still on etc…). But that cold, cold day in southern Texas, I was a woman on a mission. I was shameless.

As shoppers streamed by, I lined the 5 most promising planters up in a row and plopped myself in each pot until I found just the right one.  The funny part was, no one paid any attention to me. It was as if they saw people sitting in the aisle in flower pots all the time!

In the Express line, the clerk smiled at me and said:
We’ve sold out of gloves and space heaters and drinking water today, but you’re the first one to buy a flower pot!
For some reason I felt compelled to explain my predicament.
She nodded and  smiled and said:
This surely is some crazy weather. We had to bring our chickens inside.
Oh gosh, how many chickens do you have?
Wow! That must be quite a cacophony!
She handed me my pot.
Sure is Sugar, especially with the 3 Chihuahuas!

That added some perspective. For almost two weeks, we didn’t have any water or bathroom facilities . We couldn’t shower or do dishes (the dirty dishes were moved to temporary storage in the shower) or keep the breakers from tripping. I didn’t have much heat at night and apparently even less pride, but I also didn’t have 25 chickens and 3 Chihuahuas!

My embarrassment was short-lived and limited to Walmart. Heidi, on the other hand (she must have lost Rock, Paper, Scissors the second time) had to carry the flower pot to the guys outside Port-a-Potty every day for 2 weeks to dump it.

When we bought the 5th wheel in September, a major criteria was The Arctic Package. It was interesting, explaining to our Iowa dealership why we needed an arctic package to live in Texas.

We still have the flower pot –  just in case –  it’s such a perfect fit!

Learning Curve

I wasn’t really prepared for the learning curve. After almost a year of gate guarding, everything is new. There’s the RV of course.

There’s been a little greater learning curve with that than I’d expected.  😀

More on that another time.

I wasn’t expecting the learning curve to be quite so great simply due to switching companies.

We’re actually back where we started last December, with one oil company. But we only worked for them for 3 1/2 weeks opening and shutting a hunting gate at a Frac pond so there wasn’t much traffic. We left without ever knowing there was such a thing as a Company Man or a drilling crew.

I didn’t anticipate that everything in every area would be different. Instead of MI SWAKO and Thermac and Newpark and Deep South, we have Stage Three and Austin Chaulk and Rig Runners and Spitfire. I didn’t realize how well I knew, not just the guys, but all the service companies and sales folks. I’m right back to asking everyone what it is that they do again.

But, no Vicky, I no longer think they’re saying ALL and make them spell it. ALL OIL comes up quite a bit in this business. 😉

These are some things that are the same, so far:

There’s a lot of traffic which gets real close to the RV.

The internet/cell tower is far away. Apparently the farthest it’s ever been since I can rarely get on-line, can’t get into my gmail or on FB and all our calls keep dropping.

It’s suppose to be 86 today so the air conditioner is still running.

Halliburton means cement (not only cement, but for sure cement) and Halliburton apparently has a corner on the market down here.

We were blissfully almost caliche free in Wharton. Once again, there’s so much caliche that I wait to dust until about 30 minutes before Heidi gets up or she won’t be able to tell it and then I won’t get any credit. 😉

The cows are still curious. Today they tried to eat the air hose for the bell (you can see this young steer holding it in his mouth just before Heidi threw a bowl of water on him). Later, the curious cows picked up the fake grass carpet, hoping for a snack. They ended the evening tangled in the cable lines temporarily un-satelliting us.

The good new is 8 straight nights with no mice!

Many of you are just getting started at gates. If you don’t have a blog and want to share your experience here, let me know if you’d like to guest post. If you have a blog and want to be on the gate guard blog roll at Fork, let me know and I’ll add you.

Again, I can’t get on-line often here in Westhoff – we must be on the wrong side of the hill, but I’ll post when I can, unless the cows find a way to climb up and get the booster antennae, too!

And So It Goes

And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose – Billy Joel

Most of the guys are gone now.

We’ve been with the same oil company since January.

Once again it’s time for goodbyes.

This time, not just to this rig, Lantern 17, but to the company.

They’re stacking for a while and then will likely return to the un-gate guarded sections of Louisiana.

As I’ve said repeatedly here at Fork , we couldn’t have had a nicer group to work with.

We’ve been with a few of the guys, like Kevin, our mud engineer, from the start. Kevin has graced us with his warmth and humor and several delicious dinners. That man can cook!

We’ve been blessed to work with great company men. We’ve been with Dale from day one, and Kenneth until the last couple of months.

Kenneth and Dale

We’ve had an interesting year. I’ll take a stab at a recap a little later.  Today and tomorrow, we’ll pass out the pumpkin bars Heidi made and say one last round of goodbyes.

We always seem to get attached. But it’s time to move on to new adventures – hopefully.  We’ll make our way to the yard (parking lot) Wednesday afternoon and wait for the next call.

Since we’ve followed Lantern all year, we’ve always gone to the next site a day or two ahead of them. It’s so strange to see everything going out instead of coming in.

Move on. It’s just a chapter in the past, but don’t close the book – just turn the page.

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.  ~Ivy Baker Priest

And so it is, on to a new fork in the road. Who knows – the world is round! Look out! We may soon be your new neighbors!

Don’t Tickle the Dragon

Hot! Hot! Hot!

The first time I remember hearing this song I was somewhere near Sitka. Men in shiny gold pants were singing and dancing to Hot! Hot! Hot!  I think that was the night they set the desert on fire.

This 3 minute clip (from You Tube, not from the flaming desert night) isn’t exactly lyric rich. You’ll get the idea after the first 30 seconds.


Hot! Hot! Hot! sounded so much more appealing on a climate controlled cruise ship to Alaska than it does in Smiley, Texas where every day is a hundred and something. Yes, I do know y’all have it worse down south and over west and maybe even up north. But for a Yankee who has rarely ever experienced triple digit heat – maybe one or two days per summer, this seems pretty toasty.

You know the ban on laser pointers near airports?

You may be arrested

Laser users are frequently arrested for aiming at airplanes or helicopters.  And as authorities take laser incidents more seriously, they are putting more effort into finding perpetrators:

Photo-illustration from
BBC News article

I get that now. The sun comes up in the east here, just like it back home. But here it comes up like a giant laser pointer (a red one, not the green kind), targeting Texas. My little point and shoot camera doesn’t do it justice. The sun doesn’t rise up with a soft orange glow, slowly spreading it’s light and warmth. It races up, bright red and instantly, insanely, intense.

At first I thought it was apocalyptic. Now I get that that’s just the way it is in Texas.

We’ve reached the point in the summer where most folks down here have gotten tired of talking about the weather, except the weatherman, who has to and who says the same thing every day. I misspoke a few posts ago by quoting a San Antonio’s weatherman. Apparently, here in Smiley we’re going on day 55 of triple digit heat.

The heat makes everything a little blurry

It does give us all a healthy, if semi-radioactive looking, glow. Three minutes outside and my face takes on a cheery hue. Every where my t-shirt touches my body has a suspicious dark cast.  That’s partially due to the ice cubes I occasionally put down my shirt, but mostly I manage to spot and blot all on my own.

When I get significantly overheated, I talk to myself, out loud (not good) saying things like:

I’m so hot I feel sick at my stomach.

Really? Sick at my stomach?

Sick of my stomach. Well, yes.

Or maybe sick in my stomach?  Sometimes I say sick to which doesn’t really make sense either. But sick at my stomach? I can be mad at something, but can I be sick at something?

When the rancher asked me how I was handling the heat, I said just swell (looking at my ankles). He said it gives a lot of folks a headache. Well, there is that. I’ve had one for so long I forgot that my head used to feel un-achy. He offered a cure.

This is a cow aspirin – which might have cured my headache, but I suspect would have led to other discomforts. The worst part is, I think I’m beginning to acclimate. I just checked the 7 day forecast: 102-103 each day, and I found myself feeling happy, thinking:  Only 103, that’s not bad! Sad…

If you can’t take the heat, don’t tickle the dragon. ~ Caroline Schoeder

Want Another Perspective?

People who look through keyholes are apt to get the idea that most things are keyhole shaped.  ~Author Unknown

Are you ready to take a different look at gate guarding? We’re a mixed, and sometimes mixed up bunch, we gate guards. We’re all over the map (at least in Texas) by location, in our experiences, and in our writing styles.

Many of you who follow Fork because you’re interested in gate guarding, already read some of the other gate guard blogs. There are 2 new ones – way to go, Penny and Bob! –  that you may not have found yet, so tonight I thought it would be fun to post all of the gate guard blogs that I’m aware of.

There may be more. If you have a gate guard blog or know of one that I’ve left out, please send me the link. I’ll add these as a blog roll later – too much traffic to do more than a short post tonight.

These bloggers stretch all across the state. I think you’ll find our experiences vary a lot by location, oil company, drilling company, gate guard company  etc.. Our blogs are really quite different so hopefully you’ll have a lot of fun reading ahead.

Of all the bloggers, I’m the least likely to stay on topic, so I’d really encourage you to check these folks out. 😀

What we all seem to have in common is the privilege of working with a great bunch of  hard-working guys. There are endless stories to tell. Happy reading.

Do not call any work menial until you have watched a proud person do it.  ~Robert Brault

There’s certainly nothing menial about what these guys do!