Let’s Talk About the Weather

Hey, thanks y’all for responding to my questions in Hmm…
I’m still open to your feedback so please keep commenting if you haven’t already.
Based on the emails from you who are too shy to post (which is perfectly fine), Facebook comments and the ones here at Fork, I’d say you’re a mixed up group. 😀
There’s quiet a bit of interest in gate guarding so I’ll try to include bits on that in most of my posts.
I’m sort of, but my not entirely, over my Yankee cultural shock so I’m not as continually stunned by my surroundings or by the spit and chew and drawl as I was the end of last year. Still, there’s plenty to tell.
The most frequently asked question is: What is a regular gate guarding day like?
You might want to check out these blogs:
Andy and Miss K @http://myoldrv.com/
Kit and Jerry are currently taking a break from GG but will be back at in the fall. @http://www.kitandjerry.com
Not only are our blogs different, but so are our experiences.
So to answer the question, it all depends…
It depends on which Gate guarding company you work for, which oil company you work for, which company man you work for, whether or not you follow a rig, what you’re guarding etc..
There are so many variables, that tonight, I’ll just start with the weather.
1. Are you thinking of gate guarding in Texas?
If that answer is yes and you’re asking about right now – then its pretty blazingly hot. You know its hot when the locals begin to complain.  Jill, a friend and fellow gate guard, sent me this today. I’ll quote part of the piece and add a few notes as we go:
The birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of   the ground.
The trees are whistling for the dogs…
Hot water now comes out of both taps.
As you can see in this picture, our water tank is big and black. So you know what that means. Yes, the cold water is hot. On the extra hot days, we have to use our holding tank water, just to get it cool enough to take a shower and I never turn on the hot water in the summer, even to do dishes!
The generator is in front of the water tank in this picture and the diesel is in the back and yes, its red. They dye it so no one steals it. Apparently this happens from time to time. Hard to imagine but it does. There’s a huge fine if you’re caught running red diesel in your vehicle or RV.
You can make sun tea instantly.
You actually burn your hand opening the car door.
You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron..
You discover that in July it only takes 2 fingers to steer your car..
We’ve burned our hands on the RV door, the outside bins,  the Jeep doors, so you can imagine how hot the seat belt buckle gets!
The temperature drops below 95 and you feel a little chilly.
This one is kind of sad. I have the weather forecast for the next 5 days on my phone. I’ll take a look and say “Great news, it’s going to be cool this week, only one day over 99”! If you’re not from Texas, the heat cycle is really different. It’s warm in the mornings, hot in the afternoon and really hot in from 3-8pm!
Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, ‘What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?’
You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at  7:30 a.m.
I’m writing this at 1:00 am – the temperature is 83. It’s supposed to be 77 degrees at 6 am today but the humidity is expected to be 82%.
This isn’t Arizona – it’s a humid heat, at least in our part of the state. Flat hair goes flatter and curly hair curls twice. If you don’t have any hair, you’ll be cooler but you’ll certainly need a hat.
The potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and add butter, salt and pepper.
Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.
The cows are giving evaporated milk.
Ah, what a place to call home. .
God Bless The State of  TEXAS !!!
As I’ve talked about in other posts, summer is about 7 months long, so don’t limit your hot weather thinking to June, July and August. And in the winter it can be really cold. If you’re new here, you might want to read about what happens when it gets so cold in Texas that your pipes freeze and you have to buy a flower-pot.
God Bless Texas, indeed!

Never Talk About the Weather

They just don’t seem to talk much about the weather here in southern Texas. If you’re a Yankee, that eliminates at least half of your regular every day small talk. The only 2 things I hear anyone say about the weather are:

1 Think this is hot, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  Yep, that’s encouraging!

And the universal favorite all across the nation:

2. Is it hot enough for ya? I know this is rhetorical, but don’t you just want to say something like: The boiling point of water is 100°C or 212° F at 1 atmosphere of pressure (sea level), but water boils at a lower temperature as you gain altitude and boils at a higher temperature if you increase atmospheric pressure …  well, maybe not that exactly but there sure must be something to say other than, Yep.

Back in the Midwest, we love to talk about the weather. Every where you go, just about every day someone has something to say about the weather. The weather sure is beautiful, hot, cold, rainy, dry, humid, perfect, awful.

In the Midwest we know what season it is by looking out the window. In the Southwest, I know what season it is by what’s on the tiny decoration display in the corner of the Super S and the featured cards at WalMart.

In the Midwest, we especially like to talk about snowstorms.  On the advent of every predicted winter storm, all the HyVee’s would sell out of milk and beer and rotisserie chicken. Shopping carts would be overflowing and cars would pack the giant lots, spilling onto the side streets, temporarily blocking the driveways.

In the Midwest, the predicted snow would come, sometimes. Everyone would hunker-down with a pizza and a movie and hope to hear that tomorrow would be a snow day.

Usually not. Most of the time there was nothing to do but set the alarm an hour early and start shoveling. The next week was guaranteed to be slow at the grocery store. It takes a long time for 3 people to go through 4 gallons of milk.

My cousin lives in Pismo Beach, CA. It’s lovely and the weather is perfect, every day. It’s like the movie Ground Hog Day, the weather makes it feel like yesterday all over again. No one talks about the weather in Pismo Beach except me. When I visit and go to the grocery store and say: Isn’t it a beautiful day! I just get blank stares. Of course it’s a beautiful day. Every day is a beautiful day.

In the Southwest, no one seems to talk about the weather for a different reason. It’s been over 100 degrees for 6 straight days and it’s still Spring! Here in Nixon, we’ve had 2 inches of rain since last September.

Back home in the Midwest, 6 straight days of 100+ temps in May would have the made Headline News!  We would have talked about the heat wave at the gas station and in line at the bank and in the express lane at HyVee while we stocked up on ice cream and rotisserie chicken. We would have bemoaned the drought and prayed for the farmers. There would be weather related slogans on all the church welcome boards.

But here in southwest Texas, only Yankees talk about the weather. We talk about it to anyone who’ll listen which is mostly other Yankees. To you native Texans, I get it. I know why y’all don’t talk about your weather down here. It’s just like Ground Hog Day. What can you say? Today sure is hot, windy, dry, hot, hot, windy, hot, dry, hot, windy, hot, dry, hot.

Weather forecast for tonight:  dark.  ~George Carlin

Planting Myself in a WalMart Planter

This is a developing situation… This is a developing situation… The words have been scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen for hours. I already knew that. I’m pretty sure everyone in Texas knows that. Everyone in the United States knows that. It’s been a developing situation for days.

Around here, night time temps are dipping into the mid-teens. It hasn’t been above freezing for 60 some hours. In southern Texas that has different ramifications that it would in say, Iowa or Minnesota, where 25 degrees can be considered nearly balmy for early February.

The RV furnace set at 60 for fear of running out of propane since we aren’t very portable right now. Henry isn’t finding his coat to be entirely sufficient. But overall, we’ve been coping pretty with the cold.

Here in Shiner, they’re breaking records. It’s only snowed 1 inch 18 times since 1885. Schools have gone from rolling brown-outs to closing all over southern Texas. Folks from all across the nation are wondering if they’ll be able to make it to Dallas to claim their $4500 scalped tickets for the Super Bowl on Sunday.

I have bowl issues of my own. Since I take the night shift, it’s been my job to make sure the water maintains it’s slow drip in the sink bowl. I felt heroic Tuesday night as I carefully monitored both sinks every 30 minutes. I slept peacefully Wednesday morning, confident the drip would keep on.

Heidi had already disconnected the outside hose to our water supply since we it would freeze right away. I’ve since learned that it’s amazing how quickly slowly dripping water can empty an entire RV reserve.

Doing my do diligence last night, I set aside my log sheet and knitting, I paused the DVR, unwound from the blanket and stopped dead in my track (it’s only one step from the chair to the sink). The kitchen faucet wasn’t dripping. My fear was confirmed when I couldn’t get any water from Bad, Bad Leroy Brown either. BBLB is the name of the bathroom sink. Heidi stuck a BAD label on it so I’d remember to quit brushing my teeth with the non-drinkable, bad tasting potable water. I named the sink Bad, Bad Leroy Brown because I now start humming the tune every time I get my tooth brush out.

I haven’t named any of the appliances yet, although Mr. Coffee, which came named, is next on my list of problematic necessities. My shift begins between 3-4 in the afternoon and goes until 5-6 in the morning. Coffee is my friend. Tonight when Mr Coffee began tripping breakers no matter where I plugged it in: on the counter where it belongs, out of place 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.

Now I re-heat it up a cup at a time in the microwave. Because the microwave is our most frequently depended upon appliance, I thought of naming it Bubba, after the rancher who owns this land. He seems like the rugged, reliable type. My hesitation was that when we had generator problems last month, ‘Bubba’ started losing time, and when we re-set the generator this month, ’Bubba’ began to gain about 15 minutes an hour, so now I’m thinking he may be more of a  White Rabbit than a Bubba.

Back to bowls: the real crisis that precipitated this post is the toilet bowl. Our automatic septic pump is no longer automated. Apparently there’s a bit of a dam somewhere in the sewer line so the restroom is now closed for thawing.

This discovery late today prompted a trip to Gonzalas to the nearest WalMart. 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 prestorm shoppers when I finally found my solution.

There was a fairly wide variety of acceptable planters.  I checked the bottom for weight restrictions but I guess they don’t sells planters that way, even though they do sometimes plant large patio trees in them. There was a warning label but 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, left the conference for the restroom with my mike still on etc…). But today, I was a woman with a mission. I was shameless.

As shoppers streamed by, I lined the most desirable planters up in a row and carefully sat in each pot until I found just the right one. I think this whole experience has given me greater self-confidence and has certainly added meaning to the saying: “Bloom Where You Are Planted”.

In the Express line, the clerk smiled at me and said:
“We’ve sold out of gloves and drinking water today, but you’re the first one to buy a pot.”
I briefly explained my predicament and told her that I thought there might be a run on planters, too, if the weather doesn‘t change soon.
She nodded.
“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. I don’t have any water or bathroom facilities. I can’t shower or do dishes (the dirty dishes are in temporary storage in the shower) or keep the breakers from tripping. I don’t have much heat tonight and apparently even less pride, but I also don’t have 25 chickens and 3 Chihuahuas!

Mud Doesn’t Begin To Describe It

January 11, 2011  by Debbie

Good golly it’s cold in Texas! My feet didn’t get warm until 5pm. The vacuum kept tripping the space heater, the space heater tripped the tea kettle which in turn, tripped the breaker that makes the outside bells ring! It was so peaceful until I realized what had happened. I almost froze Willie (Danny Glover) because he’s too polite to honk.

It’s so cold that Larry came by and told us to fill our water tank and disconnect the water. Since we can’t vacuum and run the heaters and now have the water turned off, I’m resigned to the fact that it’s not possible to be both warm AND clean. While my rational self knows, it’s much more important to be warm, I have to see, clean runs close second.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness (did anyone really teach me that?). I’m not sure if the axiom was somehow ingrained in me when I was growing up or if it’s just a personal fetish. Either way, I’ve come to the realization that the hardest part this job for me is that I really don’t like dirt.

I don’t like dust, which is comprised of tiny pieces of dirt, covering every surface about 30 minutes after I clean them; then there’s the plane dirt which, along with Henry, we regularly track in requiring twice daily vacuuming; finally there’s MUD. I really don’t like mud.

I hate the way is sucks my shoes off and fills in every grove so that I’m walking on a smooth, grippless, slippery plane. I hate hearing the bell and scrambling down the steps into wet, cold mucky shoes (3 pair now) that I only half put on. I especially hate mud when I’m standing in the headlights of a huge fuel truck and I have to pick up my mud-stuck shoe and carry it back with me to the RV while my sock soaks up the wet dirt.

The fact that mud is far more distressing to me than getting up to open the gate at night, or not having TV or Internet access indicates raises some questions about my mental well-being. I just finished reading Shades of Grace (about an advice columnist who develops Alzheimer’s) and actually have had plenty of questions regarding my mental acuity every since.

I spent 4 hours today at the Three Rivers library, trying to get this blog up and running and found that I couldn’t find Day 3, 4, 5, 9 & 10. I was about to start reading Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz but you know how Koontz novels go and I seem to be in a suggestible state. Maybe I should read something by Nora Roberts instead?

600 Miles…Situation Hopeless?

January 9, 2011  by Debbie

It stormed last night so tomorrow will be another hammer-to-the-shoes day (the mud isn’t quite dry enough this afternoon). I think we are now officially guarding nothing. It’s 4:00pm and only 5 people have passed through the gate today and that includes Heidi and me and a ranch hand.

Yesterday’s 2 hour tech session drew to a close with the conclusion that our new air card is corrupted. So, this morning I went back to Pleasanton. We think we’ve now driven 600 miles back and forth just trying to get connected. We probably should have just enjoyed the peace while we had it.

What was that movie where everything in a little town (Pleasantville?) was black and white until these two teenagers (I think one was Toby McGuire, maybe not?) went back in time and things started turning colors, a little at a time? Today was just the opposite.

After last nights’ rain, the trees and cactus no longer looked like they were covered with frost (dust) and I could see all the way up the road from cattle crossing to cattle crossing. It was so clear, I didn’t have to pull over once to wait for the dust to settle.

By the time I returned with yet another air card three hours later, conditions had returned to normal and all the color was dusted away again. Heidi had a lively 3 hour chat with a Canadian tech support fellow who complimented her on being the most polite person he’s tried to help in 8 years on the job. However, he declared our situation hopeless until we move to a less remote locale. I’m reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so I think it’s time to power down and turn a few pages of real paper.

Butter Knife Security Works

January 3, 2011 by Debbie

I got up around 5 to find we’d made it through the night intruder free, butter knife latch in place. As the title indicates, we’ve been here for a week now. It  seems longer than I week ago when I think of getting the call while sitting in the out of commission Jeep, but the days never drag (calamities may contribute to the perceived speed of the passage of time).

This morning I began reading The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller in preparation for doing a book study with my daughter and was immediately challenged and encouraged. After a time of study and cinnamon rolls, Henry and I headed out on our morning jaunt.

Often when I’m especially discouraged or hurting, God reveals Himself in the most obvious ways to tenderly remind me that my heart matters to Him and that He is always present. Today wasn’t one of those days.

I headed out with Henry feeling happy and grateful. I chose the road less traveled (actually the side of the road less traveled by me since there’s less gravel on that side and I’m often rock-hounding while I walk). Sue, from Gold Beach, called last night and I was thinking about her and agates and the ocean as a giant white crane swooped overhead.

By the time I could unsheathe my camera, the crane was gone but at my feet, there were little white sea shells – in the middle of a dirt road on a ranch in southern Texas!

OK, I think they were actually snail shells that fell off the gravel truck. But I smiled at the Lord and thanked Him for such a sweet surprise on a day when I didn’t think I needed Him to do anything extra ordinary.

Funny part is that I felt apologetic at first and found myself saying, ‘I’m OK today, You really didn’t have to go to all that trouble’.That thought stopped me and made me question my theology and my philosophy. What is grace but a continual out pouring special treatment, unmerited and often unnoticed but never unavailable.