First Time Gate Guarding – Day 5

Day 5

We found out yesterday that the trucks wouldn’t be running 24/7 for another few days so I decided to try something different and went to be around 1 am.  To talk about how that went I am going to need to get into some bodily functions, so for those of you who don’t like to read about those sort of things I recommend skipping down three paragraphs!  I am in the one year transition between peri-menopause and menopause (right on schedule because the average age is 51) and why that is important is it’s a terrible year for sleep.  Hot flashes that wake me up are almost a nightly occurrence and sometimes they are so bad I have to step outside to cool off. Humidity levels (along with salt and chocolate) seem to make it much worse, and since rain has been threatening for the last couple of days here, they have been particularly bad.  To help with the hot flashes we listened to my mother-in-law (always a wise choice) and invested in a nice set of 800 thread count sheets from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  The sheets were over $200 so we only have one set and they really do help with the hot flashes.  This matters because the first night I tried sleeping on the couch without them it was pretty bad so I needed to figure out a solution.

After thinking through the various options I decided to bring our 100% cotton, thin Chenille bed spread out to the couch.  This actually worked pretty well and that in conjunction with the AC being on allowed me to get some rest last night. You also have to think about what you will wear if you are going to sleep at night.   Bra or no bra? (No bra. Always no bra. -Lee) Sweats or jeans. (No pants. Always no pants. – Lee)  If you do have to get up and go outside there won’t be time to change.  Currently I am splitting the difference with cotton sweats and a t-shirt, but that may change as we get busier at night.  Then again I may not be sleeping at all if we get busier.  I think it will be much easier to stay awake if there is some activity.

Either way when you do a shift change (regardless of the time) there is a bit of an issue.  Whatever time you decide to shift change, one person will need to stay up a little longer to give the incoming person time to brush their teeth, have a cup of coffee, wake up a little etc.  Plus you need to think about when you are going to poop.  So far the traffic has allowed for tiny breaks to run into the rig and pee while the other person is sleeping, but pooping just takes too long for that. So it needs to be done when both parties are awake, and depending on your ability to schedule that you need to take your shifts into account. And to completely take this conversation into the person, you also need to take that into account for your sex life.  You can either roll the dice on a time period when few trucks are coming in (not something I would choose, but hey, I don’t judge), only have sex when you are not running 24/7 (it only happens during certain phases of the project so chances are there will be some days when you can be pretty confident no trucks will come), or not have sex at all. For us personally we feel we can work with the schedule, but some people have very active sex lives so I thought it was important to mention it.  Honestly it makes sense anytime you are working 24/7, but it never really occurred to either of us until we got here.  The “When are we going to have sex?” conversation was pretty funny actually. (I didn’t think it was funny at all. I’m still waiting for an answer. – Lee)

OK, enough of all the oversharing, but things are important and I would have liked to have thought it through before I tried this.  I definitely think I would have looked for a different sleep outfit and may end up checking out Walmart depending on how it goes.  I definitely cannot sleep in jeans, but maybe some cotton crop pants are a decent middle ground.  (I recommend Zboss suitjamas. – Lee) On to other things.  It rained for the first time today and it actually was OK.  Rain with little wind we can handle (use the awning) or wind threatening rain is fine as well.  We haven’t experienced super rainy and windy yet but that will definitely be a challenge.  I reached out to our gate guard neighbor and solicited her advice and she talked about rain gear and an umbrella.  Well, we have both of those, so we will have to see how it goes when it comes to that.

Luckily today wasn’t the day.  Serious storms with tennis ball sized hail and tornado watches were to the north west of us, but we were largely unscathed.  It was windy though, so after the 40 gravel trucks finished in the early afternoon, I decided to close the gate.  Every ranch owner has different rules, but ours is mostly concerned about his livestock.  He has 1,000 acres on this ranch (his family owns other as well) and they have both cattle and deer here.  The deer are of particular concern as they are raised for hunting season and some of them can go as high as $20,000 depending on the size and number of points.  I know, we were surprised too, but hunting is big business down here and this ranch both feeds the deer and culls the herd to encourage the stock to grow big.  In any event, the rules are gate definitely closed at night (not sure how that will work if we get very busy) and open in the day as long as we are outside.  We tried all kinds of combinations today including sitting inside our RV with the door open (helped blocked the wind), sitting outside under the front hitch, and just sitting outside.

The entire time Lee was “noodling” the problem of how to best close the gates in his mind, and not surprisingly he came up with a good solution.  (Some people think the gates in my mind have been closed for a long time. – Lee) When we took over the gate we were given one chain and one combination lock.  But despite the gates being heavy they do swing in the wind.  The right side stays out of the road because the hinge pole is ever so slightly tilted, but the left side swings into the road at times if it’s windy. This made me nervous that it could hit a vehicle.  The gate also swings the other way and is standing over a heavily weeded ditch which we were warned might contain rattle snakes.  For obvious reasons I don’t want to walk in that ditch at night to grab the gate and close it.  I was OK to walk on the cattle guard and grab it from the middle but Lee didn’t like that because he was afraid I would fall through the gap and hurt myself when he was asleep.  Plus the gate is much harder to pull from that end, especially when the wind was blowing.  So Lee went into full MacGyver mode and found me a solution.

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Lee testing the swing on the “problem side.”

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Initially he used bungees but the gate is so heavy it broke several of them so he went to caribiners and paracord, I didn’t like this first solution because I needed to step into the ditch to reach and release

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So he put  metal tent stakes  into the ground ($.97 at Walmart) and then tied the paracord to one end and put a cam jam carabiner on the other end. This worked great as it stopped the gate before it swung over the ditch.

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Once this was solved we still had the problem of keeping the gates together. The padlock would be take to long to release with vehicles waiting so he used a large carabiner he had to hold it together

Although, a couple of my issues; it’s still pretty tough to close the gates with only one person.  You have to swing one beyond the closing point, then run over and swing the other one, and hope they meet in the middle when the first one starts swinging back.  It often takes a few tries, and as Lee says, looks a little bit like a Chevy Chase movie.  Since I will be doing this at night, it’s important I stay in the middle of the cattle guard where they welded a narrow walkway.  I’m am sure I will get good at it, but for right now I am practicing.  We heard a story about a gate guard who lost her finger when her ring got caught in the fence and I believe it.  When the wind was blowing strong I really had to put my weight into it to avoid getting knocked off my feet.  I am kind of surprised we weren’t given a solution of some kind when we were setup, but this might be the type of thing they expect you to solve as every gate is different.  Definitely recommend having carabiners and paracord though if you take one of these jobs. (A well dressed man ALWAYS has carabiners and paracord handy. – Lee) 

While Lee was figuring it out I walked over to get a look at a huge bird that was up on a telephone pole.  The account manager told me this was a great area for bird watching, and this was my first chance to try to get some pictures.  We’ve seen several road runners (a good sign as they eat rattlesnakes), but this bird was something new.  I was thrilled when I used my Cornell Laboratory Merlin Bird App and discovered I had seen a Crested Caracara.  Not only is this a bird I had never seen, it’s a bird I had never heard of.  The picture wasn’t great, but enough to easily identify the bird and I was super excited to learn it also eats snakes.  Awesome!  Can’t wait to get some better pictures of it, the road runners, and the various hawks I have seen around, but for now I will take it!  It’s been months since I have seen a new bird, and I am happy to have a chance to take some bird pictures again. 

crested-caracara

Crested Caracara

After Lee fixed the gate, we had our weekly budget discussion and then he went to the grocery store.  In order to get a handle on our grocery budget, we are menu planning at least 7 days in advance and always before we go to the store.  It’s not easy changing 10 years of bad habits (ie: buy whatever we feel like when we feel like it), but it’s definitely something we are focused on.  We are also both committed to tracking food versus non food items this year, because we think we may have some opportunities to save money in the non food category.

While he came back I watched football and since everyone left by 6:00pm he made ribeye  for dinner.  It was really good, Costco has great steak in Texas, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Green Bay/Dallas game.  That was by far the best game I have seen all year.  Then Lee went to bed and I stayed up and watched Pittsburgh/Kansas City, wrote this blog post, and ultimately laid down.  I am trying to get back on schedule since we were told we would have traffic 24/7 in about 5 days, but it’s tough with no trucks to keep me awake.  Just going to have to play it by ear and see how busy it will be.  I did reach out to our neighbor gate guard and asked how the traffic changed by phase.  She said when they are drilling the majority of the traffic would be change of shift but there would be trucks throughout the day.  When fracking there are constant sand tankers and during flow back constant water and oil tankers.  One of the construction guys also shared with us they were working 24/7 when they started to pour the concrete and that could get a little busy.  It would be nice if they shared the project schedule with us in advance, but I kind of understand why they don’t. Schedules change frequently and I am sure they want to make sure the guards stay alert no matter what.  I get it, but it is helpful when the construction guys stop and share a little information with us. We generally don’t ask, but they often give us a heads up on what we can expect that day which is nice.

So we still like it and are already talking about maybe doing it after Amazon next year, but for me it is too soon to tell.  The work itself I am totally fine with, and we both really like that nobody is standing over us micromanaging, but I am still a little  worried about the weather and the traffic volume.  Need to see what that looks like in practice before giving it a total thumbs up for me. Lee’s pretty much sold on it though.  He really likes it as a winter alternative. Certainly it’s easier than anything we have done in a long time, plus it covers all of our basic expenses, which is a good thing.

One last thing.  I got an email from Anna, one of our readers, who had some followup questions so wanted to answer them here. My answers are in blue italics

Are rattlesnakes attackers or will they leave you alone if you leave them alone (OK as I type this I have to admit that being an Australian expat in the US I am unable to tolerate ANY snakes in my orbit…) This made me laugh as I am not a huge fan of snakes either.  From what I hear they avoid people and do rattle to let you know where they are, but people  step on them anyways because they blend in to the ground so well they don’t see them in time.  The babies are waaay more dangerous because they can’t control how much venom they inject, but aside from stumbling into a nest people rarely die from snake bites.    According to Wikipedia  “rattlesnakes rarely bite unless provoked or threatened; if treated promptly the bites are seldom fatal” and about 72% of the bites are young males who are often intoxicated.”, which is the good news but the bad news is according to the Washington Post it can cost $14,000  to treat a rattlesnake bite because the antidote is difficult to make and rarely needed.  One of the reasons I am glad this company provided workers comp (not all of them do) because I am sure that would be covered. 
How do you get any exercise in a job like the gate guarding – I know in the tree job and the beet job you probably built up your fitness (despite all the other issues) – I’d hate for you to lose that!!!!  I am sure you must feel much better for it??  (not wanting to sound like your mom here!!)  I appreciate you looking out for me so no worries.  I was actually warned by our account manager to be very careful walking for exercise as rattlesnakes often are on the roads because it’s warmer and obviously it’s a bad idea to walk through high grass. If I did take a walk I should do it in high boots of some kind..no gym shoes.  There is a small gym in Dilley, but  I have never been a person who exercises for it’s own sake.  One of the great things about the lifestyle is all the exercise I get while seeing cool stuff.  Then it doesn’t feel like work to me.  So the short answer is between the snake threat, third shift hours, and my natural dislike of pure exercise I doubt I do very much.  Just being honest 🙂  Thanks for asking…good questions! (Exercise? You don’t get a physique like mine from diet and exercise. It takes hard work and dedication to maintain this high level of slovenly appearance, and I’m not about to just throw all that away. – Lee)

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15 thoughts on “First Time Gate Guarding – Day 5

  1. Tracy, great post. I am glad it seems like it is all working out for you. I am so afraid of snakes that part would scare me. So funny you talked about the sex issue because that was the first thing I thought of when you talked about your shift work and someone always had to be ready for gate duty. Lee, I love how you always chime in on the post. You always make me laugh and put a smile on my face. I wish you both the best on the rest of the gate guarding time. Take care.

  2. I, too, wanted to comment on Lee’s additions to the blog; TOO FUNNY! Keep up the great story you two; love your adventures.

  3. Not that this will work for you, but for me, avoiding sugar and eating a double serving of oatmeal per day really helped with hot flashes/night sweats and others I know also said it worked for them. Even now, at 62 years and past menopause stuff, sugar still gives me night sweats. I did notice that agave and honey do not have that same effect though. It does sound like you are both in a much better mood now that you are settling in. As for rattlesnakes, just remain very alert and don’t let down your guard. We lived for 3 years in the rural desert in AZ and I walked very early, like 4:00 am to beat the heat, and never saw a snake, but I was always watching for them.

    • I hate oatmeal but I appreciate what you said about sugar. I thought it might just be me but it’s good to know it was someone else. A life without sugar and salt might be too much to ask though 😉

  4. ROFLMAO!! It’s the brutal honesty that keeps me coming back for more.

    I was looking through your final budget for last year and had a question… excluding this job, when you’re at a location for an extended period of time, why don’t you get one large LPG tank instead refilling the rv tanks.

    • We did use that while we were in Alaska so now are plumbed for it. Good idea for the future if we ever were in a situation that called for lots of propane. We try to stay away from generator use to be honest. The propane one sucks a regular size tank in 6 hours when the AC is running. If I could do it over I would have gotten gas

  5. When we were in Q last Spring a camper there got bit on his hand by a rattlesnake (without looking he reached under his stairs). It was on the news that his treatments would cost $9,000 each and I think he needed six treatments. If he were in Los Algondones, Mexico an hour away treatments would be $200 each.

  6. If the motion sensor chimes when someone is at the gate, why do you need to stay awake? I can see where they wouldn’t want you to be in your PJs, curled up in bed, fast asleep. But why can’t you doze while you’re on watch ?

    • You can..I’m just not sure if I can wake up and be alert enough to open the gate and check someone in. Opening the gate is a little tricky so wouldn’t want to be stumbling around. Going to play it by ear though and see

      • That makes sense. And.some folks go comatose as soon as they close their eyes ! while others can doze AND keep one eye open .
        Thx for clarifying..

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