Our water was refilled today and since we had a full week of water usage we have a better idea of how this is going to go for us. Turns out just fine. We get 300 gallons each week and that’s enough to shower every day (roughly 100 gallons), do dishes every day (roughly 70 gallons), drink lots of water (roughly 20 gallons); we are filtering it twice before drinking, and with what is left over we can even do a couple loads of laundry. I’m glad, because being on water restrictions would make this a lot less pleasant. We do keep our showers on the short side and then on water day I take an extra long one lol. As Lee mentioned he is starting a spreadsheet this week so more data to follow. Update: We never saw our water guy so around 6:00pm I texted and was told he would be here tomorrow evening. He said based on last weeks usage we should have 120 gallons. I explained we had 15 gallons left because last week was not a full week and we used some of our own fresh storage tank. His response was “10-4”. Alrighty then. I have to say this really bugs me. Not so much that it’s late, but there was no notice. Our fresh water tank is full and we consider it our emergency reserve but I think we have a reasonable right to be notified if there will be a delay in services. We do our job every day with no issues, all they have to do is provide us with clean water, generator fuel, and pump out service. In the last two weeks there was an issue with the water, a delay to a delivery, and we ran out of generator fuel once. I’d love to just shrug it off and say these things happen, but I don’t think they would feel that way if I stopped opening the gate one night, so fair is fair. It’s just another example of companies not putting people first, and since this company provides services provided by people you would think they would make taking care of their resources a priority. Obviously I am annoyed.- Tracy
The other thing that happened today was our Account Manager stopped by with the owner of the gate guarding company. We hadn’t seen anyone from the company in over a week so I was surprised when they stopped by. She started by giving me a hard time for not wearing my bright yellow vest, but after that things were fine. Update: I put this out as a question on our Facebook group and apparently everyone wears their vest. Getting hit by a truck is a real concern and since I work at night I should be extra vigilant. They also made the point that if you weren’t wearing the vest you wouldn’t get worker’s comp which is another good point. Alright, I will wear the vest already, but I won’t like it! – TracyThey observed us for a while and I think it was obvious we know what we are doing. We talked a bit and then they left, but before they did the account manager mentioned getting someone to give us a break for a couple of hours so we could spend some time together. This is something that was mentioned in our orientation as well, but the person who used to do that is now part time. Since the account manager brought it up I said, “Well, our anniversary is Feb 4th”. Crickets. It’s OK if the company doesn’t do this, because apparently it’s not a common practice with other gate guarding companies, but if you are not going to do it, then you really should stop mentioning it. They are also unable to give us any idea how long this job is going to last. It seems like to some extent it is the nature of the business, but I am not sure how people make this work other than sitting around and waiting for new assignments to open up. Back when folks were making more money per day they could probably afford to have gaps in their schedule, but at this rate the down time must be quite a bit tougher. Comes down to supply and demand though. As long as more people want the work than there are jobs for them, folks just have to accept the terms, whatever they are. That’s where building a reputation is important. Being high on the list for the next open position minimizes the down time.
The common practice (as I understand it) is gate guards are responsible for finding their own relief and paying them. There are relief lists on the Facebook group and basically folks subcontract with people to cover for a specified time. It’s a pretty common practice, but usually folks do it so they can take a “vacation” or need some time off for a family issue. As I have said before, it’s a small community, so often folks have friends they have cover for them. It doesn’t make much sense for us to go down this path for just a few hours though, so I will probably drive somewhere and get carryout. There is one Chinese buffet in Pearsall, but we could only eat there individually which doesn’t make a ton of sense, and there is a Pizza hut. Lee wants Chinese and I want pizza so we will see who wins. Maybe we can get both.
Oh, and I should also mention that there is a library in Dilley. Apparently it’s small, but it’s there, so we will definitely drop off the books we have ready to donate and check out their wifi. Tommorrow is the first of the month and we are both pretty excited to get some new groceries in here. We’ve had plenty to eat, but are both a little tired of chicken.
Well, I think I finally figured out a solution to the temperature issues while sleeping. Turning the AC on, but at a temperature of 70 degrees, appears to be working well. The fan runs continuously for white noise, but the AC portion only kicks on when it starts to get hot in the morning. I slept pretty well with this system last night. Just in time really, because the temperature levels have risen and it is getting pretty hot in the daytime. It’s OK when you stay in the shade and there is a slight breeze, but direct sun is a killer. So Lee and I are breaking down and buying a cheap pop-up canopy shelter. We looked at several and the weight and size mean it will probably end up being a throwaway item, so we decided on a $46 model we could use temporarily and then let go if we couldn’t find space for it. Between 2pm and 5pm the sun is merciless and the angle of the sun makes our awning completely ineffectual. Since this time period is also pretty busy because of “shift change” or people leaving to eat, we really felt like we needed to do something.
I woke up, took a shower, talked to my mom, and then went outside to cover for Lee. He has a list of errands which include checking out the local libraries wifi and donating books, checking out the Chinese Buffet in Pearsall (that was my idea to help us decide what to have for our upcoming anniversary dinner, and going to Walmart. The water did come early this morning, which was a good thing, because we ran out about midnight last night. Thankfully, we have a full tank now and can make that work, but hopefully the point was made that in the future if there will be delays someone really needs to let us know. I’m doing fine outside, because I have thrown a pair of shorts on and I am trying to get a little sun on my very white legs! Some vehicles you can stay in the shade but others you need to walk out either because of the angle they stop at or because they need to be added to the database. A little sun is OK when you’re mostly in the shade and hopefully I can get a little more brown on my legs without burning.
Overall the truck drivers have been really nice to us, but when someone is not it really stands out. I was inside today helping Lee put away the groceries when a car drove up and honked. Now this rarely happens because we are quick to be outside, but in this case I didn’t see them because I was facing the fridge and Lee was facing the sink. Anyway, I didn’t mind the honk, but I did mind the “Is anyone working?” comment when we walked out. I’ve checked this guy in and out at least a dozen times and he’s never had to wait so I thought the comment was pretty unnecessary. It must have shown on my face though, because when I stated “I was putting away groceries,” he immediately apologized. I checked him out quickly, pretty steamed at the comment, but when he came back in he actually apologized to Lee again so that made me feel better. As Lee says, we are not getting paid enough to be treated poorly and since we know we do a good job a little courtesy is called for.
I do recognize I have been a little short tempered the last couple of days, but I don’t think it’s because the job is getting to me or anything. Then again sometimes those things are hard to tell so it’s probably a good thing that Lee agreed to taking some time off. We are going to be off on our anniversary from 1pm -7pm and are going into San Antonio to see a movie and grab a quick bite. It will be good to step away for a little bit and if nothing else get a change of scenery, so even though it will cost us 25% of what we make that day I think it’s worth it. I also think I need to start getting out a little more in the daytime. I don’t have a ton of time between when Lee eats lunch and when it’s time to start my shift but a couple hours away every now and then would probably do me good.
One good thing; we went to the little library in town and they were thrilled that he brought in so many Louis L’Amour books. Apparently they are big hits down in here in Texas and the librarians were practically giddy. My fantasy books weren’t as big as a hit, but hey, some kid in this town must like dragons and stuff!
Last night was really quiet which was great, and I had the opportunity to try a new recipe called Quickie Donuts. It’s so simple I had to pass it along. Buy a roll of refrigerated biscuits. Heat some oil (I used vegetable but I am going to experiment) to 375 degrees. Use your fingers to make a small hole in the middle of the biscuit. Pop in the oil and fry until golden brown (this took less than a minute per side). Drain and then place in a Ziploc bag of powdered sugar and shake lightly until coated. Eat Warm. These aren’t as good as a beignet, but the work to taste ratio is fantastic! Since the desert section is full, I am adding it to my potluck section. Potlucks in the RV world are different than the traditional ones you think of when everyone has campers close by. Lots of times we have multiple grills running or multiple fryers and food is often cooked to order. I can totally see commandeering a fryer and cooking a bunch of these bad boys up for a little dessert and of course they would be awesome for a breakfast/brunch potluck which we have also done many times.
The only traffic last night came around 3:10am when the enter chime went off. I looked outside, but no truck and since they do false alarm occasionally didn’t think much of it. Then it went off again and I looked out the window and saw either a fox or a small coyote. It was on the edge of our light circle so it was hard to tell. By the time I got the camera it was gone, but it was a little unsettling. No animals have gotten that close to the rig until now (a benefit of somewhat steady traffic), so I will need to be more cautious on slow nights. I did start using our large round light on the side of the rig to enhance the light nearest to us a bit and it worked great. I was worried it would attract bugs, but they stayed over by the big stadium lights on the generator. The main concern is as it starts to get warmer a snake being in the dark part I walk through to get to the lighted gate area, but this little bit of extra light helped quite a bit.
One other thing that’s kind of weird is we are hardly spending any time together. In the beginning we were doing pretty good there but as we have settled in it feels a little like two ships passing in the night. We did sit down to talk about it though and decided breaking up the time we are both awake might work the best so we put together this schedule. Hopefully this will make things a little more equitable and allow us both to enjoy some time off during the day hours.
- 4:30am – 12pm Lee working; I’m sleeping
- 12pm -1pm I’m off; waking up, eating breakfast
- 1pm -2pm Lee’s off, doing lunch and dishes
- 2pm – 4pm I’m off, my chance to leave the site and get stuff done
- 4pm – 6pm Lee’s off
- 6pm – 8pm We both cover, cook and eat dinner
- 8pm – 4:00 am I’m working; Lee sleeping
- 4:00am -4:30am Both cover
Last thing, Lee has finished a few of the home videos and put them out for our kids and relatives to see. It’s interesting watching those from “here and now” because the “then” me could not have even conceived of a life like this. Raising three kids, especially in the younger years, is pretty all consuming and my attention and focus was all about that. What’s really cool about it is the conversations it is sparking between our now adult kids. They remember these events but in the hazy way kids do, and obviously each of their perspectives is pretty narrow. You can see the seeds of their adulthood in certain moments though, which is fun to watch, and their sister dynamics were at play even when they were very small. If nothing else I love that he is doing this for that reason. I wish we would have video of when I was a child to watch, but there is precious little of that because no one had that kind of money. Even for us the purchase of our first video camera was a huge expense ($500 if I remember correctly), but now with camera phones anyone can take videos.
Really the last thing!! We are getting more flies and bees now that the weather is warming up, so Lee is going old school and made a bee catcher with a 2-liter of Mountain Dew. Since the more expensive traps aren’t working on the bees, we will see how this does.
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That donut looks yummy. I will have to try that. My biggest weakness, donuts. Happy Anniversary. Hope you have a great afternoon off together.
Here is a tip on the donuts…If you have a melon baller or even the twist off cap from a wine bottle, it makes awesome donut holes and then you fry them too. Since we serve a large group we heat oil in a large deep sided skillet. We rol/shakel them in sugar/cinamon mix and wallaaa…heaven! We make these all the time on our family RV outings.
I’ll definitely have to try adding cinnamon. Good call!!
Tracy…I just read you latest blog, I don’t think video cameras were available when you were a child! Anyway, Happy Anniversary and hope you and Lee have a GREAT day off.
Awesome donut idea. My granddaughter will be the happy recipient when she comes out to see us in Washington later this year 🤗
Hope your new work schedule works out well, and Happy Anniversary 🌺 tomorrow. Hope you have a great date
Both of our moms were making those donuts when we were kids. I have made them a few times. They were better when the refrigerated biscuits were better in the olden days. A bottle cap does make a good cutout as mentioned. I generally mix cardamon and or cinnamon with my powdered sugar.
Happy Anniversary, hope you have a great time!
Happy Anniversary to you youngsters. God be with you.Enjoy your date and have a nice dinner.
An observation from someone who has gate guarded for more than a few years………
I volunteered to change the oil and filters on the company generator. I am on a slow gate and have the time to do it.
I text my service guy 4 days before I need fuel. I have 10 gallons of emergency diesel on hand just in case.
If my water guy misses a delivery, I run off my onboard tank. He usually shows up the next day. No biggie.
If my generator craps the bed at 11pm on Saturday night, I drag out my little Honda 2000 and fire it up. If it is cool weather, most likely I will call on MONDAY and tell ’em I need a fix. If it is hot and I need AC, I call Sunday and have the nurse trailer buttoned up and ready to go when they get here with a swapout.
Why??????? My experience has been the fellas that service the needs of the gate guard people work really hard. Erratic hours, weekends, call outs when there is a problem etc – they always seem to have more on their plate than they can get done. They work hard and the job can be pretty thankless.
Most new gate guards think establishing a good work rep enhances their employment opportunities. Maybe not so much if you think about it. Gate guarding is not rocket science MOST of the time. You show up to check them in or out in reasonable time and that is pretty much the crux of it. Easy peasy. That may not be the case if you have an emergency onsite. Perhaps a fatality, serious injury, H2S incursion, distillate tanks blowing up, fires or serious oil leaks can change the game in a matter of moments and you best be ready to bring your best game at that point. Things can get deadly serious in a heartbeat and your role will be important and pivotal. Been there and done all those things listed at some point in the past.
What really counts as far as job security and steady employment in this business is low drag. The less burden you are on the company, the fewer resources they expend on you, the less time they have to spend on your comfort, necessities, well being etc the more valuable an asset you are to the company. When the bottom dropped out of the Eagle Ford in early 2014, you better believe when all the gate shuffling was over that the remaining gate guards were most certainly of the low drag variety.
I joke with my supervisor that if I EVER call him, his next call will probably be to 911. He laughs but he KNOWS and I KNOW what I am really saying.
Sorry if this went on for too long and please understand I am not preachifying. I enjoy your blog and it brings back some (good) memories when I was first starting out and trying to understand this oil field business and the odd culture that is so important to its’ success.
Keep up the good work y’all. God bless ya, your hearts seem to be in the right place.
These are really excellent points Andy and I am going to share them in the next blog post
Hi Tracey…..I feel that this is going to be a really stupid question, but I am not familiar at all with the drilling that takes place in Texas, except of course that there are lots of oil wells there! 😁 Why is this a temporary position? It seems to me (like I said I know nothing about the drilling process), that once the well is up and operational they would still need security, even more so. Why do they need guards? Just to check trucks in and out? Can there only be so much truck traffic at a time? Do you have a list of all truck companies that will bringing deliveries in or do they just show up and you have to let them in? If you just let them in, that sort of defeats the purpose of the security part of your job. I guess this makes more than one question, but they are all sort of linked together. Anyway, I hope you can clear some of this confusion in my mind, but if you can’t, that’s okay too. I’ve just been scratching my head wondering….why is this a temporary position if they are digging an oil well?!? By the way, you are right those “donuts” are good….me and my mom use to make them years and years ago, brings back memories …………😁
You know that’s a great question and I don’t really know to be honest. I think once the well is up and operational, they only come by once in a while to collect the oil. That is my impression at least but I am not 100% sure about that. Depends on the contract with the rancher. Maybe someone else can chime in here, because I am just not sure.
My husband explained it this way to me (in very simplified terms!)…Drilling is temporary and involves a lot of gate activity. After the drilling is completed and the production process begins, there’s little to no gate activity. Once the production starts, the drilling moves on to a new sight hopefully if the demand for drilling is there. He works in the communications sector of the oil and gas industry for both land and offshore drilling. The downturn in the industry since 2014 has been devastating to oil and gas communities but the forecast for a resurgence is positive but will be slow to return.
Here’s wishing you “newlyweds” a happy anniversary. Enjoy your date.