I wanted to start of with some thoughts from Andy one of our readers who used to gate guard. I think he makes some excellent points and shows a perspective that is important if you are thinking about doing this.
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.
I appreciate the perspective Andy, and from a business perspective it makes perfect sense. If the job indeed is so easy that anyone can do it, and there is high demand for the job, then sure, whoever costs the least (either in pay or services needed) would get the work. I think personality and relationships help also, but I get it. I will say that although that may be the case, for this kind of money I am not prepared to worry about how much water I use or fuel I use (assuming it is not above what I am guaranteed in my contract) The old me probably would have. I would have worried about being valuable, and not making waves, and being a good little worker bee. I still do a good job, but I am not going to those lengths anymore. I like the job, I would like to do the job again, but if I can’t, then I will find another way to make money. $125 a day is not going to be that hard to beat, so if the position isn’t comfortable along with the low wages, why bother? That’s just me though, and I appreciate you are sharing this, because it honestly didn’t occur to me, but I have no doubt you are right. Company hopping would work in the short-term to make it a non-issue because they wouldn’t know how much you cost in services until you completed a contract, but long-term you might run into a problem. For me I guess my reaction is if they would rather hire someone else to make a couple of extra bucks so be it. I open the gate and shut the gate as professionally as possible. Again, I appreciate you thoughts!
OK, so onto the blog. One of the things that continues to surprise me about Texas weather is its extreme variability. There are two factors that account for that: sun and wind. WE grew up in Ohio so we are no strangers to weather changing quickly from day to day or even moment to moment, but the extremes here continue to surprise. The sun is HOT for one thing. So when the sun is out, regardless of the wind, if you are standing in it it feels hot. This can be managed by going in and out of the shade to some extent and the wind is actually a bonus generally on these days. The wind though, that’s something else. It usually has a real bite to it, and when it’s strong can bring a chill in the shade. When there is no sun it’s downright cold and that’s what we have experienced the last couple of days. Sitting in the truck helps, and we often sit more in our rig and pop outside, especially at night, but the wind can make things challenging for sure. It’s not windy every day though. Some days there is the barest of breezes and other days it is more intense.
We experienced this in Quartzite also and understand that with the wind also comes the dust and it really gets everywhere. In our case though the big 18 wheelers certainly don’t help and we have a pretty thick layer of dust on our rig and the window screens. It’s not a deal breaker for us, but I thought I should mention it because if you are a neat freak you might have an issue with this. I tend to largely ignore it and wipe it up when it gets too bad, but since we are in and out of the rig so much there is little point frankly. The good thing is it’s not super gritty like we experienced in New Mexico. Clouds of dust frequently come our way from trucks, but I don’t feel like I am getting pelted when that happens. Speaking of which, I shower every morning but as soon as I walk outside my hair is pretty full of dust. I try to ignore it the best I can, but it’s worse when it’s getting shaggy as it is now.
We started our new schedule today and I liked it. Breaking up our time together seemed to make sense. Not sure if Lee is a huge fan, but we will give it a few days and adjust as needed. He was much busier today with trucks coming about every 7 minutes for a while. We are pretty sure they are going to start fracking soon and we are seeing more deliveries of equipment coming in. Because of all the trucks he wasn’t able to do as much editing, but he did finish this great sledding video and another one of my youngest’s third birthday party at Chuck E Cheese. Some of these I have never actually seen and others I barely remember so that’s been fun. It’s also been great to pass these videos along to family members and friends who are in them. If I have never seen the video odds are they never have either. Lee is an electronic packrat…lol. In the old days this was way more difficult, but in the digital age all of this information really doesn’t take up that much space though. He’s uploading some of the smaller ones, but eventually he is going to need to make a trip to the library and upload the rest. Our data plan can’t handle this many large files.
The only strange thing that happened this evening was I went out around 10pm to open the gate and I was having a hard time seeing the license plate. I had barely gotten out of the way when a truck with a large trailer flew close enough by me I could feel the wind. That was a first. The truck behind him was from the same company, and I mentioned what had happened and the guy said,. “He is a crank.” My polite response was ,”You might want to mention that he may not care about hitting me for my sake, but if he did he would definitely have a problem.” The guy said he would pass it along. I also wrote down the license plate and will be passing it along to the company man. They keep telling me to let them know if I have any issues, and since this guy is one I haven’t seen before I am going to mention it.
That’s really all for today, really looking forward to our anniversary tomorrow. I did want to take the time though and answer a readers question about our recent budget post. Cathy P asked “Perhaps I misunderstand, but what about a category where money is being accumulated to pay income tax on wages that are not taxed? Something like gate guarding, isn’t that something where they aren’t taking out taxes?” It’s a fair question Cathy, and my leaving it out was in no way an attempt to be disingenuous, but it’s complicated. Individual tax rates are very different and with our new lower income level and our business expenses to write off I have no idea what that rate will be. We are also working some jobs where taxes are taken out (camp hosting, Amazon) this year and others where it is not. We claim zero when we are having taxes taken out and then have some business expenses to help offset the other income. Originally I thought I would take a standard % off of the non taxed income (and I may in future once I have more data), but for now I decided to show cash flow and in this case cash flow is the full amount. We have $6K in tax money put aside that we didn’t use at all last year and are carrying it into 2017. Not sure yet what 2016’s taxes will be so there may be some left over from that or there may not. Once 2017 is done we will have a better idea where we stand going forward and I agree that a percentage should go in that account. We did put 50% of everything we made 1099 earlier in the year in that account which is why it has so much in it, but at this point that doesn’t make a ton of sense. Short answer, if we are working a 1099 job, you will need to mentally adjust the revenue to account for taxes. So far that would be both the Christmas Tree money and anything we work gate guarding. I’ll let you know when I get a handle on how much tax we are actually going to be paying going forward.
Day 26 – Happy Anniversary To Us!
Our relief came an hour early and he was a very sweet older Hispanic gentleman who seemed perfectly content to sit in his truck for 7 hours. Since our hourly wage is only $5.15 an hour that will only be around $38 for him, but he seemed happy to be there. His coming early enabled us to leave by 12:40pm, which turned out to be a good thing because traffic was heavier than we thought it would be. It actually came to a standstill about 4 miles away from the theater., but Google maps rerouted us and the delay was much better than it could have been. Still we arrived at 2pm, the movie started at 3pm, and neither of us had eaten. My original thought was Texas Roadhouse, but the parking lot was packed and there was a 15 minute wait. Instead we went next door to Saltgrass Steakhouse. I had eaten at these a few times on work trips to Dallas and wasn’t a fan, but it was either that or Taco Bell, plus Lee had never eaten there.
Not only did they expedite our food so we could make it to the movie in time, but it was fantastic!! Lee’s steak was cooked perfectly and my ribeye with an “Oscar topping” of crabmeat and lemon butter sauce was amazing. It wasn’t cheap, but we have spent more on lesser quality food and we were both pretty happy. While we ate, Lee admitted he really didn’t want to see LaLa Land. I was pretty bummed since I had picked this theater and time specifically to see it, and actually thought about going to separate movies, but that seemed like a bad idea for an anniversary outing. So we settled on Rogue One and were both pleasantly surprised. I have always been more of a Star Trek lover than a Star Wars fan, but I have still seen them all and in general they are always best seen on the big screen. For some reason I thought the story was a total one-off, but that absolutely wasn’t the case and I really enjoyed both the special effects and the story. Lee is not a huge Sci-Fi fan but he loves big action movies, so this had enough pure action to keep him happy. It was a very nice movie, and then we drove home and managed to make it there by 7pm on the dot. Very nice day and despite the cost, really glad we did it.
Now onto the somewhat mushy part. Last year was our first wedding anniversary on the road and I wrote a bit of a love letter to Lee, talking about our life together. Instead of rehashing that I am going to link to it here. If you’re curious about how we became us, you might want to check that out. This year I wanted to do something a little different. In the spirit of lists, here are the things that Lee does for me every day. Without him I truly don’t know if this lifestyle would be possible for me. Certainly not in this setup. And I think it’s important to share it and say thank you.
- He does most of the driving. I have learned how but was able to learn at my leisure. He, despite having zero experience driving a fifth wheel, jumped right in and never looked back.
- He hitches and unhitches. I am learning, but slowly. Again with no experience he took this over.
- He takes care of the poo. Yes I have learned how, but this is still something he normally deals with and of course it’s not always pleasant.
- He fixes things. It may be clear from the above that I do not naturally have a high mechanical aptitude. Lee does and I can’t even imagine being on the road without someone who have the ability to fix most things. Yes, he went to school to learn more, but that just shows his level of commitment to being self sufficient. On those rare occasions we get into issues he can’t fix it is a total pain in the butt and usually costly.
- He manages our network and electronic storage. We have multiple computers and devices and Lee maintains them along with managing our substantial electronic data collection. This makes my life richer in about 100 different ways and although I am trying to get up to speed, once again it is coming slowly.
- He goes to the grocery store. I make the list and the menu plan and he almost always goes to the grocery store. Some of those trips can be pretty unpleasant, so I appreciate him doing that. It also helps me not impulse buy. Passing up a sale item at the grocery store is pretty tough for me lol.
- He does the laundry. He has done the laundry since the day we moved in together and continues to do it today. That includes most of those infrequent trips to real laundromats which I find so unpleasant.
- He talks to the kids frequently. Since our children are adults we are maintaining long distance adult relationships with them which is not always easy. We decided early on we were each responsible for our individual relationships with them and he does a pretty good job of it. They talk to the two of us about different things usually and I know he has given them all some great advice over the last two years.
- He is the dreamer. Because he dreams big, he had brought many wonderful things into my life. Things I would never had experienced or even thought of frankly.
I’m lucky to have him in my life. Not just because he does all those things of course, but also because of how much he loves and supports me. But in a partnership there should be an equitable distribution of work. When I was working so much and making most of the money, I always felt it balanced out. Since that is over, I have tried to step up and help out in other ways, but it hasn’t always been easy. He’s been pretty wonderful about that. It may all sound pretty practical, but I learned in my early 20’s (when we had two small babies) that true love was changing a dirty diaper. Now true love is taking care of the black tank. So here’s what I think in pictures from the last year. Thank you for all you do honey. I love you.
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