First Time Gate Guarding – Days 40 – 41

Day 40 

We found out yesterday (from our neighbor at the ranch next door) that our drilling rig will be leaving here Sunday and Monday.  When I asked what came next, I was told that for us it would be the fracking stage.  We have seen an increase in new traffic over the last few days.  Lots of salespeople, lots of new vehicles to put into the system, but for whatever reason we both seem to be settling into the new traffic program.  I think it’s just a big shock when you jump from 70 trucks a day to 120, and since there is never any notice, it’s hard to be mentally prepared for it.  But then the higher volume becomes the new norm and you simply adjust your behavior accordingly.  For me that involves reading more books and staying outside more.  For some reason I get more annoyed when I am doing something electronic and definitely it’s worse when you have to go from inside to outside.  The temperature is absolutely cooperating with this as well, as the wind has died down and temps are in the 60’s and 70’s.

I was also pretty entertained by lots of bird activity across the street.  Lee said he saw an ATV over there so maybe they dropped some more carcasses but there were some turkey vultures going nuts in that area.  They were a bit camera shy, but I did get a couple of good pics and it was a nice thing to look at while I was waiting on trucks.  I know people have a bias against certain carrion eaters, but when they were flying I thought they were quite beautiful.  Took around 100 pictures so I did get a few good shots and my first ever of a turkey vulture.  I always love getting new birds. Plus you gotta love digital cameras.  I am old enough to remember film, when you just couldn’t afford to take that many shots.

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Loved the beautiful white wings

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Before you judge mentally remove the red head and replace with a white fuzzy head. Not that dissimilar from the pictures we took of bald eagles this summer.

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Really beautiful in flight

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I walked over and grabbed a couple of shots when they were on the ground

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But they quickly moved into the trees when they saw me. This one was making a really pretty cooing noise

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This Crested Caracara was pushed further back from the gate area.

Like I said quite a bit going on.  I saw the Turkey Vultures, Crested Caracara, and a couple Harris Hawks in the same general area.  The Turkey Vultures definitely had the size advantage so they were claiming the closest trees, but the others were hovering close by.  And yes it is kind of gross, but they do perform an essential function.  I personally appreciate it because the  rotting flesh smell is almost totally gone from over there. So whatever they are doing it is working.

It’s funny I said we were getting used to the busier pace because of course as soon as I said that things slowed way down.  Lee ran a report and I only had 4 trucks between 9pm and 4am last night.  It does feel a bit like the calm before the storm though, so I’m interested to see what tomorrow will bring.  Since they are moving the rig to the ranch next door we are not sure what that will do to our end date.  Lee and I put together a rough travel plan today that will take us from here to Vegas to Oregon to Indiana, Columbus, Keene, and then to South Carolina.  There is lots of ambiguity in the schedule, which would have driven me nuts in the past, but it isn’t bothering me at all now.  If we have extra time we know where we want to spend it, and if not then that’s OK too.

Quick Update:  I am glad we started planning because I talked to the company man this evening and he said all three wells here are drilled. That’s how out of the loop I am, I thought they would be doing them start to finish sequentially.  I guess it makes more sense to drill all three at the same time, so the next steps are a week for cleaning up, 1-1/2 weeks of fracking, then another 4-5 days cleanup then done.  That puts us out earlier than expected, but those are also very rough estimates and anything could happen. On the one hand we could use the extra money if it goes long, but on the other hand we haven’t had any time off to speak of since last April.  We could use a break.  Willing to play it out however it works for us.  Even if this one ends the ranch owner does have another ranch and they could send us to that location.  Like I said, either way is fine but want to be prepared for any eventuality, which means taxes and recipe book are 100% the priority for the next three weeks.

Day 41

Well the busy is definitely here.  Lee took over 100 trucks between 4am and noon when I woke up, and he looks a little harried.  It’s not just that most are big trucks, but also that some are turning right to go to the ranch down the street and others are turning left.  Plus it’s super dusty today and in the short time I was covering for him while he ate lunch, I got clouds of dust in the face several times.  Most drivers try to slow down as they near the gate, which helps, but some sort of slam on the breaks right before the gate and of course a cloud of dust ensues.  We are hearing rain tomorrow, which I am on the fence about because it would help with the dust but not sure I want to try this out if it’s a mud ball.  Maybe we will get lucky and just get enough rain to help with the dust but not enough for mud.

I offered to give Lee extra time for lunch, but he was committed to barreling through, so I decided to leave for a bit.  There is a small food place that has inexpensive sandwiches down at the local truck stop that everyone says is really good so wanted to try that out.  (Turns out they close at 2pm on Sundays and I just missed it so I got Burger King instead).   Plus I wanted to get some pictures of Dilley and since we need bread and I have to go to town anyway I thought why not now.  I made great progress on the recipe book last night and finished the Income/ Expense section of the taxes so I am going to give myself a little treat.  It’s funny though when being in a place is open ended you tend not to do things because there is always another day.  As soon as you know things might end soon there is a flurry of activity.  That is one of the downsides of staying in one place for too long, it can lead to complacency.   When we are traveling more frequently we find we make the most of every day.

Picked up these yummy cupcakes for 50 cents a piece to support the local cheerleading group

Picked up these yummy cupcakes for 50 cents a piece to support the local cheer leading group

When I came back Lee was even more cranky.  He was up to 150 trucks and felt like he hadn’t had more than a few minutes between trucks all day.  And before I go further, yes, we knew this was coming, but knowing a thing and being mentally prepared for it are two different things.  We fully realize there are lots of ifs in this equation.  If it was a twelve hour shift and we had some time off, if we were getting paid more money, if our need was greater and all factors that could change the way we feel.  But right this second at least, it’s simply not worth it.  Hopefully this is a blip and we can go back to a more sedate pace, but that’s not for sure.  We definitely are committed to seeing this assignment through in any event and then making our evaluation, but for us at least there is a cumulative effect. I’m going to stop now and go relieve him early.  It’s a little after 3pm and he usually ends at 4pm but I think he’s had enough.  I’ll let you know how my night goes.

So it’s been an hour and it’s been super busy.  Trucks every 3-5 minutes and I am covered in dust.  I have been sitting out there trying to think about what this is so different than the first few days when the volume was about the same and I figured it out.  Then we didn’t have to open or close the gate, or log trucks in, just count them.  Most of these are in the database thankfully, but that takes more time.  We had a water truck that was coming through throughout the day when they were building the road and that helped with the dust.  Now not only are we getting our dust but also lots from the main road where the increased traffic going to the other gate.  Also this time people are going both left and right and the folks turning right are making a really tight turn which has brought them very close to hitting the gate several times.  And of course the gate.  Early on it was open constantly so there was minimal getting up and down.  Now we open and shut it between almost every truck (unless we see one on the road coming towards us) so for me it’s read a couple pages of my book, get up, get a face full of dust opening the gate, log them in/out while they are pulling through, shut the gate, sit down start reading and repeat.

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Almost all big trucks taking equipment to the other ranch and then coming back empty

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A few of these, not sure what they are for

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The trucks had a tight turn to make that left

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That cloud of dust comes right up to the date and gets me almost every time

On the plus side, they completely removed that loud pump and the hose so hopefully I will never have to listen to that again!!  It was funny though because when the guy came to get the water hose, it was buried so deep across the road he had to pull out a hand saw and cut it.  Cracked me up.  Plus he was a cutie and very nice.  Called me ma’am a lot.  Alright I am going to leave this here, and get back outside.  At 6:20pm they said they were done for the day!!  Hallelujah.  They will be back tomorrow though and we will see what that brings.

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6 thoughts on “First Time Gate Guarding – Days 40 – 41

  1. The Halliburton truck is what holds cement while they’re running casing into the finished well. The cement holds the casing in place. You should have seen these kinds of trucks each time they finished drilling a well.

  2. Those vultures are pretty birds in flight. Nice pictures. Now I see why you two complain of the dust. It looks bad in your pictures. Wonder if you wear any type of mask to keep it out of your nose and lungs. Sure that would be a hassle though.

    I really don’t understand that rule of having to keep the gate closed. They should make those big wigs come down and work for a day and see what happens.

    • I agree with you on the big wigs. I won’t hold my breath. I thought about wearing a mask it got so bad but some of the trucks do drive slower so it’s not every time. It would have been good though I agree

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