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236 Days

The total number of days between Saturday, July 5th, 2014 and Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 is 236 days.

This is equal to 7 months and 21 days.

If you’re counting workdays or weekends, there are 168 weekdays and 68 weekend days.

236 days is equal to 33 weeks and 5 days.

The total time span from 2014-07-05 to 2015-02-25 is 5,664 hours.

This is equivalent to 339,840 minutes.

Tearing down the gate.

Tearing down the gate.

The call;  it wasn’t unexpected ya know. When all the rigs moved out of here end of August I remember thinking ‘If I can just make it to mid-September and get that paycheck, it will be good.’ Here I am the last days of February 2015 and the call to close the gate finally came down. So I am not disappointed or sad. It was a good run and I was paid fairly and as promised. It is over.  I/we were on the same gate just a week short of 2 years and 7 months.  A good long chapter in anybody’s book.

The plan was always to ride this gate as far as it would take me.  Karma, things happen for a reason, it is what it is, so forth and so on. etc;etc.  I just never expected the run after Little Blondie flew south to last 236 days straight without a day off. Christ on a cracker! That was tooooooo long without a break! I guess Guard 1 understood part of that as well.  They gave me 24 hours after the gate closed to get my stuff together.  I needed a tad bit more.  They came and got their stuff and I stayed another 18 hours running Little Blue for power.  With the cool temps, it served just fine since AC was not an issue.

Home for 2 1/2 years!  Looks bleak in this Late Winter day don't it?

Home for 2 1/2 years! Looks bleak on this Late Winter day don’t it?

The plan was always to head out of here if the gate closed for some R&R.  As the oil prices plummeted I also decided something other than gate guarding was probably a prudent job choice.  I had long ago set my sights on the western edge of the Hill Country to lay by for a spell. That area is my most favorite of all places in Texas.  It is far enough out of Austin that the yuppies in their Mercedes and Audi City Slicker SUVs are pretty rare and it is STILL Hill Country.

I called for a reservation Thursday and when the lady asked where I was coming from and I said Cotulla she said ‘Oh my! We were gate guards for Timekeepers south of Cotulla!’  ‘Member what I said about trusting karma and lettin’ it take hold?

 

Thursday was sunshine and shirt sleeves and I worked like a demon to get all the clutter of 2 1/2 years sorted and stowed and throwed away.  Friday was 39 degrees and a stiff wind blowing out of the North.  I had to unhook the utilities, take down the pole with the internet antennas on it and hook the NO Princess Palace  to the Big Ass Suburban.  Tuco the Dog made every step I did!  She knew we were getting ready to leave and she had no intention of being left behind.  Every time I opened a door on the Suburban she was poised to load up should I just give the word.

Various folks stopped through to say their good byes and it was well past 10am before we could even think about hitting the road. It was always my intention to keep the gate all business and I never interjected myself into the private lives of the ranch owner or the oil company employees. Business was business.  Gate guarding is not and never was an opportunity to join someone’s family so the good byes were firm handshakes and accolades for a job done well.  No hugs and no tearful waves pulling out the drive.  Suited me just fine.

Adios!

Adios! Not going to miss that caliche dust on everything!

I had been watching the weather intently for the last few days and knew it was liable to turn to crap the farther north we went.  They were saying icy roads and winter storm advisories and I damn sure didn’t want to wind up in the road ditch or stranded in a parking lot before we made the 300 miles to our destination.  The Big Ass Suburban is going to get about the same fuel mileage towing the Palace whether you are going 50 or 70mph so I just dropped the hammer and let all 500 cubic inches on that GM Big Block growl.   Ran the FM up to Millett and jumped on I-35 north for just a bit to Dilley.  I hate running the Big Roads – period.  Any opportunity to get off on the Blue Roads and see some country is always a priority.  We ran up through Hondo and Bandera with nary a stop until we had to fuel in Kerrville.  It was drizzling sleet and the antenna and front of the Suburban and Palace were coated in ice when we pulled into the Stripes @ $2.19 a gallon.  The temp was 30 degrees and the wind was still out of the north at a brisk clip.  The next pew over had a Cadillac rollin’ on 22’s and rap music blaring at an ungodly decibel level even stopped and the driver outside the car fueling up.  The fella with the gold grill in his mouth and turned around cap give me a good look when I crawled out of the Big Ass Suburban.  I returned his gaze unblinking and he was the first to turn away.   Yeah, yeah, ‘they’ say don’t make eye contact and all that bull shit.  Who the f*ck is ‘they’ anyway?  I’ll be damned if I am gonna tuck my tail before any man.  Maybe I just been too  long down in the puckerbrush and forgot how it is folks play the Urban Social Game these days.  I never was one for following the herd too much anyway.  It is what it is.

Ice!

Ice!

A few miles north and the freezing drizzle had turned into honest sleet and I was getting just a skoosh concerned.  The temp had dropped to 28 degrees when I eased into the yuppie chaos that is Fredericksburg.  Even with a winter ice storm hard upon the town, it still looked like somebody had kicked a fire ant mound. Been like that every time I ever been through there.  Me and Little Blondie even spent the night in an RV park there back in the day.  What was I thinking?

With Fredericksburg fading in the rear view, I finally felt the weight start to lift off my shoulders.  Didn’t matter that the weather was steadily getting worse or that I was flat give out and fading fast.  Onliest thing that mattered to me was that I had achieved escape velocity and I was headed to the country I love best of all that Texas has to offer.

The place we landed is a city park set in a grove of mature pecan trees. 50amp full hookups on dead level pull thrus with free wi-fi.  One week is gonna cost me a hunnert dollar bill. I pulled in, ran the slide out and zeroed in the DISH HD antenna in record time with the cold freezing drizzle falling on me. The rest can wait!  It was 25 degrees and my hands got numb quickly even with gloves on.  Soon as I could, me and Tuco the Dog headed out to town for a beer run.   Been so many months since I had a beer I didn’t even realize Miller Lite had gone back to the retro packaging look. Like to not have found it in the cooler!  A 12 pack was $12.99 at the Stripes.  Noticed a bbq joint in town with a smoker that looked like a boiler out of a steam engine blowing the smoke.  That will bear checking out in a day or two.  In the meantime, I am going to shrug off the weariness of too many days worked and enjoy some time off.

P.S.  Now that I am unemployed and driftin’, y’all hit up those Amazon links purty please. Any help is surely appreciated!

 

End Note: Ain’t Got a Place by James McMurtry from his latest release, Complicated Games.

“You ask me where I’m going and I just grin.”

Another dose of new McMurtry ……  “I’m washing down my blood pressure pill with a Red Bull”  heh!

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Along that Amazon Way

“Anything mechanical breaks eventually.”

Pan seared ribeyes from HEB with a loaded baked potato - Now THAT is good eating!

Pan seared ribeyes from HEB along with a loaded baked potato – Now THAT is good eating!

I was lounging around late Friday night in my cotton flannel camo jammies and enjoying the total absence of late evening traffic on the gate when things went absolutely haywire.  Power out, crap blinking and beeping, the generator sounding all funky.  When Tuco the Dog runs under the dinette to hide it is serious.  I glanced at the remote pendant of the Progressive Industries EMSHW30C Surge Protector and it was showing offline @ 177 volts.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the generator would be a good place to start unraveling the predicament.

The combo unit from Guard 1 was brand spanking new when they delivered it back in December or thereabout.  Perkins 12kw generator with 0 hours, 350 gallon diesel tank,  650 gallons of water and a nifty little toolbox up on the front.  Made me happy it did.  One less set of components to worry about in my mind.  Everything mechanical breaks eventually, new is just less apt to let you down.

Oil field gate guards will tell you nothing ever breaks down at 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon.  It is always zero dark thirty on a weekend.  I looked at my Citizen Eco-Drive Stainless Steel Watch and it said 12:09am on a Saturday morning.   Why should I be any different?  Oh well!  This is a good place to talk about the importance of a good electrical protector for your RV.  I don’t care if you fulltime in a high dollar motor coach and only stay at ritzy resorts, use your RV only on weekends for a retreat at a local state park or if you grind out a living as a gate guard in the puckerbrush; I don’t care.  Sooner or later, you are going to plug in to something dirty or a previously great connection is going to south when you ain’t looking.  This is the third voltage regulator I have had go out when I was using a generator.  ALL 3 went high voltage. All 3 times my EMS protected everything in my RV.  I had two fancy LED road lights hooked to the 20 amp GFCI on the generator when it run wild.  One of ‘em went POOF! immediately the other one was burning real damn bright before I could get it loose so I am betting it is damaged in some fashion as well.  So let me tell you how the cow eat the cabbage here………  Some of you are going to click over to my Amazon link for the Progressive Industries EMS and think to yourself that there is NO WAY you are paying that kind of money for a surge guard.  There are name brand surge guards for a hunnert dollars less you are gonna say!  I know, it happens every time I get on my high horse about the Progressive EMS.  All I got to say about that is do your internet research and then justify not buying this EMS.  You will only have yourself to blame when a dirty power sources fries everything in your RV.

Back to the story now………  I slipped on my crocs, put my  Leatherman Wave Multitool in my pocket
because there would undoubtedly be something to cut or wrench or unscrew.  Picked up my Fenix headlamp hanging by the door  ’cause it was darker than the bottom of a well out there; hollered for the Dog and here I went.  Turned off the generator and watched Tuco the Dog sniffin’ up some night time critters for a few minutes and then fired the genset up once more.  I did not have high hopes that re-starting it would make everything wonderful and good once again because there was a definite smell of burnt up wires in the air.  Sure ’nuff, the EMS was reading voltage all over the board.  144, 197, 163; finally settled in about 155 volts or so and I reached up to turn it off.  No hope here, move along, move along, time for Plan B.

Little Blue crankin' out the power.

Little Blue crankin’ out the power.

If you are a gate guard here in the oil patch you always need that Plan B.  Help is always hours away and if you don’t take care of yourself and plan for failures of all different kinds,  your life is gonna be sour and disappointing to my way of thinking.  I undid the cover on the DTB and grabbed Little Blue and the milk crate of accessories that was settin’ there ready to go in case of an emergency.  Little Blue is my fine and capable Yamaha EF2000iS 2,000 Watt Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator that I bought in November of 2013. It has proven to be a reliable and capable performer with several hundred hours on the clock now.  I had to have some accessories for Little Blue like a Generator Cover-, a magnetic dipstick since Little Blue does not have an oil filter and a Hour/Tach Engine Meter to keep track of service intervals.  I also picked up a power harness that lets me run two Little Blues tied together.   Little Blue will run everything on the NO Princess Place just fine except for the rooftop AC.  When you hook two of them together, it runs the AC just fine.  My Bro bought the same generator and when I was up at the Secret Hideout last Spring I used ‘em both to stay nice and cool.

It didn’t take me long to get Little Blue all hooked up. I fueled it with some good gas out of one of my 20 liter NATO Jerry Can .  This fuel was probably six months old but I knew it was good because I had  treated it with some PRI G Fuel Stabilizer when I put it back AND the NATO cans are not vented so all the volatile agents in the gas don’t just evaporate. The NATO cans are also not CARB compliant — I like that too!  I reckon I was up and running with Little Blue before 1am.  I crawled back in bed on the fold out couch and decided I would wait till daylight to notify my service guy.  No use ruining his Friday night, right?

‘Long about 6am I sent out my text about the generator being down.  By noon, I had a swapout unit in place with enough diesel to run several days and a full tank of water.  I know you folks up north of I-40 ain’t wanting to hear it but it was getting unpleasantly warm in here by the time he showed up with my replacement combo unit.  76 degrees right now on a great lookin’ South Texas day!  Gotta love it!

End Note:  The Front Porch Song by Robert Earl Keen when he was still a Jr.  from The Live Album ca. 1993.   Live from Sons of Hermann in Dallas — which is a whole ‘nuther story in itself.

If you are in New Braunfels on a 4th of July and REK steps up solo and starts to sing this song, well, you just sing along because by God, you know every word.  And you whoop and holler some too because when REK is on stage, it is what you do. It’s  Texas! and it is GOOD!  This is the long version with additional anecdotes.  Need a good dose of Texas?  Well, here ya go!

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The Old Fool

Omaha Steak goodie box

I grew up poor in the Mississippi River Bottoms of West Tennessee.  Wearing jeans to school with patched knees was just the way it was.  I wasn’t the only one and I knew there were kids that didn’t wear patched jeans and homemade shirts but I don’t remember it as a big thing.  Just the way it was…….

One of the events of the year was when we got a side of beef to fill the huge chest freezer in the garage.  By the time we got the new beef there had not been any choice cuts of meat served at

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Mud Smokin'

dublin-pipe

Smokin’ in the mud of a dreary February day

When 2014 rolled up in front of me, one of my resolutions was to become mo’ better at cookery.  Cooking different things in different ways.  Efficient,  adaptive,  resilient and tasty dishes;  that was the endeavor.   It was a Mission.   BFF Cait can tell ya about me and a Mission.  If you asked her  ‘Tell me about  Pops and his Missions” the likely response would be  “Which one? What year?”.  Ask Little Blondie and her response would be “What an a$$hole!”.   Ummm, best not to get between me and the task at

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