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Don't Be Afraid of Change - #2

February 2011. First gate guard assignment outside Muenster,TX in the Barnett Shale.  Everything in this pic is GONE 'cept for the Bigg Ass Suburban!

February 2011. First gate guard assignment outside Muenster,TX in the Barnett Shale. Everything in this pic is GONE ‘cept for the Big Ass Suburban!

One of the things I like about myself is I have never been scared of change.  I’ve changed careers, wives and hair styles with with aplomb and grace.  Don’t bother me a bit most times he said with an almost straight face.

Back in February 2011,  Me and Little Blondie decided to do the oil field gate guard thing and we stayed in the Barnett Shale until the following January.  The Barnett was closing down;  we were such rooks we didn’t even realize it until months later.   We were working for Gate Guard Services out of Corpus at the time making the then standard $125 per day.   GGS is a wonderful outfit if you are a noob just getting your feet wet for the first time in the oil patch.  We were fortunate to choose them initially and I still recommend them for first time gate guards.

When the Fort Worth GGS office had no decent gates left to give us, we called the GGS office in Carrizo Springs, South Texas and sure enough they had a gate for us — in Far West Texas!  We ended up outside of Iraan /Ft. Stockton / Balmorrhea for the next few months.  I am glad we didn’t stay any longer than that.  West Texas is a different environment if you are an oilfield gate guard.  The distances are greater, everything is more expensive and gate assignments are not as plentiful  –all for the standard $125 a day.  We both loved West Texas but certainly did not care for being a gate guard out that way. I would not recommend it.  I hear the gate guard companies are now having to pay a premium rate to get gate guards to go out that way.  I guess word got out, huh?

Three months out there and GGS got outbid on the contract and we were huntin’ another home.  Ended up this time outside of Catarina, Puckerbrush Country, South Texas by providence and the grace of God. We were still with GGS, still making $125 a day.  Well sir,  we asked for more money.  Other gate guard companies were beginning to see the light and pay their guards more; not GGS.  Then they came out with their non disclosure agreement and it chapped my ass–bad!  After a year or better outside of Catarina for GGS, an opportunity came up at a gate 30 feet away from us  — at $200 per day.  I had been watching the goings on at our neighbors for a good while and I knew that other gate guard company did not have the choice equipment nor provide the support that GGS did.  I also know that I was a low drag gate guard who took care of most of the problems in house and we were a no snivelin’ household.  GGS knew this but they didn’t care to pay for it. Why not jump ship and get paid handsomely to do what we were already doing?  Ummm, do the math!  300 days average per year on the gate for GGS equals $37,500.  Same number of days on the gate for the new outfit equals $60 grand.  That NDA BS punched our ticket as far as I was concerned.  Adios Gate Guard Services.

The new folks.  October 2014 north of Los Angeles, TX

The new folks. October 2014 north of Los Angeles, TX

I am going to do something uncharacteristic here and name some names because they deserve it.  When we jumped ship we went with KC Services out of Laredo.  They paid top dollar for gate guards at the time  – $200 per day.  They are still at the top of the scale as far as I know.  That was 2 years and 3 months ago.  Along the way, we had to take care of some problems ourselves and do without the hand holding that GGS is known for.  You have to have your Big Boy pants on to work for KC.  We knew that going in and whenever we had to deal with a problem or there was a minor glitch in the plan, Little Blondie would look at me and say “That is why we are making the BIG money!”  ‘Nuff said!   KC Services number is (956)-791-0064.   Anna is the office manager.  Kim is the Boss Lady.  These are GOOD people friends and neighbors!  I loved them alot.  Before you go rushing for your iPhone to call ‘em up just be *******strongly*********  advised that if you are an inherent whiner or a sorry slacker this is NOT Repeat NOT the gig for you.  They will eat you alive and spit out the bloody pulp.  In the same vein, if you are a noob, stay away.  Get that first gig with GGS or somebody that don’t mind holding your hand an itty bitty.  I don’t care how full of yourself you are, how you really believe down in your hearts of hearts you and wifey are going to be the best gate guards ever,  the Puckerbrush and the daily grind of this gate guard job have a way of turning even the best intentioned folks inside out.

So along about the end of September, the  Ranch Manager drove up and the window slid down indicating it was time for a chat.

Him: “You heard anything?”  He usually starts a chat like that.

Me: “No sir. You?”

Him: “Got a call from Houston. They are replacing your company here on the gate.  I told them you needed to stay because I don’t sleep good at night when you are not here.  You know this.” 

My mind was going a hunnert miles an hour.  Talk about left field!  I had no clue this was coming down the pike.

About all I could do was say “Well thanks.  I appreciate that.”

Him: “They said they were going to call you and the new gate guard company was going to be in touch with an offer. Let me know what you decide, OK?”

Me: “Yes sir.”  The window went up and he drove off.  He don’t say much.

I got a call from Houston Corporate three days later and they did in fact want me to remain here with the new company.  They told me who the New Folks were and that they would be in touch.  Alrighty then.  3-4 more days go by and I am wondering why the New Folks haven’t contacted me.  The separation date was October 6 and we were pushing right up on it.  Hell, I was out most mornings hauling detritus collected over two years off to the trash trailer.  I was picking stuff up and storing it away in the DTB. I even got the go ahead from the Big Man here on the Ranch to pull the No Princess Palace over to his facility and squat for a week or so if I got blown out of here.  In the meantime, KC called me with an attractive assignment down on the border that was just a daytime gate.  Real tempting……

The dreaded iPad gate guard checker inner thingy

The dreaded iPad gate guard checker inner thingy

I just kept waiting on that phone call from the New Folks.  One hot ass afternoon I was sitting in the cool of the inside and I spied  a strange Superduty tentatively deciding if they wanted to come in the gate or not.  When you been at the same place for over two years, vehicles that don’t belong just scream back at ya.  I grabbed up the clipboard and stepped out into the furnace to see what they might be wanting.  It was the New Folks.  They decided they might oughta check out this gate guard that Corporate rated so high in person instead of blowing it off with a phone call.  Extra credit for them.

The next 2 hours was just a blur of stacks of paperwork, shirts and pants and an iPad.  Then a few minutes of “We are the new sheriff.  Here are the rules.”   Boil it all down and I have to wear khaki pants and a logo’d shirt and cap….. and use an iPad instead of paper logs.  On my end, I got a raise on my single guard daily rate and I am an employee with full benefits in 90 days.  I welcome the help on the taxes –that was getting to be a pain!!! and it will be nice to get some company health insurance.  They also do direct deposit weekly - that is sweet!   The iPad that everybody carries on so about?  I signed on to do a job that uses an iPad.  I knew that going in.  That’s all I’ll be saying about that.

I am 10 days or so in with the New Folks and I have had to make a few minor changes.  I can’t wear a short sleeve t-shirt out in this UV.  Already too much sun damage on the old bod and I don’t need no more.  Next thing is I am gonna give them back those khaki pants  – too Wal-marty cheap for me.  Last few years when I am not Wearing the   Wrangler 13MWZ Jeans,  I like the 5.11 Men’s Cotton Tactical Pant . They wear like iron and they feel substantial on this wrinkled old ass. They just do.  (I appreciate it when you click those Amazon links folks.  The light don’t stay on here without a few pesos to pay the bills)

 

 

 

 

 

End Note:  Undone by Nathan Hamilton from the Receive album.

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$80 Oil, Ebola and iPads

Irraan,TX - January. 2012

Irraan,TX – January. 2012

Many things in this ol’ world have next to nothing to do with me so I try to concentrate on the things where (A) I can make a direct difference or (B) I am directly affected good or bad.   We were in the Barnett Shale Late Winter 2011 / Early 2012 when things started to go south. Maybe somebody was looking out for us and maybe it was just pure dumb luck but we got out with no downtime. Beginning in December, the assignmenst started to get leaner and less attractive.  By January, it was a full scale stampede to get the hell out of there and in 3 short weeks the area was a ghost town. Crude oil was hovering around $82/barrel and natural gas prices were in the  cellar.

$90 per barrel and above is where I like to see the price.  I know my skill set is going to be in demand because everybody is blowin’ and goin’ in the oil patch at that price and you gotta make that money while the going is good.  Last Fall it was craziness down here in the Puckerbrush.   Crude oil was well over $100 and everybody was in a head long rush to make sure they got their piece of the pie.   The only thing that mattered was getting those holes punched and the wells online  –hang the cost!  This Fall??  Not so much.  Oil slipped below my comfort zone of $90 this week.  Part in due to a strong dollar and part in due to increased production with lessening demand.  T.  Boone Pickens was on Bloomberg today and he said he would keep drilling out in the Permian even at $80 and maybe even $70.  Many won’t, let me tell ya.  When the price drops below $90 I make sure there are a few more dollars in the reserve kitty.  I curtail long range plans which involve capital expenditures.  I play it lots closer to the vest.   Pretty soon now,  if the price continues downwards, rigs are going to be stacked, wells shut in and guard gates will close.   Just sayin’…………

 

…………

 

I had an unsettling thought this week when every lead story on the news was ebola.   Our southern border, just a few miles south of where I am sitting this very minute, is more open and porous than it has been in a decade. With the growing number of illegals crossing the border,  my concerns about public health escalate.   The jury is out as to whether or not the enterovirus affecting children in the United States was originally introduced from south of the border.  My main concerns personally are increased risk for tuberculosis, scabies and dengue fever.  I *actively* stay as far away as possible from the occupants of any vehicles I interact with, gone are the days of a casual hand shake with a stranger.  I have Purell Hand Sanitizer at every sink and by the door and I use it often.

Back to that unsettling thought………. What if they diagnosed a case (or cases) of ebola in Mexico City or Guatemala or Panama? Would a tide of humanity head north to seek refuge in Los Estados Unidos?   You know the media would hype the new infections south of us to the max.  Those that are scared of the inability of the inferior public health systems to deal with an ebola outbreak are going to strike out for a place they feel protected.  Those already infected or even suspicioning they might be infected are going to seek treatment in the United States.  I would do the same.  The Border Patrol is ill prepared to interdict  such a  human wave crossing our borders.  Now, mind you, I know you got to work at it a little bit to actually be infected with the ebola virus but the ebola is not what concerns me. I am concerned these illegals  are going to have TB or scabies or dengue fever;  that is what scares me.  I am sure I will get some comments that the ebola risk is minimal unless you have traveled to Africa or been in contact with someone who has.  Granted, I believe that even though the U.N. says they expect 1.2 million cases by January 2015.  The ebola does not have to be as pervasive a threat as the bubonic plague if the media chooses to hype it as the lead story 24/7.   That will be quite enough to start the hordes north.

……………..

I work 75 miles north of the border.  I do not know if you realize myself and many of you fall within the 100 mile Border Zone where our Constitutional Rights are interpreted differently.  This is not new legislation –  it was passed in 1953.

 

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from random and arbitrary stops and searches.

According to the government, however, these basic constitutional principles do not apply fully at our borders. For example, at border crossings (also called “ports of entry”), federal authorities do not need a warrant or even suspicion of wrongdoing to justify conducting what courts have called a “routine search,” such as searching luggage or a vehicle.

Even in places far removed from the border, deep into the interior of the country, immigration officials enjoy broad—though not limitless—powers. Specifically, federal regulations give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. “external boundary.”

In this 100-mile zone, Border Patrol agents have certain extra-Constitutional powers. For instance, Border Patrol can operate immigration checkpoints.

Border Patrol, nevertheless, cannot pull anyone over without “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation or crime (reasonable suspicion is more than just a “hunch”). Similarly, Border Patrol cannot search vehicles in the 100-mile zone without a warrant or “probable cause” (a reasonable belief, based on the circumstances, that an immigration violation or crime has likely occurred).

In practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people. These problems are compounded by inadequate training for Border Patrol agents, a lack of oversight by CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the consistent failure of CBP to hold agents accountable for abuse. Thus, although the 100-mile border zone is not literally “Constitution free,” the U.S. government frequently acts like it is.

 

Read the rest here.

……………..

Man oh man, there has been a shit-ton of griping and bitching about gate guard companies going to the iPad for electronic gate log recording.

Why so much complaining?????  More gate guard companies are instituting the use of iPads thus more gate guards are affected and the volume knob gets cranked up.

Why are the gate guard companies switching over to the iPads?   More oil companies are specifying their use as a term of the contract.

Why are the oil companies requiring an iPad?  Two fold answer.

1) Digital data. Most of the data they accumulate is ALREADY in digital format.  You see all those yagi antennas and solar panels on the completed pad?  Yep, they are transmitting data somewhere.

2) Liability.   Say, heaven forbid, there is a fatality at a location. Lawsuits ensue and the attorney for the deceased family starts hammering the oil company about standard practices and procedures.  “You did not avail yourself of the latest technology which might have prevented this?”  “Why not???”  “Other oil companies doing similar business are using this advanced technology?”  “Why are you cutting corners?”  “Are you cutting corners in other areas as well?”

I made a forum comment the other day and said “I predict within two years we will be required to have training in EMS, fire fighting and evacuation procedures.  We will all be working out of a guard shack and using an iPad to log traffic.”

I stand by that completely.  The days are disappearing when you could be a crippled up senior citizen that barely navigates the door and steps with a 25 year old trainwreck of an RV.   I have seen the gate guard locations that look like a homeless camp and even 3-4 years ago, it made me say “WTF is up with that????”  You think the EHS Admin for the oil company is going to put up with that kinda crap in the months to come?  Not hardly.

I am more techno-belligerent than  the next 20 people I know.  I still love and adore my Motorola Razr flip phone fer chrissakes!  Still yet, I am not going to be a curmudgeonly old fart when it comes to accepting inevitable change.  I GOT OVER IT you see and I advise all of y’all to do the same.  I weighed the options friends and neighbors; this is the real world after all.  It is not always cute puppies and soft bunnies.  Cleaning the toilets in a campground for room and board just doesn’t come close to cutting it for me.

End Note: Wasp’s Nest  by Ray Wylie Hubbard from A: Enlightenment  B:Endarkment.  Little heard.  Worth a listen.

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Time to go inward...........

Selfie.   Summer 2014

It’s time to go inward, take a look at myself
Time to make the most of the time that I’ve got left
Prison bars imagined are no less solid steel

Time to go inward would you believe that I’m afraid
To stare down the barrel of the choices I have made
The ghost of bad decisions make mountains out of everything I feel

—-Time to go inward…… Rodney Crowell

Selfie. Summer 2014

Been getting some email from folks checking in on me to see if things are okey dokey at my house. They are. I’ve said it before that if I don’t have much to say, I

Continue reading Time to go inward………..


Scaredy dogs

Sourdough bread goodness from my own starter

Scaredy dog!

Got a scaredy dog under my feet at the dinette this morning which is the Command Center and Staging Area here at the No Princess Palace.  Scooched into a spot I wouldn’t think a chihuahua could get into.  All shaking and panting and generally terrified.  She is gun shy and today is the first day of dove season here in the Pucker Brush. Bein’ as how this is a hunting ranch you have to expect men in camo totin’ 12 gauges are gonna show up sooner or later.  She has been this way with gun shots and smoke

Continue reading Scaredy dogs

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