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Don't Be Afraid of Change

Sitting here in the gone away night of a Saturday, I can’t help but think of past days in my life where I was just starting a new job. I did a quick tally and it looks like I have tried around 7 different careers. Some of the branches intertwined at times and not all of them were as successful as the one left behind or the new one, but they have all been interesting. Dairy farmer, truck driver, corporate suit, internet entrepreneur and heavy equipment operator have all served to put food on the table and beer in my belly. Not to mention two kids who are also counted among the survivors of my life.

The Old Girl gets new shoes.

Friday was a tough old day. You don’t stay 4 months in one place without spreading out and accumulating more ‘stuff’. Thank goodness for the Desert Tan Baby.  Things that would normally have been carefully jig saw puzzled into the underbelly of the Old Girl were easily stored in the Baby for deployment at the new location.  Things like electric umbilicals, DISH dishes, mud porches, walk boards and external propane tanks all found their way into the safety of the Baby’s tarped enclosure.  Miss Kathy was going to drive the Suburban pulling the Baby and I reminded her about pulling a loaded trailer, turning too short etc etc ad nauseum.  She eventually was forced to shut my old nagging, worrisome ass down cold by reminding me she drove from California to Texas in an ’88 Toyota pick up pulling a travel trailer.  Point taken.

We got the new tires mounted on the Old Girl with much less trouble than I anticipated.  The tire wranglers at Discount Wheel and Tire on Texoma Parkway in Sherman did it for $17.50 a tire and a $10 disposal fee and I did not even buy the tires there.  Hats off to ya boys!  You done good.  Soon enough, we were westbound on US 82 out for Grayson County headed for Gainesville and points west.

Setting up at the gate

Back in September, a curious chain of events unfolded.  We were watching a Texas Country Reporter piece on a guy that made writing pens out of wood he turned on a lathe; not unusual I guess for an older gentleman making a little retirement income.  The unusual part was that he did it under a canopy shelter while they were working as oil field gate guards.   We both got very excited because we immediately knew we had the equipment to do the job and most likely, it was a job Miss K could do without hurting her back any further.  I remembered a thread on RV.net about a gentleman who was actively working in this field and I contacted him via PM that same afternoon.  He was gracious enough to fill in some details and also give me references on 3 companies he had worked for.  On Monday, we contacted his top two picks.   Well, we called and called and called and never got a response back.  Sometimes you just gotta make your own luck and that is when we made the trek to South Texas to present ourselves face to face to these gate guard folks.  That did the trick.  We told them we would be available sometime after the first of the New Year.

When January 1 rolled around,  we started putting the dirt moving behind us and moved ahead with the oil field gate guard thing.  It was just a matter of waiting on an open slot to come up.  The call came two weeks ago.  A couple had been at this gate for two months and they needed a break.

I started following a few gate guard blogs in the late Fall, just to get an idea about how that life works.   From reading the blogs,  I found out the guards are only necessary when the drilling company is actively working on the well itself.  Drilling, fracking, work over rigs all require the presence of a 24/7 gate guard to control access to the site.  Notice I said control access  –we are not armed and we do not provide security in the sense of the word.

Heavy traffic rolling by the Old Girl

Most sites consist of a gate at some distance from the actual drilling site. You park your RV right off the access road, put out a stop sign and some night lights, buy a clipboard and some pens and you are in business. Duration of the assignment can last for a few days if a work over rig is in there to a couple of months if drilling has just started.

Our situation up her on the North End of the Barnett Shale is just a bit different. Down in that Ft. Worth, Barnett Shale means natural gas. They punch the hole down and move on to the next pad. Up here in Montague and Cooke counties, they are getting oil as well as gas and that makes this primo real estate. This gate is BUSY–busier than any I have read about in the blogs. The reason? They are actively drilling on more than one pad at the same time and all access is through this one gate. We have two rigs drilling on site now and one work over rig running. Today, a third drilling rig is supposed to arrive. With several wells in production, we also have tankers coming in to remove the crude oil. The couple we replaced said they have had as many as six rigs here at one time. That activity equates into hundreds of vehicles entering and leaving in a single day– any day and any time. Weekends and nights have little significance here. With oil over $100/barrel and a shortage of rigs to do the drilling; they never stop.

What they call Full Hook Ups in the oil fields

We are boondocking but not in the common sense of the word. One of the reasons we wanted to work for this company is because my RV.Net contact said they have the best support equipment. Let me run down the equipment list for all of you hard core RV’ers. The flatbed trailer in the picture has a 10kw generator being powered by a surprisingly quiet little diesel. It has a 50amp, 30 amp and a 110v receptacle. I have cords plugged into every receptacle. 🙂 . There is also a 500 gallon water tank on the trailer with a 12v RV on demand water pump. Loading out the trailer is a diesel tank with adequate supply to feed the 20 gallons or so a day the little Perkins needs to work. The two large black tanks on the ground are septic holding tanks. The round tank next to the Old Girl is a lift station. It has a float inside and pumps into the two black tanks when the float is activated. Driveway lights and driveway alert bells are also provided. The company has a guy that comes by every 10-14 days to service everything and replenish the fuel and water.

So what is the good and bad about this oil field gate guard thing? I couldn’t say; just being 36 hours into it and all. I will say it is dusty as hell and noisy –nothing new for the Old Girl there. One of the reasons I have such an affinity for West Texas is because of the people you find out there…. and a big part of West Texas is the Oil Patch and the roughnecks and drillers that work there. We have not met a single person so far here that did not return a smile or a kind word. Many times in this rough old world, a tough job is made easier because of the people you meet along the way. Looks like we might have lucked out again in that respect.

End Note: Anticipation by Carly Simon from the Tapestry cd. Man oh man did I have the hots for Carly Simon back in the day. Yeah, these are the good old days.

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4 comments to Don’t Be Afraid of Change

  • Joel

    Nice post, Andy. Glad you’re doing well.

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  • coal

    Well thats a cool gig, but you might get bored after awhile?? big change from running heavy equipment no? Like how they provide the power water and sewer system, they don’t fool around.

    Looking forward to more info and good luck

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  • don

    Good luck with your new job. It sounds like it will take you both to keep that gate going. If the money is as good as the equipment they have set up for you, it should be great! (I think your brother paying you ‘scale’ sucks, btw.)

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