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What About this Oil Field Gate Guard Business?

Sun sets on the gate

One week in. Much of the routine is familiar from job sites gone by. Find the best grocery store, get a temporary PO Box, where is the laundromat? where to get propane? Been there and done that many times over. That is where the similarities end.

I really had no idea just how much traffic was going to pass 25 feet away from the front door of The Old Girl. Sunday and Monday of last week, I would estimate we saw 500 vehicles come and go. Equipment I had no idea as to function, white pickup after white pickup, crew vans, cranes, cement trucks–you name it. I bet some 4 way stops in small towns see less traffic than we do. Many of the guys — and it is almost exclusively male– tell me what they are doing and I nod my head in a knowing way but the truth of the matter is I am just about clueless. Sure, Miss Kathy and I are catching on to all things related to the oil and gas business but it is a complicated dance.

So far the two biggest obstacles have been setting up the routine and getting used to the paperwork. Logging the traffic is not at all hard but both of us have to be on the same page as far as consistent reporting. The schedule is something else all together. One of us has to be up and ready to check somebody in or out ’round the clock. On the surface, doesn’t seem like a huge deal but practical application is a different matter. Miss Kathy and I finally settled on a 12 hour shift. She works through the night — from 5pm until 5am and I take care of the day traffic. The weather has been tolerable and

Lit up like Times Square at night

Miss K has had some trouble adjusting to the sleeping schedule. Because of that, Tuco the Dog and I spend most of our day outdoors, piddling around and running the gate. I managed to crisp the tops of my ears and hands about the second day, I just waited too long to start wearing the big hat it seems. Tuco seems to enjoy it the most of all.

Most of our equipment is provided for us. The company gave us a set of driveway alarms that spread across the road both above and below the Old Girl. They are the old pneumatic type bell ringer deal that the services station used to have. Thank goodness we are not using those maddening things! Instead we are using  the Mighty Mule FM231 Wireless Driveway Alarm.   It is not one of those infrared beam deals that is set off by dust blowing and grass waving in the wind.  You bury a sensor just off to the side of the driveway and it detects changes in the electromagnetic field when a vehicle passes.  We have two set up and they are 99% effective.  Never a false signal and only rarely do they miss a vehicle.

I will tell you I am tired out at the end of a 12 hour shift.  Miss K is as well and she is coping with the back pain too.  I knew all along she was tougher than she looked.   I could see why some people thrive at this job and others don’t.  It is dusty, dusty as hell.   It is loud.  The traffic never entirely stops.  There is liable to be a truck come through the gates every few minutes –even at 3am.  You do your job out in the weather–  this week we have had temps from over 90 to one morning with frost covering everything.  We have had rain and even a touch of sleet right before daylight just today.  You have to have some knowledge about what is going on.  We have activity at a dozen different sites on over 200 acres of property.  The roads back through there are just a rat maze.  The second day here, I went back through and drew a map with all the sites listed and named.   That piece of paper is now dog eared and soiled from use.

Miss Kathy mentioned to one of the mud truck drivers that the dust was bothering me pretty bad and I was having to take allergy pills  — my nose was running like the Brazos and I never have allergy problems.  Next thing we know the trucks are just creeping by at 10mph and raising but a scant skiff of dust.   The people are great, a smile and wave are always returned in kind and that makes the day pass in a pleasant fashion.

It suits us; it sure does.   Of course, living in remote areas around equipment and having a paucity of resources is routine for the Old Girl.   I have jumped up a dozen times to check somebody in as I wrote this entry today.   It is 36 degrees with a ripping wind out of the north and neither the dog or I wish to spend any more time outside than necessary.   It is hard to eat a sandwich uninterrupted or watch an entire episode of  TV unless you have a DVR.    I could see how Yankee Snowbirds would have some trouble adjusting.  The weather, the business and the atmosphere would be an alien environment for them.  But hey, it is a JOB folks!  It is not physically demanding nor particularly mentally challenging.  We get paid for our presence ’round the clock and that is the bottom line.

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8 comments to What About this Oil Field Gate Guard Business?

  • coal

    Sounds like your getting into the groove with the new gig. 12 hour shifts eh. Should be able to bank some money right quick, I think Miss Kathy would feel better now that she has a job to do, thinking that will give her a sense of accomplishment each day, and a long day at that.

    I woke up this morning with about four or five inches of snow that fell last night. We had a few days of good weather, so I moved the fiver outside. Maybe i jumped the gun, but it feels good to be truck yard camping, i look out my kitchen window and about one foot from my window is a set of 46000 pound rear ends sitting on a flatbed, ha not the best view but better than being inside the shop.

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  • Kathy Sue

    My husband and I worked as gate guards this summer thru the heat and dust. we worked as fill in for a friend that has a year round gate. That is what we are looking for but will gladly do fill in until we find one. any pointers?

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    • Andrew

      Hi Kathy Sue,

      Getting a steady gig is part luck; just being in the right place at the right time. Some couples get asked to follow a particular rig as they move from site to site but I do not think I would like moving so often. I do know of one ‘senior’ gate guard whi was just assigned to a gate where they are building a gas plant. The assignment will be for at least a year.

      One thing about it— if you are not active and working; these choice assignments will most likely go to someone who is.

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  • Hey Coal, I hope those 46,000 lb asses aren’t
    wearing spandex!!!!

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  • Joel (Betty) Atteberry

    Enjoy reading the blog. We are gate guard also. Started last year Sept 7th. Left to go home to KY May 2nd, returned Aug 29th. Way to early as the heat was still on. As soon as we left KY it cooled down there. Missed all of the fall colors, but had to get back before all the “Winter-Texans”. We had to sit at the Gonzales yard for 4 days. Went to Bingo one night, no i did not win anything.

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  • paul karl

    enjoy the site i have been thinking about this as asupplement to ss wife does not want to go to far towards the border keeep writing and i will keep reading

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  • JWC

    Would like to know about the MIGHTY MULE driveway alarm. I am hardhearing and cannot hear high pitches sounds which 2 driveway alarm systems I have tested use. I can hear sounds of DRIVEWAY BELLS which was used in the early days of “Service Stations”. ha If the M/M has a sound other than a high pitch sound, I would probably go with it at my gates.

    Thank you

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    • Andrew

      I am betting the MM is the same as those other ones you tested. It sounds an electronic tone when activated.

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