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The Toll of the Task

Nomad Camp seen through a rainy windshield

Nomad Camp seen through a rainy windshield

Life takes up a whole lotta my time.

It is getting about that time of year when the interest in gate guarding starts to increase.  Many of the folks who are planning on being down here in the Fall are getting their preparations in high gear right about now.   Judging by my responses regarding our nomadic lifestyle,  many folks have seen a change in lifestyle over the past year and are now living in some sort of recreational vehicle.  Not a thing wrong with that!   I got more than one email back after the Bad Hail that my writings had kept them  from making a mistake; gate guarding was definitely not for them.

So I reckon if you have been studying up on the gate guarding thing you know the biggest complaints are the remote locations, the dust, the noise and the schedule.  I’ll give ya that.  That is the part of the iceberg you can see.  You folks check your sources when you are doing your research.  Make sure it is not a pair of guards that still have the dew on the lily.  It happens plenty you see.  A couple embarks on this adventure, just bubbling over with enthusiasm and they write volumes.  Check back with the noobs after they have survived a summer or set a gate for 10 weeks straight.   The tune might have changed.

Let me give you an example.  I followed a blog for a few months before everything blew up,  A young family with 2 pre-teen girls was going to go off grid down by Terlingua and experience life.  The girls would be home schooled and benefit from the experience. Dad made his living on the Interweb, Mom was going to ride herd on the trainwreck.   Dad wrote volumes about all the new equipment he had purchased; black rifles, 4×4 trucks, the best batteries and solar panels money could by, a veritable library of how-to books.  At this point, Dad had spent less than 2 weeks total down in South Brewster County and none of it off grid.  This guy was going to stand out like a rooster wearing socks.   Well, they did it, off to Terlingua they went, Dad, Mom and the Kids, 2 or 3 dogs and as many cats.   I read and observed and watched the wheels on the wagon start to wobble.  He  put a carport roof over there pre-built cabin to keep the sun off but he built it too close.  It amplified the heat and made the inside of the cabin a sweltering hell hole.  He had water catchment and water hauling tanks but he neglected to plumb the water inside to the kitchen as a primary task. Made it inconvenient and people will not do incovenient; I know this.   Their septic was some sorta composting whicker doodle in a box.

Miss K supervises re[air on the generator.  Slackers abound and bear watching.

Miss K supervises repair on the generator. Slackers abound and bear watching.

One morning, I read that the dreaded conenosed beetle had attacked the entire family and the dogs and the cats and he had graphic pictures of conenosed beetle bites on little girl arms and I say to myself “Dude, that is not a conenose bite.”  I was right.  They were all eat up with ringworm down to the last cat.  The humans also had athlete’s foot.   Good neighbors, the farther you get from Starbuck’s, the more you have to look after your ownself.  Personal hygiene is a MUST.  Think it through and stick with the plan for godsakes.

The last thing I want to do is terrify the women and cower the men but if you are thinking this lifestyle might suit you, you need to get your head right if you are going to come out on the other side better for the ride.  Everybody complains about the dust. Other than it being unpleasant and a bastard to deal with inside the RV, did you know it poses a health risk to you and your pets?   I had to find out about Valley Fever on my own.  Another tidbit of info to file back and be aware of.   Rattlesnakes, Javelina, Bobcats, Mountain Lions (no lie), Tarantulas, Skunks, Wild Hogs are all part of the experience. I put a 5 gallon bucket under the AC drip off the Princess Palace.  It keeps the little critters away like mice and frogs. Tuco can drink out of the bucket; they can’t.   Gotta remember where there are mice and frogs there are gonna be snakes.   South Texas is a harsh environment and don’t wander off down here thinking it is going to be like that nice RV park in San Antone you stayed at last year.

I think the biggest thing people don’t take into account is the toll this harsh environment takes on your equipment.  If you are one of those types that is devastated when you get mashed Love Bugs all over the front of your vehicle, this job may not be for you.  I had a guy come in the gate this morning with the rear half of his tail pipe dragging.  He had beat it loose on the 5 miles of caliche road coming in here.  He borrowed my 2lb hammer and finished the job and went on his way. Just another normal day in the Eagle Ford.   The roads here are brutal – even the paved ones.   They were never designed for this volume of traffic.   2 years ago, some noobs on a gate had two flats on their fifth wheel just driving to their first assignment.  A couple of seasons here will destroy your suspension and if your vehicle was nice and tight with no rattles it won’t be anymore.

Stainless door catch

Stainless door catch

The UV rays, especially in the summer will destroy plastic, rubber and fiberglass.  One of the first things I had to replace on the Princess Palace was the plastic door catch.  The UV had eat it right up till it crumbled like an old tortilla chip.   I replaced it with a stainless steel one – I know what I am up against.  You need windshield shades for your vehicles and you need Reflectix for the bedroom  windows at a minimum. If you are unfortunate enough to have to park oriented north to south you are really going to take a beating when the sun hits the long side of your recreational vehicle.   Shade, for when you are working outside, is an absolute necessity.  2 rooftop AC units are what I would consider minimum equipment.  Many folks are running the two rooftops PLUS a portable AC unit on the inside.  We are suffering right now with one 15k btu rooftop unit and two fans.  The portable AC unit in storage in South Dallas  has got to be fetched pretty quick!

 

 

Drift of dead June Bugs

Drift of dead June Bugs

How about a bug story?  This is June, right?  So this story is about June bugs. We have them right now by the millions.   They ride inside the trailer on the brim of my hat.  They clog up the rain gutters to the point I have to take that metal awning rod and run it down the gutters every day to clean ’em out.  After it cools off a bit at night, they all come out and it looks like the ground is moving.  Little critters attract big critters. The June bugs are getting harvested by an armadillo and a skunk nightly.   I am not a June bug scientist but it looks like as soon as the sun starts heating up, they have to burrow up underneath a block of wood or a bucket or a jack pad to get away from the heat.  Them that are too far away from a safe haven when the sun cracks over the horizon get micro waved on the spot.  Various June bug parts and pieces don’t weigh as much as a string of spider web so the wind gets to blowing  the dead ‘uns around like dust.  So now I got caliche dust AND June bug dust to put up with.  Just f’n great!

I did not intend for this to be another story about Basic Gate Guarding 101.  Get past the basics and think about what you are contemplating.  It is not rocket science and we see a fresh crop of noobs arrive each fall.  Some of ’em don’t know a crescent wrench from a pocket watch but they get by some way or another.   If you haven’t spent a length of time living in your RV, you really need to.  The old saying if you forget something, it is as close as the nearest Wal-Mart doesn’t really apply down here.  So spend some nights in your RV sittin’ in the driveway before you sail off down this way.  Or take your time getting to the Pucker Brush from Minnesota or Indiana and give the RV and you a good shake down.  It is way damned easier to get something fixed or pick up something you discovered you need when it is as close as the next exit on the interstate.

 

 

End Note: Worth It by Cory Morrow from the Vagrants and Kings CD.   I am not normally a Corry Morrow frat boy fan. This time I am.

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12 comments to The Toll of the Task

  • joel

    “Guide to Gate Guarding in Afghanistan”

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  • You have definitely changed my mind about wanting to try out gate guarding. Thank you for the information!

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  • MissV

    I am not a gate guard nor do I currently own an RV. However, I am a native west Texan and I do know about the dust and sand. It seeps in through every nook and cranny and microscopic gap. It gets in your hair, your ears, your eyes, in your teeth, down the collar of your shirt and sometimes even in the crack of your behind. It gets into the bed, it gets into the fridge and don’t leave the butter uncovered for too long, unless you like your butter slightly crunchy. It gets into the cabinets, onto the dishes and pots and pans and seeps into the furniture and pillows and carpet. It covers everything and anything and makes keeping house a futile effort at best. It causes and exasperates a number of respiratory problems. I lived in Lubbock for a year and it was like living on the red planet of Mars. I drove home to Odessa every weekend to see my Mom and it completely sandblasted the paint of a new Camaro to the point that the bare fiberglass was visible around the edges of the bumpers. Said devil dust gets in the engine and gas tank and all of the filters of your vehicle not to mention the interior and trunk. So if you have a new shiny, purty, RV be aware it may never be the same again

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  • MissV

    Sorry got on a bit of a rant there. Even the keyboard got fed up and conked out. I meant to say if you are a really fastidious housekeeper be prepared to be reduced to tears. You just can’t win against all that dust and sand.

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  • Bryan

    Great post!

    I can tell ya that 6 months chasing a rig around without any time off will test a relationship pretty good too.

    As far as bugs go, we have those weird poop-rolling beetles. There have been days that I have found 5 or 6 of those little balls next to the signal hose where it runs near the front tire of the RV. Not counting all the ones randomly strewn about. Its really quite entertaining when the drivers notice them little buggers moving about and then have to check out the situation more closely for themselves because they’ve never seen it before.

    Thanks for the reminder to clean the gutters again!

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  • Miss Kathy

    What is the best way to run a skunk off? I had one the other night and he was just happy as can
    Be eating bugs from the light tower. Now, the resident armadillo and I play ball well together.
    Mr.Stinky is like a red-Headed stepchild. I didn’t want to spook him for fear of stinkum. Couldn’t sic the dog on him for same reason. Didn’t want to take him bowling, so, what to do??
    My only thought was maybe an air horn. But I figured that would scare the smell out of em for sure.
    Any thoughts??

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    • Andrew

      My solution was unacceptable. It involved bowling balls, shovels and trash bags.

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      • joel

        I endorse the bowling-ball mediated solution. But I thought all your bowling balls were in storage off-site.

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        • Andrew

          I have a few bags of mobile bowling equipment Joel.

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          • joel

            Skunk bowling. What could possibly go wrong?

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  • joel

    But seriously. In re: skunk repellant, Google is your friend.

    http://thehousingforum.com/how-to-get-rid-of-skunks-in-your-backyard/

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  • Misty

    I really enjoyed your blog. It was almost a recital of our last 10 months as gate guards. We started out December 2012 with that same enthusiasm as the family above you were mentioning. Thank God we have no children to drag along with us. I knew that it would test the boundaries of our marriage and it would either break us or make us. LOL We have enjoyed the money from this excursion and yes there has been some major bumps in the road. I think our biggest hangup has well truthfully been with me. I decided to take the night shift because my husband frankly can’t hear the alarms at night. It has been a huge adjustment trying to sleep during the day. I have to take something everyday to sleep, then I have to wear some sort of ear plugs. Regardless of the shift you never seem to get enough rest, we constantly have noise bleeds from all the dust so we have stepped back and reevaluated this thing again. The money is hard to give up, and I truly enjoy the traveling different places and meeting new people. I guess with any job there are pros and cons it all depends on what is required to make ends meet and what you can deal with. Where we end up heaven only knows!!!!

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