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Gate Guarding in South Texas - The Finer Points

My lonely neighborhood

Next month will mark the start of my seventh year as an oil field gate guard in the Texas oilfields.  From The Barnett Shale north of DFW to the Wolfcamp of West Texas to the puckerbrush of the Eagle Ford;  I guess I been there and done that.  Some people got the grit to be here and some don’t.  I have known more than one RVer who fell off down here and expected to be riding a biscuit train with gravy wheels. If you won’t come out of your RV because there is a buzztail under the steps or if you think sleeping,  a shower or takin’ a crap is more important than hitting the gate to log traffic;  you best keep looking for the ‘perfect’  workcamping job.  You know the one I am talking about  – where they pay you simply because –  you being such an exceptional human and all.  I have said it before;  This is a JOB.  It is not for everybody.  No snivelin’ in the oil patch!

One of my concerns being out here solo has always been my proximity to The Border.  I am not the toughest guy that ever wore shoes; not even close but I will tell you folks who live north of the I-10 that The Border areas are getting to be  more Wild West than not.  The Mexican Drug Cartels; especially in the Mexican states that border the U.S.; run the show.  They are the biggest business and they own the local government and law enforcement.  They control the Mexican side of The Border and their incursion into the United States has done nothing but grow over the past two years.  All Border Patrol and ICE fellas do is put an occasional band-aid on it.  So I worry and I am concerned.  You would be a damned fool were it otherwise.

My work area and my work partner

After you been at this for awhile,  you tend to learn the ins and outs of the biz.  In most cases,  you are an oasis of light at night and you are close up to a road of some sort.  The more lights you display out toward the road side end of things,  the more traffic you invite.   I used to think lighting up a good five acres was the only way to go. Now – not so much.   I want the area right around the No Princess Palace lit up like Times Square.  If there is a buzztail lurkin’ under the steps or a Border Pirate hidin’ behind my water tank,  I want to put an eye on them.   What I don’t want is the driveway out all the way to the road lit up like a car lot.  That just invites every lost truck driver, overheated engine looking for water, flat tire looking for an air compressor and cell phone lookin’ for a signal to stop in and say ‘howdy’  at oh dark thirty.  That ain’t healthy business folks.

This is the first automatic gate I ever worked that is keypad entry and I thought I was going to hate it at first.  The opposite is true!   A closed gate is a buffer and needing a code to open it gives me some assurance that traffic has legitimate business here.  I cannot tell you how many times a vehicle has pulled up to the gate and they get out and push on it  – like it is gonna open!  I guarantee you they would open it and drive right in if they could!   These days when somebody pulls up to the gate, I will walk up there and ask them to state their business.  I never open the gate and let them drive in until they are properly vetted.  Never!

Couple of years back when I went solo I was forced to upgrade my driveway alarms because of my profound hearing loss.  I went with the Dakota Alert Kit which has very loud alarms and I have been generally satisfied.   I have upgraded and added to the Dakota Alert System and just last week bought their Dakota Alert 2500 Wireless Receiver which is about the size of a small matchbox and it vibrates!  I carry it with me all the time now when I am out and about.  The standard wall receiver is mounted in the bedroom for night time duty.

1/2 of the Dakota Alert break beam – the transmitter is on the other side of the driveway

My biggest concern is sneakers – somebody that walks up to the gate in the middle of the night.  My first week back  the 2 driveway alarms on the inbound side rolled me out at 0415.  When I peaked out the window I knew I had a sneaker.  There was a pickup truck parked out on the shoulder and parking out on the edge of the highway does NOT trigger my alarms.  Somebody was walking up to the gate and they had triggered both the IR alarm and the Dakota Alert Break Beam Alert The IR alert is about 95% accurate but the break beam never misses!  Somethin’ wasn’t right. Why would you park on the shoulder when you had a driveway 75′ wide right there?  I knew there was somebody out there but the other side of that gate is as dark as the inside of a cow.  Good thing I got a Plan B.

Solar motion detector light

Vela Von is 15 months old now and this puckerbrush life is all she knows.  Nothing riles her up as much as somebody walking because that is  but rarely encountered.  It just ain’t dog world normal.   In sneaker scenarios, she precedes me out the door.  Sometimes I don’t even go past sticking my head out the door.  She knows what to do and she is gettin’ damn good at it – let’s leave it at that.

I got to thinkin’ the next day that this Border deal is not going to get better anytime soon and having that black void just across my gate is no bueno for sure.  At the same time,  lighting up that area all night long was not a legit plan either.   I discussed it with BFF Cait that very day and she told me I needed a motion detector light. She said they had one to light up the backyard when they let the dog out at night and they loved it.   My last experience with a motion detector light was pre-LED and pre-solar.  I remember them as miserable affairs – big ol’ spotlight lamps to replace and sometimes they would not fire off if you did jumping jacks right in front of them and other times they would light up the whole country if a lizard crossed the driveway 50′ away.   As a curmudgeon,  I have a difficult time embracing new technology that has made the world an easier place to live in.  The solution was an 80 LED Outdoor Solar Motion Light and it wasn’t but just a bit before one was on it’s way to South Texas.

Wind sock pole fixin’ to be re-purposed

The next problem was how to mount it since I didn’t have a convenient house eave anywhere in sight.  I caught one of the pumpers on his next trip in and asked him to check his junkpile for a 10 or 12′ pole that would support that little light.   He showed up in a few hours with an old wind sock pole they had retired that was 12′ long.  Perfect!  I took some JB Weld and snugged that twirly part down tight and mounted that light and the detector on it easy peasy.  The solar panel has a 16′ extension cord on it and the plan was to stand the pole up against a big fat wooden corner post and put the solar panel on top of the wood post.

My light just beamin’ down on the gate

I gotta say it worked out way better than I expected.  The LED is considerably brighter than I figured and while it doesn’t light up my whole driveway like 12 Noon it is more than tolerable.  Me and Vela Von have been settin’ out on these warm evenings fine tuning the detector. ( 87 degrees in Cotulla,TX -right down the road- on Friday. Warmest city in the country! )    At first it would light up every time a big truck went by on the highway and we tweaked it a bit.  Then it would light up when two trucks passed nose to tail and we moved it a skoosh.   We just about got it now and I think Vela Von is going to miss our ventures ‘outside the wire’ testing the detection range.  She really imagines she is gettin’ away with somethin’ when she gets to go over on the other side of the gate.

a note:  The Dakota Alert products are PRICEY and I would like to say this is a case of  you get what you pay for.  I can almost say that – but not quite.  They are the LOUDEST alarms I can buy so that overrules everything else in my case.  Both the wall mounted receiver and the portable wireless receiver are flawless.  The little green IR transmitters are pretty trouble free – I am still using one I bought almost 3 years ago- and as I mentioned they are probably 90-95% accurate.  Very few false alarms but they will occasionally miss a vehicle.  The break beams are really expensive and I have had to return both sets of mine for repair.  The first was replaced under warranty and the last one was almost 2 years old and could not be repaired.  I opted for a refurb unit when I talked to Dakota Alert as a replacement and it cost $135.00.  I cannot wholeheartedly recommend them with that kind of service record.  I can also tell you they NEVER EVER miss a vehicle or a sneaker.  I guess that is why I keep a set in reserve.

 

End Note: Safe Side by James McMurtry from the Candyland cd.

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5 comments to Gate Guarding in South Texas – The Finer Points

  • Kerry Jackson

    You didn’t tell us what happened with the ‘Sneaker’? Did Vela Von tear him up? Was he bringing you donuts? Hope all is well out there! We have been on a long down time this go round. But will return in a few months possibly. Hope this weather isn’t doing to much damage out there!
    Kerry

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    • Andy

      The sneaker made a hasty departure. I had absolutely no interaction with whoever it was. Best case scenario.

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  • Andy

    Experiences from other folks – “They come every day.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/01/16/come-every-day-border-town-residents-face-daily-threat-from-trafficking.html

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  • Mike

    Hey Andy,

    I clicked on the picture of Vela Von and was admiring your fine working partner when I spotted that GCI Rocker. I did a search on your site but I don’t see where you have reviewed it yet. So what’s your take on it?

    Thanks much,
    Mike

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    • Andy

      Good catch Mike. It is a GCI Freestyle Rocker and I did briefly review it here:
      http://www.myoldrv.com/?p=8142

      My take on it is very positive to the point I bought a second one for My Bro. His wife took it away from him in short order and it is now HER chair. Anyone who has sat in mine has to go out and get one for their own. Two cons to the deal maybe……..

      I am not certain how well the fabric is going to hold up in the UV onslaught. Mine is visibly faded after 18mos.

      The price on these swings wildly on Amazon. I think I bought mine for $40 something but I have seen them almost double that.

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