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Surviving the Puckerbrush

There was a period of time not so long ago when this oilfield gate guard business was about dead because that is what the oilpatch does. There have always been radical up and down cycles all the way back to Spindle Top.  It looks like the cycle is heading up now and I am getting emails about every week from noobs wanting to gate guard.  One note a few weeks back suggested I write an info post on just that subject.

McMullen County, TX ca. 2017

There is an extreme shortage of oil field gate guards  as I write this.  The Winter Texans have gone home and it takes a tough soul to survive a puckerbrush summer. Like that old cowboy said “South Texas is all right for men and dogs, but hell on women and horses.”  Thankfully it looks like the pay is going up to compensate for the hardship.  Supply and demand baby!!  Right now, I would not set a 24/7 2 person gate in the Eagle Ford for less than $150/day.  Out in West Texas it would take $200+ per day for me to even consider it.

If you are thinking about doing this, drop me an email at andy(at)myoldrv.com and I will give you the particulars and an intro to the hiring people at my outfit. Obviously, after 7 years of doin’, I think it is a good gig.

For starters I am going to assume you have some familiarity with RVing and all the basic stuff is in place that you need to get by.  Before you fall off down this way make sure everything works properly.  This place is also hell on tires.  Sissy tires or worn tires are gonna get you in trouble pronto.  These caliche roads and mesquite thorns will eat a tire up.

Webb County,, TX ca. 2015

I always start by telling folks they need 2 air conditioner units to survive a summer down here.  All you gotta do is look at a pic of the NO Princess Palace to see I only got one rooftop AC unit.  I supplement it with a window air conditioner unit.  As a matter of fact, my 2yo AC unit just got replaced last month with a new Frigidaire 5,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner.  As a bonus, one of my baby 2000w inverter generators run that window shaker no sweat. You could also use one of those Portable Air Conditioners but that option is pricier and it takes up scant floor space.  Generally, the bedroom gets the least amount of refrigerated air in a one unit setup and that is critical if you are running a true 24/7 gate.  Somebody is gonna be sleeping during the day and if you can’t get some good rest,  home life will go to hell in a hurry. The other thing that is a must is a radiant barrier on the windows and roof vents.  If you happen to be facing west,  every window on the west side needs to be covered.  I like the InfraStop 48″ X 25′ White Double Bubble Reflective Foil Insulation because the white backing to the inside looks better. I attach it with clear packing tape (because no residue).

The UV is a real killer here in the summer so take it seriously.  It will eat up plastic, rubber – and your skin.  Big hats and sunscreen are in order.  I also wear long sleeve cotton shirts.  You can get a serious sunburn right through a thin cotton T.  Some folks like tire covers to protect their tires from UV dry rot but I found them to be fine houses for spiders and mice and just more stuff to keep up with.   I figure the UV has gotta be bad on your tires; how could it not be?  I spray the Palace tires (and spare) once a month with 303 Marine UV Protectant Spray and call it good.

LaSalle County, TX ca. early 2015

The heat is also hell on vehicle batteries and if they are seldom driven you need to give them some extra attention.  Some months the Big Ass Suburban is only driven a mile or two up and down the lease road to limber things up.  I religiously keep the battery hooked up to Battery Tender Plus because it is just good business.

The second most important thing after adequate AC is a primo EMS unit (surge protector) and in my book there is only, only, ONLY!! one brand to consider.  10 years now of RV fulltiming folks and I have hooked to some dirty power in my day.  The Progressive Industries 30amp Portable EMS RV Surge Protector (this is the 30amp model, they make a 50 as well) has saved my ass more times than I can count. Yeah, yeah I know it is expensive and yeah, I know there are other surge protectors cheaper that are marketed for RVs but I will tell you right now none of them are in the same league as the Progressive Industries unit.  Let me tell ya a story…….  I have had the same diesel generator runnin’ here for almost a year now with never a bobble until one cold Saturday night in January.

Reeves County, West TX ca. 2012

About dark the power shut off to the Palace and I am like WTF?? because I could still hear the generator running.  I went out and looked at the EMS and sure enough it had shut the power off and showed a steady reading of 142 volts.  I fiddled with it for a bit and finally went and got El Rojo to finish out the night which worked great since it was too cool to need AC.  The next morning, I fired up the big diesel and everything looked peachy.  I hooked the Palace back in and it has been running perfect ever since.  Don’t ask me what happened ’cause I couldn’t tell you.   I do know a generator can go rogue in a hurry and flat ruin your day without a good EMS watchin’ things.  Progressive has the best customer service I have ever experienced so my best advice is to bite the bullet and get one.  Buy Once. Cry Once. It is the best insurance policy you will ever buy.

Barnett Shale. Cooke County, TX ca .2011

Everybody always wants to know about the buzztails especially the women.  What can I say?  They are bad juju and no way around that.  So I want you to repeat this a hunnert times “Never step where you can’t see bare ground!” What you gotta do is stay out of the brush and tall grass because them buzztails are hidin’ rascals!  Keep ALL the area around the RV and Service Trailer down to bare ground.  Your service guy most likely has a weedeater and I keep things clean with weedkiller spray.  One other thing is to put a light under the RV that shines on the underneath and  out on your front steps and porch.  Thataway when you step out at night you can see.  In seven years I have not been on a single ranch that did not want me to kill every rattlesnake I saw but you still need to ask the ranch manager.  I tell folks to get a long handle hoe and keep it on hand by the door outside so you can chop ’em up at some distance.  Me myself, I use a heavy walking stick.  I pin their head with the stick and then reach down with my knife and whack it off.  You do have a knife in your pocket, right?

“In my opinion, any adult human – and most children past a certain degree of maturity – ought to carry a knife. Otherwise you’re just a chimp with a haircut.”

How about a true life snake ‘n’ RV story? This from my sister in law just this week……

After reading your snake story, I had to share my Secret Hideout snake experience!

Run away! Run away! Snake in the RV

A couple weeks ago, I was staying at the Hideout for a couple days catching up on yard work, etc.  (My Bro was working a job in West Texas)  About 9 pm, I was heading to the shower and noticed something in the dark corner between the shower and the bed slide.  I keep mouse traps everywhere and figured it was a mouse.  Hmmm, couldn’t tell in the dark but after shining a flashlight it was a snake barely caught in the trap.

It was a smaller snake, maybe a foot long, brown and tan with markings like a young copper head.  Of course I freaked out and called ***** (My Bro).  He didn’t have any ideas.

Part of the snake was under the corner of the slide.  When I touched it with a broom, it coiled up.  OK, I was hoping it was dead but now I need a real plan because if I didn’t get it out of the bedroom, I was sleeping in the truck.

I grabbed a piece of rebar and figured it was sturdy enough to at least hold it down and drag it out. What if it was poisonous?  I take a quick picture and text it to ********* (the son in law).  He says it’s a rat snake and not to kill it.  Really?

The rebar smashed down on him was working until he broke loose of the mouse trap. Now,  I’m swearing and screaming at the same time.  I have a trash bag in one hand and the rebar working back and forth on him like a saw.  Finally, the rest of his body comes out from under the slide and it’s now or never so I lay the trash bag down and scoop him up with the rebar.  The bag and rebar are tossed out the door which I slam shut.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.  The thought of stepping on that snake in the darkness of night freaked me out.  (OK and thanks!! Not!  Now I am freaked out too. Just thinkin’ about a snake in the RV gives me chicken skin.)

I think I had some more stuff to say but the snake story blew my train of thought right out the door.  These tips oughta get you started anyhow.

Oh, remember there is no snivelin’ in the oilpatch!

End Note:  Valley Road by James McMurtry from the Saint Mary of the Woods cd.

“Vibrato you coulda thrown a cat through.”


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2 comments to Surviving the Puckerbrush

  • Piper B

    I think sometimes it is okay to snivel. You mentioned that women ask you about life on the pipeline. Here is a woman’s perspective. A dusty wind blows all the time here and covers the entire trailer in dirt. I have to mop every night. I wipe down everything every day, Windex for the counters and tables, and walls. I do our wash by hand. Our clothes are so full of dirt that I have to soak them first, wring them and wash again, then rinse in order to get them clean. I wish I had a washboard and a wringer. I will buy one before I take another job like this. Then I hang them outside to dry on a rack, and to gather even more dust. Be ready to stock up on ingredients for easy meals. My crockpot has been invaluable on busy days. Bring a lot of drinking water, and if you drink tea, a glass container for making sun tea. We are about 20 miles from a grocery store and it is possible to go to town, but we cannot leave until after 7 pm and then it is difficult to find our way back ( okay, difficult for ME to find my way back – only one of us can leave at a time). It is nearly impossible to get mail delivered out here from what I have been told. However, people are nice, the job pays very well and you don’t have to make a long term commitment. I think we will do it again when this gig ends and after a short break.

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    • Andy

      Legit complaining and worthless snivelin’ ( your house has wheels- LEAVE! LOL) are distinctly different. The job isn’t easy but then again it is not rocket science. You are well on your way to getting it figured out.

      BTW, glad you made it up from down South.

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