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It's the dust colored one tire dude.....

AKA Surviving the South Texas Pucker Brush

The Suburban was the dustiest vehicle on the premises

Some of our Winter Texans that are planning on an oil field gate guard job invest quite a bit of time researching their new jobs before they head off down to South Texas and I gotta give ’em credit.  Miss Kathy calls it due diligence and thorough research is recommended because it is different down here.  A wonderful place to get tons of specific info is on our Oil Field Gate Guard Message Forum.  It is just chock full of helpful people.  So much stuff on the internet is as worthless as a white crayon so finding a spot where the folks are actually walkin’ the walk is invaluable.  So anyway,  you have done your due diligence.  You picked up a long handled hoe to behead the buzz tails,  you have two air conditioners because July is just by god hot, maybe you even get an extra baby ‘fridge because you know it might be a long way to town.  So you are thinking you are all set, right?

Well, mostly that would be true but when I was getting new tires on the Suburban Friday I got to thinking about some stuff that maybe a noob would miss or not expect.  You can read and read and read but most folks are not expecting the extremes.  The veterans tend to just blow off the way the wind howls or the ever present dust or the noise because that is just the way it is.  On the other hand, a noob is going to be terrified the first time the wind blows at 40mph+ all day long and their big ol’ motor bus is just reelin’ and rockin’ or they dust off every thing inside and by supper every surface is covered again with a thin layer of fine caliche dust. It is maddening.

Yeah, the dust.  Everybody mentions the caliche dust.  The dust is a nuisance but it can also ruin electronic equipment especially cameras.  Everybody has one of those little pocket cameras where the lens scooches back into the camera and the little shutters cover up the lens when you turn it off. Pretty cool, huh?  It ain’t enough to keep the dust out folks.  If you leave that camera laying around, the dust WILL work its’ way inside eventually.  It will scratch the lens and get inside the body of the camera before it is all said and done.  We never leave our Nikon COOLPIX S9300 laying out unprotected for any reason. Miss K got that camera for me last Christmas and it is just too good to treat in haphazard fashion.  We always zip in its’ little protective pouch.  The other thing I have never heard mentioned is Valley Fever.  Valley Fever is a fungal infection you get from breathing coccidioidomycosis spores that are present in some soils in the southwestern U.S.   It is present in our current area outside of Cotulla,TX.  It just stands to reason if the soil ain’t laying on the ground where it is supposed to be and instead it is howlin’ around your head in a 40mph breeze; that can’t be good business.  People get it, pets get it.  It can be serious business.  If the dust is really bad, Tuco the Dog gets put up inside the Old Girl.   I guess I am not that smart because I tend to venture out in it regardless.  It is what it is.

You are going to need sun glasses as well and I see that mentioned but it is never emphasized quite enough.  The glare off this white caliche rock will ruin you after a few hours if you are not wearing sunglasses.  If you wear contacts, I would pretty much forget that.  I have never worn them but I would think as much dust as I rake out of my eyeballs daily that contacts would be miserable.  You do need two pairs of prescription glasses as well.  The dust is going to scratch the lenses of the ones you wear outside in pretty short order and the lifestyle itself plays hell on the hardware.  I have two pairs of broken glasses right now.  One pair is patched up with JB Weld on the nosepiece and the other pair has electrical tape holding the ear dealio on.  Just call me the nerd boy of the Nueces because that is exactly what I look like.  The logistics of getting a set of glasses replaced is formidable.  I am gonna have to drive 90 miles to San Antone, get an exam,  pick out the frames and then most likely go back up there in a few days to pick them up.  If I have to get ’em fitted a second time because  they are rubbin’ the hide off my ear or nose, there goes another 180 mile round trip and a half a day gone.

I read a post from someone some months back that was new to gate guarding and their first assignment was 20 miles down a bad caliche rock road.    On the way to the pad, first shot out of the gun, they had two blowouts.  That is pretty hard core but it does happen.  The reason being these sharp rocks, cactus spines and mesquite thorns can slice and dice a city feller’s tires all to pieces.  I put Goodrich All Terrain T/A KO’s on the Suburban in February of 2010 and a little over 40k miles later they looked like a 400lb Pit Bull had been gnawing on them every day.  Those were not cheap tires folks and they were well regarded as far as severe service but this country beat ’em.  Now, mind you, I never had a severe failure out of them even with all the scrappin’ around I do.  I did have one puncture when we were in Terlingua.  It was a deck screw in the tread and I count that off as being just how it goes some time; no fault of the tires.

The best tell on what works as far as tires  in a particular part of the country is to go to the feed store or the Dairy Queen and see what the ranchers are running on their pick ups.   I have been doing that and watching what kind of shoes were on my gate traffic for the past 6 months.  Down here I kept seeing one tire over and over.  It was a COOPER DISCOVERER S/T MAXX.  I noticed the Ranch Manager even had them on his Super Duty.  When asked, everybody raved about them.  They are an aggressive tire with 10 ply sidewalls (Load Range E), special tread to deflect rocks and all sorts of heavy duty construction.   They are not cheap but then again, the best usually isn’t.    I do rest more comfortable now when Miss K is out gallavantin’ around that at the very least she has some good rubber on the road.

One last thing, I got the tires from Discount Tire in San Antone.  I have been in Discount Tire stores all across the state  for going on 10 years now.  I have always received excellent treatment and stellar service regardless of the location.  They get a big ol’ thumbs up from me.

End Note: New Year’s Day by Charlie Robison from the Good Times cd


Charlie live at Floore’s Country Store in Helotes, TX.  Give it a look and a listen.

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3 comments to It’s the dust colored one tire dude…..

  • Ken

    Andy, once again your advice is spot on target. Caliche dust is one of the worst things in the world.

    Back in the day (ready for another West Texas story?), when I was learning to drive in the Sprayberry south of Midland, TX.. My dad was pushin’ tools for a drilling contractor and had a 49 Ford for a company car. Here I was 11 years old, dad stopped the car, got out and walked around. Told me to scoot over. MY GOD, my dream is come true. I’m gonna get to drive. God, take me now, my life is complete. Well, after several attempts to get in motion, Dad coached me into moving up to second gear. (remember the three on the tree?) Well, I finally got into second and in motion. About that time, the right tires fell into a huge chughole and I thought the world was ending. The road surface had looked level, where the heck did the hole come from?

    It seems that caliche dust is so fine and unstable that the slightest wind moves it around and levels the surface. It looks level, but the holes are there. During that time, the drilling crews drove their own cars to the rig. There were 5 people on the crew, so a car could haul them all. The road caused a lot of car troubles, and the issue was either to get to the rig or get home. Often a car was left sitting so either task could be accomplished. When you got back to the car, the first thing was to open all the doors and try to clear most of the dust out. When the wind blew, and it blew all the time, visibility was something only dreamed of. Speed? Even if the road was reasonably smooth You couldn’t see well enough to go over 10 or 15. Faster than that often took out front ends.

    When driving, you often had to run the windshield wipers so you could see. The oil bath air cleaners used then required cleaning after every trip to the rig, and digging out the dirt in the bottom took some doing. Windshields quickly became sandblasted and opaque when facing the sun.

    The newbies need to understand tha caliche dust is not their friend. Get over being upset because everything has a thin (or thick) film of dust on it. Take every precaution to keep it out, but be prepared for disappointment.

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    • Andrew

      Good stuff Ken!

      I learned to drive on a ’53 GMC pickup with 3 on the tree and a floor starter. Had forgotten all about that until your story.

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  • LJ

    Dust, dirt, mud, was’nt much for a desirable road surface while on that Arkansas farm. Truck color was dependant on the weather conditions as to what surfacefeature would be there to greet ya. The county road crew would roll through twice a year in efforts to keep some kind of ‘crown’ on that road to direct the rain water into the borrow ditches that were deep enough that you could’nt drive out of them for unlucky drivers who found them. I discovered that a thermos of hot coffee in the winter or $20.00 discreetly offered out of sight of the roadcrew supervisor, would help lubricate the skids of the roadgrader operator to keep my driveway looking better. The Good ol boys in turn would also keep me in knowledge of where deer hunting would be a ‘sure thing’. During the cleaning out of the chicken barns, which usally meant 100 loads of chicken sh..tt would be hauled out over that road, and always several of the loose, watery crap filled spreader loads would find it’s way of slopping over the sides of those trucks, to paint the road w/ something much worse than dust or mud. For the unaware drivers, that stink would foul up the underside of their vehicles for days, and worse yet that sh..tt odor would get inside of the cars made for the most unpleasant driving experience. Oh did I mention, that I do appreciate paved, hardsurfaced roads now that I am a certified city dweller again?

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