Gate Guarding in south Texas

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We’d been having fun.  Way too much fun and our bottom line was in the basement.  It was time to get to work and fatten up the bank account.  My aunt and her husband, also full-time rv’ers, are employed as gate guards for the oil industry in Texas and encouraged us to check it out.  After visiting them at their work site in West Texas and seeing first-hand what was involved, we decided to push on a few doors to see if gate guarding would be a good fit for us.

Timekeepers, one of the many gate guard companies in Texas, walked us through the process of acquiring our non-commissioned (unarmed, think “Mall Cop”) private security license.  It really was an easy process.  We took a written test, paid the $70+ fee, stopped at a clinic for a drug test, got fingerprinted, and that was pretty much it.  Our license is good for three years and will allow us to work as independent contractors for any private security company in the state of Texas.

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There are many gate guard companies in Texas that hire licensed guards for every phase of work for the oil, gas, and even the wind farm industries.   So if one company doesn’t have any available jobs (which is what happened to us in early January) simply call the next one on the list.  By January 10th, we were all set up on a job with Gate Guard Services in south Texas and watching our bank account fatten back up.

Our Responsibilities

We worked 4 different gates and each one required us to man the gate 24/7.  Each gate guard couple splits up their shifts in a way that suits them best.  For us, I took the noon to midnight shift and Alan had the other.  Our main job was to keep a log of all the traffic coming in and out of each site and to close/lock the gate after each vehicle passed through.  It couldn’t have been easier.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

  • After spending nearly every waking and sleeping moment with each other for the past 16 months, we both agreed that having separate work and sleep schedules was kind of nice.  We used our quiet times apart from each other to work on little projects like crocheting, blog writing, catching up with friends and family via the internet, Bible memorization, reading, brushing up on our Spanish, and learning about the oil industry.
  • We lived out of our rv on site and the gate guard company that employed us provided a generator, a 200-gallon water tank, and a sewage tank.  At our last work site, they even gave us a cell phone booster to use—that was nice!

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    We like to joke that we spent the winter in “a gated community.”
  • Getting a paycheck is fun!  It was nice to see the bank account swell every 2 weeks.  Every gate job pays differently, but usually runs anywhere from $100-$200 (rare) per day.

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    Sunrise—it’s gonna be a scorcher!
  • The oil industry is a man’s world and one concern I, as a woman, had was being treated with respect.  After four months on the job I can say that every single man I came into contact with was extremely polite and kind. Never did I hear any vulgar language or disrespect directed towards me.  They were all very friendly and gentlemanly.

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    On site Fajitas lunch!
  • We got to learn A LOT about an industry that we previously knew very little.  We became familiar with terms such as, tool pusher, casing, mud, the motor man, the company man, etc.  We hadn’t realized all that is involved in drilling a gas or oil well.  As we watched equipment, trucks, housing, and personnel arrive on site, we likened it to a stage production at dear old Carnation City Players.
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    The “staging” area

    So many people, each with a very specific part to play, all coming together to accomplish one goal—-to keep our country running.  We also realized just how much of the region’s economy depends on the oil and gas industry.  Every business, from equipment rentals to truck dealerships, from grocery stores to laundromats, from hotels to restaurants, and even local schools,….they all thrive on this industry staying afloat.  We were also impressed by the safety precautions taken at each job.   Not only are rules strictly enforced for the protection of the workers, but also great care is taken to protect the environment from toxic waste.20170423_160958

  • We had great support from our company.  If we had any problems with our equipment, questions about our job responsibilities, etc., help was only a phone call away.  Two Facebook groups also provided us with lots of advice and camaraderie from seasoned veterans and newbies like ourselves.  And of course, my aunt and uncle were invaluable with their tips, suggestions, and encouragement.
  • For all the hype you hear on the news about how dangerous Texas is, with outlaws running rampant (yeah, right), we never felt afraid.  I suppose it’s all in what you’re used to.  We prefer being alone in isolated areas than in the crush of a crowded city.  If you are the opposite, gate guarding may be a challenge.
  • When in different parts of the country, we love to try new foods.  South Texas gave us ample opportunities to indulge.
  • Each of the four sites was unique in the types of vegetation and wildlife present.  Our first site acquainted us with this friendly and curious fella.

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Though I never could capture it on camera, our second site was in the flight path of migratory birds such as, sandhill cranes.  Flocks that numbered in the hundreds flew overhead on their way to the Gulf of Mexico.  I could sit outside and watch flock after flock for hours on end.  It was absolutely amazing!

There was beauty everywhere,…

you just had to look for it.

Jackrabbits showed up just in time for Easter.  Because of their long legs, sometimes they looked like small dogs zipping around.  And check out those ears!!

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Some interesting critters showed up to delight us,…

and others just wanted our companionship,….

but not every creature brought joy and happiness.  We’d been warned since January to watch out for rattlesnakes.  Our last week on the job, one decided to visit us.  Yikes!

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  • Getting to spend the winter months in south Texas instead of NE Ohio was kinda nice.  I think we only had a couple of days where we wore a fleece jacket and a stocking cap.  Otherwise it was short sleeves and lots of sunscreen.

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    Enjoying the sunshine and warm temps in February
  • Oh, and that big sky view!

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The Bad

  • As you can imagine, most of the well sites are in remote locations, not in the heart of a fun city like San Antonio.  The very first site we were taken to was waaaay out in the middle of nothing!  We drove many miles on a bumpy, dirt road to get there and when we arrived, all I could think of was those poor pioneer women who, after traveling for months in a covered wagon finally arrived at their remote homestead and had to live in a sod house.  The closest decent town was almost an hour’s drive away.  Cell service was spotty.  We felt very isolated.
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    The long, dusty road to our site

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    When the closest laundromat is over an hour away and you run out of clothespins,….mouse traps to the rescue!
  • Because we had to man our gate 24/7, attending church was out of the question.  That was tough.  Being in fellowship with other believers is very important to us.  We were able to download and listen to our home church’s sermons and even participated in a live-stream Easter service from Union Ave. Methodist Church in Alliance and although it helped, it’s just not the same as being there in person.20170411_072843
  • The job itself, writing down names and license plates and opening and closing the gate, was easy as pie.  But boy was it ever BORING!!!  We really had to work at finding activities that stimulated our minds during those four months.  Towards the end of our time in the field we watched more and more TV and now I can unequivocally state that what we always told our kids about how “watching all that TV would turn your brains into mush!”  IS COMPLETELY TRUE!!!
  • The job was also easy, physically.  A little too easy.  We are pretty active people and the months of sedentary life took a toll on us.  We exercised all we could, but taking laps around a parking lot just isn’t the same as hiking up a mountain.  By the end of our four-month stint, our old back problems flared up and it has taken us weeks to recover.

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    Not a lot of exercise options out here
  • There were two states of being in south Texas—dust and mud.
  • I missed “Girl Stuff,” socializing with women, wearing makeup and jewelry, getting my nails done, having pretty clothes to wear.  Yes, I know, how shallow!  How frivolous!  But, news flash,……I’m a girl and I enjoy being one!   I can be grungy, get muddy, not bathe—for a weekend camping trip in the mountains.  But four months of dust, mud, and XL size uniforms on this petite gal was just too much.

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    Does it look like I’m weary of wearing the same clothes every day?

The Ugly

  • For us, the ugly part was simply that four months was too long.  Some folks are heartier than us and can work for months and even years at a time!  Next time we will build a few more “breaks” into our work schedule and stop at the end of March rather than go into April.  For us Yankees, it just got too darn hot!

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    Outside temperature on our last day of work

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time off and haven’t felt the least bit guilty pampering ourselves!

Gate guarding certainly met our need for earning some cash.  It didn’t come without a few challenges, but then again, what job doesn’t?

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