"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the pace picks up

Now that the drilling has been completed there seems to be a million things going on at once here at the well site.
We were checking people in and out all day at a regular rate and in between all that they were moving large loads of pipe to the rear pad. I lost count of how many loads the 2 flat bed semi trucks made down the access road. They worked until dark when the trucks left for the night. I have a feeling they will be back again at first light to finish the job.
The "casing crew" came in last night. Unfortunantly they spaced themselves about 45 minutes apart starting about 1 am so no nap time for me :-). They will be cementing the well casing in place so we are expecting the cement trucks to start making their runs in and out sometime today.
Evan from Gate Guard Services arrived yesterday morning in place of Hunter. He had a new water pump for us and it only took him a few minutes to remove the old one and install the new one. Hooray, we have water again :-) !
We got a call from our son back in Indiana and they were having the first big snow of the season. He said they already had at least 3" on the ground and it was still snowing. I always hated the first snow because it meant a lot of crashes on the roads. I guess people just forget how to drive on slick roads, assuming they knew how in the first place :-). We called our daughter who works in Indianapolis and checked on her. She said her normal 45 minute drive home took her twice as long and there were a lot of people that had slid off the road. She took her time and made it home safely. Hopefully they will have the roads cleared for her morning commute.
Looks like it will be a busy couple of weeks here at the gate until they get the rig moved. Hopefully once they start drilling again things will settle back down, I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 28, 2011

drilling is done

Several of the crew left late this afternoon saying they may not be back. They all worked for one of the contractors and said the drilling is complete and they are moving on to other rigs. There is still a chance they could get assigned back here once the rig moves.
Yes, I said back here! Henry, the company man, showed up at our door and said they are going to drill the back pad and will be moving the rig later this week. Should be really interesting because he said they are not going to disassemble it. They will lower it onto two semi trucks, one facing east and the other facing west, and move it that way. I sure would hate to be the truck that has to go backwards all the way.
He said they will tear down a large portion of the fence so they can make the turn without doing too much maneuvering. This is the same fence they just finished building a couple of weeks ago!
The new well will probably just sit for a couple of months with little to no activity since the next stage would be to fracture the well. This process know as "fracking" actually fractures the rock surrounding the well pipe which allows the oil and gas to flow better. Since they are drilling another well in close proximity Henry does not think the fracking will start until the other well is drilled because one could interfere with the other.
Bottom line is we are staying put here until they finish drilling on the other pad and then will move with the rig to the next site. Well I guess we will move as long as they still want us :-).
We are having a problem with our fresh water system. I hooked everything back up this morning and kept getting leaks. The end of the hose provided by the company had some wear on the threads so I cut it off and used a repair kit to replace the end. This solved the problem so I went to bed. Turns out the end started leaking and Rudee had to shut the water off until I got up. Once I was up and showered (using the on board water) I replaced their hose with one of my own and it worked fine for a little while then would not flow. I tried different things but it would flow for a few minutes and then it would slow to a trickle. I checked their pump which is mounted inside the generator cabinet and it was almost too hot to touch. Rudee called Hunter, who services our equipment, and told him about our troubles. He said he will bring us another pump and hose first thing in the morning.
I guess this is another good reason to make sure we keep the tank on our 5th wheel full.
Henry said we would be able to take a day off while the rig is being moved and set up. He said Sunday and Monday would be the best days so we went ahead and made some plans. We will drive to San Antonio early Sunday afternoon, see some of the sites, spend the night and be back at the gate before dark on Monday. Should be a fun time and a welcome break. I'll keep you posted.

turn the heat back on!

Sunday was as expected, slow all day until after dark when the traffic picked up and the gate was pretty steady for the next several hours.
I posted that I was wondering why they would not just move the rig to the pad in the back of the property. Well Henry, the company man, told me yesterday that they are probably going to do just that. He said they received the permits to drill on pad C but thought that pad was "B" and there was another on somewhere else on the property. He took off in his Jeep looking for "pad C". Once he returned he was as confused as we are. He said the pad in back has 4 holes in it that should not be there and he did not find any other pads. At this point I don't know what to think and will just "go with the flow" :-)
If they do decide to drill the back pad, this would mean 2 active well sites on our gate and we should receive additional pay. I'm not sure how that works but will be checking it out with our supervisor once the move is finalized. I felt like the first couple of weeks here we should have been receiving a higher rate due to the construction on the back pad. At least 1/3 of our gate traffic was the construction crews not associated with our rig.
Henry did say they are with in 1000' of finishing this well. I'm assuming they will be making a decision fairly quickly on where the rig goes next.
The night crew is leaving for their week off as I write this. I have talked to a couple of them and they tell me the company man is telling them to report to the new site that is closer to Cotulla. The bad thing is no one seems to know where this site is. The workers say they will just call next week end and get directions.
The cold weather arrived as expected. I disconnected the water hose and drained it to keep it from freezing. The temps are supposed to be above freezing the rest of the week so I will re-connect it after it warms up some.
I did turn the furnace on to help us stay warm and of course one of our tanks of propane ran dry. The 5er is equipped with an automatic switch that changes the flow from one tank to another so you do not run dry. I have a monitor hooked up to the LP tank regulator that flashes a light when one tank runs dry and it switches to the full tank http://www.shoprvparts.com/product.do?no=17493F&WT.mc_id=gb1&utm_source=googlebase&utm_medium=productfeed&utm_campaign=googleshopping
I also carry an extra 30lb tank on the semi and another 20lb tank for the grille so I have plenty of LP storage :-).
We do have several electric heaters and we use those the majority of the time but I do run the furnace (on a low setting) when it drops below freezing because our 5th wheel has a vent in the underbelly to keep the pipes from freezing. The weatherman says the lows will be in the 30's for the next couple of days but they are not predicted to drop below the freezing mark again :-).
I am expecting a busy week here at the gate with a lot of "tear down" activity and big trucks coming in and out. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

gotta move!

Yesterday (Saturday) I decided I needed to do more than just sit on my rear end in between checking in the few vehicles coming through our gate now. My answer was to take a long "power" walk. There is a long access road that goes beside the blacktop road and ends at another pad on the other side of the ranch so that was my destination. I grabbed my walking stick and snake "persuader" :-) and headed out. The walk back to the pad is only about a 1/2 mile and there is also a reservoir they built between the two pads. Both the reservoir and the pad are fenced and gated so I didn't venture inside. When we first arrived at the gate there was a lot of work going on back here and that accounted for a large portion of the traffic at our gate. The work is completed now and I am assuming will be quiet until they move a drill rig onto the pad to start a well. I figured our rig would just move back once they were done on the front pad but that does not seem to be the case. I'm still trying to figure all this drilling stuff out :-)
The walk back to the 5th wheel was into a fairly brisk wind and I got a little bit of a work out. I just need to keep this up to keep my girlish figure :-)
Friday while driving to the store I passed a wild hog that had been struck and killed on the highway. This things was BIG! I have watched the show on TV where they hunt wild hogs here in Texas and the majority of them on the show are not even close to the size of this one and it was laying down! I took a picture of it to show Rudee but I'll spare you guys the gore. One thing for sure, I would hate to run into that guy in the middle of the night (or even in daylight!) out here in the middle of nowhere!
They are still calling for a decent freeze tonight so later today I will disconnect and drain our water hose. We will just use our on board tank for tonight and until it warms up a little tomorrow. The days are supposed to be mild but each night this week they are predicting lows into the 30's except tonight when it will drop into the 20's. I guess it's time to dust the cob webs off the furnace :-). I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

black Friday

Rudee used to take part in the shopping frenzy known as "black Friday". I don't like fighting crowds or standing in long lines so I was very happy to stay home :-). She would get up in the wee hours of the morning in order to get to the stores and wait in line for the doors to open, sometimes as early as 5am. This year several store chains are opening at midnight and some even earlier than that so they can get a jump on the competition.
This year Rudee would have to be content spending the day at home with me.
I did venture out yesterday afternoon and drove to Cotulla to pick up our mail and stock up on some groceries. I'm happy to report there was no long lines, pushing, shoving, or fighting for deals at the Super S grocery store :-).
Hard to believe some of the news stories of Black Friday around the country. What are these people thinking?! One woman was mad because, even after she cut in line to get a video game system, she still felt she was not close enough so pulled out her pepper spray and attacked those in front of her to clear the way. I have to wonder how long she stood there trying to count the number of people divided by the number of games. I bet she had both her shoes and socks off trying to "cypher" :-).
A New York TV station was reporting that a crowd had lined up outside a store waiting for it to open at midnight, bad thing was they were not opening until 6am. I guess this was not acceptable to the crowd who broke down the doors and looted the store before police could arrive.
It's the same every year, people acting like animals just to get a good deal on some electronic gadget or toy, pitiful.
The gate was fairly quiet again until just after dark when there was a flurry of activity coming in. Some kind of pump on the rig had failed and its replacement arrived shortly after 8pm. This was followed by a crew to install it and then a large crane with escort vehicles arrived to hoist it. They worked into the night to prepare it and then lift it onto the rig. They started drifting back out the gate around 1am and they were finally all gone shortly after 3am. Needless to say it was a long night for me.
The weatherman is still saying we are in for a cool down and there is a "freeze watch" for this area tomorrow night. We have a full tank of water on board and I will disconnect our water supply line and use this if the temps get down too low. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 25, 2011

free food!

We had a nice, slow Thanksgiving Day here in the giggle weeds of Texas. Around 1pm the new company man, Henry, drove out and let us know that the food would be here soon. Rudee asked him lots of questions about the move coming up. He does not have a firm commitment on the location yet but says it will not be too far and is pretty certain it will be closer to Cotulla. He said tear down will be starting soon and they will know more about the location by the first of the week. She also asked about us working out a day or two off between gates and he seemed to think it would not be a problem, cool!
The caterer arrived shortly after Henry went back to the rig. We checked them in and they gave us a whole pumpkin pie before driving back to the housing units. About an hour later Brad, our safety man, brought us out 2 styrofoam containers full of food and the feast was on!
We each had ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a roll, cranberry sauce, more pumpkin pie and a container with gravy. The food was all cold so we had to warm it up before digging in.
The food was tasty but a little disappointing. The turkey and ham was sliced deli style meat, not fresh cooked. The whole meal was more like "cafeteria" food and not what we would call a "catered meal". I missed my Mother-in-laws noodles, Rudee's stuffing and my sister-in-law's home made rolls. The price was right though, and we enjoyed the variety :-).
The rest of the day was spent watching TV and connecting with family and friends.
The past few nights I have not had any traffic at the gate so I skipped the hide-a-way bed tonight and headed for our comfy bed hoping for another slow night. Well it was not to be :-(. I had a car come in at 3am and another at 5am that had to be checked in ...... well poo! I guess that's just another routine day in the life of a gate guard though :-).
We have a heavy fog hanging around this morning but it should burn off pretty quick once the sun rises. Supposed to be another 80 degree day here but they are predicting a big cool down for the week end it may even dip below freezing :-O ! I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pipe dreams?

The night shift has been slow lately, which is great for me, I get to sleep a little :-)
Monday morning a little before 6am a group of semi trucks hauling pipe showed up at the gate. There were four in the first group and as one left after unloading another arrived to take it's place. There were at least 6 loads of pipe delivered before 10am.
Earl, the company man, stopped in and told us to turn away any salesman since they would be unloading and moving pipe all day and were too busy for sales calls. He said they have reached their mark in drilling and were "starting the turn" meaning they were drilling more horizontal rather than vertical. He told me the casing pipe would start going in and be cemented into place probably this week end.
This marks the beginning of the end for the drill rig, or so I am told. When we first arrived they said they expected to be here 30 days. We arrived on the 31st and the rig arrived 4 days later so end of next week would be 30 days for them, right on schedule.
Tuesday was another routine day here at the gate. We did have some sales calls and even got 2 fresh Tacos delivered by one of the companies. I had one for lunch after I got up from a nap and it was very good. I'm not sure what cut of beef is in it, could be tongue or lips, all I know it was very tasty :-).
Later in the day Earl came back out to the gate and stopped to talk for awhile. He was off for the next 2 weeks and said when he saw us again we would be at the new location. I made sure they wanted us to follow them and he said they absolutely did and really appreciated all we were doing. This made me feel good and I am honored to be asked to follow the rig. He did not know where the new location was exactly, said it would be in this general area and we would be moving in approximately 10 days.
There will still need to be a gate guard at this site so when we move someone else will move in here to take our place.
We are both a little nervous about the move. You never know what the next gate will be like. This one is wide open with a view of the main road which Rudee likes. There are cattle guards at the gate so you can leave it open 24/7 whereas with out a cattle guard the gate would have to be opened and shut with every vehicle. The downside here is the proximity to the well pad. We are literally right on top of the action here and it can get pretty noisy.
I guess each site has it's own "personality" and the best we can hope for is a large level pad and enough room that we can sit on our patio without the semi trucks running over our toes :-). If I get enough early warning on the new location I'll try and do some reconnaissance in the Dakota before moving the entire circus train. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, November 21, 2011

new faces

Sunday was another slow day here at the Hinkle gate but as predicted things picked up shortly after 6pm. The shift coming off duty waisted no time throwing their weeks worth of laundry and whatever food they had left into their cars and headed home. We wished them all "Happy Thanksgiving, see ya next week".
The new day shift crew started arriving later in the evening to begin their week long stay here at the rig. There will be another mass rush shortly after 6am when this new day crew relieves the night shift and they head home.
Monday morning the wind started blowing with a vengeance. Rudee and I had to put some more weights on the outdoor carpet so it wouldn't blow away. We gave up trying to keep the stop sign from being blown over :-).
Hunter from Gate Guard Services arrived in the middle of the afternoon to change the oil on our generator. This takes him about 20 minutes and it sure got warm in the 5th wheel with the a/c shut down. Seems like it took it several hours to cool it back down to the point it was comfortable again, of course using the a/c in Novenber is a lot better than having to run the furnace like we had to do last year at this time :-)
Now that we have all new faces in the bunkhouse I am hoping for another quiet night so I can get some sleep :-). I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wally World

As predicted I had a slow night Friday. There were a few of the crew heading into town for some food and fun but, happily, they all arrived back at the gate before 11:00pm and the gate was quiet the rest of the night :-)
Saturday morning I drove the 70 miles to Pleasonton, Texas to the Walmart Supercenter. Rudee had made up a list of items and I had a few myself so it took me about an hour of shopping. The store was not too crowded since it was still early but, typical Walmart, they only had a few cash registers open and all of them had a long line :-(
I heard a rumor that the Walmart in Pearsall Texas is a supercenter as well and is about 1/2 the distance to Pleasonton so I'll have to check to see if that's true. That would shave off some of the windshield time.
I filled the truck up before leaving Walmart taking advantage of their .10 off oer gallon by using a shopping card. I paid $3.04 per gallon which is the cheapest gas I have seen in a long time.
Rudee spent the morning cleaning the 5th wheel and it looked great! Once we leave here I will need to do a major cleaning on the outside so it looks as good as the inside :-)
Saturday was the slowest day at the gate we have seen so far. By Saturday night we only had 1/2 of a page filled out. We do have to turn some people away that show up wanting to come in. One guy was looking for work and then changed his mind and said he just wanted to see of there was any scrap metal he could haul away. The boss man has some strict guidelines in these situations so we are forced to turn these people away. I did tell the guy that if he did indeed have a service to provide he could come back on Tuesday or Thursday which is "salesman" days and talk to the company man then, maybe he'll be back.
Sunday is shift change so we'll have a bunch of the crew leaving in the afternoon and another crew coming in. The arriving workers either show up late Sunday night or early Monday morning. One thing for sure though, the ones leaving waste no time heading out. They have been here a full week and are ready to get back home to their families for their week off, can't say that I blame them :-) I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another week down

Yesterdays post was number 300, wow time sure does fly. I have enjoyed writing the blog, not sure why but I guess it is "therapeutic" for me :-).
I started writing as soon as we moved into the 5th wheel to document our trials and tribulations as we worked towards early retirement. Sometimes it is not easy to find things to write about. I'm sure those that have read for awhile got real tired of hearing the "got up, went to work and came home" stories :-).
I also went through a slow period where I only updated the blog every week just because nothing was going on that was "blog worthy". Well that seems to be behind me for now because "we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto"!
Rudee decided she wanted to make the run into town for mail and groceries. She has not left the Ranch since we got here almost 3 weeks ago and it was time for her to get some fresh air :-).
We are getting in the habit of starting a shopping list each week and adding to it as we find things we want or need during the week. This helps us make the most of our trips since the distance makes "running into town" a major trip :-)
The gate was a little slower than normal today. We filled in one full page and barely started a second one when the day ended. I like slow days because they usually mean slow nights too :-).
They have pretty sunsets here in Texas!
They have pretty sunsets in Indiana too, just never slowed down enough to really notice them like I should have :-(
I will make our first Wal Mart run tomorrow since arriving here. The nearest super center is about 70 miles one way. I'll keep you posted!

Friday, November 18, 2011

stop means STOP!

Thursday was back to our routine here at the Hinkle Ranch, no more fires. There was some type of fire down the little county road next to us. The fire truck went by about 4pm with its lights flashing but we could not see any smoke and never saw them return so not sure what was happening.
The fire department was from Cotulla and I guess the economy prior to this oil boom was not good at this small community. Their truck was homemade using a large flatbed truck and strapping a big water tank on its back with a small pump hooked to it. I didn't see any ladders, hose or axes that are common on most fire engines. Maybe with the extra tax money coming in they will be able to afford some newer equipment for their volunteers.
We have had a few instances lately of workers running through the gate. The boss man wants us to keep the gate itself open 24/7. There is a cattle guard to keep the livestock in so the only risk is "people" getting by us. This has not really been a problem and 99% of them are courteous, stopping and waiting for us to write down their information. Tuesday evening I chased down one fellow who said he was just "turning around" and then proceeded to park out behind the rig and got out of his truck. I went back in the Dakota and made him drive back out to the gate and register. He was from a company hired by the rig so if he tries that trick again I will let the company man know and he will not be allowed on the property anymore.
Wednesday evening I had one of the rig workers blow by us, didn't even slow down. I started walking towards where he was parked and he got in his truck again and came back to the gate and apologized, said he was in a hurry and wasn't thinking.
Then last night one of the workers left and just did a "California stop" at the sign. By the time I opened the door he was pulling away and blasting out the gate. I was able, with Rudee's help, to read his license plate and we checked him out that way. This morning he came back through at 4am and did the same thing! This time I walked back to where he was parking and told him if he blew through the gate again I would be turning his name into the company man! I'm sure that is not a discussion he would want to be having with the boss.
I don't know what they are thinking, maybe prior gate guards have let this kind of stuff slide but not on our watch! More than likely it is just a matter of seeing how much they can get away with. Well I have raised two kids and was a cop most of my life, I have seen the tricks and heard the stories so don't think you are going to get one over on me :-). I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The week is moving pretty fast here in the Texas oil fields. The rain predicted for Monday did not arrive until just before dawn Tuesday when we had a thunderstorm move through the area. The rain turned our little piece of the world here a mucky mess. The Caliche stone/gravel mix they use here does not soak up any water at all. The rain water just sits on top or runs in little rivers to the nearest low spot. When you have to walk through the muck it sticks to your shoes like wet cement and then dries just as hard. Makes working the gate a little tougher.
We are both getting into a routine and have had a little boredom set in at times. Today was not one of those routine, semi boring days :-).
I was able to sleep almost the entire night undisturbed so I stayed up all morning this morning. I took advantage of the time and replaced the clearance lamps on the back of the semi. There are three of them on the back that were all damaged when we had the blow out last month in Florida. While doing that I started our portable generator and plugged in the block heater for the truck. They say to run the generator under load for 30 minutes at least once per month. The block heater draws quite a few amps and provides a good "load" for the genny.
I finished that up just in time to greet the "honey wagon" who was leaving after pumping out all the black tanks from the housing units. Talking to the driver confirmed he had another trip to make and he would pump our tank out when he returned later today. As he was leaving I noticed a compartment door on his truck was open and I was able to get him stopped and the door closed before he pulled away from the gate.
When I turned around after closing the door I saw this
Yikes, Fire! I yelled at Rudee to come outside and told her to call 911. The fire was right next to the highway and as black as the smoke was it had to be some type of petroleum fire. My first thought was that a tanker truck carrying crude oil had crashed and was burning. Rudee gave the 911 dispatcher our location and then called the company man to let him know about the fire. I hopped in the Dakota and drove down to see if I could help. Turns out the fire was in a pit next to a storage facility. There was no real danger that I could see since it was confined to the pit and all the workers were across the road at a gathering point. I did drive back to a nearby well so I could check on the gate guards there. They were doing fine so I headed back to the 5th wheel.
The Fire Dept arrived about 20 minutes later (told you we were in the boonies!) and the smoke soon disappeared. Whew, that's enough excitement for our day.
Earl, the "company man" stopped by to talk with us after the fire. He invited us to have dinner with the crew on Thanksgiving. They are have a catered meal brought in, sounds good count us in! He also mentioned that he would like us to follow the rig when they move to another site. I guess not every gate guard is asked to do this and we feel privileged that we were asked. Guess it means they like the way we are doing things. This gate will need guarded for awhile and we could probably stay here for several months but I think a change of scenery might break up the monotony and we really like "our" crew so we are faced with a decision, do we stay or do we go? I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 14, 2011

gate guarding at the Hinkle Ranch

We have pretty well settled into a routine here in the giggle weeds of Texas. Sundays are typically the slowest day of the week the busiest time on Sunday is shift change. Once the workers end their shift they make a mad dash for the exit and the gate gets pretty busy for about 30 minutes.
Sunday night I had a few of the next crew checking in but most arrive just before dawn. I was able to get a few hours of sleep though :-)
Since Friday was a federal holiday I drove into town today to pick up our mail that was forwarded to us from the UPS Store in Brownsburg. So far we are happy with the way things are working with the mail and the folks here at the Cotulla post office have been super friendly and helpful.
While in town I mailed some bills and made a grocery run. You might remember I told you about the Pizza Hut semi trailer restaurant that is set up in the parking lot of the grocery store. Well they had the window open so I ordered a pizza to take back for supper. They offered the same deals that a "normal" Pizza Hut offers and after ordering I had time to run into the grocery while the pizza baked :-)
I picked up the few items on my list, paid for them and picked up the pizza and headed home. Rudee was waiting for me when I got back and we enjoyed our Pizza Hut treat :-)
I have to admit it was tough smelling that pizza on the long drive home.
The weather has been pretty warm here. We have had the a/c running overtime and have even had the second air conditioner on during the warmest part of the day. I guess it doesn't help that we are running in and out all day letting the cold air out :-(
The weatherman is predicting rain and maybe some storms tonight. They could sure use it around here but it makes life at the gate just that much harder. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

busy night

Friday night was a little rough. I had less than an hour of sleep when I usually get 5-6 hours. The gate was not overly busy but the traffic was spread out to the point I was up about every 45 minutes so sleeping consisted of small cat naps between bell dings.
The drilling was at a point where they put in well casing and had a crew in to cement the casing into place. I read on the internet that this could take place several times before the finish drilling.
Friday morning Rudee said her knee was 90% better. She does have a bruise but we both feel fortunate given the circumstances.
There are several drilling operations going on in this area. Just southwest of our site is another well where they have a huge chimney burning off natural gas. The flame lights up the sky at night.
The gate was fairly steady today with a large construction crew working on the reservoir at the rear of the property. They are spreading out large sheets of plastic to make the reservoir water tight. The owner of the property, his son and daughter were each in and out several times. They are not too happy with the way the reservoir is being completed and were taking pictures and talking to the higher ups.
Sundays are typically slow in the gate guard business and I am hoping this turns out to be true for tonight and tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fast food fix :-)

The gate was quiet last night between 11:30pm and 4:45am so I got a little bit of sleep :-). The plan for today was for me to sleep awhile and then go into town to run some errands.
Rudee was up by 7:30 so I made us some breakfast, bacon and jelly sandwich on toast, ummm good. I was able to get the TV working, seems like there was a coating of frost on the satellite antenna case. I cleaned it off with a towel and the dish locked onto the signal pretty quickly. I'm not sure how to prevent this in the future. Any ideas?
I crawled into bed around 9:00 and fell asleep pretty quickly. We have the windows pretty well blacked out in the bedroom and I use ear plugs so I can sleep peacefully. A little after 10:00 Rudee woke me up shouting that she needed my help. My first thought was there was a snake and she had found it :-O
Turns out she was stepping outside and missed the last step falling hard onto her left knee. She was back up but hurting pretty good. I checked her knee and got her an ice pack and she spent the rest of the day on the couch. Looks like she will have a pretty large bruise and will be stiff and sore for a few days but we don't think it is anything more serious.
I headed into town around 3:00pm and stopped at the post office to pick up our mail. I was able to get to our P.O. Box even though the main part of the building was closed for Veterans Day.
I got my first paycheck :-) and promptly mailed it off to the back to be deposited into our account. Feels good to have some more $$ coming in. I have a small pension and we get a monthly check for the rental property down in Florida but we still need a little more to make ends meet.
I also made stops at the hardware store, gas station and grocery store. Before leaving town I picked up our supper at Mc Donalds (for the fries) and Wendy's (for the sandwiches). The whole trip took me a little over 2 hours and I was able to cross off everything on my "honey do" list :-)
We bought 20 gallon jugs of water for drinking and cooking before arriving at the gate. Each trip to town I take the empties and refill them. There is a kiosk at the grocery where you can refill your bottles for .25 cents per gallon or $1 for the larger 5 gallon containers. We both drink a lot of ice tea so we go through a lot of water. This trip I refilled 11 gallon jugs so we are good to go until I get another list :-)
Hopefully it will be an uneventful night on the gate. I could use the some sleep. I'll keep you posted.

taste of winter

The temps dropped like a rock as soon as the sun went down Thursday evening. There was a full moon and clear skies so that didn't help.
The temperature right now is 36* outside ....... brrrrr.
Yesterday morning I checked all the mouse traps and ....... drum roll ............. SUCCESS! The trap I out in our basement area had caught the little s.o.b. :-)
I cleaned the trap out and reset it in case he had friends that moved in with him.
This morning I have no TV :-(
We are on Dish network with our automatic Tailgater antenna but can't seem to get a signal. Nothing has changed since I turned the TV off last night (except it's colder). The thing goes through all the checks but can't seem to acquire the signal. I'm going to wait until it warms up some and see of that helps any and then I'll mess with it some more :-(.
I plan on heading into town later today to pick up our mail. Rudee has a list of things for me to pick up at the grocery and hardware store. I will probably plan my trip around meal time and bring home a treat. I think we have decided on Wendy's sandwiches and Mc Donalds french fries :-) I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

you asked for it Big Boy!

I enjoy reading other RVers blogs as they travel around. Many are filled with stories of their encounters with wild life, deer ambling through their campground, bald eagles swooping down and plucking a fish from the lake adjacent to their site .... well you get the idea.
I figured being out here in the middle of nowhere Texas surrounded by hunting ranches we would be privy to some sightings of wildlife. So far I have seen 2 butterflies, a preying mantis and a cow that I miss took for a deer :-).
That was until my "close encounter" last night.
With the gate being fairly slow after midnight I have been pulling out the hide-a-bed and catching a nap. Last night I turned the lights and TV off and laid down around 1:30am. I'm not sure what time it was but I sat straight up in bed because something had just crawled across my arm and I woke up brushing it off me! I turned the light on and there was nothing there ..... whew it was just a dream. All this talk about snakes has me a little spooked I guess :-).
I couldn't go back to sleep since my heart was racing from my bad dream so I put the bed away and turned the TV back on. I decided to make a pot of coffee and went into the kitchen. Next to the coffee pot on the counter was a banana whose end had been 1/2 eaten through. There was remnants of the banana peel all over the counter. Looks like we have mouse. Then my brain kicked in and I put 2 and 2 together ............ ewwwwwww! That wasn't a dream! I not only had a mouse in my bed but it used my arm as a highway ...... double ewwwww!! I guess it could have been worse, it could have been a Squirrel gathering his winter meal :-O
OK, bad joke but the guys can relate :-)
I baited up some traps to catch this gutsy little trespasser. He messed with the wrong guy! Nobody does a sneak attack on this guy and gets away with it. This means war!
The gate was a lot slower today and Rudee got in the mood to clean. She dusted the entire rig as well as mopping the floors and sweeping all the carpet. Our house is spic and span once again.
A couple of days ago I checked in the only female employee staying here at the rig site. She said she is a "mud tester" and just got the job. She had been a gate guard and decided this job sounded interesting so thought she would try it. Today she came back out to the gate and said that her and another "mud tester" had been let go as a cost saving measure. Needless to say neither her nor the other guy were too happy about it.
Later today the rental company showed up and they took away two of the portable light systems and a skid loader. Not sure what is happening but looks like someone is trying to shave some $$ on this drill site.
Hunter from Gate Guard Services arrived around 2pm and refilled our water and diesel tanks. He also changed the oil and filter on the generator. We are back on full hook ups, yay!
The temps were a little cooler today and it looked like it could start raining at any time. We did get a few sprinkles and this evening even had a light shower. Things are really dry around here and the moisture is appreciated.
Hopefully the gate will be slow tonight, I have a mouse to catch! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Black gold .... Texas tea ....

The drilling has begun. They fired up the big diesel engines that power the rig and started the drill spinning. We now have the steady roar of the rig running as well as our own generator.
The gate quiets down after 10:00pm or so and I can usually hit the sack for a few hours. Last night I had several vehicles dinging my driveway bell and they were all spaced about an hour apart. Doesn't leave much time for snoozing :-(.
No more snake reports today. Yay! Rudee doesn't like snakes and I can do without them. We came prepared with a small scoop shovel with a long handle that sits on the patio right next to the front door. I would rather get a gun and shoot these things but guns are frowned upon at drilling rigs so the shovel will be "weapon" of choice. Let's hope it doesn't come to that!
Tuesday and Thursday are "salesman" days and these are the only days the Company Man will take sales calls. Several salesman came in offering their companies services. I guess to be "politically correct" I should say "sales persons" since at least 1/2 of them were women :-)
Rudee was trying to wash dishes tonight and the flow of water slowed and then stopped. What's up with that? Since it was dark I grabbed a flashlight and headed for the water tank. Oh oh, tank is empty :-( I guess we were using more water than we thought or, more likely, the tank wasn't completely full when we left the yard last week. I called our supervisor Roger and told him we were a little thirsty and needed filled up :-). He said someone will be here tomorrow to top up the tanks. Our diesel fuel tank for the generator is down to about 30 gallons which shows we are going through about 10 gallons of diesel per day.
Our fresh water tank in the Montana was still 2/3 full so we will just use it until they fill the other one.
Yesterday was pay day! Whoo hoo, happy dance :-) My check is mailed to us so we rented a P.O. box in Cotulla the first day we were here. We have already gotten our first mail drop from the UPS store in Brownsburg and they are forwarding another batch to us this week. I'll probably go into town Friday afternoon to pick up the mail and some grocery items. Pizza Hut has a portable kitchen set up in the parking lot of the grocery store and they open their doors, well actually it's a "window", around 4:00pm so I may time things so that I can bring a hot pizza home for supper :-)
Cotulla is a small town in the middle of an oil boom and is trying to keep up. The grocery store is large and has a nice selection. The prices are a little higher than we are used too. Not a lot higher but 50 cents here and 75 cents there adds up pretty quick.
There are a couple of restaurants that some of our crew has been to and said they are pretty good. For fast food there is a Wendy's, McDonalds and a Dairy Queen.
The Ace Hardware is well stocked and is where we got our "snake shovel" :-). There are a couple of gas stations and that is about it for Cotulla.
There are all kinds of rumors flying on the RV forums that there is a large number of gate guards sitting around waiting for assignments. I have heard upwards of 30 just sitting in RV parks or at the company storage yard. I don't know if this is accurate or not and if it is, I have no idea how long it will be before they get a gate. Makes us feel pretty fortunate we are settled in here with a gate to guard.
The weather has been in the mid to upper 80's during the day and in the upper 60's at night. This is supposed to all change tomorrow with a predicted high of 66 and the low tomorrow night of 39. Brrrr. Guess I better keep my long johns handy! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 7, 2011

shake rattle and ......

The gate exploded with business today. The rush started around dawn and didn't stop all day. We had a shift change at the rig so we also had guys rushing out to start their time off.
There are several companies represented here and more arriving since the drilling is starting. One guy came in and warned us that he had just killed a fairly large rattle snake at the site he had just left. For proof he opened his tool box and pulled this out
Rudee wasn't too happy with this news and even more unhappy when we got a report that another one had been killed on our site! There are several mobile home type bunkhouses that the crew lives in during their week long shifts. The snake was found between two of the mobile homes.
The "safety man" here divides his time between this rig and another one nearby. He was gone most of the day and when he returned this evening he said they had also killed a 5' rattler at their site today. Guess we better be a little more careful moving around outside!
Looks like I will probably have a busy night tonight. I am hoping the "rush" is just from shift change and the fact they are starting drilling and things will not be as hectic as they were today.
The weatherman says we are in for some cool weather for the middle of the week. Highs are only going to be in the 60's and Wednesday night the lows are predicted to be in the high 30's. Maybe the cold will keep the snakes at bay! I'll keep you posted.

Fall back

The gate was actually pretty quiet last night and I slept for several hours straight. I did remember to move our clocks back an hour to adjust for daylight saving time, guess I got an extra hour of sleep, according to our clocks anyway :-).
I have been wanting to see some wild life out here in the boonies. There is a hunting ranch next door to us and I am always on the look out for deer and wild hogs.
This morning I stepped out of the 5th wheel just after dawn. Looking around some movement from the ranch next door caught my eye. I could make out a large tan colored shape and knew it was a pretty large deer. I went back inside and grabbed the camera telling Rudee to come out and see the big deer.
Back outside the trophy Buck had run off and in its place was a large brown cow grazing on grass :-) Whoops, guess I had "buck fever" there for a second :-) if you don't know what buck fever is, ask a hunter and they will tell you all kinds of stories, of course none of it ever happened to them :-)
I had to tell Rudee " never mind" and we both got a good chuckle at my screw up. I passed on another cow photo.
I did take a photo of our "utilities" here at the gate.
The back trailer holds our fresh water (round black tank) diesel generator and fuel. The water is pumped from the tank using an RV water pump connected to the 12v battery for the generator.
The other trailer holds our waste tanks. I leave our grey tanks open and only dump the black tank when it is full. The waste first goes into the small tank in the foreground that contains a sump pump which pumps it into the larger tank on the trailer. The company should be out sometime next week to refill the water and fuel tank and we will be good for another 2 weeks.
The gate was slower than normal today. When a vehicle comes through our gate we log in the drivers name, company name, reason for their visit, license number, date and time. The log sheets provided for us have 24 entries per page and we have been filling 3 pages most days. Today we only filled 1 1/2 pages and had a bit of down time between vehicles.
We have been here a full week now and are enjoying ourselves. The people are great to be around and are some of the most polite people I have ever encountered. Lots of "sirs" and "mams" spoken here :-).
The latest update on the rig is that they should start drilling late tomorrow or most likely Tuesday morning. I'm not sure how deep the oil is or how long it will take to get to it but they are welcome to take their time, I'm kinda liking this gig. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Up, up and we're away!

We are settling into a routine here at the gate and are learning a lot of the "regulars" names and which white pick up truck they drive. Texas has lots and lots of white pick up trucks. I have never seen so many!
Now I'm a car guy but more specifically a "truck" guy and I'm having trouble telling the difference between the Dodge/Chevy/Fords that run through our gate. You have to picture the trucks. They are all white, have at least one tool box and have a big brush guard attached to the bumper so they all look the same.
Gets a little confusing at times but such are the challenges of a professional gate guard :-).
The company man, Tim, came to the gate early this morning and told us to close it down. "No one in or out, period"! He told us they were raising the rig to it's vertical position and for safety reasons have to limit the movements at the site.
I closed the gate and sure enough several vehicles arrived in just a few short minutes. They were not too happy to have to sit outside and one guy was downright p.o.'d saying it was "b%llsh#t" and he was calling the company man! He turned around and drove off! Funny thing was about 5 minutes later we were told it was safe to open the gate again :-). He got all worked up for not wanting to wait 5 minutes! Oh well, not gonna ruin our day by acting like a jerk :-)
The rig is now vertical and dominates our view in front of the 5er.
up we go:
a little higher:
we have a rig!
The business at our gate has been pretty steady with around 60 entries per day. Of course most of those 60 come back out. That's a lot of dings per day!
I'm not sure what to expect when they start drilling. Guess we are about to find out though, I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Wednesday night the wind picked up to a steady howl and rocked the 5th wheel most of the night, we even had some rain! Luckily I had already rolled the awning up being warned by the weatherman that a change was coming. The wind blew our patio rug around some. I normally stake it down on all four corners but the pad we are parked on is as hard as limestone and I could only get one stake to go into the ground :-0
I had large rocks on the other corners but they were not large enough :-)
I was a little worried about my cell phone signal booster antenna that is mounted on a telescoping pole. I use the small ball bungees to attach the pole to our ladder on the rear of the 5th wheel. I checked it several times during the night and it never budged. Good deal!
The drilling rig finally arrived on site and now all they gave to do is put it back together :-). The rig is spread out all over the pad and there are two very large cranes waiting to move all pieces into position and then hoist it all into the air so the crew can start drilling. They are anticipating "spading in" Sunday or Monday.
Tim and Earl are the boss' at this rig and they are called the "company men". Tim left early this morning and didn't return until well after dark, He was at the old drill site lighting a fire under the crew there to get the rest of the rig moved over to this site. He always stops and talks to us and fills us in on the activities of the day. He patiently answers all of our questions about oil drilling and life around a rig. He told me this evening that once they are drilling he will come and get us one at a time and give us a tour of the rig. How cool is that! I'm really looking forward to seeing and learning all about it.
Rudee made chicken wings and fried green tomatoes for supper. She even tossed my wings in Hooters hot sauce! I couldn't talk her into wearing short shorts and a low cut top while serving them though :-)
There are several generator powered portable lights at the drilling site that the drilling company has rented to illuminate the work site. The company that own them had people her all night last night setting them up and making sure they were all working properly. I was talking to one of them and he asked me if I knew we had a visitor last night. I guess there was a coyote sniffing around our 5th wheel around 1:30 this morning.
I was outside several times during the night but never saw the coyote which is probably a good thing :-).
Tomorrow they start raising the rig but it will take a couple of days to get it put together and vertical. I'll make sure and get some photos and I'll keep you posted!

Meeting the neighbors

Wednesday was another hot and dusty day here at the Hinkle gate. I had a little business overnight, mostly people turning into our site and being in the wrong place.
The water truck did arrive as promised and made a couple of passes and as predicted the dust was back within a couple of hours :-( Oh well, the effort was appreciated.
We had a surprise visit from Lou Minichino who, along with his wife Lil, are guarding a gate a few miles from us. I was grabbing some sleep and didn't get to meet him but we have already been corresponding by email. He and Rudee had a nice visit. They are rookies at this gate guarding thing too and have only been on their gate a few days longer than us.
I needed to make a run into town for a few supplies so took care of that late in the afternoon. There is another gate about 3 miles from us that I pass by on my drive to town and on my way back I saw the guard outside so I stopped in and introduced myself to Fay. She is a widow who is gate guarding alone! She works this gate 24/7 all by herself. That has to be tough when things are busy. I have no idea how she gets to leave to get her groceries and other errands done.
Once I made it back to the 5er I started our supper. Salmon Patties with roasted potatoes and a salad. Turned out pretty well even though I was just "wingin it" for most of the meal. We had 2 patties left over and Rudee froze them for a future meal.
The gate got busy right when we were wanting to eat so we took our salads outside in the shade to eat between checking vehicles in and out.
We both had the feeling we were being watched. Ever have that feeling? Rudee found out we have more neighbors :-)
I talked to the "safety man" and the only part of the rig is here. The rest of it should arrive sometime Thursday and he said they would probably start drilling sometime this week end. The drilling will last for around 3 weeks and then they tear down and move on. Sometimes they take their gate guards along to their new site if they like them.
The drilling crew came in late this evening and moved into their housing units at the well site. Looks like Hinkle A-2H will be more than just a gravel spot on the side of the road soon. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

busy day at Hinkel A-2H

I was up and down most of the night. I only had one vehicle enter our gate and he was lost and looking for the adjacent rig. I just couldn't sleep, afraid of missing an alarm I guess. I got up for good shortly after 3am and watched TV trying not to disturb Rudee.
Once daylight hit the gate got busy fast. We were only checking in the pick ups and 4 wheelers. The semi trucks we just waived through per the boss man's instructions.
We ended up having over 60 in and outs logged on our sheets and easily three times that many semis coming in and out.
The rig pad is taking shape and the actually rig is due in tomorrow. I'm not sure how long it will take them to raise the rig but it should be interesting :-)
The work is really easy. When a vehicle arrives we simply log them in getting the drivers name, company and license plate number. We log the date and time they arrive as well. Then when they leave we mark that time too.
Most everyone is friendly here and we are enjoying ourselves. The worst thing is probably all the dust stirred up by the traffic. Lots and lots of dust covering everything.
We were excited to see a water truck show up and start wetting down the road but they stopped when they got to our lane :-(
The company man Tim has promised us that a water truck will be here for us in the morning. That should help keep the dust down for an hour or two :-).
We saw two large birds across the road from us and once I was able to get on the internet we ID'd them as Common Black Hawks. They were busy hunting for food near the highway. Our only other wild life sighting was a small preying mantis and a butterfly :-) but we have been warned of the scorpions and rattle snakes. Let me tell you, that got Rudee's attention! I had to go purchase a long handled shovel in case we have to go on the defensive :-)!
We have gotten used to the constant hum of the generator. I expected it to be a lot louder then it is and now I hardly notice it at all. The rest of our utilities are continuing to work as they should so life is good here at the gate. I'll keep you posted