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

Sunday, February 5, 2012

99 days of gate guarding

Tomorrow marks our 99th and last day here at Hinkel A2H outside of Cotulla, Texas. This marks the end of our first assignment as gate guards in the oil fields of South Texas and I'll do my best to give you a little insight into our feelings towards this work.
First of all our budget and small pension dictate that we work for at least some pay most of the year. Gate guarding provides us with a way to make a decent wage with very little in the way of overhead. The company we work for pays $125 per day 7 days a week for a single well site. The wages go up $50 per day when more than one site is active past your gate. We had two sites working for about 5 weeks of our 14 week stay here. This is not a physical job and is very easy to do, basically just write down names and license plate numbers on a log sheet, not hard at all. The biggest workout you get is going up and down the steps multiple times per day running in and out of your coach with your clip board.
This work is a 24 hour 7 day a week job so sleep time can be erratic. I rarely got more than 4-6 hours of sleep at a time, less during busy times. I guess I had trouble adjusting to my sleep being divided up over the course of a day.
Most of the gates are isolated from the rest of the world. We are 16 miles Southeast of Cotulla, Texas adjacent to a paved county road. We were lucky in this respect as we do have a view of the passing traffic which helps us to feel less remote. There are a lot of gates that are several miles from the nearest paved road at the end of a dirt/gravel road and these can be downright lonely when times are slow.
The people you meet are overwhelmingly nice and polite. They are truck drivers, rig workers, safety and company personnel, and workers who do support services for all of them. They are overwhelmingly male and we ended up being adopted grandparents to some of the regulars. I say grandparents because most of them are very young. You can bet that working in the drilling industry is very hard work and seems more suitable for the young guys. You don't see a lot of old roustabouts. :-)
We made quite a few connections with several of the people that passed in and out of our gate and it was nice being a small part of their lives.
There are a few of what I considered downsides to this type of work. Rudee and I have always enjoyed being mobile and doing things together. That is not possible being gate guards, someone has to stay at the gate so going out for dinner or just taking a short drive together is impossible. We tried to trade off taking our weekly trips to town. That way you get to see some different scenery every other week.
Rudee compared life on the gate to being on house arrest with the benefit of getting paroled for an hour or two once a week to go to town! :-)
When it is dry it's dusty, when it rains it is incredibly muddy and you can't keep either out of the coach, as soon as you get it clean it gets dirty and dusty again!
Let's talk a little about romance :-), it takes a little planning and be prepared to answer that driveway bell! The work doesn't stop just because you want it to. :-) Bathroom breaks are treated the same, the quicker the better!
With all that said we have enjoyed our first experience as gate guards and being able to get a nice chunk of cash into the bank account is big plus. Would we do it again? Yes we would and as of right now we plan to be back next winter. We both agree though that 8-10 weeks seems to be about the longest we would want to go with out a break. These last few weeks have been a struggle but thankfully we have been busy and the time went fairly quickly.
Is this job for everyone? Absolutely not but of you are looking for a better than average paying job for a work camper this might be for you! You do need to do a lot of research and know what you are getting into before arriving at an assignment. You don't want to be miserable because you didn't know you had to work nights and week ends, rain or shine!

We dodged the rain and storms most of yesterday. Last night we could see lightning all around us! We did get a shower just before bedtime and another came through and woke me up around 4am this morning. I had the weather alert radio on but thankfully no severe weather came our way.
Our plan today is to relax and enjoy a, hopefully, quiet last full day here at the gate. We will be tuning into the Super Bowl game tonight and Rudee is already planning on making a pizza for supper to enjoy while we are watching.
Tomorrow will be a moving day for us. Rudy and Deloris should arrive here late in the morning to take our place and we will head West to Del Rio for several days of relaxing and reconnecting. Ahhhhhh, no bells! ;-) I'll keep you posted.


  1. Thanks again for your insight into gate guarding. As on-site security guards, we have very similar responsibilities, albeit under more comfortable (most of the time!) conditions. Oilfield gate guarding might, however, be something we consider in the future. Enjoy your time off!

  2. Great post today. Hope you have a safe move.

  3. I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for the honest assessment of gate guarding. We have thought about doing that, but Bob has found a good job which will last as long as we want it to. He negotiated three months off per year for us to travel to RV rallies and sites and destinations yet unknown. Good to have fun travel to look forward to!

    Best wishes on your upcoming time off and uninterrupted sleep.

  4. I like reading your updates. Thanks for sharing, so we can get a better picture of what it's like doing what you're doing. Enjoy your free time, now.