Gate 15 Officially Closed….Just In Time….

Last Wed. was our last day at the gate.  On Tue morning Rich went in, and we had hopes it would be the last, but no.   Now the maintainer (road grader) broke down.  The had brought in several loads of rock to spread around the valve area and the ranchers gate.  The maintainer broke down in the middle of the ranchers gate.  They managed to back it up behind the gate to lock it.  The operator waited all afternoon for the mechanic to come, but, no avail.  Theirs always tomorrow.  So Rich came home and told me Wed was my day to close.    lol.  So Wed morning I went to the gate at 6:30 as usual.  The guys started coming in by 7 am.  They finally all drove out around 7:30 to begin to dismantle my gate and replace it with a tall fence to match the existing fence.

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They had to take off the 2 – 8, sections of aluminum swing gate and replace it with 8′ rolled fencing.  Finally around 8 am. or so the mechanic came in and fixed the maintainer.  They began to finish their spreading and grading of the gravel.  Now they had around 7 guys to help with this gate.   How hard is it?

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After quite awhile they finally had it up, laced the new piece on to the existing poles.  Then they had to put in the 2 metal poles…….Lets back up the truck, put the shortest guy up, standing on the top edge of the bed, and have him pound in the poles with the pounder….lol….The rest just stood around and watched…….AND THAT IS HOW THE WHOLE MORNING WENT……LOL….

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My Gate ……….2  8′ swing aluminum sections…..

Finally at 1:05 Pm.  The gate was FINALLY OFFICIALLY CLOSED…….

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My Gate after closing………took almost 6 hrs. and 7 men……lol….and this is what they were doing as I left………….sitting…..nothing…..lol..

This has been quit and experience for us.   Will we do it again?    OF COURSE….next spring we plan on being available in April.   It has definitely been challenging at times.  Learning how to sleep at the 24 hour gate, learning how to handle 100 degree heat, the attack of the crickets in Carrizo Springs….and now we are infested with ants in the RV, because of where we were staying in our FREE spot.   It was good as it was free, with all hook-ups, but it was not mowed.  Basically it was the back of a service yard that was tall dead critter infested weeds, with tires etc.  stuff people had thrown out and was never cleaned up.  The ground was all rutted with tire marks.  When it rains, the soil turns to a horrible mud.  So glad we got out when we did as the remnants of Hurricane Patricia are now upon us.  We left Wed. afternoon late, and stopped at Walmart and bought 2 back tires for the pickup and Thur. we arrived at East Gate in Harlingen.  ……OH HAPPY DAYS..…Glad to be back…..Of course it started raining, we left last spring in the rain, so I guess it should rain when we arrive.  lol.   Now the last 2 days it has been pouring because of Hurricane Patricia.  We only got around 2-3″ yesterday, but up north, parts of Texas including where we were, are getting 10″ – 12″ or more.  It is so good to be back, just like coming home.  Everyone is so glad to see you and we are to see them…….  Familiar Faces……Friends……Already went and played pool with the girls yesterday, and Rich is playing with the guys this morning…….OLD TIMES……Rain doesn’t stop anyone here.  One good thing that I love, which most people hate………..were back with the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles……lol…In the desert it was total silence…..Nothing….but here we are only a mile from the airport and on the flight path.  I have always loved watching the planes in the air.  At home in Illinois we are around 90 miles from Chicago, but on the flight path for O’Hare and Midway.  The planes are already descending.  Sometimes you can tell the color as to who the airlines is.  Right behind the park there is a train track.  Many times a freight train comes through.  We are also on the main drag in town and less than a half a block from the main road to turn to the airport.  So in the evening, you hear the sirens of the police and ambulance.  But here in the park we are secluded in our own little world…….Love It…..

But the silence of the desert is a good thing also.   We would spend around 12 hours everyday for 6 weeks, just sitting.  Many times we spent hours before someone would come or go to sign.  So we would sit their and become in tune with the area.  What we thought was a horrible desert with nothing but cactus, mesquite trees and nothing, became a beautiful area full of nature.  I have wrote about the turkeys, the Mexican ground squirrels, the quail, deer, but not the Road Runners.

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Now we seen many of them.  They are so cool to watch.  They are not as personable as the ground squirrels, but they are not afraid of us either.  They would run with their head forward and I would say, “Hey Mr. Road Runner”.  They stop and look around, and then continue their mission.  Always looking up the road and around for a bug or food item.  As they run, they hold their lean frames nearly parallel to the ground and rudder with their long tails. Roadrunners eat poisonous prey, including venomous lizards and scorpions, with no ill effect, although they’re careful to swallow horned lizards head-first with the horns pointed away from vital organs. Roadrunners can also kill and eat rattlesnakes, often in tandem with another roadrunner: as one distracts the snake by jumping and flapping, the other sneaks up and pins its head, then bashes the snake against a rock. If it’s is too long to swallow all at once, a roadrunner will walk around with a length of snake still protruding from its bill, swallowing it a little at a time as the snake digests.  Did you know they can our run a Human?

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Roadrunners reach two feet from sturdy bill to white tail tip, with a bushy blue-black crest and mottled plumage that blends well with dusty shrubs.  They are really a beautiful bird.

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The first weeks we were their, they would be climbing on our truck.  They would hop on the hood and peck at the window.  He would also try pecking at the windshield wipers.  Then he would hop to the back of the truck and peck at the back window.  We had the windows down all the time, and thought he might hop inside.  He would hop on the outside mirror and then in the window but never inside.  He would do it over and over.   Quite an interesting bird, but always with a goal in mind……running…..stop…..look…….run again…..

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Another animal that is prevalent here is the Javelina…pronounced with an H…..We seen several of them dead on the road from being hit.  I only seen them once.  I was going to the gate on the gravel road, and came over a rise and right in front of me was a small herd of them.  I don’t think they are too smart as they didn’t seem to know what to do.   I had thought about it, I would have been able to take their picture.  They are a medium sized animal that resemble a pig.  Its eyes are too small for its head.  They are a social animal and run in herds. They are 2′ – 4′ in length and are 20lb – 40lbs.

As we sat their everyday, I began to realize, the oil and gas company’s that come in and dig up the land, really don’t do that much harm.   Yes they do destroy some of the habitats, but they strive to put it back as is was.  After an area is done, the rancher has contracted what he wants done with the land.  It is seeded with native grasses, and it then becomes a great grazing area for the cattle.  The ranchers that have deer, set up their feeders in the clearing.  Then it is a great spot for there blinds for hunting season.  All the little animals and birds adapt during the construction process.  Have you ever just sat outside in the woods are fields, or even in your back yards?   Do it sometimes……Listen to the sounds of nature……..As we sat their, I would close my eyes……

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I would hear the birds overhead in the trees….even flocks of geese going south…..

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I heard the turkeys in the brush about a block ahead of me……

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then from behind, a little soft sound of peeps….the quail were coming out and going across the road.  and the my little ground squirrels….

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.Their high pitch chatter….to the left………then to the right in the cactus patch far away…..they were communicating…..I was sitting in their environment……This is their daily life…..Now the gate is closed…….We said Good bye to all the Ralphs…….lol…..

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Our first Ralph was sitting by his hole the day before we left, just observing again……Now he can return to his life without humans…..lol….

………Life goes on in the desert……

Our Little Mexican Ground Squirrel Friends…..Ralphs

We have been Gate Guarding now for going on 9 weeks.  The first 3 we were on the oil rig in Carrizo Springs and then we moved here to the gas pipeline in Tilden.  We are Gate 15, one of the last 3 gates to be open of 25.  Our gate holds the valves at the half way point of the 30 miles it runs.  They are now finishing it up.  They were suppose to have had it all done by the 1st.  Well that didn’t happen.  Every time we think it might be our last day, something changes.  The company gave the contractor a deadline of next Wed.  The inspector came in and said they needed to pour another concrete pillar to hold up the valves.  They only put in 2 and they need 3.  Soooooooo, that means they built the new forms on Sat.  No concrete delivery on Sunday I guess, but we guarded anyway.  Concrete poured yesterday, Monday, and they also put up the fence around the valves.

(Did you know, here in Texas, the concrete trucks mix on site.  The trucks have a separate water tank and then the sand gravel mixture.  Interesting fact ya think?)

12175946_10204929469824173_2116345045_o This is a 24″ gas pipe line….I believe it’s larger than the norm.  They wanted quantity.

 So now today is Tue.  All they have to do is take off the forms and backfill.  Bring in gravel for the base, clean up the extra stuff and then replace our gate with permanent fencing.  Do you think they can get that done in 12 hours…….NO……….

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Fencing finished around the valves.  These valves are the midway point between 30 miles of pipeline.  Still need the forms taken off the 3rd pillar.  Our gate is about 100 feet from here.

.Rich called and said everything is done but the new fencing replacing our gate. That will happen tomorrow……….So looks like I will have to make another trip out……Bummer.   Nothing like them being slackers…..But it does guarantee me 8 hours pay….lol

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So now to my favorite subject this blog………..OUR NEW FRIENDS….RALPH and his buddies….

We first started here, you might remember, this little guy would go up to Rich’s shoes and chew on them.  He came every day.  I researched on him and found him to be a Mexican Ground Squirrel, native to Southern Texas and Mexico.  He has 9 stripes of irregular rectangular dots down his back.  An adult can reach 15″ from his head to the tip of their tail.  They live in burrows in the ground and have several different openings.  They eat grains, nuts berries,  bugs and even road kill.  They do like meat.   So I put out some wheat bread.

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Wow, instantly tamed.  They loved it.  So they started coming over to my side.  Rich named the one Ralph.  Ralph grew as we feed him….As you see his belly is really filled out.  In the sun his fur is shinny.  He became a pest.

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Next we tried left over corn.   I think he could smell it from the distance.  He came right over.  I put it on the chair and he knew it.

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He climbed right up.  Several times he even tried to climb my legs.   Scared me…….lol….One day Rich was taking a nap, he woke up and Ralph was on his lap…………….hahah……..They also eat and store it in their cheeks and go back to their burrow and store their food.  We knew right where Ralph lived.  He lived at near the edge of the road where the rancher pulls into his gate.  Not a very good place.

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He gets up in the morning when the sun gets hot.  He sits by his hole for 5 to 10 minutes in his erect stance and watches everything around him.  If the guys were working in his view, he would watch them for awhile.  After awhile more showed up.  One came from my side in the cactus area.  Rich named him George at first.  He would cross under the gate and come and take food.  Then he would run back to the gate and eat it.

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So cute.   Some times they would hide behind the gate and stare at us…..

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I would say,   “Hey Little Buddy, I can see you”  Then he would come running for food.  They are so darn cute.  When they run, their tails fly up in the air and they are so fast.  I think the tail is used as a rudder also for many things…When they sit. the tail is straight out most of the times.  When they run it is flung over their back towards the front.  It helps with their gravity points.  Many times they will run just a foot or so, the tail is flung over their back, and then they stop suddenly and the tail fly’s to the ground.

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One day Rich was eating his cantaloupe and he decided to cut the rind up in pieces.  We took a baggie and WOW, they loved it.   They also love Watermelon rind.  They eat it like humans, the eat the meat of it and leave the skin….lol…It think this is the way they must get their water.  They live in a dry arid area, and the only way they can probably find their water is from the cactus plants.  Their is plenty of them.

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Now I also set out water for them every day.  I use a bottle top and put ice in it to melt.  We have attracted more of the little guys.  At first, there was just one over by Rich, we named him Ralph.  Then several more showed up.  One over by me in the cactus area beyond the fence, George.  Then by Rich at the other end of his gate was a sand mound with a number of holes.  Another one came from their.  Now the sad thing is, we used to know who Ralph was.  Now we’ve fed them so much, they are all beginning to look alike………Chubby…..lol……Now were up to at least 3 Ralphies…..lol….and 1 new little guy………………….BUT………They are NOT SOCIAL among them selves…..

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They live alone and don’t like others around.  Their tail is small until they get upset.  Then it fluffs out and they play tag.   At least that’s what it looks like.   They chase each other in circles and off into the cactus.  Then one comes back….then the other one, and it starts again.  Even though the history I read says, that they aren’t social, I sometimes got the feeling they were playing.  I could be my imagination though.   They also make several sounds.   When they are spreading their tail, ready for attack, they make a teeth chatter sound.  Some times, when they sit and another one is near it is a low pitch vocal chatter.   The one I love to hear is the one when they are projecting to a distance.

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They stand up erect and their mouth is fully open.  They project a high pitch shrill chatter, almost like a bird sound.   I think it is a sign of claiming territory.  They have been so much fun.  What else do you do for 12 hours in the Texas desert….lol….

They also love peaches, and one day I gave Ralph my empty yogurt cup.  He loved it and carried the cup away to his hole.  He put it over the top.   lol.  maybe his sun shade?.    But finally the wind took it away, so I picked it up and put it in the trash.

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Here’s 2 more cute pictures, and these are the original Ralph, I caught him eating my shoe.  These little guys are so cute to watch.  They are so smart, and have an awesome lifestyle to watch.  No matter what happens here with the pipeline, they have adapted and stayed out of the way.  But they watch everything.  Its amazing to me, you think your the only one out here for miles sometimes, but you have no idea the eyes that are upon you from the bushes.  lol.   Could give you the creeps couldn’t it……lol…..Now as our days are starting to get chillier in the mornings….lol….65-70…..I notice they aren’t getting up as early.  They wait for the sun to shine and heat up their burrows.  They are suppose to hibernate very soon, but some say the southern Texas ones may not.   I bet it depends on the heat of the winter.  I was going to write about the Road Runners also, but I will leave that for next time.   They are awesome also.

Nature in Southern Texas is Beautiful……

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Two Weeks On The Pipeline…..

This last week and a half has brought much change.   On Friday, Sept. 11, we were still 16 miles from Carrizo Springs Tx. gate guarding an oil well.  We were Gate 3, and our neighbors next door were gate 2.   They were a married couple and her twin sister and 3 dogs.  Down the road was gate 1.  The new couple had just come in on Wed. and taken over, as the other couple left.   They were new and were going to get their license.  We had a really hard rain on Thur. nite and their awning was torn off the trailor.  Well, if you remember, my last blog the crickets were so bad.   Well they just got worse.  Friday nite, we all got the call around 9:30 that all 3 gates were closed………….Wow………..Now were were expecting it but, to have all 3 at the same time….rather surprising…..We were to be off duty 6am. Saturday morning and pack to leave.   So this is what we got up to……

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More Crickets…….Horrible Horrible…..the smell was getting so bad.   They were everywhere…..Piles under the wheels.   So Rich got out the Raid and sprayed the screen.  Then we pulled our patio rug out the the road and sweeped and dumped all the crickets.

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They were so Gross………Grrrrrrrr……..We actually were very glad to leave.  Then the worst part, when we put in our slides, Rich chased the crickets off the bottom, but when they were in, Guess What…………..Crickets came in on the top of the slide……….Oh No………We ended up killing Crickets the next several days…..We even went to bed at nite hearing them in the Motor Home…..Yuck….

We had asked Chris our supervisor if their were any other jobs.   He said their were 12 hour gate jobs in Tilden.   It was 2 hours away straight east.   We could also have free hookups.  It wasn’t what we really wanted, but we decided that we would go.  We stopped to see the neighbors and Carol came out and said, “See what happened”…..They started up their 1986 Motorhome and a huge pile of liquid came out underneath.  We felt bad, but had to leave.  Their car and broke down on Thursday, in town.  The parts couldn’t be ordered till Mon. and now this.   I text them on Tue. and found out they had to be towed to San Antonio and they were in a motel, waiting for one of the vehicles to be down.  I hope they are doing well now.

We arrived in Tilden and found it to be a small town of 450 people.  It is the County Seat,  and is also the home of Boot Hill Cemetery, one of the 2 authentic cemeteries of its kind in the southwest. It was so named because many of those who were interred there died violently, “with their boots on.”  I will be investigating this before we go….Sounds so interesting.   It’s main income now is due to the growth of the oil industry.  It is the home of many of the employees of the oil or pipeline company’s in the area.  The area is full of wells, but now it is really slow as the Oil boom has really slowed down.   They have lots of housing, and trailer parks for the employees.

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Here is some of the housing.

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But this is the nicer one.  Right now, many of these units are empty.  We found our place to park and hooked up……Not really nice at all………..but FREE………everything we needed.  Our new supervisor came, John.  Here we find out its a gas pipeline and he is going to give us not only one, but 2 gates…………Yea…..Double Money………..”The catch”….its 32 miles from town.  He gave us directions……travel 23 miles south, turn left, after 7 miles turn on San Diego Road……drive approx. 3.5 miles on gravel road.   You’ll find 2 gates across from each other……..Be their 6 AM. Monday………….What!!!!………..its dark out at 6…No lights on the gates……Their are NO NUMBERS on the gates either…….How do we know?……No signs……lol….We decided to go out the day before and find it…..Thank Goodness…It is a horrible gravel road the shakes the truck from front to back…..You cant go over 15 to 20 mph for the 3.5 miles…..It is desert, cactus, mesquite trees, and they call them ranches………..lol….

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Wild Turkeys, roam the roads and ranch property.  Groups of a dozen or more….

We found it….It turns out this pipeline is gas and is nearing done.  The pipeline is over 32 miles long.  It is connecting 2 gas plants that are 32 miles apart.  Right now they truck it over and it is over 90 miles one way.  So this will be quite a savings.  Our gates are right in the middle.

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Richs’ Barbed wire gate……he has to open it for each truck and log their plate and signature

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My Gate on the left.  It is a double swing nice galvanized gate….lol…This is our canopy were we hang out.   The Guy is Bruce…..We called him Louisiana for most of the time.  lol..We didn’t know his name.   He was from Louisiana, lives in Arkansas, but works for this company in Texas.  He is a welding inspector.  He spent more time washing his truck and talking than working….lol….But that’s where we learned a lot of info.   He was very nice and loved telling us all about the industry.

Gate 15 and 16 are right across from each other on the country gravel road.  The pipe is a 24″ pipe, that is already buried.  They are right now cleaning out the pipe and getting it ready to fill with gas.  It is quite a process.  My gate is the center of the project and is where the valves are.  They are cleaning them out with Styrofoam “PIGS” as they call them.

12041602_10204795095424897_644011828_o Used “pigs”, being taken to the land fill…..Different colors mean different textures for cleaning….

 They are the same circumference as the pipe and some have bristles.  They are shot threw the pipes under pressure, from the plants to the valves.  They clean out the inside.  It takes one, 3 hours to go 15 miles.  When they come out at the valve area, their is a big boom and lots of dust is stirred up in the air.

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After filling with water, they also build up the pressure for 8 hours to make sure it is sealed.  Then after draining they have to shoot more pigs through to dry the inside of the pipe.  They said the pipe held 2 million gallons of water in the pipe.  It was then drained into the ranchers pond and the remainder over the next hill.  During the drying process, they told us it could take up to 150 “pigs” to dry the pipe.  Now the drying process is over and they are connecting the 2, 15 mile sections and welding them together at the valves.  We have maybe 2 weeks tops here and it will be over.  My gate will be last, as it is were most of the activity is.

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Heavy Equipment crossing the road on tires, from gate to gate…

They are now grading and cleaning all the areas of the pipeline.  Some places will be reseeded as to what the rancher wants.  Then all the gates the contractors installed, will be replaced with new fencing.

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The 2 ranches that we are on have the most interesting, beautiful iron works on their gates.   The rancher gates are left undisturbed and the contractors installed their on gates about 50 ft from them. The ranch on my side is owned by a man from Houston.  He uses it for hunting.  He has a pond, deer stands, and his house trailer for his stays.  We were told he has over $800,000. worth of white tailed deer on his property.  Hunting is quite an industry in this area.

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The owner was down last weekend and was Quail hunting on his property.  Other wildlife in the area are Turkeys, Javelinas, Wolves, some Bobcats, lots of Ground Squirrels and Road Runners, and of course the dreaded Rattlesnake.

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Now on Richs’ side is the most beautiful Proud Deer standing over the gate…..Standing so tall and Proud….

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This rancher feeds his deer with a product called “Record Rack”…..We have seen deer, but only the young ones.

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12008418_10204766348346238_1649205244_oAll in all, this has been a long 2 weeks but we’ve learned and experienced so much.  And of course above all me made some nice money so far.  In 2 weeks or less, we will be done and on our way….Don’t know where Yet……lol…..That’s the Adventure……lol….

Until then, we are getting up at 4 am.  Packing lunch and coolers, leaving to buy a bag of ice every morning.  We arrive at our gates at 6 am.  We stay till 7 pm. and then head back home, arriving by 8 pm.  Eat and to bed by 10 or earlier.   It gets to 95 in the afternoon…..we drink lots of liquid….I eat ice and run water over my head also….lol….and the worse part is ….NO PHONE SERVICE….NO INTERNET .until we get home….So not a lot of time to write this blog….But the wildlife is breathtaking.  We are spending everyday in their environment and can watch their daily activities…..We have lots more stories to tell….