Along the Natchez Trace

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why Guard a Gate?

This is kind of a continuation of my last blog...  about our latest adventure ...  being gate guards in Southwest Texas....

The company that we'll be working for puts us up in their own RV Park until they have a gate for us.  Gate Guarding is a serious business down here in southwest Texas...  there are a lot of companies drilling for oil, and business is booming.  Much of this land is owned by private landowners and is used as cattle range.  Some is used as game preserves...  both for indigenous animals such as deer or turkey, and some have exotic animals from Africa, like oryx or other deer-like critters.  So there's a lot of fenced land here.  You see very little road-kill and I'm guessing that the high fences keep the fatalities down.

This big guy came to visit us yesterday...  I don't know if he's a "domestic" or an import...  I can only say that the goats we raised never had such impressive horns!

When folks bought land several years ago they often bought it without buying the mineral rights, not realizing that what was below the earth would be so valuable later.  When wells are being drilled, which can take several months in all, the company who owns the mineral rights is responsible for maintaining whatever fencing, gates, and roads for access to the sites.

It's interesting to see who's around... if only by the tracks they leave.

When a well is being drilled, there's a lot of expensive equipment on site.  From the time the well site is on paper there'll be dozers, graders and all manner of heavy equipment getting the site ready for the really big stuff.  Then when the drilling starts many different companies will be involved.  We got at this site after the well was drilled and the fracking was in process.  There's the main company... then all the sub-contractors...  sand trucks, oil trucks, chemical trucks are some, and all the personnel that oversee all the various aspects.

It isn't practical to lock the gate and give everyone a key...  not only for the amount of keys that would have to be issued but also for the time it takes to get out of ones truck, unlock and open a gate, drive the truck through and get out and shut and lock the gate. 
Also, the main contractor wants a record of who is coming and going.  There's a lot at stake and the $150 a day they pay a gate guard is small change in the big picture.

There are scorpions here...  but this guy is harmless... he's a windscorpion...  about 2" long and looks deadly!

These drilling operations run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until completion.  This created a whole new area of work, which can suit a retired couple with a motorhome just fine.  Seems like a whole lot of folks jumped on this bandwagon because the government got involved and a person must be licensed as a security guard, in our case, with the State of Texas.  This is a Class 2 position (no guns required or allowed), but you must pass a test and get security clearance... fingerprints and all.  Of course there is a fee for all this...  for a couple to become certified it will cost just under $175.  This is good for 1 year, then if you're still interested in this line of work, you must recertify.

The prickly pear cactus are in bloom...  most here are yellow, but I've been seeing these beautiful orange ones as well.

 The pay sounds pretty good...  the going rate here is $150 a day per couple.  If you break that down to an hourly wage, you're being paid $6.25 an hour.  But you are a contractor so must pay your own Worker's Compensation... which is $15 a day.  That brings your hourly wage to $5.625 an hour.  No taxes are withheld so it's wise to pay estimated taxes quarterly throughout the year.  You will be provided with an RV site..  maybe shaded, maybe not.  There will be electric, water and a dump station.  The electric is from a huge generator that will be running most of the time.  It definitely will be running all night long as it also provides electricity to the huge floodlights that light up the whole area.  The noise from "our" generator kind of drowns out all the noise from the drilling site which is several hundred yards away from out site. 
 You get used to it.

The dust from lots and lots of big trucks traveling on the unpaved roads is constant.  Right now the daytime heat is in the 90's and upwards.  Someone has to be ready to open the gate and record various information ....  license plate number, valid ID, company they work for etc.  This can be really busy or very slow.  The pay and the requirements are the same.

So...  why did Bill & I decide to try this?  Well, we've seen motorhomes parked at gate entrances all over the USA...  from the site in Alaska at a school that is on summer vacation (keeps the vandalism down) to the oil fields in SW Texas.  We kept saying "that's something we want to do".  We often volunteer at National Wildlife Refuges ( We've done this 20 times or more), we have been campground hosts at state parks in Alaska and Oregon, we did work that month at the Indianapolis Speedway back in 2003.....  and we seem to be spending more time on other means of travel these days.  So...  here we are, in the dusty, hot, mesquite flatland of SW Texas, finally crossing this off our bucket list.

By the time we pay the taxes on what we earn, I think I'd be hard pressed to say we're in it for the "big bucks".  Maybe we'll make enough to pay for a couple months in South America this coming winter...  who knows?

I don't know what this will look like when it grows up...  right now it's about 6" across and barely out of the ground.  It's quite beautiful...  but like everything else here, it's gonna hurt!

Did I forget to mention that we got our gate less than 24 hours after arriving at the RV park?  We've been on the job nearly 2 weeks so far...  phone service is good if you have AT&T (which we do for phone)...  we have Verizon for Millenicom internet...  but there's no signal here.  So...  unless I head to town often, my blogs will be few and far between.  That's a bit of a disappointment, but we'll live with whatever it is.

We had thought we'd do gate guarding for 1 month...  but this company would like you to work longer than that.  We'll see how a month is... then decide.
That's about all I know about our latest adventure...  hope to keep y'all up to date as time goes on.

That's All For Today!


  1. I was wondering if it was a contractor position. By the time you pay 25% fed tax and 15% SE tax, it does not seem like there will be much left. But it looks like you could net around $2400 a month. Luckily there is no state income tax in TX. It does seem like there is a lot of wildlife and plants to keep you interested for a little while.

  2. Thanks for all the background information. I was wondering why random gates in the middle of nowhere needed to be guarded. I'm thinking the a month of that would be plenty for me!

  3. Thanks for the great recap and update. Beautiful photos, and I always enjoy seeing the things you notice! You've got a great eye, and thanks for sharing with us.

  4. That's the best explanation of gate guarding that I've read. Even though the $150 a day sounds good, I guess it really isn't "big bucks" !! Great pictures. Beauty is to be found where ever someone is willing to looks for it - even if it's "look but don't touch" LOL.

  5. I do is in the eye of the beholder! I sure like the beauty you see...even those scorpions! EEKS!

    Thanks for the job explanation...I like crossing things off the bucket list. But, usually when one thing is crossed off, three more are added! Isn't life grand?

  6. Very interesting description of the work. It seems like a good way to pile up some money and then go do what you'd like.

    Have fun!


  7. Love the goat! He is impressive, and not just his horns.
    I think the cactus is what we call a 'horse crippler.'
    Hope you see a lot of interesting critters.

  8. Thanks for the update on Gate Guarding. I found the $15 a day WCB costs to be extremely high - I wonder why?? It's a great way to make a few bucks though.

  9. Interesting! Loved the cactus shots.

  10. After that good explanation, hell would have to freeze over before gate guarding would ever make it to my bucket list. :)

  11. Great info. I'm filing it away for future reference. The spouse doesn't retire until the end of June.

  12. I agree with Judy...I think your cacti is nipple cactus.

  13. I have to agree with Judy. Best explanation I've ever read but definitely not for me. Very impressive horns on that goat. Don't think I'd like to tangle with him if he got mad at me.

  14. oooo, don't know if I would like that or not... expenses seem to be a lot... but u can't go anywhere to spend any money as you are on the job!! right? noise and dust.... but something to do, that apparently needs doing...

  15. Sharon, I agree with previous commenters that yours was a thorough and interesting description of your gate guarding gig. The noise and constant dust would not be for me, but especially frustrating would not being able to post on our blog and read and comment on other blogs. Thanks for the photos of the birds, wildlife (does that goat qualify as such?) and insects...scorpions, yike!

  16. Thanks for the good explanation. I don't think it would be for us. I'd hate the heat, dirt and storms, but it's sure a good way to quickly sock away a few bucks.

  17. Good description of the job and pay and deductions. I think a month would be doable, especially for a couple. It would be hard for me if I didn't have Internet, though. If you could stay two months, you'd have a nice little nest egg for your travel fund. :)