Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Know When To Fold Them


Remember the Kenny Rodgers song the “Gambler”, and the lyric’s of “You got to know when to fold them”.  This past week Max and I have learned that lesson well.

Let me start at the beginning.

Tuesday of last week we had our appointment with TimeKeepers Gate Guard Services to get our testing done for our licensing. We arrived at our appointment time at 3:30 and promptly started taking the test. As we were were taking the test they told us a gate just opened up and wanted to know if we could be there by the morning.

I asked what about the 8 other couples that were on the waiting list. They said that all 8 couples stated that it was too short of a notice to be there by the morning. Well Max and I have a weakness. We both will do what ever it takes for an employer. The gate was suppose to be about a three hour drive south of us. One problem was that they wanted us there by 7:00am.

We asked where the gate was and they said north of Laredo. We were to meet a guy in Encinal and he would take us to the gate and set us up with the generator, water etc.. I then asked how safe this area was and they responded that it was not bad but there were armed security guards at a gate just across the road, and the Border Patrol was always driving past.

We were not sure how long it would be before another gate opened up so we said we would take it. The downside was that we were not stocked up on groceries. So we had to get supplies that night.

We finished up our paperwork and then headed to Walmart to stock up. We had to meet a guy in Encinal at 5:00am. That meant that we would have to leave Medina Lake at 2:30 am. Not a pleasant thought for sure but our you got to do what you got to do to get the job done attitudes kicked in.

With about 2 hours sleep we pulled the slides in and headed south. We met our contact person Carlos at the Loves Truck Stop in Encinal. We then drove another hour south and north of Laredo. Then the pavement ended. We had to go about 8 miles on the roughest road we have ever been on.  In the dark to boot.

We arrived at our gate and got set up, we were replacing another gate guard from another company. We were told that they would be packing up when we got there. “They” was a young Mexican kid of about 24 working out of a trailer that has been there for about a year and a half. He was not told he was being replaced. Obviously his trailer was set up at the most convenient spot. He had no tow vehicle to pull the trailer out so we knew it would be awhile before it would get moved.

So we set up on the other side of the gate the best we could. With the temperatures hitting 110 degrees everyday I wanted our door side facing east so we would not have the hot setting sun on our awning side. This prevented us from having a good clear view of the gate. We did buy some wireless driveway monitors to set up so we could hear when someone pulled up.

Once we took over the gate Max would take dayshift and I would take nights. The first day we started it was very busy. They had started the Fracking and we had workers and large trucks coming in and out of the gate constantly day and night. The first day we had countless workers ask us if we had a gun with us. Now, we were told by our employer that we could not have any firearms. But of course I am a country boy and you can read between the lines.

From the moment we got there my spidy senses were kicking in. I just never got comfortable. The generator they gave us was not putting out 50 amp, meaning we could only have one A/C on in 110 degrees. We had to shut it off to run the microwave, turn on the Tv ect..we had our fridge on LP. We did not have to worry about hot water, the 110 degrees outside took care of that. There was no way we could sustain this for too long. A call to the company and they said the would try to get us a bigger generator but it would be at least a week. Ok we will tough it out.

The first day I had probably had 15 people asked us if we had a gun, of course my answer was no, because the company would dismiss us if I said yes. I was really starting to worry about our safety. The armed guard that was suppose to be across the road was in reality about .2 miles down the road.

We figured out that the road we were on was called the hell highway. It is the first road you would come to if you came across the Rio Grande, which was just 2 miles to our south. We learned that illegals will come through in groups of 20 or 30 hoping that a few will make it all the way to highway 83 to our east. Plus the drug smugglers would come across the river and get picked up by trucks out on the road.

On our second day there was a Border Patrol chase that ended up with a truck rolling over and a few drug smugglers scattering into the brush. We were told to look out  for a wounded man without a boot on that may come looking for help. That night I had to call Border Patrol due to Illegals trying to stop trucks on the road. There was also an accident where a truck had rolled. It took a good hour before an ambulance arrived and then an air rescue helicopter brought in to take the driver out.

Out of the 5 nights we were there I had to call the Border Patrol 3 of them. Plus it took a good hour before they would get there or just drive by. The kicker for us is when I had a drug smuggler come to my gate, posing as a worker for one of the big companies that come through all the time. He was being chased, pulled into my gate, gave me false information and I let him in. Fifteen minutes later he came back out and left. Five minutes later the Border Patrol  stopped and told me that he was chasing him and wanted his information that he had given me. The Border Patrol told us that they will even put logos on the side of the trucks so they can slip into the oilfields. It is crazy that they do not require the workers to show an employee id to access the gate. But that can be forged too I guess!

Now I like to watch Border Wars on TV but I do not want to be on it. There was no way we were comfortable leaving one of us at the gate so the other could go get supplies as needed. We decided that this gate was not for us. Work camping with a pistol in my pocket and a shotgun at the door is not my idea of enjoying my retirement and experiencing new adventures. “Know When To Fold Them”

Monday morning I called the company and told them that we were not going to be spending another night. To have someone relieve us by 6:00pm. I wanted out before dark.

The job itself is not bad, we just had a horrible gate location and a generator that could only give us minimum power.We arrived at a very busy time due to the fracking operation going on. The conditions are very rough due to the high wind and dust. Dust tornadoes would come across us every now and then. The dust from all the big trucks both going down the road and coming through the gate was thick. Very hard on your rig.

Will we take another gate? I am not sure, right now we are back close to San Antonio. We will not make any decision too soon. One thing for sure is that if we do take another gate it will be further in from the border.

We tried to use our easy-up canopy for shade. It lasted 3 days until a dust tornado took it out.


Set up next to the gate, we had no good view of the gate from our windows and I could not swing the rig around due to the back would have been sticking out on an access road. 


On our way out. Hell Highway


I would only do 15 – 20 mph at the most. We were passed by trucks both big and small that would do 45 or 50. The dust would be so bad you could not tell if someone was coming or if someone stopped

A car had just passed us and you can see one coming from the other direction. Accident waiting to happen.


This is a low water crossing, if they get heavy rain you have to go across the wooden bridge. I do not think that I would want to try to navigate my rig across it.


We made it back to the Thousand Trails resort at around 11:30 that night. Exhausted, we just set up as quickly as we could and tried to relax.

Will we take another gate? I am not sure, right now we are back close to San Antonio. We will not make any decision too soon. One thing for sure is that if we do take another gate it will be further in from the border. We have to decide if it is worth the wear and tear on the rig and our nerves!

Enjoy Your Day!


Jessica and Harry said...

Those gate jobs are not for us, that's for sure. I wouldn't like the hours either.

Are you going back to Amazon this year?

Laurie and George said...

We certainly will take this into account when doing our research about gate guarding. I know it's a great way to build up some cash, I guess that's why they pay so well :)

Steve and Joan said...

....and you thought our job was hard! Ours has been a walk in the park compared to gate guarding! OMG!Glad you guys are ok. On another note, we are enjoying the Oregon coast with Jim and Deb. They said to tell you hi!

Dan and Tricia said...

After your experience, I think this will go on our "don't want to entertain this idea" list! Good thing you went with your gut and got out!

Tumbleweed Dee said...

There's another couple doing gate guarding closer to North Houston. They hate the hours because some has to be there at all times, other then that all is well.

I would have left too. Just way too dangerous. We're in Texas, maybe we can meet up. We're in Dallas area at the moment but going to Houston in a week or two.

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

Sounds like you made a great decision, that is not a job, more like a prison sentence:(

Al and Karen said...

Wow, guys, that's unreal. I have done a bit of research on this, and it was WAY down on the bottom of things we will do. I was curious how you were going to like it. Makes Amazon seem a piece of cake :-). Our adventure between here in Colorado and Amazon is going to be the sugarbeets...we report to Hillsboro ND on Sept. 23. Should be interesting.

Mike and Terri said...

Really sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Definitely sounds like the key is to be located in further from the border.

Phil and Rudee said...

you did the right thing to bail out of this gate, I would have done exactly the same, far to dangerous IMHO. Don't have to give up on gate guarding, there are some really nice situations out there.
Good luck

gypsygirl said...

So glad you quit that job, very scary and not safe. When a job doesn't feel right and its not working for you, yes you have to know when to fold them. Amazon didn't work for us and gate guarding didn't work for you two. We have thought about doing it but not after your experience. Thanks for the report and glad you two a safe!

Snookie Quinn said...

We have entertained this idea and now you have SQUASHED IT! I'm so glad I heard about this before we put ourselves in this position. Thank you for writing it all out for the rest of us. That said, I'm sure there are "better gates" but the hours are the pits, the fact one of you always has to be there, the dust and heat, its no wonder that, as one of your commenters pointed out, they pay so well! I think we'll stick to camphosting.