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Fort Stockton, TX

Fort Stockton is located right off the I-10 in the middle of nowhere. It was a very important location back in the day though because it has lots of underground water. It was the crossroads for settlers traveling west and local Indian tribes traveling from the north to south of the border on raids. A fort was built and the cavalry moved in for a time to protect settlers and commerce along the route. The fort was abandoned when the Civil War started only to be re-sited and re-manned after the war for another short time. Part of the fort still stands and can be toured. It does not have walls, never did. The jail is still there, a barracks, the parade grounds, and officer’s quarters. It was cool getting to see those and how they lived.

Fort Stockton Guard HouseFort Stockton barracksFort Stockton Officer Quarters

The history of the colorful locals is interesting. I visited the Annie Riggs Museum one day. Annie had a bunch of kids and several husbands but still managed to run a hotel and seemed to be a strong smart business woman during a time when women were supposed to cook, clean, and do what their husband said. She even divorced a husband and managed to survive it well with the kids. Her hotel has 2 foot thick adobe walls and a full wrap around porch to keep cooler in the Texas heat. On the walls are pictures of how Fort Stockton looked at the start with lots of water flowing in a nearby canal for people to enjoy. Today you don’t see that due to farmers and ranchers taking too much water. The city sued them but lost. I learned there that one thing essential to building a new town is a bank. Banks are needed to make loans to bring in businesses and build them up.

Fort Stockton Annie Riggs Hotel MuseumAnnie Riggs Hotel VerandaAnnie Riggs Hotel room

Another day I visited James Rooney park. It is very large and a lovely grassy and well treed oasis in the desert. I took my lunch there for a picnic and sat in one of the many shelters. Once upon a time water flowed through the park but no more. The pond and channels are empty. There are playgrounds though and lots of people were there that day having fun. I walked the trail through the park. The town pool is located there and very nicely designed. Unfortunately, it sits on top of the aquifer and one or more of the pillars that hold it up had rotted away so it was closed for the season for repairs. Damn! I found out Balmorhea State Park had also found issues when getting ready to re-open so it too was closed all summer for repairs. No swimming for me.

James Rooney ParkJames Rooney Park playground

I got some geocaching in around town. That led me to the oldest building in town which is crumbling and fenced off but exists still nonetheless. I found Zero Stone Park near the courthouse. They hold lots of summer concerts both there and at Annie Riggs Museum. I found the original jail and got to tour it. The sheriff would live in rooms on the first floor while on the second floor they had a big room with wall and floor chains and a smaller similar room for women. Later, they added on a large room with a large cage subdivided into smaller separate cells for men, juveniles, and black women. They all shared a common cell for showers and eating. It didn’t look too pleasant but solitary looked great and if I were in there I would have punched the first person I saw in the nose to get sent to solitary. Solitary is a large room with two bunks, a semi-private shower and toilet, a table, and lots of windows. Much better accommodations! My tour guide agreed that she too would have hit someone to get put in there. LOL. On the walls were pictures of the sheriffs of the past. One of Annie’s husbands who was a real jerk that she divorced, was a sheriff who was shot one day in his office and the murder was never solved.

Fort Stockton Oldest HouseOld Fort Stockton JailNewer Portion Old Fort Stockton Jail

Apparently, every time it rains, parts of Fort Stockton flood. I didn’t see it since I was usually only on the main drag but other parts flood a lot I hear.

For lots more pics click here.

Back In Business

As you know, I have been without a steady gate since the end of December. My guard company has been putting me up for free in an RV park while I waited for a new gate of my own. In the mean time, I have been subbing here and there for other guards and working out of my truck on some 12 hour gates. They thought they finally had a  long term 24 hour RV gate for me but that one got closed after only 4 days. It has been quite a ride. The other day I saw a post on Facebook in one of my guard groups about a position available in West Texas. I called the supervisor there whom I know and got the gate! Of course, right after I got that setup, I got a call to sub for some folks I had subbed for previously. I had to turn them down.

The next morning, I hitched up and headed north 285 miles to Fort Stockton, TX. But before I even got out of town, another supervisor called wanting to know if I wanted a new gate they have with low traffic very similar to my previous long term gate. Aargh! I would have loved to accept it and stay in the area but was already committed. Sometimes God has a very weird sense of humor.

I have to say the drive northwest was wonderful. It restored my wandering soul and ignited my sense of adventure. Uvalde is a lovely little town I would like to checkout more some time. Bracketville has an old fort I would like to have toured if I had the time. Passing through Amistad National Park area was beautiful. The reservoir goes on and on forever and was so inviting. I will definitely be spending a few days there when I go back south again. I passed by Laughlin Air Base as a group of planes were doing maneuvers and came in for a landing right over me. The biggest shock was passing through Langtry and right by the Judge Roy Bean Museum. I so wanted to stop but had people waiting for me. I also crossed over the Pecos River.

Both the truck and trailer behaved very well with no problems. My truck still hates hills and shifts too much at 45mph on hills so I had to watch that and the engine temp.

I tested out a new Onyx Plus satellite radio on the way with a SiriusXM subscription. More on that in my next post but it really made the long drive bearable by playing constant music from “my time” and keeping me from getting bored.

I arrived at the new gate around 5pm and the couple already there helped me park. This gate is a bit different from what I am used to. There is no grass or other growth around us to have to cut. It is just dirt all over. We are splitting the work with 12 hour shifts between us. I got the night shift for now. I like that we don’t have to open and close the gate, just log them in and out. We also get two sets of tower lights instead of the usual small work lights and we have trash cans to put our trash in which others empty for us. The gate is very busy with 3 drilling rigs in here right now. They still have to frac and coil tube so this should be good for 2-3 months at least. It’s extremely dusty here which is setting off my allergies big time so I have to work on that. Did I mention this gate also pays more? Nobody wants to work up here because of all the dirt and nasty winds which I experienced my first night here so they have to pay more to get guards up here. Most guards are also posted much farther away from a decent town which makes this area less desirable.

New gateNight shiftThe gate

Rigs are pretty at night

Fort Stockton is a short drive away and a decent sized town. They have a Super Walmart which is good since they don’t have an HEB grocery store. The Ace Hardware store is pretty big and they both ship UPS and accept packages for us gate guards for a small fee. They have lots of the fast food joints and even a KFC/Taco Bell which is rare in Texas. I saw a nice-looking steakhouse with a lot of cars in the parking lot I will have to check out some time. I also discovered I am now only an hour away from Balmorhea State Park which I have been wanting to go swimming at really bad in their swimming hole. Yeah, baby! I’m now close enough for a vacation, eventually, at Big Bend National Park and Carlsbad Caverns too.

Crossing my fingers this move works out. I am enjoying the cooler temperatures and change of scenery. The Permian Basin is pretty active right now so hopefully I can stay employed up here.

Still No Gate

Still no new gate. Got one offer to work out of my truck but turned that down. Just sitting here waiting and working on my other businesses. Getting some sub work for other guards now and then.

Did finally have to give in after 2 months and start working from my truck for a few days here and there for workover rigs. Nice having the generator in the back of my truck to run a heater and electronics. I watch movies and old TV shows all day (12 hours) on my tablet with Amazon Prime. Not much traffic with workover rigs. They put a portapotty at each location for me. Still sucks big time and it is tearing up my truck seat jumping in and out. Gas to drive to location every day is also a killer. When I get home, I have just enough time to refill my water jug, make tomorrow’s lunch, eat dinner, shower, and go to bed.

I got one gate for a couple days where I had to put my portable air conditioner in the back of the truck and rig up a tunnel over my truck box to the back window to stay cool enough all day. Another gate I had to pull my trailer down near Laredo for a couple days to handle it until the couple they hired could get there. Way too busy for me to stay but I survived. Long way down a dirt road. Trailer wasn’t happy about that. And yet another gate I was supposed to work for a day, after driving just my truck down a very dangerous road in the dark through construction, got canceled just as I arrived. At least they paid me for the day.

Still waiting…

Sad Week In The Oilfields

As well as working in the oilfields pays, these jobs are dangerous and sadly last week we have lost several good young men. At one ranch, there was a fire on the pad that killed 5. They were sons, husbands, and fathers. They are guys many of us have worked with or logged in at the gate. A few days later there was a another fire. 1 man was burned and has been life flighted to the hospital. Another young man was killed in a car accident while doing his rounds. The roads out here are very dangerous. They are filled with 18 wheelers going 75 miles an hour on two lane roads and drivers who have been working too long or gotten up too early.

There is also the danger from illegal aliens and drug runners passing through. Border patrol is always busy tracking them and picking them up. I keep my door locked at night and any time Border Patrol is in here. Then there is the danger from wild animals. From fire ants to raccoons to snakes to bobcats and javelinas, we get them all. Lastly, the weather down here is fearsome. We get high winds, dust storms, tornadoes, floods, and powerful lightning strikes.

These jobs are not for sissies. Why do we work them? The pay is terrific and there is something interesting happening or to see every day. In the case of gate guarding, the requirements to get these jobs are also minimal and you can easily go on vacation or even take months off then come back with no ramifications with your company.