Oil Field Gate Guarding: The Good, The Bad and The Really Ugly

Oil Field Gate Guarding: The Good, The Bad and The Really Ugly 1

“We can do almost ANYTHING for two months, right?” 

This is what we said to each other and our friends before we left Utah after the Xscapers Moab Convergence and headed to Texas. It was our first oil field gate guarding job.

Previously, Erick and I read about gate guards who work in the Texas oil fields, looked up different companies who hired guards, and bookmarked “oil field gate guard wanted” ads. We were enamored with the thought of replenishing our savings account for winter fun within only a couple of months.

The company we contacted had quite a few openings so we knew we needed to act quickly. We were given directions about taking the test to become licensed security guards and where to get our fingerprints taken and background checks done. Drug screening was also required. All of this was set up by the company with which we were to be contractors.

Oil Field Gate Guarding - This is Going To Be SUCH a Cool Adventure!

Oil Field Gate Guarding: The Good, The Bad and The Really Ugly 2
Our Full Hook Ups

By the time we arrived in Lubbock, we had finished the online test and were officially licensed security guards with the State of Texas. While in Lubbock we also had our background checks, fingerprinting and drug screenings completed within an afternoon. Easy-peasy! We were on our way! I called our human resources contact and asked for directions to the gate.

During this call, we were told the first gate we were scheduled for was no longer available. The landowner didn’t want an RV near the gate and preferred a gate shack instead. Some gates have guards working out of their RV and others have guards working from a shack. The guard working from a shack stays in an RV park and drives to the gate to work his or her shift. We learned that, what the landowner wants, the landowner gets — so we were asked to take another gate or wait for negotiations with this particular owner. Since were ready to work, we took the other job. In South Texas. What’s a little more driving after all we had driven already? 

Sheesh, Texas is HUGE! Despite the exhaustion from all the driving, we set up our 5th wheel at our new location. Our manager helped us get hooked up to the water tank and generator the guard company provided. The above-ground, gray/black water holding tank was to be delivered the following day but didn’t come for two days. Thankfully we had emptied our tanks before leaving the RV park that morning.

 After setting up, we had about a 20 minute orientation which included the rules for that specific gate, important phone numbers, and how to use the app on the iPad that we were to use for our job. We were also given our company “uniforms” – multiple t-shirts with the company logo on them plus an orange safety vest. My orange vest was a men’s size, 2XL. I wear a women’s medium. Laugh if you want, it really did look like an orange dress when it was zipped up!

Was This Gate Guard Job in Texas REALLY a Good Decision?

Oil Field Gate Guarding: The Good, The Bad and The Really Ugly 3
Oil Rig Move

As with any new job, there was a little learning curve. Mostly it was learning all the quirks of the log-in and log-out app. Once we got the hang of those it was smooth sailing! Oh, wait. No, it wasn’t.

Actually the first two weeks were quite nice. I got to watch and identify birds during my shift, the weather wasn’t too hot and I was able to read my books. Erick and I were even able to watch and photograph the huge variety of insects we had never seen before, including the very nasty tarantula hawk wasp. This thing stung a tarantula, paralyzed it, dug a hole and pulled it right into that hole, all while I watched! I read afterward that once the tarantula was in the hole, the wasp would proceed to lay its eggs inside of the tarantula, while it was still alive! No wonder one of the welders I talked to called these wasps chupa huesos (English translation: bone suckers) and told me to stay far away from their painful sting.

But, I was still fascinated by our location despite the wasps and tarantulas.

Then we experienced our first oil rig move.

Traffic picks up quite a bit and doesn’t slow down until a rig is completely set up. This takes about two to three days. I couldn’t believe the size of the payloads these trucks were hauling, and they were only about ten to twelve feet from my RV! Any surface that could hold dust, did. But at that point, dust and crazy insects were the least of our concerns.

About the second week into May, the weather started heating up. The humidity was high and the heat index was even higher. We often looked like we had been in a rain shower, but it was all just sweat. No, we couldn’t just go into our RV to sit in the air conditioning. Want to know why? Let me enlighten you about specific gate rules imposed by the landowner and the Company Man. Every gate has them and every gate can be different. Our gate’s landowner required that the gate be closed whenever we were inside. Just imagine trying to open and close a gate with constant traffic in and out of the gate with no particular pattern to it. That was how ours was once that first oil rig moved in, and it just got worse when the two, yes two, other rigs moved in. There was no way I could go inside long enough for the cool air to make a difference. It would have been very inefficient and I wouldn’t have been able to do my job in a timely manner. So, the gate stayed open and I sweated my tushie off every day.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here, though. There were times when we were able to go into our RV during our shifts. It was just hard to decide when to go in since there was no definite pattern to the traffic. I do know that when nature called, I HAD to go in and the traffic had to wait. Sometimes the motion sensor’s monitor would beep, I’d panic, and try to finish as quickly as possible. I learned though, that putting out a sign that said I’d be out shortly helped keep the drivers from honking their horns as much.

What Did We Learn as Oil Field Gate Guards?

Oil Field Gate Guarding: The Good, The Bad and The Really Ugly 4
Cattle who set off motion sensor

Here are some other things we learned while on this job.

  • Texas weather is unpredictable in the spring. We had a microburst nearly rip off our awning. Always put in your awning at night or you might find your partner hanging from it during howling wind and sideways rain.
  • Texas is HOT and HUMID. Drink lots of water and replenish those electrolytes!
  • Mice will get into your RV and have no qualms about crawling on you while you’re in bed. This happened to me three separate times. But if you’re like me, there will come a time when you are too tired to care. Setting traps before you go to bed may or may not help.
  • Ants love to get into your RV, too. Texas has LOTS of ants.
  • Having both ants and mice in your RV at the same time, can just about drive you insane!
  • Roadrunners and Crested CaraCaras love the free mice fresh from the traps!
  • Cattle will set off your gate motion sensors. Obviously the best grass is near those sensors!
  • Wild hogs make super scary sounds at night.
  • Tarantulas really do make nice neighbors. Rattlesnakes, blister beetles, scorpions, and constantly mating walking stick bugs, not so much. Stick bugs have no shame!
  • The drivers and employees at our oil rigs were really nice. They are known to take pretty good care of their gate guards. We were given snacks, drinks, and meals on occasion.
  • Keep eye contact with those drivers. Stories have been told of gate guards who have been drug by 18 wheelers and lost limbs because of it. Safety is priority number one!
  • Water truck drivers are your best friends when those roads get dusty.
  • You must maintain professionalism at all times, even when a bug flies down your shirt and into your bra. Only after traffic leaves can you break into an interpretive dance to remove said bug.
  • Although our manager knew about our dog, many landowners don’t want dogs on their property. My dog didn’t like being contraband. She would have preferred greeting anyone who gave her eye contact.
  • Gate guards can earn on average from $150 to $175 daily. It depends on the company you work for and the gate you’ll be working at. There are too many variables to list.
  • Oil field gate guarding on a 24/7 schedule is not for the faint-hearted. Couples who like to spend time together, forget about it on a 24/7 gate. Chores and errands – grocery shopping, laundry, etcetera – are done by one person while the other watches the gate. In case you were wondering, we won’t work a 24/7 gate again.
  • We’re tougher than we thought. Our replacements lasted 10 days. The job itself is not difficult. It’s the conditions of where you work that you need to be ready for. We were always tired. We have great respect for those who gate guard year ‘round!

I hope that you have found our experience to be enlightening. Sometimes the compounding challenges bordered on comical. If you think oil field gate guarding is something you might be interested in doing, do your research.

Can you make a decent amount of money in a short time? Yes, you can. Do you think you could handle adverse conditions while making that money? That’s for you to decide, but don’t underestimate that mental challenge. Talk to people who have had different experiences from ours and really make sure you know how much you can handle from your environment before jumping into oil field gate guarding.

 
Oil Field Gate Guarding: The Good, The Bad and The Really Ugly 5

Author

Jeannie Dees

Jeannie Dees has been a full-time RVer for four years. Jeannie retired early from teaching to pursue the nomadic life with her husband, Erick Young. Work camping has been a new experience for them both, but living an adventurous life is not. They love to explore new places and meet new people here at home and abroad, and are always excited for what’s around the next bend. 

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24 Responses to “Oil Field Gate Guarding: The Good, The Bad and The Really Ugly

  • Great article, thanks for the perspective and the laugh Jeannie

  • Really interesting and informative article Thanks!

  • Jeannie Dees
    Barry Townes
    5 months ago

    I usually only skim these types of articles, but this one was great. I enjoyed it. We fulltimed for 10 years, but fortunate that we did not work…oh, we were military reservists and were mobilized a few times (good money).

    Bravo (or should I say “brava”) on a well-written, informative, and entertaining article!

  • Thanks for this tremendously entertaining story about your incredible experiences as an Oil Field Guard.

  • there is a reason the guard company’s can not have full time long term guards.
    as there is no such thing as a “easy” job.
    but good to hear what really is needed for this kind of work. but i bet some gates are just closed and boring almost if not through the whole contract time. while others are three times as busy as yours was.

  • Michael,
    You’re welcome. Thanks for reading it and so glad you enjoyed it!
    Jeannie

  • Jeannie Dees
    Butch Cummings
    5 months ago

    Thanks for filling in some of the blanks. I was reading some of Erick’s “exploits” of FB pretty regularly never the end of you stay. Glad you guys survived.

  • Thanks for the information. I have always wondered about that particular job. My husband and I deliver oilfield equipment to these sites and will be going full time this year. That may be an option for us.

  • Very informative, and also entertaining, article about Oil Field Gate Guarding. Much harder that I would have thought.

  • Jeannie Dees
    mizholly
    5 months ago

    Amazing story Jeannie!! I cannot believe you bothered wearing a bra through all of that … you are one tough woman. My hat’s off to you!

  • what a wonderfully written tale of your experiences….don’t now if I could deal with the mice and ants but all other, well, those times could be very stressful. Thank you for sharing .

  • Jennie,

    How do you get paid? How often is the payment and what taxes or other deductions are taken out of your pay?

  • Great story and super advice…….I will toy with the idea of gate guarding Much More Carefully.

  • Jeannie Dees
    Kim and Bob
    5 months ago

    Thank you for this. You certainly had my husband and I chuckling. We met a fellow camping couple that had been certified to do this job and hadn’t gotten a call yet. I have often wondered about how they fared. You two are made of sturdy stuff. Good luck on your next adventure 😊

  • Jeannie Dees
    sushidog
    5 months ago

    So let me see if I understand, on a 24/7 gate guard position, the gate must be manned 24 hrs a day 7 days a week by 2 people. This means that each person must work 12 hrs x 7 days a week. That is 84 hrs/wk per person, or 40 hrs regular time plus 44 hrs overtime. Does the job pay $175/day per person or $175 a day for both of you?

    If it pays $175/day for both of you, converted to an hourly basis, it is the equivalent of $5.78/hr (assuming time and a half for overtime). How can they get away with paying so little? Why would anyone want to work so many hours under such adverse conditions for so little money?

    In june, Target, a retailer where you can work in air conditioned and heated comfort year round, raised it’s starting wage to $13 an hour, and it will be $15/hr by the end of 2020. I think if I were looking for an entry level job, I might apply there instead. Two people working only 8 hrs a day could earn $208/day at $13/hr, and $240/day at $15/hr.

    True you’d have to pay campground fees or boondock (my preferred method), but if you shopped around you might find campgrounds that are very reasonable. For instance, I will be wintering over in a campground in the RGV, near Brownsville with full hookups for $180/mo. (+ elec. of course), but if I were on an even tighter budget I could stay at a little cooler FHU CG in Deming, NM (that we stayed at earlier this year) for only $140/mo. with very reasonable laundry rates too – plus the owners are super nice folks.

    Chip

  • Jeannie Dees
    Kathleen
    5 months ago

    Oh my! I didn’t even need to read your whole article to know that this isn’t for us! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Thanks everyone for the supportive comments! It really was an adventure!
    -Jeannie

  • Chip @ sushidog,
    You’re correct. If you look at the hourly rate you would be highly disappointed. Our pay was per couple, not per individual. However, this job is like an “on call” job. You need to be *available* to check in and check out traffic through your gate. So, while we were on-site 24 hours, there wasn’t traffic coming in and out of the gate non-stop for those 24 hours. Gates that have much more traffic will usually result in more pay.
    We also were not employees, but were contract workers. So, the companies can set their daily rate and as contract workers we can negotiate that or simply leave. Our contract stated that we only needed to commit for 30 days. After that we could leave, stay for more time, or ask to be moved to another gate that was more desirable. So, while our gate was a little challenging for the pay rate, we did have flexibility as contracted workers. A full-time, entry level job like at Target will give you more money but you’re locked into a schedule and the worry of burning bridges when you need a reference for future employment if you just decide to leave after a month. Also, you’re usually locked into only 8 hour shifts which gives you a smaller weekly income. Our weekly income was more than double what an entry level Target employee would get because we were paid for every hour of every day, 24/7. So making a decent chunk of change in a short amount of time was our goal.
    This certainly is not for everyone, but we consider our experience one of life’s adventures.
    Cheers!
    Jeannie

  • Steve,
    We were contracted workers so will receive a 1099 from the gate guard company. We make estimated tax payments.

    We were paid weekly.

    If you’re interested, the gate guard companies are happy to go over how this works. Just contact their human resources office.

    Hope this helps!
    -Jeannie

  • One of life’s great adventures!

    What a great way to look at it and congratulations for completing your difficult job/mission with a great attitude. It’s a great benefit to find out you can take on a job like that, see it through to completion and enjoy the sense of accomplishment when it’s all done.

    I was reminded of the many months at a time working an entry gate for low pay and “camping out” on military deployments in great spots like Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations throughout Southwest Asia and the Middle East. Wearing 35-40 lbs of body armor, gear, ammo and toting a rifle in 100 degree plus temps everyday while some guy in a vehicle might try to kill you did cause a person to question their sanity at times. Probably no different than spiders, snakes, mice and killer wasps. But, I will always appreciate the person who can do these jobs and find the humor and accomplishment in them.

    Great write up of your experience and good advice for others who may be up to the challenge and benefits of working an Oil Field Gate Guard job.

  • You didn’t mention the fact that Border patrol helicopters are overhead day and night. Not sure how far south you were. We are close to Laredo . have gate guarded for 2 1/2 years straight. Leaving in April. The gate guard down I35. Was broken into. They left and another guard who were their friends.
    Another guard had 2 guys in the dark night approach them for a ride to the closest town
    We have had Border patrol chase vehicles through our gates. Our fence on our ranch wad cut and vehicles drive trough with lights off. We were told by our field manager to go inside our RV and lock the door. Getting harder to do the job for the pay offered.

    • Jeannie Dees
      Jeannie
      3 weeks ago

      Hello Barb. I apologize for not replying sooner. The holidays were a whirlwind for us.

      It seems that you have had quite a different experience than we did.

      Were there Border Patrol helicopters above us? Yes, but not day and night. Only a couple of times were they truly overhead, but most of the time they were way off in the distance.

      Were there Border Patrol trucks driving through the ranch we were on? Yes. The ranches out where we were and where you are, are a network of dirt roads that start at the border and are perfect for someone wanting to cross into Texas mostly unnoticed. So, we would see Border Patrol officers in their trucks monitoring the roads near us.

      Did we ever feel unsafe? No. We never had any undocumented immigrants come up to us to ask us for anything, sneak past our RV or try to steal anything from us. As a matter of fact, we never saw any undocumented immigrants even though we were told there were some in the area following the ranch roads. But, just to be on the safe side, my husband worked the overnight shift and I only worked in the dark first thing in the morning as the sun was rising. I felt safe at this time of day because the welders would start coming in at that time and would definitely “have my back” if I needed them. Fortunately, I never had to rely on them for that.

      My recommendation for anyone looking to be a gate guard is to do your research of the area you would be working in. Call Border Patrol if you have to in order to get accurate information. If you don’t feel comfortable, then certainly don’t take the job. No one wants to do a job where they don’t feel comfortable.

      Barb, I hope you can get onto another gate elsewhere or can find another work camping gig that’s completely different – one where you feel safer. I wish you the best!

  • Jeannie Dees
    Janice M Silverstein
    3 weeks ago

    Great article, Jeannie. My husband and I just started our second year. However, we have been fortunate to work 2-3 months and take off 3 weeks. Although the environment and conditions and pay were not ideal, it allowed us to earn quick money to prepare for full time retirement income. The only down side was not spending enough time together, but the sacrifice was worth it and helped us accomplish our financial goals. We are back with the intention to work less this year and enjoy the projects of our new (100-yr old) house. I am also a retired teacher and will look into alternate income opportunities.

  • Jeannie Dees
    Jeannie
    3 weeks ago

    Thank you Janice! I’m glad you enjoyed my article.

    I agree that the sacrifice of not spending enough time together was worth the couple of months of money we earned. It was nice to pad the bank account rather quickly.

    It seems that you have realized your financial goals for retirement and I wish you all the best with your “new” house.

    Have a happy 2020!

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