RANCHITO

Jake D, how are you doing?  How is life on the Ranchito (name of Jake’s property)?

I am doing really well these days. I am about to start a new job as a project geologist for a deepwater exploration and production company in Houston. My last day with my previous company was the day before Harvey made landfall, which turned out to be good timing considering the rescue and recovery efforts needed.

In one word, life on the Ranchito is AMAZING!.  We bought our house on 3 ¼ acres a little over a year ago and haven’t regretted it since. It’s our dream house and we can’t imagine ever leaving (or at least until the kids go to college).

Life in Texas

Congratulations on the new position. It’s been awesome seeing some of the activities your family and you take part in on the ranch. What is the deal with all the deer man, what part of Houston is this!?

We live out in Magnolia, TX which is northwest of Houston.  At the rate Houston is growing the Ranchito will soon be more suburb and less country. When that happens I will move further out. The deer just come with the territory up here. I could watch them all day.

Who is Jake?

In the spirit of introductions, can you tell people about yourself?

I’m 31 years old, been married for 8 years and have a 5-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl.  I was born in Gretna, Louisiana and have a brother that is 3 years older than me.  I grew up all around the world because of my dad’s job in the oil industry and finally landed in Houston in junior high.

Like quite a few people my age, I watched 9/11 unfold on the t.v. while sitting in a high school classroom.  I remember seeing the second plane hit and I remember the footage of people jumping out of windows knowing they couldn’t be saved.  I turned to my buddy next to me, who had already enlisted in the Marines, and without knowing how the entire day would turn out he said, “We are going to war”.  Being 15 at the time, I couldn’t enlist until I was 17 with my parent’s permission.

9/11 and The Marines

After some convincing, my parents gave permission for me to enlist in the United States Marine Corps when I was 17, with the stipulation that I join the reserves.  My mom figured this would save me from having to go to war.  I made sure to graduate high school early and left for boot camp in January of 2004.  I was meritoriously promoted to Private First Class during boot camp because of my physical fitness achievements and scoring the highest during the rifle range qualification.  After boot camp, I, went to my infantry training school to train for my job in the Marines, which was a machine gunner.  I graduated my infantry training school on my 18th birthday (June 2004) and found out that the unit I was assigned to was already in California training to go to Iraq in August.  My mom cried and I was excited, this was why I enlisted and what I trained for.  I did one tour in Iraq from August 2004 to March 2005.  In October 2006 I was medically discharged from the Marines.

Life After The Military

My wife and I started dating in 2005 and married in 2009 shortly before I graduated with my B.S. in Geology from Austin Peay State University.  We got pregnant with our son Parker while I was still in graduate school at LSU, but he was born in Houston, TX because I started my career with Devon Energy in early 2012.  Our daughter Kyler would be born in 2015 and thus completed our family.  We always wanted two children and were very happy to have one of each.  Since we are animal lovers I have to include our three dogs and two horses into our family picture.

Fatherhood, Kids, Interests

Fatherhood came surprisingly easy for me.  I am a pretty calm, level headed person and I think that works well for the infant stage.  Parker was a much more difficult infant than Kyler so we lost a little more sleep with him.  For a few months, my wife and I had to take turns staying up through the night with him.  I would do 4-5 hours then she would do 4-5 hours and then I would have to go to work for the day.  After awhile he started sleeping through the night and it was smooth sailing from there.

By child two, we were pretty-much pros at the whole parenting thing and I never lost a wink of sleep with Kyler.  I guess she is saving it for teenage years.  All in all, I love being a dad.  Teaching my kids about things that interest both myself and them is a lot of fun.

My main interest is anything outdoors.  I am a big hunter and during the fall I am usually out doing some deer and duck hunting in Mississippi and in the spring I usually hunt turkey.  My family owns some property in Mississippi and it’s a great place to escape the city.

I could have sworn you were older than me. 9/11 is one of those things that gets seared into your memory. I was in Algebra class acting a fool when we were hit with an early dismissal.  I remember thinking, is this a hoax? It was a tragic time.

I salute you for enlisting on the behalf of our country. I really appreciate that sacrifice.

Rewards of Fathering

Now I remember when you two got pregnant, Parker and Ya Ya were both in the womb at the same time. It’s extremely weird how fast time is scooting by. In reference to Kyler and Parker, what would you say has been your most rewarding experience as a father?

Just watching them grow up and see their personalities develop is rewarding. My son Parker has a curiosity for things similar to myself as a kid, and still do I guess. He loves to read, enjoys science and is currently obsessed with natural disasters/weather. My daughter Kyler has the sweetest and mischievous personality of a two-year-old, but she is so sweet and giggly its hard to not laugh when I should be scolding her. Watching my kids interact with other people is rewarding too, there isn’t a shy bone in their body and they will talk to just about any adult or child that will listen to them.

HURRICANE HARVEY

So as the world should know by now Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in bizarre fashion. How did your family fare in the storm?

We made it through the storm just fine.  Our house never lost power or took on any water.  I live north of Houston out in the country and most of the flooding was contained to houses along a few creeks, not the large scale flooding seen in the city limits.  Our biggest concern was tornadoes and we spent quite a few hours in our pantry during tornado warnings.

Effects on the Family

That had to be unsettling for the kids. It’s a blessing you all came out unscathed. North Houston apparently has more prairie land to soak up flood waters correct? Naturally, I’m always thinking about the geology/geography when it comes to living situations. Did your inner geologist kick in when you made the decision on your home?

Up where I live has a bit more topography to it than down in Houston.  Our creeks flooded pretty bad during the storm, but it all runs downhill to Houston.  Mostly my inner outdoorsman kicked in when I bought our house.  My wife and I wanted our horses in our backyard essentially and I wanted to get away from all the concrete, red lights and just the buzz of city life.  My inner geologist tells me to move to Colorado, but unfortunately, the oil industry isn’t as big there as it is in Houston.

THE RESCUE EFFORT

I saw that you helped in the search and rescue of victims. Can you tell me about that?

I don’t really remember how it all started, but I ended up linking up with some buddies of mine that had a boat shortly after Harvey moved more towards the Texas Louisiana border.  Honestly, I can’t recall the timeline of all this because the days just blurred together.  I remember that the first day we stayed in Houston and helped with evacuations around the Addicks reservoir area. The water had flooded quite a few neighborhoods and the only way out of these neighborhoods was by boat.

Humanity Kicks In

The amazing part about these evacuations was the number of civilians involved in the rescue efforts.  Almost every single person that was being evacuated from these neighborhoods was coming out on personal boats or jet skis.  The response by the community was inspirational, to say the least.  The next day Harvey had made landfall again near the border and the radio calls for rescues intensified.  That’s when we decided to get the boat to Beaumont and start helping out there.  We had to take an incredibly difficult route to get there which involved driving through high water in a number of spots for miles at a time.  Almost every highway leading to Beaumont from Houston was impassable by anything but a high profile vehicle.

Helping all Over

After about 3 days of helping with rescues, I volunteered at my church to start assisting families in the demolition of their houses.  It was amazing how positive people were during this whole experience, from rescues to demolition.  It’s true what people have been posting on social media, the best in people came out after the storm.  Race, religion, gender etc didn’t matter, it was just people helping other people that needed it.  It was great to see that side of America compared to what is constantly being shown on 24-hour news networks.

I need a moment to process this.

You have an extremely big heart.

More about Harvey’s Wake

So I’ve been listening to NPR about the intensity of the flooding and basically how Beaumont was an Island. The Addicks, that is right off I-10 going towards Katy, right? And wasn’t the interstate in some places, a lake for lack of better words? I can only imagine the chaos. Thanks for answering the call. I have family in Houston that was fortunate enough to not suffer too much damage. 

“It’s a pretty selfless act on her part and possibly more brave than me getting out on the boat”

Thanks for answering the call. I have family in Houston that was fortunate enough to not suffer too much damage. I recognize your reflection on the beautiful display of humanity that took place in the effort. Do you think this experience changed you in any way? Beyond being proud of you, what were some of the feelings expressed within your family as you helped, quite frankly, in dangerous environments?

The Addicks reservoir is just north of I-10 right in the middle of Houston and Katy.  All of the watersheds up north drain into it and then that drains into Buffalo Bayou which then flows into Gulf of Mexico. Under normal conditions, there is no water in the Addicks reservoir and even during heavy rains some water will start ponding near the dam, but it has never reached levels like it did during Harvey. Most of the highways/interstates around Houston flood really bad because they aren’t all elevated overpasses. Some areas dip considerably below ground level and they form lakes pretty quick. Unfortunately for city planners, concrete isn’t very permeable and when it starts raining 4-6 inches an hour the water has nowhere to go and then all the streets start flooding.

The Experience

The experience didn’t change me too much.  It was great to see the American/human spirit is still alive and well in a lot of people.  I got to go to some pretty poor parts of Beaumont/Port Arthur and it reminded me that I should be grateful for the opportunities I have had in life and the lifestyle I live.  Too often we forget that someone has it a little harder than yourself and you should quit bitching.  It’s something I learned living overseas in third world countries and during my deployment to Iraq.

A Wife’s Support

My wife was obviously worried about my safety, but she also said she never expected me to not help. I called her before I went to Beaumont to run it by her and without hesitation, she said to go and to be safe.  She figured if anyone could go out there and help people under those conditions it could be me.  It’s a pretty selfless act on her part and possibly more brave than me getting out on the boat.  She had to stay at home with the kids and hear reports of rescuers being electrocuted or falling out of the boat and going missing knowing that I am out there facing the same possibility.  I was proud of her to let me go, she is one of the most selfless people I have ever met and I think that trait is something some people need more of.

Jake, I’m glad I know you and your wife man. From the bottom of my heart, this was special. One last thing if you don’t mind.

Words for Fathers

For current fathers or expecting fathers, what advice would you give them?

The best father/husband advice I can give is to communicate with your wife, always present a united front and work as a team.  I feel that if you look at your marriage and your role as a father to your kids as being part of a team that has to succeed you can’t go wrong.  When I am the weak link, my wife picks up the slack and vice versa.  Parenting is a team effort and moms shouldn’t be solely responsible for the kids.  My wife is a stay at home mom and I’m not under the assumption that she sits at home all day doing nothing.  She puts in a lot of work as a mother and I should put forth just as much or more effort as a father.

I’m not a fan of dads using work as an excuse to not put in the time with their kids.  Sometimes the only time I have to bond and spend time with my kids is when I’m giving them a bath, reading to them before bed or wrestling with them before bed.  Be present in your kid’s life, all aspects of it.  You will appreciate it and so will they.

 

There you have it, folks. Man, I really hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I have. Leave a comment below and subscribe. Do you still think the humanity in people is still strong?

 

Categories: Family Life

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