Midian Ranch Blog

This is the web log for Midian Ranch, an isolated homestead in rural Nevada. It is owned by Jason and Tina Walters, whom are also its regular posters. This blog is exclusively for the enlightenment and edification of our friends, family, and colleagues.

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Location: Gerlach, Nevada, United States

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Missing Cats, Rocket Scientists, and Scrap Metal

To start with, let my offer my apologies to all of you for not updating this blog sooner. It has been an extremely busy last couple of weeks, with Tina and I engaging in a great deal of activity in both California and Nevada. The high points have been very high and the low points very low, but thankfully there have been a lot more high than low points. We remain under budget and reasonably on target for our work on both the Richmond house as well as the ranch, although circumstances have put us a little farther behind than we would have liked. So, to get it out of the way, let me begin with the bad news.

Several nights ago Tinkers - our cat of over ten years - took an evening stroll into the desert and never returned. Tina, Snap, and I spent hours looking for him but (honestly – Snap worked hard at it), for good or for ill, we could find no trace of him. The most likely prospect is that the poor old guy wandered too far from the homestead and got nabbed by a coyote or mountain lion. Needless to say Tina is inconsolable, but after speaking to our neighbor Steve I’m a bit more optimistic. Apparently the Black Rock Desert has an odd psychological effect on housecats: feline-appropriate game is plentiful, water isn’t hard to find, and there are millions upon millions of places to hide. It’s apparently not uncommon for them to go ferule without any warning. I’ve seen a couple out in the brush myself. Steve had a cat that vanished into the salt brush for three months and then reappeared as if nothing had ever happened. Tinkers has definitely been exhibiting signs of desert wanderlust lately, so I remain hopeful that he will turn up.

Regardless, I see two things in Tina’s future: a kitten and a coyote skin jacket.

Delta West Ironworks (my father-in-law’s business) has hit some hard times and has had to shut down, at least temporarily. I spent most of last week helping Frank close the place down: loading welding machines onto trucks, dumping literally tons of scrap metal into recycling bins, and trying to figure out if some of the older equipment was worth anything. We worked hard at it but it was difficult going under hot and dirty conditions. Again, although this was not exactly a high point in anyone’s life, I remain optimistic. We’ve salvaged core portion of Frank’s shop, loaded up his two good work trucks, and he continues to work on big money bids even as I write this. The man is very good at what he does, and I think that Frank will be able to move in with another welder/fabricator within the next month.

Now at long last for the good news. I bought this lifted half-ton 1988 Chevy K10 pickup truck for two grand that I freaking love (see below)! It’s got a few typical older truck problems – mainly, some leaky hoses and gaskets – but I’ve already gotten to work on fixing those. No big deal. It has this rocking carpeted bed enclosed by a Reno-manufactured Caravan shell that cries out “Go camping! Go hunting! Go fishing!” I’ve already paid them to make me a butch three-bar rack for the top of it. It’s four wheel drive, gets about 3 gallons to the mile, and charges down pitted dirt roads like they’re the finest of highways. I doubt it could pass even the most lenient of emissions requirements.

What can I say? Man, after all of these years in California, it’s good to feel like an American again!

My work on both Lucha Libre Hero (my next book for Hero Games) and expanding our warehousing operation to include more clients is coming along nicely. We’ve got a couple of sales nibbles that we hope to reel in soon. We’ve got a budget of about two grand for more industrial shelving and I think we will come in well under that, largely thanks to the fine folks at Twin City Surplus in Reno. We expect to be able to comfortably hold around 50 or so pallets worth of books and CDs in the Midian Warehouse. Tina estimates that Hero’s books will take up about 30 pallets, leaving us with about 20 more to fill with other company’s products. I look forward to the challenge of talking enough small publishers into using our warehousing/fulfillment service to have almost no spaces open by next summer when I expand the warehouse by another 1000 square feet.

On a more interesting note - the desert is filled with rocket scientists! All right, they’re rocket science students and a few professors, but there are dozens and dozens of them from around the world in Gerlach right now. The playa floor – the flattest portion of the Black Rock Desert – is apparently an excellent place to test their rocketry experiments from, so they all gather here once a year. While I was having a few beers at Bruno’s with the team from Georgia Tech the other night, about ten students from Japan walked in. I swear Gerlach is the most bizarrely multicultural small desert town in the West. Between the cowboys (and girls), local desert rats, hunters, Burning Man people, bikers, geologists, off-road enthusiasts, and rocket (cars and actual) people, you never know what you will find.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Soon I'll Be Driving Down Highway 40 In My Big Ol' Pickup Truck! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 03, 2006

September 1st: A New Beginning

And so I walked away. After 15 years of owning a messenger service - 15 years of defining myself professionally, spiritually, and in every way that matters as a messenger service owner – I left the Flash office after putting in a final full day’s work. It’s hard to describe what the experience of being a hands-on courier service boss in a major metropolitan area is like unless you’ve been in the business. Try to imagine that you’re a college sports coach, a NYSE floor trader, a psychologist, and a carnival conman all rolled up into one ball – that would be close. You could probably throw ghetto mother in there for good measure. It’s very intense: the emotional highs are very high, the lows are very low, the legal exposure is very real, and the money can be very good…. or not there at all. It’s above all stressful, and the chemicals produced in the human body by stress have been medically shown to be addictive.

Maybe that’s what’s happening to me right now. I’m detoxing.

As has long been my habit I pushed myself as hard as I could until almost the last moment, in all ways I acting exactly as if I’d be back in the saddle the next business day. In retrospect it was both comical and tragic. I would like to think that this tragicomic behavior came from a deep sense of professional ethics, but in reality I just don’t think I knew what else to do. I’ve pulled the plow so long I don’t know how to act without a harness strapped to my back. I’m not feeling sorry for myself; it’s just a fact. Two days out of the harness and I already feel directionless from lack of pulling.

Dominic threw a small party for me in the final hour. Many of Flash’s messengers came to wish me well; it was genuinely very touching. There was good pizza, excellent beer, and a lot of good cheer had by all. Dom and I said or professional (but not personal) goodbyes in a solemn manner, hugged, and I walked out the door never again to be Flash’s owner. Tina and I went downstairs to the Montgomery Street motorcycle parking lot, got our gear in order, and paused so that I could cry like a baby. What can I tell you? I had honestly thought that leaving Flash would be like having an enormous weight taken from my shoulders. It is – only that it turns out that without that weight I feel completely empty. The weight of Flash has been 90% of my life for so long that just philosophically knowing that it’s gone is like loosing a close friend or a family member. It’s been two days and I still feel like death on two legs.

Or maybe it’s been all of the hard drinking.

All right, it’s not just Flash. It’s Dominic as well. For almost a decade we’ve been closer than most brothers ever get to be. We’ve shared the same terrors, savored the same victories, and overcome the same obstacles together for so long that I have a hard time imagining doing anything without him. Even as I’m writing this I keep thinking, “How would Dominic feel about this?” We’ve spent more time together in that tiny, stressful office than we ever have with our wives at home. I honestly not certain that I’m a fully competent adult without the man I’ve come to think of in my adult life as an older brother. For much of my life I haven’t had to be.

I’m also not certain I’m a full man away from the helm of the business I stared a mere three months after I became old enough to drink. Or even a complete person away from the city that, for good or ill, has shaped my entire adult life. I’ve deliberately and systematically stripped away from myself everything that makes Jason Walters who he is so that I can become something that doesn’t really exist. It’s just a dream; abet one that has haunted me in waking visions for half a decade. More like a compulsion than a desire. To be really and truly free in that uniquely American way that our nation’s Founding Fathers envisioned. To live apart from others, liberated even from the wires and cables that tie us to one another. To live, as Jesus Christ once said, “As a passerby.” To become a real writer like Darren Watts, Steve Long, and Ken Hite rather than limping along as a dilettante. And, perhaps most importantly, to become the husband, father, and man I always hoped to be.

In the last two days I’ve learned this: while separating from the things one despises may indeed be the highest virtue, separating from the things one loves is the greatest torment. It is simply one of the Universe’s great cruelties that the two are often inseparably joined together.