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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Caleb Schaber, Self Portrait

RIP Caleb “Shooter” Schaber. The Darkness Claimed Him.

Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever

- Ernest Hemingway

I returned from a business trip to GTS in Las Vegas to find that my friend Caleb was dead. Without warning or explanation he took a shotgun, put it underneath his chin, and blew his brains out right in front of his girlfriend. He had only been back in Gerlach for two days, having returned from Washington State after gaining a five-year lease on our local (but unused) train station, which he planned on turning into an art gallery and studio. As far as I know it was a project he was greatly looking forward to. Frankly, I was looking forward to seeing him do it.

Caleb Schaber was a dark, moody, gifted man. He was tall, tattooed, wore thick glasses, and needed to bathe far more often than he did. He was prone to bursts of ineffectual violence which, combined with his appearance, made him less-than-popular with a lot of people. He was a talented artist and a gifted, mellow musician with psychedelic sensibilities. Also, including me he was one of only three professional writers within 130 miles of my ranch, which made him a welcome presence here. Like me his sensibilities as an author were dark, which made him the only person out here I could talk to about certain topics. Amongst other things he’d worked as a freelance war correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan for Hustler and for Playboy, who awarded his online column their Blog of The Month award in August of 2006. I can personally attest to the fact that he was also an excellent and skilled outdoorsman, perfectly comfortable in the wild. In fact, he may have been more comfortable in the Granites than anywhere else I ever saw him.

I didn’t always like Caleb Schaber. Along with two other men (who will remain nameless as I’ve grown to like them as well), he attempted to intimidate me on my own property during the ranchers vs. Burning Man dispute of a few years back. It didn’t work very well and, I suppose in retrospect, was kind of comical. Even though all three of them were a foot taller than yours truly, I was the one wearing the .45 pistol, and they were all high as kites. The whole incident was more uncomfortable than confrontational.

Years later I met Caleb again after he returned from Iraq. He was sitting alone at Joe’s Gerlach Club, drinking. “You know,” he said to me, “I didn’t used to like you.”

I shrugged. “You know,” I said. “I didn’t use to like me either.” After that we were friends, though never close. I don’t suppose much of anyone was, really.

I almost always encountered Caleb alone, silently drinking, writing on his laptop, or painting intently on his battered easel. Even in a crowd he seemed alone: a tall, dark, filthy figure dressed in paramilitary rags. He was intense, filled with bleak observations about human nature, and often difficult to talk to, as time spent in two separate warzones had destroyed his ability to make small talk.

While in Afghanistan and Iraq Caleb saw and, from what I can understand by reading between the lines, did some terrible things. One magazine referred to him as a “DOD contractor, embedded, un-embedded journalist and bar manager in Afghanistan.” He took unnecessarily chances as well, going into warzones with little concern for his own safety, showing up at anti-American protests, and cheerfully hanging out with lowlifes of every description in the red light districts and desert outbacks of both countries. He was no physical coward, which I suppose makes sense. Hemmingway was on coward either, and he took his own life in exactly the same manner.

In conclusion, I’m mad a Caleb right now, but I do understand. I’ve heard a lot of theories about his death over the last few days: how he had been combining antidepressants with other drugs, drinking too much, and the like. Those explanations are too complicated for something so simple. The darkness he’d fought against his whole life claimed him, leaving what might have been the great work of his life – five years of uninterrupted time to paint - unfinished. He was an outsider with three strikes against him: he was a painter, a writer, and a musician. It was bound to claim him. More than anything else I feel bad for our mutual friend Ullas. Now perhaps the only painter in the Black Rock Desert, he is surely left with no one to talk to.

While I have Tina, the dogs, my unborn daughter, and you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Baby Cassidy

It looks like we’re going to be the proud parents of a baby girl! We’ve decided to name her Cassidy: a solid Western name for a solid Western girl. Tina’s pregnancy is coming along nicely. The doctors say that she’s as healthy as a woman ten years her junior and, as far as I’m concerned, it shows. I think it’s a combination of clean living, good genes, and a cheerful disposition on T’s part.

I completed my greenhouse and it seems to be functioning nicely. I’ve come up with a zero-electricity way of keeping the inside humid, and the design is keeping it hot. I would guess that it’s 10 to 20 degrees warmer inside than outside. Which is great, as Winter’s heavy hand is still upon the Black Rock. The floor is still a bit muddy inside and I need to do a lot more work building racks and so forth, but the basics are in place and working.

Plants are beginning to come up in the garden in spite of the usual problems with alkaline salt buildup on the top of the soil. A friend over as USG (U.S. Gypsum) is getting me a sack of Ag-Gypsum, which should help not only to counteract that but help to break up the clay even more than my homemade compost already has. I have big hopes for our vegetable garden this year, backed up as it is by the greenhouse. Additionally, I’ve planted a lot more trees, and put a great deal of thought into their location, species, and irrigation. I’m optimistic that many – possibly even most – will survive this time, barring unforeseen circumstances. I’ve also begun a second “lawn” (those of you who have visited in the past know that our lawns are very small) that I’m calling Cassidy’s Lawn, as I plan on putting a swing set there in the future.

I have some other exciting news about what we are doing professionally out at the ranch, but it can keep for now. Just know that we are healthy, happy, and