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

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.


Blogger Keri Schaber Shearer, GISP said...

You have captured Caleb very well here and seem to know him just as family. I have lived in his shadow since the day I was born (he was a big brother and a mentor). He was great, exciting, aweful, and scary all a the same time. With him, you just never knew what he was going to do.Though we did not speak often, he was on my mind daily. Where was he and what on Earth was he doing now? Calebs hand drawn post cards litter my walls, he was a great free thinking adventurer. I love him and am angry at him for taking such a wonderful person out of this world. Our demons catch up with all of us at some time it seems. He will not be forgotten, a legend just like he wanted to be.

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, well written Jason.
I've been thinking about you guys.

On the topic of suicide, it bummed me out...when thinking about it myself... I couldn't use a firearm because of the repercussions of my beliefs in the 2nd might affect my friends and family, I was to chickenshit to jump off the bridge ( & regret it all the way down ) ... I sure aint jumping in front of no trains, nope...due to leading a drug/alcohol free life I don't get to take the easy way out.

Prayers sent for your friend and his unfortunate girlfriend.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Hey Jason, Susan Barron aka Quiet Girl here. We first met when I was Eric Close's girlfriend in 2003 (I think), and I've often perused your blog whenever I've missed the desert.

Caleb was a surrogate brother to me, and I did my best to keep him going for as long as I possibly could. In return, I got a friend who would do anything for me. He was a jackass and a sweetheart, and screaming demon and an angel who managed to show up in my life at the strangest times. I've attracted difficult people into my life since I was a kid, and Caleb was no different than any of them in certain respects; he was oriented in a direction of his making, and always knew where he was, even if he may have seemed lost to some of us.

I miss him now as much as I did when he was overseas, only this time, he's not coming back.

WTF, indeed.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Oh, and I almost forgot, I wrote some more about my time with Caleb here:
There are a couple of entries -- two out of several -- and I'll put the rest up some other time.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Deb Prothero said...

Jason and Tina;

Thanks for describing Caleb so truthfully and sincerely.

Also, Jason, thanks for stopping at the trailer while I was cleaning up. It was sincerely appreciated to take a break for a moment and meet with someone Caleb spoke of.

Hopefully the memories we all have of Caleb will help us through this long dark period of grief. Writing has helped me to put the whole situation in some perspective although I don't think I will ever be the same.

This is my blog where I usually talk about Canadian politics: http://seeingredinthesouthwest.blogspot.com/

The last few entries are about Caleb.

Thanks again,

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quiet Professionals

9:39 AM  

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