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2015 Rebar Ceremony with Ranger Splinter

2015 Rebar Ceremony

Thus spoke Ranger Splinter:

“Rangers, newly minted Rangers…

“A long time ago, a group of artists, misfits, miscreants, and performers manned the beach in san francisco around a statue of a man. And then they burned it and they saw their community grow by 100%. What we do is about community. That community grew and grew until it outgrew where they were at. And they had to find a new place to practice their community, to spend time with each other.

“This desert was found. That group traveled out here to this desert, and when they got here at the edge of the desert, they were in awe in what they saw. They stopped their vehicles at one of the entrences, they got out, they marveled at what they could create out here. They saw that they could build any kind of community that they wanted out here. And in that moment of silence, there was a need. There was a need for someone to step up and say something. To lead them. And in that moment, Michael Mikel stepped up, took a piece of rebar, and he drew a line in the sand in front of them all.

“He said to everyone there, ‘When we cross this line, move into this desert, nothing will be the same. Everything will be different. And it’s up to us what we create.’ That’s the first thing about a Ranger. There’s a need for someone to step up and that’s what the Rangers do. And the do it with theater, with style.

“Later, as other people came and got lost in the desert – same guy – Michael Mikel saw that we don’t want to lose anyone out here. So he gathered teams together of people who were well armed, well liquored, and who had been to the desert at least two or three days more than the people who that were lost. And they went out and found them. In the documentation it says we were Search and Rescue. Nope. They called it, ‘Let’s go play fetch.’ And they went out and found people, they brought them to the camp, and built a community that way.

“There was a need to do something, Danger stepped up, being from Texas, he called what they were doing “rangering.” Rangering comes from one person taking care of a large area, creating law, creating order, helping order. That’s the other part of the Rangers: you step up to do something, you step up to help, and it’s fun. The idea of a Ranger is that you’re having fun helping all these people. So those are the two main things that are in our lore: stepping up…doing it with style and having fun with it.

“Danger couldn’t be here today, but he wanted me to impart two new things. One of them is that things aren’t always what they seem to be. So keep that in mind as you’re rangering. Part of finding out is listening and it may not be what it looks like. The other thing that he wanted to impart to me was that when in the portopotty, put the lid down before you pull your pants down, that’ll keep you stuff from going in the porto. I’m not kidding. I had to write this down because that’s what he told me to say. In other words, still keep it fun in the most solemn of our times. We want to have fun being Rangers.

“So now, with the gathered Black Rock Rangers we have here, veterans, we like to invite all you new Rangers to step over that line and when you do, join our community of Black Rock Rangers in taking care of this community, this desert, each other, and all the regional places you come from.

“Please step over the line.”

2001 Burn Night

Ranger Crow —

It was Saturday, burn night, in 2001, and I was Shift Lead.

In the late afternoon, Silent Wolf’s “significant other” had been arrested for allegedly messing around with a small cluster of ATVs which were parked near the Center Camp Café, and which belonged to Law Enforcement. When they returned to their ATVs, the LEOs found her standing there next to them. They had a person in custody, and asked her if she knew the guy. She did not, but for some reason she said yes. Then they moved forward and attempted to arrest her. Both parties became aggressive in response to each other. They got one cuff on before she jerked free, then they took her to the ground. She was laying on her stomach, and had her hand clenched together underneath herself, with one cuff on. She was then arrested and taken into custody, for resisting arrest.

After the burn we received a report of a sexual assault. A woman had been raped, and was now with our Green Dots. Description of the assailant was “Asian male in his mid-twenties with long black hair”. (We also had a report on the clothing worn by the assailant, but I cannot remember what he was wearing.)

I was angry and shocked at this report and the information that was being relayed from the interview. I resolved to do everything we could to find this individual, and then attempted to organize a block by block sweep of the entire city using all available Rangers, and beginning nearest the last known location. Some bike-mobile Rangers on the open playa were asked to spread out and ride to all of the fires, looking for someone fitting the description.

Black Rock city was on fire (literally, in several places), and “going off”. There were a lot of incidents, medicals, reports of stolen stuff (much of it found missing after participants returned back to their camp after the burn) participants shooting off pyro, people driving their unmutated vehicles around, vehicles driving through the trash fence in both directions, etc. Peopl were burning their art pieces (which were sitting directly on the playa), couches, and some were even burning structures and art in their camps.

Silent Wolf’s SO was still out at the Law Enforcement compound, which at that time was on the southern side of the city, outside the perimeter near the DPW Depot (which was not as close to the trash fence as it is now). The SO was a foreign national, and did not have her ID on her when she was arrested. Silent Wolf and his SO were camped at Outpost Tokyo, and he had back to Tokyo to search for her ID in an attempt to secure her release after many hours in custody at the compound. When I went back to Tokyo to meet with Silent Wolf, several other Rangers camped there then informed me that there was a BLM vehicle parked a couple of blocks back watching our camp through binoculars. (The city was a lot less condensed back then, with more gaps in between groups.) The BLM officer in the truck seemed especially interested in the camp where Wolf and his SO were living. Later on, this same BLM truck decided to roll right through our camp (between tents and vehicles) pulling into to the Tokyo camp off of “D” Street, and rolling all the way through onto “C” Street. He drove right past me where I was parked in camp, sitting there in my truck.

After a little while I got out of my truck. Another Ranger in leadership came up and offered me a pill. He said it was Adderall, and would help keep me up, and said that several other Rangers had been taking some to “party all night”. I politely declined, but he asked again and again repeatedly, ultimately holding his hand out and becoming more insistent that I should take it from him. His face was dusted white from the playa, and his eyes looked dark, like they were all pupil and no color, the darkness of his eyes accented by the whiteness of his dusty skin. I declined one last time, a bit taken aback at his insistence, and then finally walked away. A little later, Moebius came by to meet and discuss a problem with me, and I noticed that his face was also white and his eyes seemed to be black too. (I told myself this must be an optical illusion.) He had a strange request, and I was unable and unwilling to help him out to resolve his issue.

Another Ranger called me and asked for a jump, he was stuck out near a fire around 8 o’clock and open playa. I agreed, then Jynx and I climbed into my Suburban and we drove out there to give him a jump start. We pulled up, got out our cables, and jump-started his Jeep. I turned to head back to Tokyo, and was only a few minutes away when he called me back, asking for another jump. He had apparently floored it when he went to leave, and dusted out the group of participants he had been talking to, then his Jeep died again. (His vehicle was cold-natured and not idling correctly.) The participants were a little agitated about his dust stunt, and we needed to get him out of there and back to Tokyo so he could get the Jeep parked and stop driving. By the time we pulled back up to his vehicle and parked grill to grill, Jynx had fallen asleep in the passenger seat. I popped the hood and set up the cables again. I got back into the Suburban to rev up my engine a bit and charge his battery. We were sitting there with our hoods up, our headlights shining at each other’s vehicles, and Jynx asleep. After a few minutes, the Ranger got his jeep started again, and went to rev up his motor to make sure it kept running. However, this Ranger neglected to make sure that his vehicle was in neutral before he hit the throttle. The Jeep jumped forward and banged into my grill.

Jynx awoke with a start, sitting up abruptly with his eyes wide open. I saw the opportunity to pull his chain, so I said said “Dude, we just got into a head-on collision!” Jynx said “WHAT?!” All he could see was the hood up and headlights shining in underneath it. He sputtered and started to freak out, then I laughed and told him what had actually happened. I hopped out and talked to the Ranger with the Jeep, who apologized sincerely and promised to repair any damage to my truck. I told him to drive to Tokyo and that I would follow him there to make sure he got home safely (and parked the Jeep for the night).

At about 0400 I was driving around on the open playa, trying to clear my head and still looking for a long-haired Asian rapist. There was a medical call from the former site of the “Double Dice Lounge” (two  big cube shaped structures that had been a giant pair of dice, way out beyond the Temple. (The dice had been set ablaze a little earlier that night, and had now burned down into a giant fire circle.) I heard Painless answer his radio, and it turned out he was near my location and on my way to the call so I ended up picking him up. Painless and I were glad to see each other, and greeted each other warmly, chatting on our way out to the scene. It turned out that the medical call was from El Mano (a DPW worker, formerly known as “Circus Boy”) for a non-responsive participant. We pulled up to the edge off the fire, and looked around. El Mano showed us the guy he had been concerned about, and Painless checked him out, while I walked around the fire. I said hello to a few people I recognized while I scoped out the scene; the remnants of the Double Dice Lounge, the ruins of their bar (which was still in operation, although almost dead) and the human dregs left over from their party, scattered about in varying states of costume, sobriety, and consciousness. Most of the people there were sitting on benches or laying on the ground.

After we were clear of this scene, we say goodbye to El Mano and hopped back into the truck. After cruising somewhat aimlessly back towards the city, we ended up at the Temple. (I had already been there once, earlier in the week. I did not then realize what the Temple was, and kind of blundered in expecting to be entertained by the art. After a minute or two I was struck hard with the realization that I was standing in a mausoleum, or some sacred and solemn structure that I was in no way prepared to deal with at that time. I had left immediately. At least now I knew what I was headed into.)

We parked on the south side of the temple, circling the truck around to face the East, and we sat there for a few minutes looking at the dawning light before we got out of the truck. We walked away from the truck and away from each other, approaching the Temple separately, from different angles. Neither of us said anything to the other, we seemed to share an unspoken understanding that we each needed some time alone with our thoughts. Near the front of the temple there was a metal coffin sculpture made of melted firearms welded together. Next to this was a large crate that was filled with small pieces of wood scraps, all various shapes that had been cut out from the building material. The scraps were cut into angles and arcs, about 2 or 3 inches long, and each of them had something meaningful written on it, done by participants who hoped to burn all these words and experiences away. I found a bin nearby with more small blank scraps of wood, and picked one up. I wrote “I still love you” on my piece, and put it in the crate. I felt sad, and yet calm and peaceful. After walking through the Temple, I went back to my truck and sat in the driver’s seat to wait for Painless. He came back after a little while, and got back into the passenger seat. We watched the sun appear in the east, as it began to rise. Just then we saw an ambulance pulling up with all of its lights on. They pulled up to my window and said “We are looking for the Double Dice Lounge, but can’t find it! It is an emergency!” Painless and I looked at each other, then I started the engine and slammed the truck in gear. Turning to look back at them and pointing northeast through my windshield, I said “Follow us.”

We raced up and parked at the Double Dice scene, the ambulance trailing behind us. A grim scene greeted us as we approached the fire we had so recently left, less than an hour previous. A young man had chosen to walk into the fire. His feet began to burn and stick to the coals, and he fell down. Then his hands and arms made contact with the giant bed of coals, and he could not get up. A couple of people had somehow grabbed him out of the fire, laying him down and immediately calling for medics. (This was before Khaki had two radios, so we did not hear the call.) Al Mano was still there, trying to help, and he was fairly shaken. The young man was laying on a blanket, shivering, and there were grey rolls of skin curled up all along his limbs and some on his torso. The paramedics from the ambulance rushed forward and began trying to stabilize the patient, while we watched in silent horror, standing in between the observers and the scene. The patient was alive but in critical condition, and he was transported to an LZ in the ambulance, and put on a chopper to a special burn center. (I think he ended up at UC Davis.)

After we finally left that scene we wandered about in the truck, talking quietly and trying to process what we had just witnessed. Some time later, on another random arc of travel we came across a golf cart parked at about 1:30, halfway between the Double Dice scene and the nearest section of Esplanade. The cart was sitting alone in an open expanse of playa in the middle of nowhere. There was someone sitting in the driver’s seat, slumped over the wheel. We approached to check and see if the person was ok. It was El Mano, and he did not respond to our questions or our touch. We shook him a bit, but still got no response. We called for medics. It turned out that Tulsa was working at (what is now) ESD Station 3 and he showed up in a golf cart called QRV3. He came out and I think he gave Mano a sternum rub, or awoke him somehow. We were glad to see that he was now conscious and responsive, and then we followed him home to make sure he got there ok.

By morning, there had still been no sighting of anyone matching the description of the rapist.

I think I finally went to sleep in my Suburban at Tokyo about 0930. When I awoke, it was almost time for the Ranger party. I called the Shift Lead and asked for any update on the search for the long-haired Asian, and heard back that there was no joy. It was now assumed that he was no longer in the city.

(NOTE: Back in the days before there was a “Ranger Social” at Tokyo after the Temple burn, there was another tradition. Boggman, the Ranger Operations Manager, had a standing arrangement with the Gate management to acquire a stash of donated liquor and beer from the Gate, and he would bring this to Ranger HQ (which was located at the back of the Center Camp circle in those days) on Sunday evening for the official “Ranger Party”. This was an attempt to blow off steam, begin decompression, and congratulate ourselves and each other at the end of each event for a job well done. Ultimately this practice was frowned upon by his manager, who did not believe it was a great idea to get most of the Rangers drunk at HQ on Saturday night.)

I pulled up and parked at HQ, noting the party had begun, and Rangers were spilling out from under the shade structure, milling about with drinks in their hand, talking loudly and having a good time. I started walking towards the group, then suddenly realized that I was not ready to face the party. I turned on my heel and ducked into the old green Korean war era “GP Medium” tent set up behind HQ, which we had affectionately named “Hotel Moron”. There were cots set up inside intended for use by participants, some of whom were too unprepared to camp or survive at the event, and who were (in our ungracious estimation) “too dumb to ask their neighbors for help”. (Thus, the origin of the “Moron” designation.)

As I stood in the quiet tent, the temporal representation of what would ultimately become known and utilized as “Sanctuary”, I realized that I was not ok when tears began to cross my dusty and sunburned cheeks. I leaned over and held onto a cot, crying almost silently as I thought of all I had seen in the past 24 hours, the past week, the past 3 years, and the past 32 years. A rapist in our city, and we can’t find him. My friends girlfriend thrown down, stomped, and arrested. The young man laying on the playa, layers of his skin curling off of his body. The Temple at sunrise, and my lost love. After a few moments I stood up, took a few deep breaths and felt better after this small release. I checked the volume on my radio, and headed out to the party.

Boggman smiled and handed me a drink when I arrived, and a few friends clapped me on the back, asking where the hell I had been. I wasn’t at the party for very long before it started to get dusty. Then it was announced that it was time to mobilize for the Temple Burn. We weren’t used to this new schedule and this “Temple burn” yet, as 2001 was the first time the Temple burn happened, the Temple of Tears.

By the time we were all loaded up in the trucks and halfway out to the Temple, a dust storm had enveloped most of the inner playa, if not the whole city. No way to tell, as visibility was for shit. As I pulled up I could dimly make out the outline of some Ranger vehicles I recognized, so I parked next to them and ventured out towards the perimeter, where I found the group of friends and Rangers I respected most. Nearly all of us were in that one section of crowd about 5:45 on the perimeter. I was wearing my dust mask and goggles, and as we watched the Temple ignite, I thought of my wood scrap, and the love it represented. I felt the tears begin again under my protective layers of gear.

This was my first experience at the Temple, and I was a participant, standing in the crowd watching the flames. To this day, I have still never worked as a Ranger on a Temple perimeter, in all of my years at Burning Man.


Jiffy Lube Incident

From Larry Harvey’s viewpoint on the incident:

I’ve been asked to comment on the Jiffy Lube incident that occurred at Burning Man this year. For a useful overview, I recommend the article titled Burning Ban in the Reno News and Review by Deidre Pike.

As everyone knows by now, this year Jiffy Lube chose to erect a 12-foot tall sign in front of their camp portraying two men engaged in anal intercourse.

According to Ms Pike, “Police had driven by once or twice, taking pictures of the art. Then, on Thursday, Aug. 30, a deputy from the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office asked camp residents to take the sign down, possibly because of complaints from members of the nearby family camp”. She goes on to say that “Law enforcement officials said it was a violation of prevailing community standards”. Members of the camp refused to remove the sign. The following day members of the Black Rock Rangers attempted to mediate the dispute. In the course of a discussion with camp organizers they suggested — rather than ordered — that the sign be removed from the public thoroughfare. The Jiffy Lube crew again refused, and the Rangers then arranged a Saturday morning meeting between Jiffy Lube organizers, the county police and BLM officials. Here a compromise was hammered out. According to Ms Pike, it was agreed by all that camp members would remove the sign from the roadway. In exchange they would be allowed to “have a parade and demonstration in City Center – as long as the demonstration took place in the heat at high noon. Fliers were printed. And the police allowed the art to be driven through the streets on a pre-planned route, as long as rangers went ahead of the art warning parents that an offensive exhibit was coming through. By the time the art reached the center of black Rock City, a crowd of 300 to 350 protesters had gathered. After the parading of the structure through town, the art was taken back to Jiffy Lube, put on a trailer and driven to Harvey’s Camp”.



Pin Ceremony

A bit of history about the service pin ceremony from Big Bear –

When we instituted the Ranger pin ceremony a few years ago, I adapted the Oath of Office pledge from Texas and the Texas Rangers to Black Rock City the Black Rock Rangers. I read this “swearin’ in” ceremony at our pin giving out ceremony, probably the last one where we were able to muster as a total assembled group. The year was probably Burning Man ’99. Its no longer used, but I’ll share it now:

“This pin certifies that the recipient has consistently demonstrated the true spirit of the Black Rock Rangers, has begun to master the ‘Art of Rangering’, has earned ‘the Khaki Dot’, and is therefore duly entitled to enjoy the many wonders of being a Ranger in Black Rock City and an important and constructive part of the Burning Man Project. May this rightful honor serve to provide access to the great bounties of our unique community, dutifully earned by a true protector of the Black Rock Desert and the citizens of Black Rock City.”

Leave the “true protector” sentiment in place and sub Texas for Black Rock and you’ve got a little taste of the history of the Black Rock Rangers.

Here are the years and their respective colors:

  • 2019 – TBD
  • 2018 – Navy Blue
  • 2017 – Yellow
  • 2016 – Dark Teal
  • 2015 – Salmon
  • 2014 – Light Purple
  • 2013 – Light Blue
  • 2012 – Jade
  • 2011 – Pink (*ahem* Sunrise Rose)
  • 2010 – White
  • 2009 – Light Orange
  • 2008 – Medium Gray
  • 2007 – Pumpkin Orange
  • 2006 – Yellow
  • 2005 – Green
  • 2004 – Plum Purple
  • 2003 – White
Ranger Ride 1998

Ranger Ride

Monday after the burn, it was still on Sunday night back then, I took some Black Rock Rangers for a ride. It was a good move. It endeared them to me forever and is still talked about it to this day. It was a great ride. We cavorted with Tom Kennedy in the Shark Car, went out to buzz the lineup leaving that day, and more. Doug Wellman (Ranger Coyote, aka Stranger Ranger) shot this video and I edited it a little. There are some legendary Rangers in this group (Tipi Dan, Beavis, Pirate Pete, Ranger Ruth, others) and as you’ll hear them say, “Nobody parties like the Rangers”. Everybody hold on… if you fall off it’s your own damn fault.

Vehicle Fatality

Until this point, there are no rules about vehicle use at the event. Several vehicular accidents occur (one that ends up as a fatality) leading to new community standards and a need for the Black Rock Rangers to become more advanced.

John Law

John Law – who did a great deal of heavy lifting and “Rangering” – decides that the event is growing too big and getting too “commercialized”. He vows to not help as much in the future.

Becoming a City

Burning Man becomes most populous settlement (albeit temporary) in Nevada’s Pershing County and comes under intense scrutiny of local and federal authorities. Camp is now known as “Black Rock City,” and theme camp culture grows to dominate central camp design. After the event, participating law enforcement and land management officials give Burning Man project across-the-board “A-plus” ratings for safety, organization and cleanup.