Cecil Garland fusses over the West Desert like a worried parent hovering over a slow child.
He's fiercely protective of the gray land and the few ranches that cling to its harsh crust. He's become well-known for chasing off those who threaten the peace of his silent range."I really love the quiet of the desert," he said. "I never grow tired of working my place and being on the range with my cattle."
Occasionally he comes off the range to do battle. First he chased off the MX missile. Not all by himself, of course. But among the hundreds who opposed the deployment of the missiles on the West Desert, Garland stood out. His homespun eloquence was riveting.
He would show up at press conferences in his work clothes, make a few pithy observations flavored with anecdotes and similes that flowed with the grace of poetry, and people remembered him.
That was 10 years ago. Now he's back. This time he's out to stop the Air Force's electronic battlefield - a test range capable of electronically simulating modern battle conditions that might be found in Eastern Europe. The range ultimately would be used by branches of the military to test U.S. assault and defense systems.
The Air Force wants to put the range on the site of the Utah Test and Training Range - smack in the middle of the West Desert.
Garland studied the proposal and concluded that the battlefield would destroy the silence and privacy of his desert. "We'll have constant simulated warfare going on around us," he said in an interview with the Deseret News at his ranch.
The Air Force says that just ain't so. But the 24 people who live in Callao don't believe the Air Force anymore. The Air Force promised Callao 15 years ago that the planes flying over the test and training range wouldn't fly lower than 2,000 feet, Garland said.
"They come over at 50 feet," Garland said at a recent press conference. "You can see the emblems on the pilots helmets. We've had neighbors who have had all of their windows blown out (by the noise of the jets)."
The size of the battlefield and the increase in flights has convinced Garland the battlefield would ruin the West Desert.
The Air Force's soothing words haven't worked this time. "While we are not an altogether brilliant people, we are not altogether stupid," Garland said.
He will fight to stop the battlefield with the same zeal he used to stop the MX missile. It's a tireless zeal, but it's also a selective zeal. Garland is not randomly anti-military. He resisted considerable pressure to take a position against germ warfare testing at Dugway, he said. He was sharply criticized for his abstinence.
Garland speaks for the desert, but he doesn't hail from there. "I wanted to ranch since I was little. I used to read the Wild West Weekly and Zane Grey and dream of the time when I'd own a ranch in the West somewhere."
He bought his West Desert spread after losing his Montana dry goods store in a bitter divorce 14 years ago. "At the time it was something I could afford."
He immersed himself in his spread, driving fence posts in a silence so profound he could hear his heart beat.
He lost that heart to a Bountiful girl who took a teaching job out in the West Desert her first year after college mostly to irritate her parents. The Garlands have been married 15 years and have one daughter.
An impoverished childhood in the Appalachian Mountains prepared Garland for the hard life in the West Desert. A mother who died too soon prepared him for a life of political activism. His wife and some good books fueled the fire.
"I read somewhere that Thoreau said the masses lead lives of quiet desperation. I never understood why that was. If you're going to be desperate, why the hell do you have to be quiet?"
Garland concedes that this fight against the Air Force may be desperate, perhaps even doomed. But he's determined that it won't be quiet.