Remembering Rand


Memories of Rand Schaal

From Rolf Ostertag, Germany

When I arrived from Germany in 1978 to become a Visiting Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, a place had been arranged for me in Rand’s house. Less than a year senior, he immediately took responsibility by diligently improving my English skills, helping me to find a car and selling it again later, even arranging dates but most importantly introducing me to all his friends. We barely spent an evening at home, rallying from party to party.

During summer we went swimming at Galveston beach, we spent weekends in New Orleans and Big Bend, and a week on the Yucatan peninsula.  And I happened to be the airsick passenger during his first flight lessons. As a special treat Rand, his girlfriend and I transferred our neighbor’s car from Houston to Reno, Nevada. We took the scenic route via Meteor crater, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, had a short night rest under open skies in Death Valley, visited Mono Lake, and did a little gambling in Lake Tahoe, all within little more than 50 hrs. Rand’s father picked us up in his airplane and I came to know Rand’s family, brother, sister, parents and even his grandma. It was not my last visit to Santa Cruz, California, and I couldn’t possibly have had a better introduction to the favorable sides of the USA.

Rand also impressed and shaped me by his ability to solve problems before they emerged. Whenever there was a task to do, he gladly volunteered for the least attractive part “I’ll do it!” easing it up for everybody else to take their own work share. As inspiring and helpful as he was to his friends, his personal life was far from being perfect. His family suffered serious blows. When I asked him during a visit at UC Davis why he never got married, he admitted it was for health reasons. So he was rather striving for the virtue of solitude, much the same as he described for the hero in his books. It wasn’t your fault, girls.

My last contact with Rand was some 12 months ago via email. I informed him about my upcoming retirement and he wrote back “It’s funny; you quit work while I start a new career as a writer”. This was truly him, always looking for new horizons be it as scientist, realtor, teacher, pilot or novelist.

I hope his new endeavor suits him. Take care, my friend!