Sheri Samson John Keady prepares to set the custom monument he made for Walker Lake, which stands at the county beach area off of Highway 95.

Sheri Samson
John Keady prepares to set the custom monument he made for Walker Lake, which stands at the county beach area off of Highway 95.

When a son walks in his father’s steps, it’s not always as strenuous a job as hauling rocks. John Keady knew that his artistic roots were taking on a difficult journey and that the legacy his own father, Paul Keady, had built would be tough shoes to fill.

“My dad started in the early 60’s as a stone mason, and I remember hog-carrying the rocks and the blocks that he needed to build those fences or monuments. He was known for his creative side, but my dad also could build something so solid, nothing could take it down. That’s the part of building that many people skimp on, but I learned it the right way from my dad.”

As a young person, experimenting with concrete and making primitive rock candle holders, the young Keady knew that rock shapes and colors could quietly speak into their placement just by examining them. “It sounds weird, but rocks have a way of letting you know just where they fit. That’s why you collect a lot of it. Some are jewelry finds, while others are ash trays and a bold one would be good on a monument. As a kid I learned how to identify which rock was what, where it was from and the trace minerals, but to build with them it’s a different range altogether. You move out of hobbyist and into a bigger vision of choices. That’s why I love doing the intricate items, but a work-for-hire intensifies the passion. You have to make it all fit for the purpose it’s made for.”

With a retail store in Schurz called Rock Chuck, you will find Keady and companion Chelsea Thompson sharing the history and knowledge they’ve gained by mining the local area. Through the items they sell, you can receive valuable information to accompany the coffee-table piece you may purchase, or understand the value of a gem which has been cut for one of their custom jewelry pieces.

A rock hunter can find unusual displays behind glass cases, while bulky rocks line the open room in which Keady’s father created a lovely rock feature many years ago. A tribute to Keady’s mother, Ingrid Ann Broten Keady is on a rock wall; a remembrance of her contribution to the area post office and many other locations in Schurz.

With a love for exploring the desert and vast caverns of mystery rock, the couple enjoys days out on rock hunting excursions. On one recent hunt, Keady and Thompson unveiled three huge crystals, with a combined weight of 110 pounds. Keady explained, “It’s the rough terrain, hiking in several miles then hiking out with that kind of load that makes rock hunting a big commitment. People say they want to tag along, but it’s harder than most would think. You have to be prepared for endurance.”

A new technique Keady was trying is the ancient “Indian Knapping” which entails blade scrapping and chipping. “You are chipping Obsidian to create the knife blade, which is done with leather in the palm of your hand. It’s a tricky, painstaking process.” Keady held up his bandaged hand while sheepishly smiling, as he revealed the evidence that chipping away stone was not an easy task.

As unique as this young man is, when asked about his dedication to the art of working with rocks he responded in a few quick words. “It’s the legacy, love, history and tradition.” An easy response from a man that is fulfilling the calling his father once walked. “Rocks have come through my bloodline and my commitment is a sacrifice at times, but the urge to continue on the hunt will never fade away.”

To reach Keady for any custom request, his business is Rock Chuck, located on Highway 95. It is generally open on weekends, or you can write him at P.O. Box 242, Schurz, NV 89427.