|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||Tonya Auden Stiles, Moab, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
ABBEY 6 ME By Ken Sleight My dear friend Edward Abbey died ten years ago on March 14, 1989. He was only 62 years of age, about three years older than I am. As I approach 70 years, I realize the preciousness of the extra time he was not allowed to enjoy as I have. His death, ten years ago, seemed an unbelievable nightmare to me. It’s been an emotional and were the likes of outfitters Robert, Clair and Richard Quist, ("the Quist boys"), Moki Mac Ellingson, Dave Mackay, Dee Holliday, and all of their boatmen, swampers, and groupies. Abbey passed through quite often, stopping to visit and enjoy a beer at my makeshift warehouse-—a former small garage that now housed my boating equipment, my books, a intellectual struggle without him, and I deeply feel the loss we all have shouldered. bunk, a hot plate, and me. It lacked inside water and a We have risen above that void, as we had too. Rather now, we're aware of the grand legacy he left us. His enlightened wisdom will filter down to benefit all of us in the years ahead. And from it all, he has left us a treasure, a symbol, a working tool...a monkey wrench. camaraderie at Ray’s Bar and at the Quists’ house. Moki Mac dragged his trailer next to my warehouse, and so there was always some grand entertainment. And it was about this time that Abbey bought some river-side property a few miles upstream from the town. He appeared periodically to kick dust, enjoy his spread, gaze out at the bookcliff scenery, frolic in the river, play poker with his comrades, dream and muse, and lay up details for his stories. We were destined to meet, Abbey and me. It seems years ago that he arrived for work at Arches. His exalted It so happened that near his acreage, additional land on the river was for sale. classic, Desert Solitaire was published in 1968, and I sent him a fan Known as the Willow Bend Ranch, it contained letter soon after. Writing back in appreciation, all of 60 acres. Abbey asked me if I wanted to join him in the purchase. Just the very thought he. noted that we ought to finally meet to tell some lies. of it, like returning That time came when I pulled into historic Lees to start a Grand Canyon river trip. Having backed the truck and trailer to the river, and starting to unload, Peggy, my whispered to me that a ranger was helper, coming He had been expecting me. river. 3 ‘me After the beer and we continued working and talking. It was a magnificent evening, and we were the only ones putting on the river. The job done, the three of us sat on the edge of the raft talking and thinking, eating and | drinking until the wee hours of the morning--- | making creative commentary on how best to } much to do. The old fence line, much of it, was continued chopping away. Then he sauntered -jover, looked down at me. "Why are you chopping out the rabbitbrush,” he asked. He always asked lots of questions. I glanced up, and I could see by his manner that he was not at all pleased. "It’s entangled in the wire. It’s just a weed. on and I soon realized that this here before. There were only the Quist brothers and We vented our rage, up traffic, and passed @ And it’s a fire hazard. If a fire started, it would take out the whole fence line," I countered. Then in a forebearing but instructive manner, he pointed out to me that the rabbitbrush was shelter and a haven for wildlife---rabbits, birds, and such. There were out leaflets. The Park Service said we had to a permit to expound on the fields, or to fix and slash the brush out in order to expose the fence line. Abbey stood back staring at me as I Abbey was a new breed of ranger. As Abbey listened (and he was a magnificent listener), I prattled off to him the world’s woes. I mentioned our initial futile protest demonstration against the Glen Canyon have irrigate | |covered with rabbitbrush. I proceeded to cut eliminate the Glen Canyon dam. We mumbled dam a number of years about ten of us then, other intrepid souls. stomped our feet, held dig ditches, nce, We had very few disputes in all of the years in working together. However, one day he jappeared with some cotto-salami, a loaf of | bread, and some beer intending to fix fence. The farm was in a state of disrepair and there was greetings, Abbey pitched in to help us unload the truck and rig the boats. I handed Abbey a on and was A quiet and contented life style, I had no phones and few visitors. Abbey would come | around once ina while to check things and help down the ramp, probably to check me out. Glancing up,I encountered ranger Ed Abbey for the first time. to a life on a farm, extremely alluring to both of us. After the purchase, I moved out to Willow Bend and set ; up quarters in a small one-room cabin that stood under lofty cottonwood trees facing the Ferry, the famed old crossing of the Colorado River, toilet. We'd often join the river government property, and the Page people stole our signs. So much for free speech. Sitting on the boat we spoke of the® enormous destruction that had taken place. The pheasants, magpies, ravens, coyotes, squirrels, occasional bears and other forms of wildlife that surely needed a cover. And not only should we thousands of ancient ruins and sites now gone. Gregory Natural Bridge buried. Hundreds of beautiful side canyons flooded, and the severe damage to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. And we stammered on as to the futility of our law suit to protect these national treasures. "Have another beer, Ed," and we conversed longer. Far into the night. Some one needed to demolish the dam. It had to come down. How was it to come down? Gallant river guides have debated that question for many years on many river banks. Maybe a precision earthquake is the answer, Abbey noted, but that would mean calling on the Creator himself. leave a cover for them, he said, we ought to grow additional thickets of brush for their protection. In the end we got together. Simple reasoning. Rather than whack out all of the brush, we would just cut off the branches that actually interfered with the strands of rusty wire and rotted posts. It took much longer to do it that way, and we endured more scratches over our arms, butI came to understand his views and how much this meant to him and to the wildlife. Quite a teacher he was. Great minds have created ingenious means to accomplish the task. Many good ideas, but still the goal hasn’t been achieved. After other rounds of beer, Peggy reminded us we needed some sleep, so we retired for Abbey had a surprise for me when he came over once to see me. With a grin, he handed me a copy of his new manuscript, The Monkey Wrench Gang. “Here it is, tell me what you think of it." the evening. Abbey to his ranger trailer, and us to our sleeping bags. We made some headway, we thought, toward solving these horrendous problems. Three hours of sleep I took the manuscript with me on a trip to the Dolores River. There I spread myself out on the cool sandy beach under the shade of a large cottonwood tree. Reading the whole were all we needed anyway. thing in one day, it was the most riotous and rowdy thing I’d ever read. What a heroic and diabolical story it was. Monkey wrenching! Like the Luddites of old England! Before giving it back to him, I read it again to make damn sure that no disgusting gem of thought was missed. Having blessed it, I returned it to Abbey. He published it in 1975. At daybreak, Abbey appeared at the river to help us load the gear on the boats. That done, I left for Page in my truck to restock the beer, get more supplies, and pick up my guests. Back at noon, the orientation over, life jackets on, the people loaded, we took off down river. Peggy decided to stay with Abbey for a couple of days (she was to drive my truck hours Creek down The Monkey Wrench Gang was a rousing success. It came at a time the earth was being to Diamond Creek and then hike down to meet me at Phantom Ranch). Then a couple down stream, here comes Abbey in the ranger power-boat to watch me run Badger Rapid. As Abbey pulled along side, he yelled, "Ken, we'll take that god-damned dam yet!" Seeing us make a successful run and still alive, Ed waved a friendly salute and ravaged and the world was going to hell. Some good folk responded. Dave Foreman, Bart Kohler, Mike Roselle and Howie Wolke and others founded Earth First! Its slogan: "No Compromise in the Defense of Mother Earth." Damn good. We decided to sell the farm. Life was just too full. We both realized that we "couldn’t go back home again." Too much water had flowed under the bridge. He was writing and I was river running, and the property payments seemed formidable. We sold it to Bill and I waved back. The trip was successful. All as planned. And Abbey, still at the ferry, pondered new plans. June Adams, old friends of mine, who now have a fine home there. Bill had filmed many canyons while boating in the canyons with me through the years. I return to Willow Bend from time to time. The memories are delightful still. For Abbey, Things were changing a bit for me. After a pleasant existence in Escalante, a difficult time in Bountiful’s suburbia, and finding myself single again, I moved myself and my operations to the quiet town of Green River. Those were choice days in Green River. A kind of hermit existence, between marriages, an interlude. And I enjoyed its liberation. Here some of his experiences there are expressed in backdrop and location scenes in The Monkey | Wrench Gang.