[Doc] “He looked like Jean Sibelius with eyebrows and whiskers, in the full vigor of his fruitful forties.”

[Abbzug] “No relation to the Senator, she always said.  Which was mostly true.  Her first name was Bonnie and she came from the Bronx, not Brooklyn.  Furthermore, she was half Wasp (white anglo sexy Protestant); her mother’s name was McComb.  That strain perhaps accounted for the copper glints in Ms. Abbzug’s long, rich, molasses-colored hair, draped in glossy splendor from crown of head to swell of rump.  Abbzug was twenty-eight years old.”

[Hayduke] “Twenty-five years old, Hayduke is a short, broad, burly fellow, well-muscled, built like a wrestler.  The face is hairy, very hairy, with a wide mouth and good teeth, big cheekbones and a thick shock of blue-black hair…Like so many American men, Hayduke loved guns, the touch of oil, the acrid smell of burnt powder, the taste of brass, bright copper alloys, good cutlery, all things well made and deadly.”

[Seldom-Seen Smith] “Smith was a lanky man, lean as a rake, awkward to handle.  His arms were long and wiry, his hands large, his feet big, flat and solid.  He had a nose like a beak, a big Adam’s apple, ears like the handles on a jug, sun-bleached hair like a rat’s nest, and a wide and generous grin.  Despite his thirty-five years he still managed to look, much of the time, like an adolescent.  The steady eyes, though, revealed a man inside…He was not aware of how comic and heroic he looked, the Colorado man, long and lean and brown as the river used to be, leaning forward on his oar, squinting in the customary grin,  the macho bulge at the fly of his ancient Levi’s, the big ears out and alert.  Rapids closing in.”

“If you don’t drink, don’t drive.  If you drink, drive like hell.  Why?  Because freedom, not safety, is the highest good.”

“Twenty fathoms under in a milky green light the spectral cabins, the skeleton cottonwoods, the ghostly gas pumps of Hite, Utah, glow dimly through the underwater mist, outlines and edges softened by the cumulative blur of slowly settling silt.  Hite has been submerged by Lake Powell for many years now, but Smith will not grant recognition to alien powers…Hite, Utah, will rise again.”

“With an intelligence too fine to be violated by ideas, she had learned that she was searching not for self-transformation (she liked herself) but for something good to do.”

“The loose and partial relationship which was all she would give him he accepted with gratitude.  Not only was it much better than nothing but in many ways it was much better than everything.”

“In the grand stillness between rapids, which was half the river and most of the time, Smith and Hayduke rested on their oars and let the song of a canyon wren – a clear glissando of semiquavers – mingle with the drip of waterdrops, the gurgle of eddies, the honk of herons, the rustle of lizards in the dust on shore.  Between rapids, not silence but music and stillness.  While the canyon walls rose slowly higher, 1000, 1500, 2000 feet, the river descending, and the shadows grew longer and the sun shy.”

“It became a question of subtle, sophisticated harassment techniques versus blatant and outrageous industrial sabotage.”

“Now the stillness was complete.  The watchers on the rim, eating their suppers from tin plates, heard the hoot of an owl, the cries of little birds retiring to sleep in the dusty cottonwoods.  The great golden light of the setting sun streaming across the sky, flowing upon the clouds and the mountains.  Almost all the country within their view was roadless, uninhabited, a wilderness.  They meant to keep it that way.  They sure meant to try.  Keep it like it was.

“He found a level spot open to the east, kicked a few stones away, unrolled his sleeping bag and slept the sleep of the just – the just plain tired.”

“When the cities are gone, he thought, and all the ruckus has died away, when sunflowers push up through the concrete and asphalt of the forgotten interstate freeways, when the Kremlin and the Pentagon are turned into nursing homes for generals, presidents and other such shitheads, when the glass-aluminum skyscraper tombs of Phoenix Arizona barely show above the sand dunes, why then, why then, why then by God maybe free men and wild women on horses, free women and wild men, can roam the sagebrush canyonlands in freedom – goddammit! – herding the feral cattle into box canyons, and gorge on bloody meat and bleeding fucking internal organs, and dance all night to the music of fiddles! banjos! steel guitars! by the light of a reborn moon! – by God, yes!  Until, he reflected soberly, and bitterly, and sadly, until the next ice age and iron comes down, and the engineers and the farmers and the general motherfuckers come back again.  Thus George Hayduke’s fantasy.”

“That man can hear a dollar bill drop on a shag rug.”

“Wearing a headband doesn’t make you an Indian.  Looking like a weed doesn’t make you organic.”
“At least they don’t do any harm.  I think you’re envious.”
“I’m tired of people who don’t do any harm.  I’m tired of soft weak passive people who can’t do anything or make anything.  Except babies.”
“You sound tired, Doc.”

“You can’t never go wrong cuttin’ fence,” repeated  Smith, warming to his task. (Pling!)  “Always cut fence.  That’s the law west of the hundredth meridian.  East of that don’t matter none.  Back there it’s all lost anyhow.  But west, cut fence.”  (Plang!)

“What’s more American than violence?” Hayduke wanted to know.  “Violence, it’s as American as pizza pie.”

“By campfire under midnight stars three thousand feet below the rim of the Shivwits Plateau the Monkey Wrench Gang was born…”

“One way or the other we are going to slow if not halt the advance of Technocracy, the growth of Growth, the spread of the ideology of the cancer cell.”

“All you’re asking for is a counter-industrial revolution.”

“Hayduke thought.  Finally the idea arrived.  He said, “My job is to save the fucking wilderness.  I don’t know anything else worth saving.  That’s simple, right?”
“Simpleminded,” she said.
“Good enough for me.”

“He watched the news.  Same as yesterday’s.  The General Crisis coming along nicely.  Nothing new except the commercials full of sly art and eco-porn.  Scenes of the Louisiana bayous, strange birds in slow-motion flight, cypress trees bearded with Spanish moss.  Above the primeval scene the voice of Power spoke, reeking with sincerity, in praise of itself, the Exxon Oil Company – its tidiness, its fastidious care for all things wild, its concern for human needs.”

“He recalled Dr. Sarvis’s favorite apothegm:  “When the situation is hopeless, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Doc riffled the cards; they sounded like autumn leaves, beaded curtains in a Spanish bordello, the fall of Venetian blinds, Friday night in Tonopah, a babbling brook, all things good and sweet and innocent.”

“Hell of a place to lose a cow.  Hell of a place to lose your heart.  Hell of a place, thought Seldom Seen, to lose.  Period.”

“Anyhow, when I finally got free of those jail-hospitals and found out they were trying to do the same thing to the West that they did to that little country over there, I got mad all over again.”

“Then they went and invented agriculture and the human race took a big step backwards.  From hunters and ranchers down to farmers, that was one hell of a Fall.”

“Seldom Seen Smith’s country and the only country in which he feels comfortable, secure, at home….A true autochthonic patriot, Smith swears allegiance only to the land he knows, not to that swollen bulge of real estate, industry and swarming populations of displaced British Islanders and Europeans and misplaced Africans known collectively as the United States; his loyalties phase out toward the border of the Colorado Plateau.”

“From down down far down below, carried on the wind, came the applause of Boucher Rapids. The dried stalk and empty seed husks of the yucca rattled in the breeze, on the rimrock, under the stars. Bats dipped and zigzagged, chittering, chasing insects taking evasive action flying for their lives. Off in the dark of the woods one vulgar night-bird honked. Nighthawks rose against the gaudy sunset, soared and circled and plunged suddenly for bugs, wings making a sound like the roar of a remote bull as they pulled abruptly out of headlong dives. Bullbats. Back in the forest deep in the gloom of the pines a hermit thrush called – called who? – in flutelike silver tones. The pining poet. Answered promptly by the other bird, the clown, the raven, the Kaibab rake, with a noise like a farmhand blowing his nose.”

Copyright: 1975, 1985 Edward Abbey

Abbey photo: Jack Dykinga