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The True Story of a Lone Ranger Who Made a Friend In the Desert.

Related by Douglas Carithers. Copyright DragonSlayer, 1998

new.gif (897 bytes)IT'S PRETTY COMMON KNOWLEDGE in the eco-radical/desert-rat community where Edward Abbey’s memory is devoutly enshrined - rightly so! - that his delightful 1975 novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, contains a healthy dose of Art imitating Reality. It's no secret, any longer (though his whereabouts frequently are) that Hayduke is modeled on one Doug P. But not many know Seldom Seen Smith as his real-time incarnation, Ken S. Some may speculate, but very few know for sure whether Abbey himself was involved in the kind of Monkey Business so suspiciously well-described in the book. Of those few, only two know of the Great GOLIATH Fiasco. One has another life in another place, and the other-well, he' 5 still trying to sort out why he saved Abbey's hide and ended up in The Monkey Wrench Gang as.The Lone Ranger.

new.gif (897 bytes)ABBEY'S DEAD NOW. Even the long arms of the National Park and Forest Services (Land of Many Abuses!) and their collegial cop agencies cannot reach him where he 15. Monkeyman is far away, and you would never guess who he is in the novel. But The Lone Ranger-who at the time was, in fact, a lone ranger-is very much alive and well and living in Arizona. So in this story, which is true (only the names have been changed to protect the guilty,) he shall henceforth be called here solely by his sobriquet, "Kemosabe."

 

new.gif (897 bytes)IT WENT THIS WAY. When Kemosabe woke late that crisp spring morning to the redneck drawl and macho dialogue of a crowd of lawmen nearby his secluded camp, his ears immediately became attuned to that familiar radio static and coded law enforcement chatter. Through the screen of shaggy-bark cedar he beheld a convocation of the minions of various agencies and their bubble-gum-machined vehicles. It was a scene straight out of a TV True Crime and Catastrophe show. Only the helicopters were missing.

new.gif (897 bytes)ROLLING OUT OF HIS SLEEPING BAG, Kemosabe quietly joined the cluster of lawmen, who recognized him from his ranger role and freely let their evidence pass before his eyes, 8"xlO" glossies of footprints and tire tracks. Evidence of what? Evidence that some David or Davids unknown had boldly engaged in battle with a giant GOLIATH and diverse other earth-raping machines. Vandalism Most Dire! Most Felonious, Anarchic, possibly Un-American and certainly Un-Law-Abiding disrespect for the manifest destiny of highway building. Monkey Business of the worst ilk, righteously deserving of the wrath of a whole bunch of vengeful tree and other cops.

new.gif (897 bytes)INSTANTLY, KEMOSABE SINGLED OUT and focused on a black and white photograph of a vibram-sole footprint showing the impression of a steel cleat on the heel. Goosebumps broke out all over his body. He knew of only one person who wore taps on his waffle-stompers. All he could think was, "They didn't!"

new.gif (897 bytes)KEMOSABE SUDDENLY COMPREHENDED in full what had happened, what he had to do and that he was the only one who could do it. He knew in his heart that he had to do what he had to do, for his friend and his hero. Fate had placed in the balance a rather complicated ethical decision of his own against the certain arrest, exposure and harassment of that friend and that current environmental icon-with all the accompanying handcuffs, indictments, and bad local journalism. And probably a couple good chunks of jailtime in there, too. He didn't have to think twice.

new.gif (897 bytes)KEMOSABE QUICKLY DEPARTED the gathering and headed north to track down Monkeyman and Abbey. He was, in reality, acting out not the role later assigned him in Abbey's fiction, but a very personal one of his own. Brain churning enroute to Moab, he finally accepted the fact that it was his destiny to become a very lone ranger-very alone in his mission. A full lunar eclipse was due, but he was in the dark already. He mulled over how it must have all transpired.

 

new.gif (897 bytes)ED ABBEY'S FRUSTRATION with the techno-desecration of his beloved slickrock country peaked in the spring of 1975. Some of his rage had been written out in The Monkey Wrench Gang. (In a later-written chapter of that book, gang-member Hayduke, hell-bent on eco-sabotage, has his bacon rescued by the character known as The Lone Ranger, aka "Kemosabe.") But it needed more than words to quell this fever. Abbey, it now appeared, personally acted out an episode portrayed in his work-a raid on a road construction site on the Bicentennial Highway, U-95, between Lake Powell and Fry Canyon. In the Monkey Wrench sequel, Hayduke Lives, Abbey accomplished on paper what he failed to do that night in the canyonlands near Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah-drive the giant earth mover, GOLIATH, over the edge of a canyon.

new.gif (897 bytes)IN DETAIL, AS KEMOSABE LATER FOUND OUT from the best (read "only") source, it happened like this. Around midnight on April 24, 1975, equipped with eleven ten-pound sacks of sugar and several gallons of shellac thoughtfully purchased out of state earlier, Abbey enlisted the aid of Monkeyman. Determined to do some monkeying around, the two left Moab, Utah, on a full-moon night, driving Ed' 5 old primer-gray panel pickup through the shadow of the La Sal mountains. Abbey turned south toward White and Fry Canyons near Natural Bridges National Monument. A six-pack or so clarified the picture Abbey painted of the chores that lay ahead, and by the time they arrived at the scene, Monkeyman had Abbey's masterpiece visualized. Monkeyman's job was simple: to be lookout for Abbey. He would watch for approaching headlights, which from that area could be seen miles away, while Abbey conducted his monkey business.

new.gif (897 bytes)ABBEY TRIED TO START THE MACHINERY destined to rip up the earth from Hite Marina to the highway running north and south from Bluff to Blanding, Utah. This superfluous strip of pavement was to be called the Bicentennial Highway in honor of the nation's 200th birthday. Abbey had many reasons for not wanting this road paved, and he was now determined to send a message to the San Juan County Commissioners by wreaking havoc on as many dollars worth of excavating equipment as possible-primarily by driving the giant earth mover off the cliffs of White Canyon.

new.gif (897 bytes)DUE TO ABBEY'S CHALLENGED MECHANICAL ABILITIES, his attempts to hot-wire the monsters ran into one frustration after another. Finally, unable to start the engines in any of the machines, Abbey went to his old gray panel truck and hauled out his reliable standby: sugar and shellac fuel additive! But hasty, clumsy fumblings in the dark and carelessness mixing the shellac and sugar left a trail that would alert the machine operators the next morning that "monkeys" had indeed been playing on their equipment.

new.gif (897 bytes)BY 3 A.M., HAVING EXHAUSTED ALL RESOURCES to sabotage the machinery, Abbey, tired and exasperated beyond reason, pulled his .22 pistol and fired several rounds at the ten-foot diameter tires. The little slugs merely bounced off the giant wheels. Exhausted and disgusted, the pair did not bother to clean up behind them. Within hours daylight would reveal not only discarded sugar sacks and other signs of failed monkeying, but fresh footprints and tire tracks as the rising sun's rays threw new shadows on the red-brown earth.

new.gif (897 bytes)MONKEYMAN AND ABBEY FLED THE SCENE and were back in Moab before daybreak. But in their disorganized retreat they flagrantly violated rule number one of all monkey wrenchers: DON'T GET CAUGHT! This was a situation where the enivronmentalist's slogan, "Leave only footprints." definitely did not apply. (What were you thinking, Ed?) Abbey's local reputation and environmental writings were bound to make him and his "Seldom Seen" friends suspects. And now he and Monkeyman had left evidence, strong, incriminating evidence that could convict them both. The proof was already being collected, documented and distributed; it irrefutably connected the agents of those tracks to the crime.

new.gif (897 bytes)BUT AS FORTUNE WOULD HAVE IT, through a stroke of chance, a glimpse of a heelprint, a flicker of intuition, a friend of Monkeyman had now ended up with their fate in his hands. As he drove on towards Monkeyman's lair, there was never any question of what to do. The Lone Ranger comes to the rescue. Kemosabe acted as a true friend would-more friend than ranger-and took the necessary steps to facilitate both Abbey's and Monkeyman's escape.

 

new.gif (897 bytes)A LITTLE LATER ON THAT MORNING of the raid at Fry and White Canyons, Kemosabe pulled into the parking lot of the City Market in Moab, having spotted Abbey's faded red Volkswagen bug. He approached the car chuckling to himself, knowing why Abbey was driving it rather than the familiar old gray panel truck. Abbey was reading the Moab Times-Independent, eating a jelly doughnut, when Kemosabe tapped on the passenger window, and spoke his first words to Abbey, "We need to talk about last night." Abbey shuffled the paper, juggled the doughnut, and opened the door. Kemosabe folded into the passenger seat and introduced himself, assuring Abbey he had no agenda but to let him know what evidence the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department and the Utah Highway Patrol had on him.

new.gif (897 bytes)ABBEY'S EYES WIDENED. Surprised and subdued, he said, "It's kinda humbling...I just got so...." His words trailed off into silence. The air seemed thick in the Volkswagen bug; tight quarters. Abbey offered Kemosabe one of his doughnuts. Then Kemosabe said, "You need to switch out the tires and get rid of the boots you wore on the raid. Bury them all... now. Monkeyman is waiting for you at his house. He's got a place picked out and ready to bury everything." Abbey tried to explain why he' d done it, but for once couldn't seem to summon the right words. Kemosabe reached for the door handle and said, "Gotta go. I enjoyed Desert Solitare. Next time wear moccasins." They shook hands briefly and parted. And so Abbey met Kemosabe, and a kernel of the character who would become The Lone Ranger was planted in his fertile brain. In the non-fiction world a bond of friendship was welded between the two men that would endure until Abbey's death years later.

new.gif (897 bytes)THIS MEETING, INDEED ALL THE EVENTS spoken of here, remained until now shrouded in a veil of silence penetrated only by discussions between Kemosabe and his faithful editorial scout, though the entire incident could be easily corroborated by records at San Juan County, Utah, cataloging the photographic evidence taken and filed by the investigating agencies dispatched to the scene that day, Damning evidence indeed, surely enough to establish probable cause for arrest when the physical instruments of those much-photographed tracks, the real tires and boots, were taken into custody. But, by Golly, they... Disappeared.

 

new.gif (897 bytes)HERE'S HOW IT WENT DOWN. Monekyman and Abbey loaded tires and boots into Monkeyman's camper-truck and headed for the chosen grave site, known to this day by only two men... and maybe a buzzard or two wheeling on rising thermals over the canyon that day. And so the only physical evidence linking Abbey and Monkeyman to the raid remains quite literally buried. The boots could be "resurrected" and bronzed, but the only two "monkeys" alive that know where to dig ain't talking.

new.gif (897 bytes)LOOKING BACK, if Abbey had been busted, it might well have resulted in even more publicity, more fame, and thus more cash than he otherwise gained. Then again, The Lone Ranger would never have surfaced, on paper or in Kemosabe's head and heart. He could even have turned state' 5 evidence for the flash of fame, or just walked away. But Kemosabe remained trusty to himself and his good friend, Monkeyman. Let history judge as it will and let the eco-raiders, techno-saboteurs, green panthers and copy-cats form their own opinions. The myth will linger, shielded by this truth; the legend will remain alive and sound.

new.gif (897 bytes)AND ABOUT THOSE OLD BOOTS, buried somewhere in a canyon … so many, many canyons to search in....


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