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The following excerpt from Adventures with Ed - A portrait of Abbey, by Jack Loeffler, to be published in February 2002 by the University of New Mexico Press (copyright © Jack Loeffler), is reprinted by permission of the University of New Mexico Press.

It is a snowy day in Santa Fe, a good day to begin this book I have been entrusted to write. This is a book about Edward Paul Abbey, my best friend of a lifetime, who honored friendship and truth above all else. He was born in Home, Pennsylvania, on January 29, 1927, and he died in the Sonoran Desert on March 14, 1989. Ed was not only a great friend; he was also a great man. There are many of us who know this to be true.
        Living a creative self-directed life is like running a wild river; you don't deny the current its due, but you work your own way through the rapids, camp where you will, explore side canyons that intrigue you, and relish the danger, heeding no higher authority than the truth. Few men have the strength of character to follow the truth no matter where it leads. Edward Abbey was such a man.
        He was an adventurer in both deeds and ideas; he was a great naturalist, although he abhorred the epithet; he was a lover of women, married five times, and took dozens of paramours; he was a gifted writer with twenty-one books and scores of articles to his credit; he was an avid reader of literature and connoisseur of fine music; he placed profound value on friendship; he detested bureaucracy and regarded it as a disease fatal to the human spirit; he fearlessly defended both the right of the individual and the rights of other species to coexist equally within the biotic community; he melded anarchism and environmentalism into a system of thought that will continue to affect western culture for generations.
        For more than two decades Abbey and I were compañeros. We shared hundreds of campfires and hiked thousands of miles together. Little by little, we revealed to each other the details that make a human lifetime. These revelations took no chronological form; rather, they occurred by association as happens in conversation. Ed was given to philosophical speculation, and we spent endless hours pondering any possible meaning to existence. Much of the time we kidded and razzed each other. When we disagreed, we mostly debated, rarely argued, and fought only a couple of times.
        We created our own history, some of which appears in this book. It seems appropriate that it should, inasmuch as it reveals the way Edward Abbey was as a fellow human being, or at least the way he was when we were together.
        On a few occasions in the 1980s Ed suggested that I be his "chronicler." But this book is not so much a biography as a biographical memoir divided into two parts. In order to write it, I lived with Abbey's journals and papers, reread all of his books, and spoke with friends, enemies, and relatives. I have relied greatly on my own memory of our myriad conversations and experiences. I revisited many of our old campsites and hiked alone many of our old trails.
        Every now and then, I visit Ed's grave and pour him a beer while I drink one myself. The timbre of his voice is clear as a bell in my mind's ear. Other books about Edward Abbey may reveal other facets of this extraordinary man. But I have done my level best to follow Ed's own motto: "Follow the truth no matter where it leads."

I first heard mention of Edward Abbey's name in the summer of 1964. At that time I was living in an old forked-stick hogan at the base of Navajo Mountain, Utah, in the remotest part of the Navajo Reservation. It was fifty-seven miles of rough dirt road to the nearest pavement and a good hundred miles beyond that to the nearest town of any consequence. My friend John DePuy, an artist, had come to stay with me for a while. It was "Debris," as we later called him, who had told me about Navajo Mountain in the first place. After recuperating in a naval hospital from wounds he received during the Korean War, DePuy had traveled to Navajo. He had apprenticed himself to a Navajo medicine man when the naval constabulary tracked him down and took him back to Annapolis. He was discharged with a modest pension.
        During his visit to my hogan, DePuy and I hiked many miles through that windswept red desert broken up by the most beautiful canyons in the world. It was during one of our hikes that he said, "You and Abbey must meet."
        "Who's Abbey, and why should we meet?"
        "Abbey is a friend of mine. He's a writer and a loner and he loves the desert and beautiful women," said DePuy.
        "He sounds like a good man to me, DePuy," I responded, inventing an image of someone sitting in a high place, his back to a rock, a million empty miles before him, a long-legged, languorous naked lady lying spent by his side.

Time passed, and I negotiated with the U.S. Forest Service for a job as a fire lookout atop Carracas Mesa in northwestern New Mexico. There was no tower there and no cabin-just a two-acre expanse of uneven Navajo sandstone. I could just barely get my pickup truck to the top of "The Rock," as my lookout was known, and with a little jockeying, I could even get it level. That is where I lived for months at a time. At night I could see no light other than starlight and moonlight. Except for an occasional airplane, or if the wind were just right, the occasional chug-a-chug of the distant narrow-gauge railway, I could hear no sound of human provenance. I was utterly at home in the high ponderosa with the mule deer, black bear, wild turkeys, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, bobcats, coyotes, elk, mountain lions, Stellar's jays, l.b.j.'s (little brown jobbies), ground squirrels, porcupines, rock rattlesnakes, lizards, tarantulas, tarantula hawks, ticks, ants, and wild horses running side by side.
        I ate beans, cornmeal cakes, onions, and venison jerky that I prepared myself from meat of deer I had hunted, and I hauled water out of the San Juan River, which meandered through its canyon eight miles to the north, a river still pure enough in those days to drink straight from the current without fear.
        I've never been less lonely and in better health on all counts.
        About once a month I'd drive sixty or so miles into Durango to buy supplies, quaff some beer, and visit the bookstore, for one of the great features of life as a fire lookout is the time it allows for reading. During a typical fire season I would read about sixty books.
        One day a new book was featured at the bookstore. The name of the author caught my eye. Edward Abbey, the guy DePuy had told me about a few years back. I picked up the book and examined it. Hardback. Expensive at $5.95. There was a picture of a familiar-looking Abbey on the inside of the dust jacket. Bearded, smiling, and possibly intelligent. Alive. What the hell. I coughed up the money and bought Desert Solitaire. Support your local author.
        When I finally got back to my fire lookout from Durango, it was too dark to read. Sometimes at night I would fire up a kerosene lamp and read in the back of my homemade camper, but more often I would lie on my back on the sandstone, which still held the heat from the sun, and watch the night sky while listening to distant owls or coyotes or wind passing through the high timber. I lived in a paradise little known by most of my species, in whom I took little interest.
        The next morning, after I had scanned the canyons and ridgelines for wisps of smoke and listened to the sounds of the wild, I radioed the ranger to let him know that I was on the job and that the forest was safe-from fire at least. In those days I was naive enough to think that I was protecting the trees in the forest from fire for their own sake. I had yet to witness clear-cutting from timber sales or chaining down of trees to make way for cattle or gas well drillers.
        I brewed up a fresh pot of coffee on my Coleman stove, rummaged through my purchases of the day before, and settled down under the lone pine tree that had somehow rooted itself to soil hidden in a crevasse in the sandstone. I looked at my new book. It had a good feel to it and a good smell. I experienced the excitement I always feel when I crack a new book full of promise. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness! I had spent many seasons in the wilderness. The title of this book thrilled me in a fashion that is difficult to express. I started reading, tentatively at first, then with increasing interest. Near the end of the first chapter, Abbey had written concerning his stint as a backcountry ranger at Arches National Monument, "I am here not only to evade for awhile the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus but also to confront, immediately and directly if it's possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bedrock which sustains us. I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and yet survives still intact, individual, separate." Tears blurred my vision, and I shouted out some weird primal yell.
        "Ah, Abbey, you bastard! You know, don't you! You know the truth! The same truth that I know! Except you maybe know it better than I do!" I laughed and cried and then I read Desert Solitaire.
        More time passed. I spent a final season as a fire lookout atop The Rock-long enough to witness man-made mayhem committed against trees whose souls expired in some wooden agony that I could feel empathetically deep within my own bones. I watched a pair of Caterpillar tractors, umbilicated to each other by a behemoth anchor chain, dragging down trees, uprooting piñones and junipers to make way for heavy equipment designed to drill for natural gas.
        That last sad season on the fire lookout, I watched the air thicken to the west. The strip-mined-coal-burning Four Corners Power Plant, between Farmington and Shiprock, New Mexico, was a presence that was killing the American Southwest. I had no idea how many other presences were planned for this land that I love. How frustrating to watch the Southwest fall prey to greed. I remember Glen Canyon before it was befouled by Lake Powell. I remember the howls of wolves in the wild. I remember when the air was pristine and the electric kachinas had as yet to hoist power lines across the landscape.
        I remembered having read Desert Solitaire and wondered about the man who had written it, that friend of DePuy's who brandished such a mighty pen. I decided to look up Edward Abbey.
        If you study the map of North America and find Arcata on the north coast of California, then draw an azimuth due east until you reach the eastern aspect of the Rocky Mountains, and from that point draw yet another azimuth south to the point of confluence of the Rio Pecos and the Rio Grande, you have a general picture of what I regard as the American Southwest. I figured that Edward Abbey was somewhere in that general region. It took a while, but I found him on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. DePuy was there. They were eating beans, drinking beer.
        "Joaquín!" says DePuy. He has always called me Joaquín.
        I turned to the other man. "Howdy. I'm Loeffler."
        "I figured. I'm Abbey." He stood up. He was tall. He had a good two or three inches on me. We shook hands. He had a curious way of standing in reserve. Clear green eyes on either side of his raptor's beak of a nose. He already bore the scar of a frown that would deepen as the years passed. Good teeth. Good beard. Stood square on the Earth.
        "How 'bout some beans?"
        "Don't mind if I do. Can I offer you guys some beer?"
        They both grinned at me. The ice was broken. I went back over to my pickup, pulled a cold six-pack out of my cooler, and returned to the campfire. Abbey handed me a plate of beans. I handed him the six-pack. He handed me back a beer, gave one to DePuy, took one for himself. We passed around the church key and opened our beers. "Salud!" "Salud!" "Salud!"
        We ate our beans, mostly in silence. Although I had intruded, they were both gracious with that quiet etiquette that some outdoorsmen possess who have spent a lot of time alone. After supper we cleaned our utensils. Then we sat down again around the fire. DePuy filled and lighted his pipe. Abbey lighted a cigar. I rolled a Bull Durham. We opened our second round of beers.
        "Well, Joaquín," says DePuy. "What brings you to this part of the world? I thought you would be up on Carracas Mesa this time of year."
        "I didn't take my lookout this year," says I. "Too depressing."
        "What do you mean, 'depressing'?" says Abbey.
        "Too much smog. Too many timber sales. Too many gas-drilling rigs. I didn't have the heart for it this year." I took a long pull on my beer.
        "Where's Carracas Mesa?" Abbey looked me in the eye.
        "It's east of here. Over in the Jicarilla country."
        "Over near Four Corners?"
        Silence. We all drank our beer and stared into the fire. After a while I got up and went over to my pickup. I returned to the campfire with a couple more six-packs.
        "For chrissake, Loeffler. Are you trying to get us drunk?" asks Abbey.
        We all three laughed and hunkered in around the campfire and started the process of getting comfortable with each other. We told lies and ruminated on the devastating beauty of Nature. We listened as dusk turned into night and existence fit within the glow of the campfire.
        There is always a certain shyness between people who have heard of each other for years and then finally meet. There was a shyness between Abbey and me. For a while he wasn't particularly talkative, but as the stars eased through the night sky and we sipped our beers, a camaraderie began to grow. DePuy, a good friend to both Abbey and me, philosophized as only DePuy knows how. Little by little, our attention turned to the state of the American Southwest, a landscape dear to all three of us.
        "It's not like it was," says I.
        "It was pristine. It was the pupil in the eye of God . . . the supreme moment when cosmic imagination crystallized into perfect form," says DePuy.
        "It's the best place I know where a good man can get beyond anthropomorphism," says Abbey.
        "And now the Gaseous Vertebrate has farted," says DePuy.
        "Do you refer to the Four Corners Power Plant?" says I.
        "I do," says DePuy.
        "I remember Glen Canyon," says Abbey.
        "So do I," says DePuy.
        "Me too," says I.
        "And now they've put in that goddamn concrete plug above Lee's Ferry," says Abbey. "I hate that dam."
        "I wonder how hard it would be to blow it up," says I.
        "You sound like an anarchist," says Abbey.
        "Well, what the hell. Don't we have the right to preserve the face of God from politicians?" says I.
        "It's not just our right. It's our duty!" says Abbey.
        "Hear, hear!" says DePuy.
        "Salud!" says I. "I think there's another two six-packs in my pickup. If you're interested, that is."
        "If I give the impression that my interest is waning, I apologize," says DePuy.
        "When it wanes, it pours," says I.
        "Oh, Christ," says Abbey, grinning. "Go get the fucking beer and shut up!"
        And so it went. Abbey pointed out that we were only renting the beer long enough for it to pass through our bodies before we selected to redistribute it to the worthy vegetation. Or to the dismay of a community of red ants. It turned out that Abbey felt great antipathy for red ants. Maybe that's why he pissed on red ant hills. I know that twice in his life when he was out camping, ants crawled into his ears. If he had to sleep on the ground, he stuffed cotton in his ears. He hated red ants. Red ants hated Abbey. Abbey hated uniformity that denied the spirit of individualism.
        That night, with DePuy's help, Ed Abbey and I began to become friends. When the fire had burned low and DePuy had turned his attention inward, Ed and I took our first walk together, both of us needing to work off some beer before turning in for the night. And because we were curious about each other. Our conversation wasn't particularly profound, but we let each other know that our respective campfires would always be open to each other. We walked a few miles that night at an easy pace. The first of thousands of miles we were to walk together.
        Many years later, just before Ed was to head down a trail only he could follow, we figured we had hiked the equivalent of the breadth of the continent together, involved in conversation that was utterly without limits. We were compañeros. And as long as I continue to live, we shall be.

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