« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

One war that's worth the fight

 

In Walking It Off, Doug Peacock covers a lot of ground. Having survived the Vietnam War as a Green Beret medic, Peacock writes of himself at age 27: "Wounded but dedicated, I was a committed whacko, a fanatic willing to go the distance at the drop of the hat, a warrior who didn’t believe in killing strangers." Peacock went on to become a well-known wilderness activist and grizzly bear researcher, and the model for the antisocial eco-warrior Hayduke in Ed Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Now, three decades later, Peacock tries to make sense of the various pieces of his life, and to rectify the father-son relationship he had with Abbey. In the same way that fathers can betray their children through thoughtlessness or inattention, Abbey betrayed Peacock when he crafted Hayduke in the model of this angry young man. To some extent, Peacock returns Abbey’s favor in Walking It Off.

But this isn’t just another memoir of that cantankerous desert rat Abbey. This is undoubtedly Peacock’s story, as he writes of his struggle to maintain some semblance of domestic life while seeking sanity in the only way he’s ever found it: alone. Wilderness and war, the two themes of this book, are inextricably linked in Peacock’s life.

"Back in Aravaipa, I had said to Abbey that I had no wisdom but I nevertheless believed it was our cruelty — the individual inhuman act — that keeps the freight of murder, genocide, and torture hurtling through the night. The converse is that the individual act of restraint, grace, and compassion, with its attendant affirmation of the value of an individual life, can begin a revolution." Amen.