You won't, or probably
you will, believe what's currently happening in the West: Too many
of us, a commercialized landscape "- all your worst predictions
have come true. We've finally caught up with your predictions, your
Armed militias call the West their
home - white-guy losers in Montana and Idaho who collect automatic
weapons and hoard far-fetched religious and constitutional views.
They have some odd idea the government is out to get them.
We've got gangsters, too, not Al Capone types
or the Army Corps of Engineers. These are bored teenagers, like the
Native American kids on the reservations who spray-paint graffiti
on Window Rock. Then there are the Crips and Bloods, who have moved
up into Spokane and other mid-sized Western cities from Los Angeles
to ply their crack-cocaine trade. Scary-looking boy-men who wear
their baseball caps backwards and make twisted gestures with their
fingers (and you were afraid of immigration).
surprise! Cattle still wallow in Idaho's Salmon River, dropping
their steaming pies in the current, and when the government tried
to raise the grazing fees crocodile tears flowed like cheap wine in
Gallup. All over the West you could hear about "losing a way of
life" and "hurting the little guy." I gave up beef because of the
whining. Remember when you were almost run out of Missoula, Mont.,
for your speech about "The cowboy and his cow?" "Let those cowboys
and ranchers find some harder way to make a living, like the rest
of us have to do," you said. "There's no reason why we should
subsidize them forever."
Oh well, it was damned
nice out here while it lasted - when we had all this land to
ourselves. Twenty years ago, Moab was just another redneck Utah
town with bad coffee and uranium cowboys. You should see it now.
You'd like all the exposed tanned skin of the female trust-funders
pedaling around on their mountain bikes, looking like characters
out of the "Jetsons," with their wrap-around sunglasses and bike
shorts that make everyone look one-month pregnant. Coffee is called
a dozen different prefixes attached to the words mocha and latte,
the beer is imported (from Mexico!) and served with fruit (lime!).
Now, hundreds of people stomp around Delicate Arch during the full
moon, acting like coyotes on steroids. We're loving this country to
You predicted in "Industrial Tourism
and the National Parks' the whole mess "- how chamber of commerce
types would "look into red canyons and see only green, stand among
flowers snorting out the smell of money and hear, while
thunderstorms rumble over mountains, the fall of the dollar on
Some good things have
happened in the last six years, like this book I've been quoting
from, edited by your old friend, John Macrea. Four hundred pages of
pure Abbey. Sections of most of your novels, essays, and even a
journal entry remind us that you were a fine writer, the best at
interpreting human motives and capitalistic machinations, in my
knee-jerk opinion, and that you were a naturalist to rival the best
You loved the West, and Macrea's
carefully edited book reminds us how much your humor is missed, and
that more than ever we could use a dose of your politically
incorrect rage. Ed, you checked out just at the time when this
whole shebang is getting interesting, just when the inmates
overpowered the jailer and discovered he didn't have a key. Just
when we need you the most "- as always..
Stephen J. Lyons acknowledges his debt to the
late poet Richard Hugo for the form of this review. The Serpents of
Paradise, an Edward Abbey reader was edited by John Macrea; Henry
Holt, publisher, 1995, $25. Lyons' book, Landscape of the Heart,
will be published this year by Washington State University Press.