Blue-eyed boy


Chuck Bowden’s thoughtful side is what I will always remember (“Charles Bowden’s Fury,” HCN, 10/13/14). Arriving with the newspapers on my Sedona porch some 25 years ago, just when sunlight was sneaking through early morning clouds, was an unexpected visitor. Standing there was a hefty man, ruggedly handsome, in a windblown sort of way, dressed in a worn, green cowhand shirt and a well-worn brown vest. “Name’s Bowden,” he said. “How about a beer? Let’s talk. I hear you may be doing a book about Ed Abbey.”

My throat went dry! Was this weighty literary hitter up here to discourage my book idea about his old pal? On the other hand, was he just checking me out? Neither. He came all the way from Tucson to give me guidance. To understand Ed Abbey, he told me, you need to do two things: Read The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca — so magnificent for the descriptions of flora and fauna he captured, wandering with a handful of other half-starved Spaniards in the 1530s and by some means surviving the deserts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, somehow reaching home to write about the amazing, scary discovery of what later came to be called North America.

Then Bowden said I should read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, in which he states that citizens should go through life with “malice toward none and with charity toward all.” With that, the fabled man bade me goodbye and said he would be seeing me one of these days. We did see each other again, drinking red wine in a Tucson dive, and another time up at Northern Arizona University. I am grateful that he wrote the epilogue from somewhere across the border for my biography of Abbey, Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist. In Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America, Bowden wrote, after his friend, Robert Sundance, died, “What do you think of your blue-eyed boy now, Mr. Death?”

James Bishop
Sedona, Arizona

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