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Ed Abbey’s ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang’

The Arizona Republic reports that the Department of the Interior this week started releasing millions of gallons of water from Glen Canyon Dam. The purpose is to restore ecological balance to the Grand Canyon. It is the fourth such flooding.

My first thought after reading the article was: Hayduke lives!

George Hayduke is the protagonist of Ed Abbey’s little romp into wishful thinking and delicious anarchy, The Monkey Wrench Gang.

The plot consists of Hayduke’s effort to blow Glen Canyon Dam to smithereens. Because it, ahem, altered the ecology of the Grand Canyon. Actually, it changed the ecology of the river. I seem to remember at the time, it took a month before the water began to back up behind the dam to create the reservoir.

“Hayduke Lives!” became a rallying cry for rabid environmentalists. I recall drawings that showed the great fissure in the dam and the water spewing in a great gush. I think Abbey was quietly amused by all the fuss.

I got to meet him and know him just a little. We discussed the state’s growth for an article he was writing for The New York Times Magazine (“The Blob comes to Arizona”). He told me he could not make it as a journalist because he got basketball scores wrong. He did not laugh when he said it, only smiled. I did not believe it.

I asked him once which of his books he liked best. “The next one,” he said pointing to his temple. I still like that answer. It certainly stayed with me. My favorite is Desert Solitaire. It’s lyrical, well-worth reading.


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