© 2020 by Raymond Cannefax
Edward Paul Abbey should never have been revealed to me. His words are those of the teacher from whom I longed to learn throughout my life. My dear friend and mentor, Sammy Freeman, a great man and motivator, a father image, provided to me that same sort of visceral knowledge and understanding in the realm of business and commerce, and also in the area of relationships both professional, personal and family. Like Sammy, Ed touched my soul.
Abbey, unlike Sammy, takes me through thousands of years of the existence of the great south-western deserts that I have learned to love deeply and respect. Abbey was born too early. Perhaps, I was born too late. I wish I’d been able to join him whilst roaming the wild vastness of America’s great south-west and learned the lessons he continues to teach through his books, of how not to destroy the basic elements of life that continue to survive in wilderness. I fear we may be losing that battle with the BLM having free reign over millions of acres of public lands, some of which that they have destroyed without regard, in order to make that land more accessible to industry.
On the other hand, it may not be too late. Taking time and age into consideration, I may not be able to venture into the many nooks and crannies Abbey ventured into and wrote about. On the other hand, with transportation and technology more advanced, there is a high probability I can still make it to some of those spots of importance to Ed, those spots that bureaucrats continue to put at risk, Bears Ears, Escalante Grand Staircase, and other remote areas where oil and gas wells pumps dot the wide open plateaus. Many of the canyons Ed explore will not be explored again because they are submerged beneath waters backed up behind concrete dams built to halt the flow of the mighty Colorado river, the river which forged the canyons we should have been able to enjoy into eternity.
As I admire the photos in Desert Images, oand read Abbey’s words accompanying David Muench’s photographs, I visualize and mentally envision many of those spots of importance to Abbey and Muench, spots that must continue to remain of great importance to all of us. Some of these spots I have visited, many I must still seek and find.
On the other hand, I have begun venturing to places that Abbey may not have seen, or if he did, he did not write about – Hovenweep (Desolated Canyon in Hopi) and the virtually flat vastness of the Colorado Plateau in the SE Corner of Utah. The Hatch Trading Post area where wild horses continue to roam freely, leaping over pipelines flowing with crude or natural gas being another spot Ed may not have visited.
Much of the vast expanse of the forty-five-mile-long Nine Mile Canyon and its smaller tributary canyons that are on private property and there remain spots in those canyons that potentially remain unexplored. Being a short distance north of Arches National Park where Ed worked as its first official Ranger, there is a probability Ed ventured into Nine Mile Canyon. If not off the roadway, perhaps from the beach along Desolation Canyon where Nine Mile creek flows into the Green River.
I will risk and venture into places even if fenced and posted “Private Property”. This is not a display of disrespect for someone’s claim to land, but rather a statement that such land utilized for grazing, or future natural resource exploration, is still the land of the people, even though privately owned. It should be unlawful to fence out those who come to explore the unexplored, those who respect the land and come to perhaps learn from what remains of those who may have visited this same land, or inhabited that land many millennia ago.
What seems to have become common in this age is that fewer and fewer of us are taking up the cause to protect lands that are allowed, by government agencies, to be desecrated for the sake of what may lie beneath those lands. Our nation's National Parks are beautiful and well maintained, and for many of our nation's citizens serve to placate because they offer easy access to "nature". For many there no longer exists a need or desire to venture into the wild unknown, to places without paved roads or dirt floored campgrounds to experience nature as it was before the NPS refined our natural wonders and made them easily accessible to all..
Throughout his life, Edward Abbey, fought a vigilantly to preserve what was wild. He did so, and with his books, passed knowledge of the wild to the masses. Along with his compatriots, Abbey engaged in the monkey wrenching described in his book, The Monkey Wrench Gang. He did so intentionally and specifically in an attempt to help us hold onto the wild that remains, to show us that there was something we could do. Hence, it is a blessing that I did not get acquainted with Abbey, his philosophies and the anarchistic views and actions that were Edward Abbey. I would have become the little boy who ran off with the circus.
In a more refined way, Wallace Stegner delivered the same message as Abbey. Both of these great minds worked diligently to provide information to future generations so they may take steps to help America retain the wild and keep beautiful places in their natural state. So drawn to the desert and committed were these two men that both of their lives ended in America's south-west. May they rest in peace knowing the knowledge held within their books continue to inspire future generations.
Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner did for me what Sammy Freeman did for me. Sammy taught me about the business world, which was not much calmer that Abbey's and Stegner's wild west. All three of these great men made a commitment to leave the world a better place than it would would have been were it not for their efforts. Abbey and Stegner did so with America's wilderness. Sammy did so with some of America's great corporations. Though I may regret not running away with Edward Abbey's circus and joining the monkey wrench boys, I am grateful for the calming restrains of Sammy Freeman who taught me to be an anarchist in the business world and fight battles that were different, yet similar to those Abbey fought.
To Edward Abbey, the anarchist, to Wallace Stegner, the intellect, and to Sammy Freeman, the teacher and white collar anarchist, my hat is off. Thank you for all you have gen me and continue to provide through your teachings.