© 2021 by Raymond Cannefax
Edward Paul Abbey should not have been revealed to me. His words are those of the teacher I sought throughout my life. Prior to reading Abbey's works, my dear friend and mentor, Sammy Freeman, a great man, motivator and father image, provided me the guidance I sought. Sammy provided me a similar sort of visceral knowledge and understanding as Abbey does in respect to keeping the wild, wild, remaining humble, sharing knowledge, and always learning. Sammy's input was in the realm of business and commerce and in the realm of relationships, professional, personal, and family.
Abbey, unlike Sammy's business teachings, takes me through thousands of years of the human 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 do wish I had been able to join him whilst roaming the wild vastness of America’s great south-west and learning the lessons he continues to teach through his books, lessons of how not to destroy the basic elements of life that continues to survive, wild, in wilderness. I fear we may be losing that battle with the BLM having free reign over millions, perhaps billions of acres of public lands, some of which have been destroyed, without regard, in order to make that land more accessible to industry - oil, gas, helium deposits, retrieving other sources of minerals, and grazing. BLM, they have a tough job considering all they are responsible for doing, managing, maintaining, and on and on.
As I admire the photos in the classic books, Hidden Canyon and Desert Images, the David Muench photographs, and I gain knowledge from the commentary provided by Abbey that provides historic data related directly to each of the photos. I mentally envision many of those historic structures, along with still available rapids of the river and the surrounding canyon walls in the now dammed river. Abbey’s blunt and honest comments regarding the great importance of the works of the ancients that are no longer accessible, and of their importance to mankind. The two authors further detail the beauty of the remaining canyon and river as they navigate the rapids in the classic book, Hidden Canyon. Some of the spots in the books I have visited, many I must still seek and shall find, and many can only be viewed in historic photographs. Friends with common interest in having and keeping historic sites accessible by all human beings have similar quests of free access being made possible. As we progress, we will perhaps become teams that venture beyond the "No Trespassing" signs to explore what remains wild and continue to try to decipher the messages the Ancients have left us, carved into rock walls.
On the other hand, I have begun venturing to places that Abbey may not have seen, or if he did, 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 crude or natural gas may be another spot Ed spent little time visiting, but surely passed through before the pumping rigs were in place.
Much of the vast expanse of the forty-five-mile-long Nine Mile Canyon and its smaller tributary canyons are on private property. Yet 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. Nine Mile Creek flows into the Green River, one of Abbey's beloved waterways.
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, leased or owned, 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 its owners and come only to learn from what remains of those who visited this same land, or inhabited that land many millennia ago.
What I see becoming 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, they serve to placate us because they offer easy access to nature and exceptional beauty. For many there no longer exists a need or desire to venture into the unknown wild, to venture into places not served by paved roads or groomed campgrounds with bathroom buildings and snack shops, to venture out and experience nature as it was before the NPS refined our natural wonders and made them easily accessible to all. The risk of venturing into the wild as Abbey did, recognizing and accepting associated danger, has not diminished. Though the NPS and the BLM try to eliminate all risk, it is impossible for those who want to enjoy the wild, so there is still the reward Hemingway addressed. Reasoning with an armed rancher is one risk I had not considered encountering as I wandered up a canyon outside of Bluff. I was not politely asked to turn back and not pass the posted gates or fences, "We have the right to shoot trspassers." The west remains wild.
Throughout his life, Edward Abbey, fought vigilantly to preserve what was wild. With his books, he passed knowledge of the wild to the masses. Along with his compatriots, Abbey did engage in some of 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 something could be done. Hence, it is a blessing that I did not have the opportunity to get acquainted with Abbey, his philosophies, and the anarchistic views and actions that were Edward Abbey. Had I met Abbey in my young adulthood, I could have become that 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. Others have been as drawn to the desert, and committed as these two men were, they both lived out their lives in America's south-west as they wrote of it in an effort to bring greater awareness to the world. None have been as recognized, or perhaps verbal as Abbey and Stegner. May they rest in peace knowing the knowledge held within their books continue to inspire and drive individuals of future generations.
Reading Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner does for me what Sammy Freeman did for me in person. Sammy taught me about the business world, which was not much calmer than Abbey's and Stegner's wild west. Sammy also taught me the lessons of life that are usually learned from one's father. He taught me the great value of morality and to accept loss with dignity, but to continue to strive to achieve what I had set out to achieve. All three of these great men made a commitment to leave the world a better place than it would have been where it not for their efforts. Abbey and Stegner did so with America's wilderness. Sammy did so within America's corporate jungle. 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, the man who taught me to be an anarchist in the business world and fight battles in board rooms that were different, yet similar to those battles Abbey fought to defend the need for wilderness.
To Edward Abbey, the anarchist, to Wallace Stegner, the intellect, and to Sammy Freeman, the teacher and refined white collar anarchist, my hat is off. Thank you, for all you gentlemen have given me and continue to give me through your teachings. With Sammy I still enjoy wonderful conversations, years after being together in offices, and with both of us now flying solo and outside of the corporate world. I must venture to Kansas one day, to pay Sammy a visit before either of us becomes one of the stars in the Universe.
I have also gained a new life guide after reaching my seventies. A woman I once married
and divorced and have worked on bringing back into my life. Virginia Mageras, Ginny,
has a more in-depth understanding of human behavior than I have ever experienced.
She has a comprehension of how things should be to benefit all parties involved, that I
have never previously experienced. Returning to a relationship with her has allowed
me to understand that the changes I had decided to make to myself, I actually did make.
I am gentler, more understanding, and I have learned to listen; all things I did not do
when we were together a decade earlier. Virginia Ann Mageras is the mother of four
children, has few filters, and is as down to earth as anyone I've known. That does not
mean she is without flaws. She has more clothes than anyone I have ever known, but
her clothes are beautiful, visually appealing to me, and make her look like a million dollars.
Sammy and Abby both have "book learning" along with their business and wilderness
experiences. Ginny has life experiences, and learned the fine art of mothering from her
dearly loved mother, Helen, who unfortunately passed away when Ginny was only ten-years old. I also tend to believe that some of what she knows was passed to her via the genetic
code. If there is credence to that concept, she passed those genes on to her children. The three with children are among the best young parents I have observed. No matter
where the wisdome comes from, all three of these people have contributed tremendously to me being who I am, and Ginny keeps helping me understand things differently that I
would without her input; she guides me in a way no one has done throughout my life, except to a large degree, my grandmother, Maria Happach, who raised me until I reached
the age of ten.
Thank you, to the four of you for your highly valued and sincerely appreciated contributions.