Settings

The Monkey Wrench Gang 12


  When the cities are gone, he thought, and all the ruckus has died away, when sunflowers push up through the concrete and asphalt of the forgotten interstate freeways, when the Kremlin and the Pentagon are turned into nursing homes for generals, presidents and other such shitheads, when the glass-aluminum skyscraper tombs of Phoenix Arizona barely show above the sand dunes, why then, why then, why then by God maybe free men and wild women on horses, free women and wild men, can roam the sagebrush canyonlands in freedom—goddammit!—herding the feral cattle into box canyons, and gorge on bloody meat and bleeding fucking internal organs, and dance all night to the music of fiddles! banjos! steel guitars! by the light of a reborn moon!—by God, yes! Until, he reflected soberly, and bitterly, and sadly, until the next age of ice and iron comes down, and the engineers and the farmers and the general motherfuckers come back again.

  Thus George Hayduke’s fantasy. Did he believe in the cyclical theory of history? Or the linear theory? You’d find it hard to pin him down in these matters; he wavered and wobbled and waffled from one position to another, from time to time; what the fuck who gives a shit he would say if pressed, and grab the tab snap the cap from another can of Bud, buddy, pop the top, Pappy, from another can of Schlitz. Floating his teeth, gassing his guts, bloating his bladder with beer. Hopeless case.

  Sundown: a gory primal sunset lay splattered like pizza pie across the west. Hayduke stuck another wad of jerky in his teeth and dogged on until he could no longer see the flagging on the trees and darkness compelled him to call it a day. He had worked from dawn to dusk or, as his old man used to say, “from can’t see to can’t see.”

  He must have walked twenty miles this day. At least the ache in his limbs, the swell of his feet, made it seem so. He ate his supper of Hayduke Granola and crawled into the sack, deep in the bush, he believed, dead to the world of care.

  Hayduke slept late into the next morning, roused at last by the roar of a car or truck rushing past nearby. He staggered up to find himself within fifty yards of a road. For a minute he didn’t know where he was. He rubbed his eyes, pulled on pants and boots, skulked through the trees to within sight of a road junction. He read the signs: LAKE POWELL 62; BLANDING 40; NATURAL BRIDGES NATIONAL MONUMENT 10; HALL’S CROSSING 45.

  Good. Almost home.

  He pulled out the last few stakes, removed the last few ribbons, slipped across the road and took off through the scrub forest cross-country toward Natural Bridges. Within that relative sanctuary, following Armstrong Canyon and the trail from Owachomo Natural Bridge, he would find the gang waiting, he hoped, hidden in the crowds of tourist and camper, at the official, designated, national monument campground. That had been the plan, and Hayduke was twenty-four hours ahead of schedule.

  He buried the final handful of stakes and ribbon under a rock, adjusted the pack and marched boldly forward into the trees. He carried no compass but relied on topo maps, his infallible sense of direction and his overweening self-confidence. Justified. By four o’clock that afternoon he was sitting on the tailgate of Smith’s truck slurping beer, gobbling an Abbzug-constructed ham sandwich and exchanging stories with the crew—Hayduke, Sarvis, Abbzug & Smith: it could have been a brokerage firm.

  “Gentlemen and lady,” Doc was saying, “this is only the beginning. Greater things wait ahead. The future lies before us, spread-eagled like a coronary upon the dunghill of Destiny.”

  “Doc,” says Smith, “you said a mouthful.”

  “We need dynamite,” Hayduke mumbles through his sandwich. “Thermite, carbon tet, magnesium filings….

  While Abbzug, aloof and lovely in the background, smiles her sardonic smile.

  “Talk, talk, talk,” she says. “That’s all I ever hear. Talk, talk, talk.”

  8

  Hayduke and Smith at Play

  Campground, Natural Bridges National Monument.

  “Can I borrow your bolt cutters?”

  The man seemed pleasant enough, a suntanned gentleman in slacks and polo shirt and canvas shoes.

  “We don’t have any bolt cutters,” Abbzug said.

  He ignored her, talking to Smith. “Having a little trouble.” He nodded his head back toward another campsite, where a pickup truck and camper trailer were parked. California license tags.

  “Well,” Smith said.

  “We don’t have any bolt cutters,” Abbzug said again.

  “I see you’re a professional outfitter,” the man said, still talking to Smith. He gestured toward Smith’s truck. “Thought you might have a set of tools with you.”

  BACK OF BEYOND EXPEDITIONS HITE UTAH all across the door panels on big red magnetic decals.

  “Yeah, but no bolt cutters,” Abbzug said.

  “Maybe heavy-duty wire cutters?”

  “Well sir,” says Smith, “we could loan you—”

  “A set of pliers,” Abbzug said.

  “—a set of pliers.”

  “I have pliers. Need something bigger.”

  “Try the ranger’s office,” Abbzug said.

  “Yes?” He finally condescended to speak directly to her, as if he hadn’t been inspecting her all the time anyway from the corners of his eyes. “I’ll do that.” He finally walked away, through the junipers and pinyon pines, to his own outfit.

  “Persistent cuss,” Smith said.

  “Nosy, I’d say,” she said. “You see the way he was looking at me? The swine. I ought to give him a knuckle sandwich.”

  Smith was thinking about his decals. “Guess we don’t need no more advertising.” He peeled them off.

  Hayduke and Dr. Sarvis returned from their walk in the woods. They had been preparing a shopping list for the next series of punitive raids, scheduled to begin ten days from today. Paranoid as always, Hayduke preferred the discussion held well away from the public campground.

  Dr. Sarvis, chewing on his cigar, read over the list: rotor arms, iron oxide flakes, Du Pont Red Cross Extra, Number 50 blasting machine, fuse lighters, good things like that.

  Doc slipped the paper into his shirt pocket. “I’m not sure I approve of this,” he said.

  “You want to take out that bridge or just play funny games?”

  “I’m not sure.”

  “Make up your mind.”

  “I can’t get all this stuff up here in a plane.”

  “You sure as hell can.”

  “Not on a commercial flight. Do you realize what you have to go through to get on a plane these days?”

  “Charter a plane, Doc, charter a plane.”

  “You think I’m a rich bastard, don’t you?”

  “I never met a poor doctor yet, Doc. Better yet, buy us a fucking plane.”

  “I can’t even drive a car.”

  “Let Bonnie take flying lessons.”

  “You’re full of ideas today.”

  “It’s a beautiful day, right? A motherfucking beautiful day.”

  The doctor laid his arm across Hayduke’s broad back and squeezed that musclebound shoulder. “George,” he said, “try to have a little patience. Just a little.”

  “Patience, shit.”

  “George, we don’t know exactly what we’re doing. If constructive vandalism turns destructive, what then? Perhaps we’ll be doing more harm than good. There are some who say if you attack the system you only make it stronger.”

  “Yeah—and if you don’t attack it, it strip-mines the mountains, dams all the rivers, paves over the desert and puts you in jail anyway.”

  “You and me.”

  “Not me. They’ll never put me in one of their jails. I’m not the type, Doc. I’ll die first. And take about ten of them with me. Not me, Doc.”

  They entered the campsite, joining the girl and Seldom Seen. Lunchtime. The sultry air of a clouded noon pressed down on them. Hayduke opened another can of beer. He was always opening another can of beer. And always pissing.

  “How about some more poker?” Smith said to Dr. Sarvis. “Beat the heat.”

  Doc expelled a cloud of ci
gar smoke. “If you like.”

  “Don’t you ever learn?” Hayduke said. “That grizzled fart has cleaned us out twice now.”

  “I learn but seems like I always forget,” Smith said.

  “No more poker games,” Abbzug harshly butted in. “We have to go. If I don’t get this so-called surgeon back to Albuquerque tomorrow we’re going to have malpractice suits on our heads and that means no more money and higher insurance premiums and no more fun and games with you two clowns up here in the enchanted wilderness.”

  She was right, as usual. They broke camp promptly and hustled down the road, the four jammed hip to hip in the cab of Smith’s truck. The bed of the truck, canopied by an aluminum shell, carried their camping gear, their food supplies and Smith’s toolbox, icebox and other staples of his profession.

  The plan was to drive Doc and Bonnie to the landing strip at Fry Canyon, where they were to meet a small private plane which would take them to Farmington, New Mexico, in time to catch the evening flight to Albuquerque. Roundabout, expensive and tiresome but still much better, from Dr. Sarvis’s point of view, than commuting that awful span of bulging desert—some four hundred miles—on the four wheels of his Continental.

  Hayduke and Smith would then go on to what once was the river, now the upper arm of Lake Powell, to reconnoiter the next objective: three new bridges. On the day following, Smith had to drive on to Hanksville to rendezvous with a group of his client backpackers for a five-day tour of Utah’s Henry Mountains, last-discovered and last-named U.S. mountain range.

  And Hayduke? Didn’t know. He might go with Smith, or he might go wandering off on his own for a while. The old jeep, loaded with all his valuables, had been left a week earlier in a parking lot at Wahweap Marina near Page, close to the ultimate, final, unspoken, impossible objective, Smith’s favorite fantasy, the dam. Glen Canyon Dam. The dam.

  How Hayduke was to get his jeep back or himself back to his jeep he didn’t know at this point. He could always walk it if necessary—200 miles? 300?—up and down and in and out of God’s finest canyon wilderness. He could borrow one of Smith’s little rubber boats, inflate it and paddle down the 150 miles of stagnant Lake Powell. Or he could wait for Smith to drive him down there.

  The beauty of his situation was, for Hayduke, that he felt he could be let off anytime, anywhere, in the middle of nowhere, with his backpack, a gallon of water, a few relevant topo maps, three days’ food supply, and he’d make it, survive and thrive, on his own, man. (All that fresh beef wandering around on the range; all that venison on the hoof down in the box canyons; all those sweet-water springs under the lucent cottonwoods a convenient day’s march one from the next.)

  So he thought. So he felt. The sensation of freedom was exhilarating, though tinged with a shade of loneliness, a touch of sorrow. The old dream of total independence, beholden to no man and no woman, floated above his days like smoke from a pipe dream, like a silver cloud with a dark lining. For even Hayduke sensed, when he faced the thing directly, that the total loner would go insane. Was insane. Somewhere in the depths of solitude, beyond wildness and freedom, lay the trap of madness. Even the vulture, that red-necked black-winged anarchist, most indolent and arrogant of all the desert’s creatures, even the vulture at evening likes to gather with his kin and swap a few stories, the flock of them roosting on the highest branches of the deadest tree in the neighborhood, all hunched down and wrapped up in their black-wing robes, cackling together like a convocation of scheming priests. Even the vulture—fantastic thought—goes through the nesting fit, mates for a time, broods on a clutch of vulture eggs, produces young.

  Captain Smith & Crew, rolling merrily down the road, left the Monument turnoff at the junction with Utah 95. Here they saw a string of four-wheel-drive vehicles—CJ-5s, Scouts, Blazers, Broncos, elaborately equipped with spotlights, hard tops, gun racks (loaded), winches, wide-rim wheels, shortwave radios, chrome-plated hubcaps, the works—parked in a file at the side of the road. Each vehicle bore on its door panel identical decalcomania, a bold insigne complete with eagle, shield and scroll:

  SAN JUAN COUNTY

  SEARCH & RESCUE TEAM

  BLANDING, UTAH

  A group of Search and Rescuers squatted in the shade with Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up clutched in hairy hands. (These men are regular churchgoers.) A few were scuffling about in the brush, along the now un-flagged and unstaked survey route of the projected right-of-way. One of them hailed Smith. He was obliged to stop.

  The hailer came toward them. “Hey there,” he bellows cheerily, “if it ain’t old Cohab Smith. Ol’ Seldom Seen hisself. How you doin’, Smith?”

  Smith, letting the motor idle, answered, “Just fine, Bishop Love. Fine as a frog’s hair. What’re you doin’ out this neck of the woods?”

  The man, huge as Dr. Sarvis, lumbered up to the door of the truck, laid his big red hands on the frame of the open window and smiled in. He looked like a rancher: a mouthful of powerful, horselike yellow teeth, a leather-skinned face half shaded by a big hat, the regulation snap-button shirt. He squinted beyond Smith at the three passengers in the gloom of the cab. (The light outside was dazzling.) “How you folks today?”

  The doctor nodded; Bonnie gave her receptionist’s frigid smile; Hayduke dozed. Smith offered no introductions. Bishop Love turned his attention back to Smith.

  “Seldom,” he says, “haven’t seen you around these parts for some time. How’s everything?”

  “Can’t holler.” Smith nods toward his passengers. “Making a living and paying my tithe.”

  “Payin’ your tithe, are you? That ain’t what I hear.” The bishop laughed to show he was only kidding.

  “I pay mine to IRS, which is more’n I hear you do, Bishop.”

  The bishop glanced around; the smile grew broader. “Now don’t you start no rumors. Besides”—he winked—“that income tax is socialistic and against the Constitution and a sin against man and God, you know that.” Pause. Smith raced the engine for a moment. Love’s wandering eyes came back. “Listen, we’re lookin’ for somebody. There’s a man afoot out here somewhere makin’ a public nuisance of hisself. We think he might be lost.”

  “What’s he look like?”

  “Wears about size ten or eleven boots. Vibram lug soles.”

  “That ain’t much of a description, Bishop.”

  “I know it. It’s all we got. You seen him?”

  “No.”

  “Didn’t think so. Well, we’ll find him pretty quick.” Pause. Again Smith raced the engine. “Now you take care yerself, Seldom, and listen, next time you come through Blanding you stop and see me, understand? We got some things to talk about.”

  “I’ll see you, Bishop.”

  “Good boy.” The bishop grabbed Smith’s shoulder, gave it a vigorous shake, then withdrew from the truck window. Smith drove away.

  “Old friend of yours?” Bonnie said.

  “Nope.”

  “Old enemy?”

  “Yep. Old Love he ain’t got much use for me.”

  “Why’d you call him Bishop?”

  “He’s a bishop in the church.”

  “That man is a bishop? In the church?”

  “L.D.S. The Mormon church. We got more bishops than we got saints.” Smith grinned. “Why hell, honey, I’d be a bishop myself by now if I’d kept my nose clean and stayed out of Short Crick and Cohabitation Canyon.”

  “All right, come on,” Bonnie said, “talk American.”

  Hayduke, who’d only been feigning sleep, put in his two cents. “He means if he hadn’t been following his cock all over Utah and Arizona he’d have a bishop-prick of his own.”

  “Nobody was talking to you, garbage mouth.”

  “I know it.”

  “Then shut up.”

  “Sure.”

  “That’s about it,” Smith said. “What George said.”

  “So what’s a search and rescue team doing on that road project?”

  “They work pretty close with the count
y sheriff’s department. What you might call a posse. They’re mostly a bunch of businessmen who like to play vigilante in their spare time. They don’t mean no harm. Every fall they bring a few California deer hunters in outa the blizzard. Every summer they bring a few dehydrated Boy Scouts up out of Grand Gulch. They try to do good. It’s their hobby.”

  “When I see somebody coming to do me good,” Hayduke said, “I reach for my revolver.”

  “When I hear the word culture,” Dr. Sarvis said, “I reach for my checkbook.”

  “That’s neither here nor there,” Bonnie said. “Let’s try to keep our thoughts in clear logical order.” She and her mates stared ahead through the windshield at the red panorama beyond, the blue cliffs, the pale canyons, the angular silhouette of Woodenshoe Butte against the northwest horizon. “What I want to know now,” she continued, “is who is this Bishop Love and why does he hate your guts, Captain Smith, and should I or should I not put a hex on him?”

  “The name is Seldom,” he said, “and old Love hates me because last time we locked horns he’s the one got throwed. You don’t wanna hear about it.”

  “Probably not,” Bonnie said. “So what happened?”

  The truck rambled down the red-dust Utah country road, wandering a bit on the ruts and rocks. “Think maybe the front end’s a little outa line,” Smith says.

  “So what happened?” Bonnie says.

  “Just a little difference of opinion which cost old Love about a million dollars. He wanted a forty-nine-year lease on a section of state land overlooking Lake Powell. Had in mind some kind of tourist development: summer homes, shopping center, airfield and so on. There was a hearing in Salt Lake, and me and some friends talked the Land Commission into blocking the deal. Took a lot of talking but we convinced ’em Love’s project was a fraud, which it was, and he ain’t forgiven me yet. We’ve had differences like that before, him and me, several times.”

  “I thought he was a bishop.”

  “Well that’s on Sundays and Wednesday church-study nights only. Rest of the time he’s neck deep in real estate, uranium, cattle, oil, gas, tourism, most anything that smells like money. That man can hear a dollar bill drop on a shag rug. Now he’s running for the state legislature. We got plenty like him in Utah. They run things. They run things as best they can for God and Jesus, and what them two don’t want why fellas like Bishop Love pick up. They say it’s a mighty convenient arrangement all around. Jesus Saves at eight and a half percent compounded daily, and when they make that last deposit they go straight to heaven. Them and all the ancestors they can dig out of the genealogical libraries. It’s enough to make a man want to live forever.”