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The Monkey Wrench Gang 17


  The old man wore his green and white pinstripe official Texaco uniform. An original, it appeared to have been last washed during the heavy rains of August 1972. He wore the red star of the Texas Company on the sleeve, and over the shirt pocket his name in red piping—J. Calvin Garn. (You can always tell a shithead by that initial initial.) The pants drooped slack and baggy in the area of that part of his frame where the buttocks would ordinarily be found, if you were looking for them. Calvin seemed to have none. An old man, embittered, and no wonder—lacking hams. You can trust your car to the man who wears the star but not if his ass has fallen off.

  “Yeah, but maybe you oughta save some for all the people that got to breathe that city air back east and out in California.”

  “Well I don’t know about all that,” the old man says. His rheumy eyes leaked: gasoline fumes are getting to him. “This here’s ahr air and I reckon we know best what we want to do with it. We don’t like them outsiders from the Sahara Club tryin’ to tell us what we can do with ahr air.”

  “Okay, but look at it this way, Calvin. Keep your fucking air here halfways clean and you can sell it to them city dudes by the jugful, like pure-spring drinking water.”

  “We already think of that. There ain’t enough money in it.”

  “You could put meters on their noses when they cross the state line.”

  “We thunk of that but there ain’t no money to it. There’s the shippin’ costs and all them permits you gotta buy from the goldamn state. You want the oil checked?”

  They drove on to Wahweap Marina, across the line in Arizona, where Hayduke had left his jeep weeks earlier. He decided now he wanted it, especially the hardware inside. Getting it started, he followed Smith to the Glen Canyon Bridge. They parked, got out and walked to the middle of the bridge to pray.

  “Okay, God, I’m back,” Seldom Seen began, on his knees, head bowed. “It’s me again, Smith, and I see you still ain’t done nothing about this here dam. Now you know as well as me that if them goddamn Government men get this dam filled up with water it’s gonna flood more canyons, suffocate more trees, drown more deer and generally ruin the neighborhood. Why that there water’s gonna back right up under Rainbow Bridge itself if you let them sonsabitches fill this dam. You gonna let them do that?”

  Some tourists stopped to stare at Smith; one raised a camera. Hayduke, standing guard, put a hand on the pommel of his sheathed knife and glared. They went away. The rangerette did not appear.

  “How about it, God?” Smith asked. He paused, cocking an eye upward to the sky where a procession of clouds in stately formation, like an armada of galleons, floated eastward on the prevailing winds, out of the sunrays of the west toward approaching night.

  Again no immediate reply. Smith bowed his head and went on with his supplication, knees on the cold cement, the temple steeple of his brown hands pointing heavenward.

  “All we need here, God, is one little pre-cisión earthquake. Just one surgical strike. You can do it right now, right this very second; me and George here we don’t mind, we’ll go down with the bridge and all these innocent strangers come here from every state in the Union to admire this great work of man. How about it?”

  No response, so far as eye, ear or any other sense could tell.

  After another minute Smith stopped his useless Mormon mumbling and rose to his feet. He leaned on the parapet of the bridge beside Hayduke and stared at the concave immensity of the face of the dam.

  After a period of meditation Hayduke spoke. “You know, Seldom,” he says, “if we could just get into the heart of that motherfucker….”

  “That dam don’t have a heart.”

  “Okay, if we could just get into the guts of it. If I got a haircut and a shave and put on a suit and necktie and a slide rule and a shiny new yellow hard hat like all the Reclamation engineers wear, why maybe—just maybe—I could get right down into the control center with a satchel full of good shit, TNT or something….”

  “You can’t get in there, George. They got guards. They keep every door locked. You have to have a ID badge. They got to know you; the security is tight. And even if you made it all the way down in there, one little satchelful of dynamite ain’t gonna do much good.”

  “I’m thinking of the control center. Maybe force our way in there. Open the diversion tunnels, let all the water out of the reservoir. Blow up the controls so they can’t close the tunnels.”

  Smith smiled sadly. “That’s a nice thought, George. But it ain’t enough. They’d fill it again. Now what we really need is about three-four jumbo-size houseboats, the kind millionaires use, them sixty-five-footers. We pack them full of fertilizer and diesel fuel. Then we head down the lake toward the dam, slow and easy, in broad daylight, with your girl friend Miz Abbzug layin’ around on deck in her black string bikini—”

  “Yeah. The girl on the houseboat with the big tits.”

  “That’s the idea. So it’ll look natural. Then we sort of sidle up to that boom out there—you can see it from here—that’s supposed to keep boats away from the dam, and we cut it. In broad daylight.”

  “How?”

  “Goddammit, I don’t know how. You’re the Green Beret; cutting that boom is your job. Then we head the boats toward the dam, and when we’re about the right distance we scuttle the boats and kind of let them sink down toward the base of the dam, still moving forward under the water with the momentum so they come to rest against the cement.”

  “And what about us? What about Bonnie and her black string bikini?”

  “We’ll be busy paddling our canoes to shore and unreeling the blasting wire as we go.”

  “In broad daylight.”

  “Make it two o’clock in the morning, on a stormy night. So we get ashore, we connect up the wire from all the houseboats to an electric blaster and we set off the charge.”

  “And the charge is tamped by a million tons of water.”

  “That’s right, George. Good-bye and so long, Glen Canyon Dam. Welcome back Glen Canyon and the old Coloraddy River.”

  “Beautiful, Captain Smith.”

  “Thank you, George.”

  “It won’t work.”

  “Prob’ly not.”

  They returned to their vehicles and charged up the hill to the Big Pig supermarket to replenish provisions. That done, meat and vegetables packed in ice chests, they checked in for a quick one at the nearest bar, feeling friendly, fun-loving and feisty. Nobody there but construction workers in hard hats, some truck drivers in sweaty T-shirts, a number of cowboys in salt-encrusted sombreros.

  Hayduke gulped down the first shooter of Jim Beam and chased it with a schooner of Coors. Wiping his beard, he turned to face the crowd, his back to the bar, his buddy old Seldom Seen beside him facing the other way.

  When the jukebox—Tennessee Ernie Ford, Engelbert Humperdinck, Hank Williams, Jr., Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck et al.—lapsed for a moment into silence, Hayduke spoke, addressing the patrons of the bar, loudly.

  “Hello,” he said. “My name’s Hayduke. I’m a hippie.”

  Smith stiffened, staring at the mirror behind the bar.

  A few of the cowboys, truck drivers and construction workers glanced at Hayduke, then returned to their quiet conversations. Hayduke ordered a second boilermaker. He drank it. When the jukebox paused between records he again spoke out. Clearly.

  “My name’s Hayduke,” he roared, “and I’m a queer. I go barefoot in the summertime. My mother is a welfare chiseler and I want to tell you men I’m glad to be here. Because if it wasn’t for men like you I’d have to work for a living myself. All I do is read dirty books, push dope and screw little girls.”

  Smith looked quickly around for the nearest exit.

  Hayduke waited. There were a few smiles, a few quiet remarks, but no deep, sincere or meaningful response. The truck drivers, cowboys, construction workers, even the barmaid, each little clique in its private intercourse, ignored him. Him, George Washington Hayduke, quee
r hippie loudmouth.

  “I was a sergeant in the Green Berets,” he explained, “and I can bust the ass of any cocksucker in this room.”

  This announcement produced a few seconds of respectful silence, some chilly stares. Hayduke stared back, ready to go on. But again the jukebox interrupted, breaking the spell.

  Smith clutched his arm. “Okay, George, you done fine. Now let’s get out of here. Kind of quick.”

  “Well, shit,” Hayduke complained. “Gotta piss first.” He turned, training his gaze on the little sign that said BULLS, next door to the cows, found the doorknob and shut himself in the cubicle of uric light. The kidney-colored urinal yawned before him (sleepily) like a holy-water font. Pissing heartily—oh, that ecstatic release, that mystic discharge—he read the label on the two-bit vending machine bolted to the wall:

  Improve Your Personal Life!

  Embark on a New Adventure!

  with SAMOA!!!

  The Exotic New Prophylactic

  In Colors from the South Seas!

  Sunset Red, Midnight Black,

  Dawn Gold, Morning Blue,

  Siesta Green!

  New Freedom and Pleasure!

  Specially Lubricated!

  Colors Will Not Rub Off!

  (Help stamp out VD.)

  Outside, in the sundown glare, through the roasting heat that floated in planes above the concrete and asphalt, Hayduke again complained.

  Smith mollified. “It’s that there sex revolution, George,” he explained. “It’s finally come to Page Arizona even. Now even them truck drivers and construction workers they can get some ass whenever they want.”

  “Well, shit.”

  “Now even cowboys can get laid.”

  “Shit….”

  “This is your car right here, George. This jeep. Don’t climb in the window. Open the door.”

  “Door don’t open.” He climbed in through the window, stuck his awful head out. “I still don’t like it,” he said.

  “That’s the way it is, George. They just don’t want to fight anymore. They’re all saving their strength for the night shift.”

  “Yeah? Well, shit. Which way out of here?”

  “Follow me.”

  “Maybe that’s what I need.”

  “We’ll see her tomorrow, George. Maybe we can get her to go swimming in some Navajo stockpond with her black string bikini.”

  “Who cares?” says Hayduke, philosopher and liar.

  They shook hands once more, mountaineer’s grip, heavy hand on hairy wrist in reciprocal union, integrated splice of bone, tendon, bloodline and muscle. Then off, up the street, Hayduke spinning the jeep in one complete circle on the supermarket lot before determining his course and launching south, after Smith, with a smart screech of rubber, the stylish burn of blistered asphalt.

  Their way out of town led past Jesus Row, the crescent street where Page’s thirteen churches stood ranged in cheek-to-cheek ecumenicism (all Christian, of course), unbroken by any check more secular than junked cars on vacant lots where drunk and abandoned Navajos lay half hidden among the weeds and shattered wine bottles.

  Page, Arizona: thirteen churches, four bars. Any town with more churches than bars, that town’s got a problem. That town is asking for trouble. And they’re even trying to make Christians out of the Indians. As if the Indians weren’t bad enough already.

  Twenty miles from town they turned far off the highway to make camp for the night and cook their supper on the clean passionate fire of juniper coals. Alone out there on the golden plain of the Navajo desert, far from any house or hogan, they ate their beans under the soaring skywide flare of one of God’s better Arizona sunsets.

  Tomorrow to Betatakin for rendezvous with Doc and Bonnie. Then on to Black Mesa for a little chat with the Peabody Coal Company, the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad. And then? They preferred not to speculate. They pissed, belched, farted, scratched, grunted, brushed their teeth, unrolled their bedrolls on the sandy ground and turned in for the night.

  Smith was awakened past midnight, with Scorpio down and Orion rising, but muttered moans from the sack nearby. He lifted his head, peering through the starlight darkness, and saw Hayduke twitching, fumbling, heard him cry out.

  “No! No! No!”

  “Hey, George….”

  “No!”

  “George….”

  “No! No!”

  Trapped in nightmare, Hayduke trembled, moaned and fidgeted in his greasy army-surplus mummy bag. Smith, unable to reach him without crawling out of his own sack, threw a boot, hit Hayduke on the shoulder. Instantly the groaning stopped. Eyes adapting to the dim light, Smith saw the dull sheen on the barrel and cylinder of Hayduke’s .357 magnum, suddenly produced from the sleeping bag. The muzzle turned toward him, seeking a target.

  “George, it’s me.”

  “Who’s that?”

  “Me, Smith.”

  “Who?”

  “For chrissake, George, wake up.”

  Hayduke paused. “I’m awake.”

  “You was havin’ a nightmare.”

  “I know.”

  “Put down that goddamned cannon.”

  “Somebody threw something.”

  “It was me. I tried to wake you up.”

  “Yeah. All right.” Hayduke lowered the gun.

  “Thought I was doing you a favor,” Smith said.

  “Yeah. Well, fuck.”

  “Go back to sleep.”

  “Yeah. Right. Only Seldom—don’t wake me up that way again.”

  “Why not?”

  “It’s not safe.”

  “So how am I supposed to wake you up?” No immediate response from George Hayduke. “So what is the safe way?” Smith said.

  Hayduke thought for a while. “There isn’t any safe way.”

  “What?”

  “There ain’t any safe fucking way to wake me up.”

  “Okay,” Smith said. “Next time I’ll just bash you on the head with a rock.”

  Hayduke thought. “Yeah. That’s the only safe way.”

  12

  The Kraken’s Arm

  Reconnoitering the target, the fearless four drove down from the high-lands of Betatakin, down from the juniper woodlands and sandstone humpbacks, to the highway at Black Mesa Junction. Ms. Abbzug at the wheel; she trusted no one else to drive Doc’s extravagant new ($9955) Buick station wagon. (Some car, Doc, Smith had said. Doc shrugged: It’s transportation.) They parked at the junction café—despite Bonnie’s objections—for coffee and intellectual refreshment.

  Abbzug thought it unwise to appear in a public place so close to the scene of their proposed project.

  “We’re criminals now,” she says, “and we’ve got to start acting like criminals.”

  “That’s right,” Doc says, lighting up his second stogie of the day. “But George needs his chemicals.”

  “Shit,” says Hayduke. “The main thing is just to do the fucking job and get the fuck out of here.”

  Bonnie stared at him across the sights of her nose and cigarette. She looked lovely that morning: fresh as a primrose, the large violet eyes bright with exuberance and good humor, her mane of hair fragrant and rich, brushed to the gloss of burnished chestnut, glowing with glints of Scots copper.

  “Why,” she said, impaling Hayduke the oaf on the beam of her laser stare, her casual scorn, “why is it”—blowing smoke rings into his hairy face—“that you can never speak a single complete English sentence without swearing?”

  Smith laughed.

  Hayduke, under the hair and sunburned hide, appeared to be blushing. His grin was awkward. “Well, shit,” he said. “Fuck, I don’t know. I guess … well, shit, if I can’t swear I can’t talk.” A pause. “Can’t hardly think if I can’t swear.”

  “That’s exactly what I thought,” said Bonnie. “You’re a verbal cripple. You use obscenities as a crutch. Obscenity is a crutch for crippled minds.”

  “Fuck,” said Hayduke.

  “E
xactly.”

  “Fuck off.”

  “You see?”

  “Now now,” Doc said. “Peace. We have work to do, friends, and the morning is slipping by.” He called the waitress, obtained the check, reached for his wallet and removed the credit card.

  “Cash,” muttered Hayduke. “Pay cash.”

  “Right,” said Doc.

  Outside, they made their way through throngs of hardworking genuine tourists and clusters of genuine nonworking Indians to the big black car with the California license tag. California? During the early morning, Hayduke and Bonnie had “borrowed” the front license plates from tourist automobiles from three different states and attached them (temporarily) to their own vehicles. Assuming, naturally, that the loss would not be noticed for hundreds of miles.

  Bonnie driving, they went up the road to the rim of Black Mesa. From a vantage point near the road, armed with binoculars, they examined the layout of the coal transmission system.

  To the east, beyond the rolling ridges on the mesa’s surface, lay the ever-growing strip mines of the Peabody Coal Company. Four thousand acres, prime grazing land for sheep and cattle, had been eviscerated already; another forty thousand was under lease. (The lessor was the Navajo Nation, as represented by the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Government.) The coal was being excavated by gigantic power shovels and dragline machines, the largest equipped with 3600-cubic-foot buckets. The coal was trucked a short distance to a processing depot, where it was sorted, washed and stored, some of it loaded into a slurry line for a power plant near Lake Mohave, Nevada, the rest onto a conveyor belt for transportation to storage towers at the railhead of the BM & LP railway, which in turn hauled the coal eighty miles to the Navajo Power Plant near the town of Page.

  Smith and Hayduke, Abbzug and Sarvis were especially interested in the conveyor belt, which seemed to be the weakest link in the system. It ran for nineteen miles from mine to railhead. For most of this distance the conveyor was vulnerable, running close to the ground, half concealed by juniper and pinyon pine, unguarded. At the rim of the mesa it descended to the level of the highway, where it rose again, over the highway and into the top of the four storage silos. The belt ran on rollers, the entire apparatus powered electrically.