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The Monkey Wrench Gang 18


  They sat and watched this mighty engine in motion, conveying coal at the rate of 50,000 tons per day across the mesa and down to the plain and up into the towers. Fifty thousand tons. Every day. For thirty—forty—fifty years. All to feed the power plant at Page.

  “I think,” said Doc, “these people are serious.”

  “It ain’t people,” said Smith. “It’s a mechanical animal.”

  “Now you’ve got it,” Doc agreed. “We’re not dealing with human beings. We’re up against the megamachine. A megalomaniacal megamachine.”

  “No sweat,” Hayduke said. “It’s all rigged up for us. We’ll use that fucking conveyor to blow up the loading towers. Nothing could be prettier. Look—it’s so goddamned simple it makes me nervous. We take our shit out in the woods there, close to the belt. We throw it on the belt, light the fuse, cover it up with a little coal, let it ride up over the road and into the tower. Ka-blam!”

  “How do you time it?”

  “That’s the mathematical part. We have to figure out the speed of this thing, measure our distance from the towers, calculate how much fuse we need. Simple.”

  “Suppose,” said Doc, “there’s someone working up in those loading towers?”

  “That’s just a chance we’ll fucking well have to take,” Hayduke said.

  “We’ll who have to take?”

  “All right, there won’t be anybody up in that tower but we’ll telephone the company anyway, give them maybe ten minutes to clear out. That’s fair.”

  Silence. The slightest of zephyrs leaned upon the dried ricegrass at their feet. There was a smell on the air, a certain smell … a sharp metallic odor—

  “I ain’t sure about this,” Smith said.

  “I don’t like it either,” Hayduke said. “I’d a hell of a lot rather forget the whole thing and go fly fishing down on West Horse Creek. Let’s forget Black Mesa. Let the coal company tear it up. Who cares if five years from now you can’t see fifteen miles across the Grand Canyon because the air is so fucked up by these motherfucking new power plants? I’d rather be picking columbines up in the mountains above Telluride anyhow. Why the hell should we worry about it?”

  “I know, but I don’t like this here fooling around with explosives,” Smith said. “Some folks are gonna get hurt.”

  “Nobody’s gonna get hurt. Unless they start shooting at me.”

  “It’s a felony and I reckon it’s a Federal offense too, to blow things up. Ain’t that right, Doc?”

  “That is correct,” Doc said. “Furthermore”—puffing steadily on his long Marsh-Wheeling, squinting through the smoke first at Hayduke then at Smith then at Hayduke—“it’s unpopular. Bad public relations. Anarchy is not the answer.”

  “Doc’s right,” says Smith.

  “Goddamn Mormon,” Hayduke muttered. “Why don’t you go back to B.Y.U. where you belong? You L.D.S. motherfucker. Latter-Day Shithead.”

  “You can’t insult my religion,” Smith said, grinning. “There just ain’t no way to do it. Besides, what I mean is, I don’t think it’s a good idea. This here dynamite, I mean.”

  “It’s dangerous,” Doc said. “We may kill somebody. We may get ourselves killed. It’s not good PR.”

  “They tried everything else,” Hayduke grumbled. “They tried lawsuits, big fucking propaganda campaigns, politics.”

  “Who’s they?”

  “I mean the Hopi elders, the American Indian Movement, the Black Mesa Defense Committee, all the bleeding-heart types.”

  “Now hold your horses,” Smith says. “I ain’t saying we should quit. But I say I ain’t sure we need that stuff you got in the back under them sleeping bags. I say we can de-rail the coal train with a couple of steel wedges. We can cut the fences, let the horses and sheep graze over the tracks. We can take Doc’s McCulloch here and saw down the power-line poles along the railway. That’ll stop it. It runs on electricity, don’t it? We can saw down the power line to the strip mines; them big duckfooted ten-story draglines, they run on electricity too. Hauling those five-mile extension cords around. We can shoot a few holes in their transformers with old George’s cannon, let the cooler leak out. We can throw a few logs in that conveyor belt here and there, jam it up good. I don’t like dynamite. We don’t need it.”

  “Let’s take a vote,” Hayduke said. “What do you say, Doc?”

  “No voting,” Doc said. “We’re not going to have any tyranny of the majority in this organization. We proceed on the principle of unanimity. What we do we do all together or not at all. This is a brotherhood we have here, not a legislative assembly.”

  Hayduke looked to Bonnie for support. His last hope. Her steady eyes returned his gaze; she mashed out her cigarette, staring at him.

  “I ain’t saying I’m absolutely agin it,” Smith went on, “I’m just saying I ain’t sure.”

  “Shit,” said Hayduke, turning back to Smith. “You’re saying you’re willing to commit crimes but you’re not sure we should do the job right. That’s what you’re saying, Seldom.”

  “No, George, I’m saying we got to be careful about how we do it. We can’t do it right if we do it wrong.”

  Hayduke shrugged wearily, disgusted with the argument. They listened to the steady rumble of the coal conveyor, the scream of traffic on the highway, the far-off rattle of the electrical railway. Eastward, ten miles away, the dust from the strip mines rose toward the sky, obscuring the morning sun behind an immense smudge of coal-gray and soil-brown particulates.

  The pause threatened to become paralysis. So Bonnie spoke. “Men,” she began, “such as you are—”

  “Fucking Christ,” growls Hayduke.

  “—such as you are, we’re in this together, for better or for worse. We’ve already done enough to get locked up for life if we ever got caught. Therefore I say let’s get on with it. Let’s use whatever we need—and whatever we have.”

  Smith smiled, a little sadly, at that rose-cheeked bright-eyed full-bosomed dish of delights, lost out here, forever exiled, from the faraway Bronx. With her snug-fitting blue jeans on today, those pants worn and shrunk and faded to a soft-as-flannel surface that clung like a second skin to each edible curve. Too much. The girls, thought Smith, oh them college girls, one day they wear their miniskirts and show us their groins, next day hip-huggers and show us their bellies. Goddamn, it’s too much for a man to bear. Gotta get back to Bountiful. Cedar City. Green River. Back where my balls belong.

  “Bonnie,” he says, wrenching himself from reverie, “you mean dynamite?”

  She blessed him with her sweetest smile. “Whatever you say.”

  Smith melted to slush. “Honey,” he says, “I’m with you all the way. I’m all for Abbzug, A to Z.”

  “Okay, for chrissake,” says the impatient Hayduke. “Now we’re talking business. Doc?”

  “Friends,” says Doc, “I don’t believe in majority rule. You know that. I don’t believe in minority rule either. I am against all forms of government, including good government. I hold with the consensus of the community here. Whatever it may be. Wherever it may lead. So long as we follow our cardinal rule: no violence to human beings. Note the Verbesina enceliodes in full bloom over there, underneath the Juniperus osteosperma.”

  “Which weed is that?” Bonnie says.

  “You mean J. monosperma. Doc,” Smith said. “Take another squint.”

  Doc Sarvis lowered his spectacles and took another squint. “Of course, of course. Monosperma. Quite right. The foliage not so bunchy. The berry large and brown.”

  “Let’s get moving,” says Hayduke, punching Bonnie, not too gently, on the shoulder.

  They drove east through the scrub to have a look at the strip-mine operation. They rode in and out of washes, across more sagebrush flats, past Navajo hogans with their doorways, as per regulations, facing the morning sun; they passed through a flock of sheep attended by a small child on a horse, and on toward the cloud of dust against the light, the vast hurly-burly of great machines.
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  The first thing they saw were ridges of overturned earth—spoil banks in parallel formation, windrows of rock and inverted soil never again to nourish the roots of grass, bush or tree (within the likely lifetime of the sold-out, deceived and betrayed Navajo Nation).

  The next thing they saw was a Euclid earthmover with cab twenty feet high bearing down on them, headlights glaring, stack belching black diesel fumes, air horn bellowing like a wounded dinosaur. At the wheel was a gut-jarred kidney-shook uprooted dirt farmer from Oklahoma or East Texas hanging for dear life to the power steering, staring at them through opaque sun goggles, a dirty respirator dangling from his neck. Bonnie took the big car off the road barely in time to save their lives.

  Parking in the shade and concealment of a group of pinyon pines, the gang took a walk up the nearest knoll, armed with field glasses.

  Their view from the knoll would be difficult to describe in any known terrestrial language. Bonnie thought of something like a Martian invasion, the War of the Worlds. Captain Smith was reminded of Kennecott’s open-pit mine (“world’s largest”) near Magna, Utah. Dr. Sarvis thought of the plain of fire and of the oligarchs and oligopoly beyond: Peabody Coal only one arm of Anaconda Copper; Anaconda only a limb of United States Steel; U.S. Steel intertwined in incestuous embrace with the Pentagon, TVA, Standard Oil, General Dynamics, Dutch Shell, I. G. Farben-industrie; the whole conglomerated cartel spread out upon half the planet Earth like a global kraken, pantentacled, wall-eyed and parrot-beaked, its brain a bank of computer data centers, its blood the flow of money, its heart a radioactive dynamo, its language the technetronic monologue of number imprinted on magnetic tape.

  But George Washington Hayduke, his thought was the clearest and simplest: Hayduke thought of Vietnam.

  Peering through the dust, the uproar, the movement, they could make out a pit some two hundred feet deep, four hundred feet wide, a mile long, walled on one side by a seam of coal, where power shovels ten stories high, as Smith had said, gouged at the earth, ripped the fossil rock from its matrix of soil and sandstone, dumped it in ten-ton bites into the beds of haulers. Beyond the first machine, in a farther pit, they saw the top of a boom, the cables and pulley wheel of another alien invader at work, digging itself in deep, almost out of view. To the south they saw a third machine, bigger yet: it did not roll on wheels like a truck, or on endless treads like a tractor, but “walked,” one foot at a time, toward its goal. The feet were a pair of steel base plates resembling pontoons, each as big as a boat, lifted first one, then the other, on eccentric gears, rotated forward, placed down and the cycle repeated. Waddling forward, ducklike, the enormous structure of powerhouse, control cabin, chassis, superstructure, crane, cables and ore bucket yawed from side to side. Like a factory walking. The machine was electrically powered; as it proceeded a separate crew of men handled its umbilicus the power line, an “extension cord” thick as a man’s thigh through which throbbed the voltage driving the engines in the powerhouse—enough juice, its builders like to boast, to light a city of 90,000 humans. The cable crew, four men with truck, kept the line clear and also towed the transformer unit, mounted on an iron sledge, keeping pace with the dragline machine. Giant Earth Mover: the GEM of Arizona.

  We are so small, thought Bonnie. They are so huge.

  “What’s that got to do with it?” Hayduke said, grinning at her, white fangs shining through the dust.

  Why the brute has intuition, she thought, cheerfully surprised. Imagine. Him, intuition. Or did I say it aloud?

  Back to the railway, through clouds of dust over the rolling road, they followed the stationary serpent with the peristaltic gut—the coal conveyor system, the endless belt. Hayduke watched every twist and turn, each wash, gully, gulch, ravine and draw, every copse of juniper and thicket of Gambel oak along the contraption’s course, and made his plans.

  The doctor was thinking: All this fantastic effort—giant machines, road networks, strip mines, conveyor belt, pipelines, slurry lines, loading towers, railway and electric train, hundred-million-dollar coal-burning power plant; ten thousand miles of high-tension towers and high-voltage power lines; the devastation of the landscape, the destruction of Indian homes and Indian grazing lands, Indian shrines and Indian burial grounds; the poisoning of the last big clean-air reservoir in the forty-eight contiguous United States, the exhaustion of precious water supplies—all that ball-breaking labor and all that backbreaking expense and all that heartbreaking insult to land and sky and human heart, for what? All that for what? Why, to light the lamps of Phoenix suburbs not yet built, to run the air conditioners of San Diego and Los Angeles, to illuminate shopping-center parking lots at two in the morning, to power aluminum plants, magnesium plants, vinyl-chloride factories and copper smelters, to charge the neon tubing that makes the meaning (all the meaning there is) of Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Tucson, Salt Lake City, the amalgamated metropoli of southern California, to keep alive that phosphorescent putrefying glory (all the glory there is left) called Down Town, Night Time, Wonderville, U.S.A.

  They parked for a moment close to the railway line. The tracks curved off in a great arc across Navajoland toward the power plant at Page, seventy miles beyond the horizon. The rails, clamped to cement sleepers, were set on a roadbed of crushed traprock. Overhead hung a kind of high-voltage trolley line suspended from the crossarms of wooden poles. Power shovels, conveyor line, railway: each component of the system required electricity. No wonder (thought Bonnie) they had to build a whole new power plant to supply energy to the power plant which was the same power plant the power plant supplied—the wizardry of reclamation engineers!

  “See what I mean?” Hayduke says. “Simple as shit. We place a charge here, a charge there, unreel a hundred yards of wire, set up the blaster, put Bonnie’s little white hands on the plunger—”

  “Don’t talk about it,” Doc said. “The sensors….”

  Summer tourists roared by only half a mile away in their two-ton trucks towing Airstream trailers, cabin cruisers on wheels, dune buggies, jeeps with magnum rims, or in Winnebagos with Kawasaki trail bikes bracketed astern, boats on top…. The foursome waved. Blue-haired ladies with slant-eyed sunglasses in sequined frames waved back, dentures gleaming.

  Back at camp in Navajo National Monument, under the whispering pinyon pines, they spread out maps on the picnic table and made plans. Juniper flamed and flickered in the fireplace, keeping warm the coffeepot. Sweet and subtle fragrance of the wood, aroma of coffee, odor of something else: Hayduke smelled weed again.

  He glared at Abbzug. “Throw that joint in the fire.”

  “You’re drinking beer.”

  “I always drink beer. I have a high fucking tolerance for beer. It doesn’t affect my judgment. Also, it’s legal. All we need now is a pot bust. One of those rangers is liable to be around here any minute. You can smell that grass burning for half a mile.”

  Bonnie shrugged.

  “Doc, don’t you have any control over this woman? Make her throw that goddamned joint in the fire.”

  “All right all right all right already.” Bonnie extinguished her little Zig-Zag on the tabletop and stashed the roach in a Tampax tube (junior size). “My God you’re jumpy. What’s the matter with you?”

  “What’s the matter with you?” Hayduke said.

  Doc gazed thoughtfully into the evening woods. Smith pondered his fingernails. Bonnie looked down at the table.

  “I’m scared,” she said.

  A moment of embarrassed silence.

  “Well, shit, I’m scared too,” Hayduke said. “That’s why we got to be very very very careful.”

  “All right,” said Dr. Sarvis. “Enough. Let’s get on with the evening’s program.”

  “Sun’s going down,” Smith said. “The old moon’s gonna rise around midnight.”

  “That’s the signal,” Hayduke said.

  Softly Doc began to sing, to the tune of “The Wearing of the Green”:

  “Oh, I tell you, Sean O’Farrell
,

  Get you ready quick and soon,

  For our pikes must be together

  At the rising of the moon….”

  “Right. Let’s remember to put those blue lenses in the flashlights this time.”

  “What’s that for?”

  “Makes the flashlight beams blend with the moonlight. Not so conspicuous. Hand me that map, Doc.”

  Again they reviewed possible plans. Hayduke, wishing to make the most of their one clear advantage—surprise—urged what he called a Grand Slam: take out the railway, the coal train, the power shovels, the storage towers and the conveyor line all at once, all together, at the rising of the moon. Never again, he argued, a chance like this; hereafter the line will be watched and guarded, men with guns will patrol the roads, helicopters cut sign in the sky. Never again so shining an opportunity. The others demurred, advanced difficulties, suggested alternatives; Hayduke, ruthless, crushed them all.

  “Look,” he said, “it’s simple. We mine the bridge over Kaibito Canyon. Abbzug doesn’t have to sit out there by herself all night. Pressure-release mine: when the locomotive hits it—blooeeee! That takes out bridge, railroad and train all in one shot. Also probably the power line; if not, we get that fucker later with Doc’s chain saw, like Seldom said. Meanwhile, back at the pits, I place satchel charges in the engine rooms of those draglines. Ka-blam! Out of commission for months. Down time, men. While I’m doing that, old Doc here and Abbzug and Smith, you guys are loading the conveyor belt with a case of Red Cross Extra and a five-minute fuse and sending it up to the towers. Ka-rump! Return to camp here. Stay a few days. Take the hiking tours, see Keet Seel, Betatakin. Then leave quietly. Don’t attract attention. Watch out for state police disguised as Navajo hippies. Make sure you’re clean. No goddamned weed in the car. Make like tourists. Abbzug, put on a dress for God’s sake. Doc—well, we don’t have to worry about Doc; even in bib overalls he’d look straight.” (Doc frowned severely.) “Throw away that California tag. Smile sweetly at the nice cop if he stops you. Try to remember that the policeman is your friend. Be polite to the sonofabitch. We’ll all meet again in a month, after the dust settles. Up in the canyon country. Important fucking work to do up there. Any questions?”