Houston Chronicle Audacious, controversial, and hilarious, THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG is Edward Abbey's masterpiece -- a big, boisterous and. Earth First! "Earth First! is not an organization, but a movement. There are no ' members' of Earth First!, only Earth First!ers. It is a belief in. Email Address Subscribe EDGE EFFECTS RSS Wrenched: Edward Abbey and The Monkey Wrench Gang on the Big Screen RSS - Posts By: Charles Carlin.
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A motley crew of saboteurs wreak outrageous havoc on the corporations destroying America's Western wilderness in this classic, comic extravaganza. The anarchist book The Monkey Wrench Gang was written by, now deceased, author. Edward Abbey. In this book the character Hayduke represented the. Get Instant Access to The Monkey Wrench Gang (P.s.) By Edward Abbey # b EBOOK EPUB site PDF. Read Download Online The.
The monkey wrench gang
He was indeed a menace to other drivers but justified himself in this way: If you don't drink, don't drive. If you drink, drive like hell. Because freedom, not safety, is the highest good. Because the public roads should be wide open to all -- children on tricycles, little old ladies in Eisenhower Plymouths, homicidal lesbians driving forty-ton Mack tractor-trailers. Let us have no favorites, no licenses, no goddamn rules for the road.
Let every freeway be a free-for-all. Happy as a pig in shit, that's Hayduke coming home. Hairpin curves at the bridge approach: Tires squealing like cats in rut, he hangs a four-wheel drift around the first curve.
The Monkey Wrench Gang
Scream of rubber, stink of hot brake drums. The bridge appears. He brakes hard, gearing down, doing the heel-and-toe dance on brake, clutch, gas pedal. He stops in the middle of the bridge. Shuts off engine. Listens for a moment to the silence, to the sigh from four hundred feet below of the rolling river. Hayduke climbs out of the jeep, walks to the rail of the bridge and peers down. The Colorado, third longest river in America, murmurs past its sandy shores, swirls around fallen rocks, streams seaward under the limestone walls of Marble Canyon.
Upstream, beyond the bend, lies the site of Lee's Ferry, rendered obsolete by the bridge on which Hayduke stands. Downstream, fifty miles away by water, is the river entrance to the Grand Canyon.
On his left, north and west, the Vermilion Cliffs shine pink as watermelon in the light of the setting sun, headland after headland of perpendicular sandstone; each rock profile wears a mysterious, solemn, inhuman nobility. The bladder aches. The highway is silent and deserted. Maybe the world has already ended.
Time to tap a kidney, release that beverage. Hayduke unzips and sends a four-hundred-foot arc of filtered Schlitz pouring down through space to the master stream below.
No sacrilege -- only a quiet jubilation. Bats flicker in the shadows of the canyon. A great blue heron flaps upriver. You're among friends now, George. Forgetting to rezip and leaving the jeep in the empty roadway, he walks to the end of the bridge and climbs a knoll on the canyon rim, a high point overlooking the desert.
He goes down on his knees and takes up a pinch of red sand. Eats it. Good for the craw. Rich in iron. Good for the gizzard. Standing again he faces the river, the soaring cliffs, the sky, the flaming mass of the sun going down like a ship beyond a shoal of clouds. Hayduke's cock, limp, wrinkled, forgotten, dangles from his open fly, leaking a little.
He spreads his legs solidly on the rock and lifts his arms wide to the sky, palms up. A great and solemn joy flows through bone, blood, nerve and tissue, through every cell of his body.
He raises his head, takes a deep breath -The heron in the canyon, a bighorn ram on the cliff above, one lean coyote on the rim across the river hear the sound of a howl, the song of a wolf, rise in the twilight stillness and spread through the emptiness of the desert evening.
One long and prolonged, deep and dangerous, wild archaic howl, rising and rising and rising on the quiet air. He was a jack Mormon. A jack Mormon is to a decent Mormon what a jackrabbit is to a cottontail. His connections to the founding father of his church can be traced in the world's biggest genealogical library in Salt Lake City.
Like some of his forebears Smith practiced plural marriage. His legal name was Joseph Fielding Smith after a nephew of the martyred founder , but his wives had given him the name Seldom Seen, which carried. En route he stopped at a warehouse in Kanab to pick up his equipment for a float trip through Grand Canyon: He learned that his boatman had already taken off, apparently, for the launching point at Lee's Ferry.
Smith also needed a driver, somebody to shuttle his truck from Lee's Ferry to Temple Bar on Lake Mead, where the canyon trip would end. He found her, by prearrangement, among the other river groupies hanging around the warehouse of Grand Canyon Expeditions.
Loading everything but the girl into the back of his truck, he went on, bound for Lee's Ferry by way of Page. They drove eastward through the standard Utah tableau of perfect sky, mountains, red-rock mesas, white-rock plateaus and old volcanic extrusions -- Mollie's Nipple, for example, visible from the highway thirty miles east of Kanab. Very few have stood on the tip of Mollie's Nipple: That blue dome in the southeast, fifty miles away by line of sight, is Navajo Mountain.
One of earth's holy places, God's navel, om and omphalos, sacred to shamans, witches, wizards, sun-crazed crackpots from mystic shrines like Keet Seel, Dot Klish, Tuba City and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Between Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona, a distance of seventy miles, there is no town, no human habitation whatsoever, except one ramshackle assemblage of tarpaper shacks and cinder-block containers called Glen Canyon City.
Glen Canyon City is built on hope and fantasy: Nobody pauses at Glen Canyon City. Someday it may become, as its founders hope and its inhabitants dream, a hive of industry and avarice, but at present one must report the facts: Many pass but no one pauses. Smith and girl friend shot by like bees in flight, honey-bound. He looked in the mirror. Miles away down the long slope of sand, slickrock, blackbrush, Indian ricegrass and prickly pear they could see a cluster of buildings, a house-trailer compound, roads, docks and clusters of boats on the blue bay of the lake.
Lake Powell, Jewel of the Colorado, miles of reservoir walled in by bare rock. The blue death, Smith called it. Like Hayduke his heart was full of a healthy hatred. Because Smith remembered something different. He remembered the golden river flowing to the sea. He remembered canyons called Hidden Passage and Salvation and Last Chance and Forbidden and Twilight and many many more, some that never had a name.
He remembered the strange great amphitheaters called Music Temple and Cathedral in the Desert. All these things now lay beneath the dead water of the reservoir, slowly disappearing under layers of descending silt. How could he forget? He had seen too much. Now they came, amidst an increasing flow of automobile and truck traffic, to the bridge and Glen Canyon Dam. He and his friend got out and walked along the rail to the center of the bridge.
Seven hundred feet below streamed what was left of the original river, the greenish waters that emerged, through intake, penstock, turbine and tunnel, from the powerhouse at the base of the dam. Thickets of power cables, each strand as big around as a man's arm, climbed the canyon walls on steel towers, merged in a maze of transformer stations, then splayed out toward the south and west -- toward Albuquerque, Babylon, Phoenix, Gomorrah, Los Angeles, Sodom, Las Vegas, Nineveh, Tucson, the cities of the plain.
They stared at it. The dam demanded attention. It was a magnificent mass of cement. Vital statistics: Four years in the making, prime contractor Morrison-Knudsen, Inc. Bureau of Reclamation, courtesy U. But there's got to be a way. That topside, wide enough for four Euclid trucks, was the narrowest part of the dam. From the top it widened downward, forming an inverted wedge to block the Colorado. Behind the dam the blue waters gleamed, reflecting the blank sky, the fiery eye of day, and scores of powerboats sped round and round, dragging water skiers.
Far-off whine of motors, shouts of joy. Let's pray for a little pre-cision earthquake right here. At least his lips were moving. Praying, in broad daylight, with the tourists driving by and walking about taking photographs. Someone aimed a camera at Smith. A park rangerette in uniform turned her head his way, frowning. The earth is gonna start buckin' any second now. You remember the river, how fat and golden it was in June, when the big runoff come down from the Rockies? Remember the deer on the sandbars and the blue herons in the willows and the catfish so big and tasty and how they'd bite on spoiled salami?
Remember that crick that come down through Bridge Canyon and Forbidden Canyon, how green and cool and clear it was? God, it's enough to make a man sick. Say, you recall old Woody Edgell up at Hite and the old ferry he used to run across the river? That crazy contraption of his hangin' on cables; remember that damn thing? Remember the cataracts in Forty-Mile Canyon?
Well, they flooded out about half of them too. Listen, are you listenin' to me? There's somethin' you can do for me, God. How about a little old pre-cision-type earthquake right under this dam? Any time. Right now for instance would suit me fine. The rangerette, looking unhappy, was coming toward them. Well, all right, suit yourself, you're the boss, but we ain't got a hell of a lot of time. Make it pretty soon, goddammit. This is a public place. Do they have a Paiute church?
A pie-eyed Paiute. A few miles to the southeast stood the eight-hundred-foot smokestacks of the coal-burning Navajo Power Plant, named in honor of the Indians whose lungs the plant was treating with sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfuric acid, fly ash and other forms of particulate matter. He had to download food for himself, his boatman and four customers for fourteen days.
Seldom Seen Smith was in the river-running business. The back-country business. He was a professional guide, wilderness outfitter, boatman and packer. His capital equipment consisted basically of such items as rubber boats, kayaks, life jackets, mountain tents, outboard motors, pack saddles, topographic maps, waterproof duffel bags, signal mirrors, climbing ropes, snakebite kits, proof rum, fly rods and sleeping bags. Smith, Prop. Twenty fathoms under in a milky green light the spectral cabins, the skeleton cottonwoods, the ghostly gas pumps of Hite, Utah, glow dimly through the underwater mist, outlines and edges softened by the cumulative blur of slowly settling silt.
Hite has been submerged by Lake Powell for many years now, but Smith will not grant recognition to alien powers. The tangible assets were incidental. His basic capital was stored in head and nerves, a substantial body of special knowledge, special skills and special attitudes. Ask Smith, he'll tell you: Hite, Utah, will rise again. Hardly adequate for an honest jack Mormon, his three wives, three households and five children.
Poverty level. But they managed.
Smith thought he lived a good life. His only complaint was that the U. Government, the Utah State Highway Department and a consortium of oil companies, mining companies and public utilities were trying to destroy his livelihood, put him out of business and obstruct the view.
And the wind blows, the dust clouds darken the desert blue, pale sand and red dust drift across the asphalt trails and tumbleweeds fill the arroyos.
Good-bye, come again. The road curves through a dynamited notch in the Echo Cliffs and from there down twelve hundred feet to the junction at Bitter Springs.
Smith paused as he always did at the summit of the pass to get out of the truck and contemplate the world beyond and below. He had gazed upon this scene a hundred times in his life so far; he knew that he might have only a hundred more.
The girl came and stood beside him. He slipped an arm around her. They pressed together side by side, staring out and down at the hazy grandeur.
Smith was a lanky man, lean as a rake, awkward to handle. His arms were long and wiry, his hands large, his feet big, flat and solid. He had a nose like a beak, a big Adam's apple, ears like the handles on a jug, sun-bleached hair like a rat's nest, and a wide and generous grin.
Despite his thirty-five years he still managed to look, much of the time, like an adolescent. The steady eyes, though, revealed a man inside. They went down into the lower desert, turned north at Bitter Springs and followed Hayduke spoor and Hayduke sign empty beer cans on the shoulder of the road to the gorge, around a jeep parked on the bridge and on toward Lee's Ferry.
They stopped at a turnoff for a look at the river and what was left of the old crossing. Not much. The riverside campgrounds had been obliterated by a gravel quarry. In order to administrate, protect and make the charm, beauty and history of Lee's Ferry easily accessible to the motorized public, the Park Service had established not only a new paved road and the gravel quarry but also a ranger station, a paved campground, a hundred-foot-high pink water tower, a power line, a paved picnic area, a motor pool with cyclone fence, an official garbage dump and a boat-launching ramp covered with steel matting.
The area had been turned over to the administration of the National Park Service in order to protect it from vandalism and commercial exploitation. What happens to all the people here? It'd take the water an hour to get here.
Suppose everybody at the dam is killed and there isn't anybody left alive up there to give warning. Then what?
Western American Literature
The cliffs towered above. The silent evening flowed around them. Below, hidden deep in its dark gorge, the brawling river moved among rocks in complicated ways toward its climax in the Grand Canyon. There ain't supposed to be no wolves in these parts anymore. They ain't supposed to be here. Only the river sounded now, down below. They drove on, past the ranger station, past the pink water tower, across the Paria River to the launching ramp on the muddy banks of the Colorado.
Here Smith parked his truck, tailgate toward the river, and began unloading his boats. The girl helped him. They dragged the three inflatable boats from the truck bed, unfolded them and spread them out on the sand.
Smith took a socket wrench from his toolbox, removed a spark plug from the engine block and screwed in an adapter on the head of an air hose. He started the motor, which inflated the boats. He and the girl pulled the boats into the water, leaving the bows resting on the shore, and tied them on long lines to the nearest willow tree.
The sun went down. Sloshing about in cutoff jeans, they shivered a little when a cool breeze began to come down the canyon, off the cold green river.
He found his target. Adjusting the focus, he made out, a mile away through the haze of twilight, the shape of a blue jeep half concealed beneath a pedestal rock. He saw the flicker of a small campfire. A thing moved at the edge of the field. He turned the glasses slightly and saw the figure of a man, short and hairy and broad and naked. The naked man held a can of beer in one hand; with the other hand he held field glasses to his eyes, just like Smith.
He was looking directly at Smith. The two men studied each other for a while through 7 x 35 binocular lenses, which do not blink. Smith raised his hand in a cautious wave. The other man raised his can of beer as an answering salute. She looked. Where'd we put that goddanged Coleman stove? Now sit down here and let's see what we can find to eat in this mess.
The Colorado River rolled past. From downstream came the steady roar of the rapids where a tributary stream, the Paria, has been unloading its rocks for a number of centuries in the path of the river.
There was a smell of mud on the air, of fish, of willow and cottonwood. Good smells, rotten and rank, down through the heart of the desert. They were not alone. Occasional motor traffic buzzed by on the road a hundred yards away: The small and solitary campfire on the far-off headland to the west had flickered out. In the gloom that way Smith could see no sign of friend or enemy. He retreated into the bushes to urinate, staring at the gleam of the darkened river, thinking of nothing much.
His mind was still. Tonight he and his friend would sleep on the shore by the boats and gear. Tomorrow morning, while he rigged the boats for the voyage down the river, the girl would drive back to Page to pick up the paying passengers scheduled to arrive by air, from Albuquerque, at eleven. New customers for Back of Beyond. Alexander K. And one Miss -- or Mrs.?
Abbzug No relation to the Senator, she always said. Which was mostly true. Her first name was Bonnie and she came from the Bronx, not Brooklyn. Furthermore, she was half Wasp white anglo sexy Protestant ; her mother's maiden name was McComb. That strain perhaps accounted for the copper glints in Ms. Abbzug's long, rich, molasses-colored hair, draped in glossy splendor from crown of head to swell of rump.
Abbzug was twenty-eight years old. A dancer by training, she had first come to the Southwest seven years earlier, member of a college troupe. She fell in love -- at first sight -- with mountains and desert, deserted her troupe in Albuquerque and continued at the university there, graduating with honors and distinction into the world of unemployment offices, food stamps and basement apartments. She worked as a waitress, as a teller trainee in a bank, as a go-go dancer, as a receptionist in doctors' offices.
First for a psychiatrist named Evilsizer, then for a urologist named Glasscock, then for a general surgeon named Sarvis. Sarvis was the best of a sorry lot. She had stayed with him and after three years was still with him in the multiple capacities of office clerk, nurse-aide and chauffeur he was incapable of driving a car in city traffic, though perfectly at home with scalpel and forceps slashing about in another man's gallbladder or excising a chalazion from someone's inner eyelid.
When the doctor's wife died in a meaningless accident -- plane crash during takeoff from O'Hare Field -she watched him stumble like a sleepwalker through office, ward and eight days until he turned to her with a question.
The Monkey Wrench Gang
In his eyes. He was twenty-one years older than she. His children were grown up and gone. Abbzug offered him what consolation she could, which was much, but refused the offer of marriage that followed a year after the accident.
She preferred she said the relative independence she thought of female bachelorhood. Though she often stayed with the doctor in his home and accompanied him on his travels, she also retained her own quarters, in a humbler part of Albuquerque. Her "quarters" was a hemisphere of petrified polyurethane supported by a geodetic frame of cheap aluminum, the whole resting like an overgrown and pallid fungus on a lot with tomato patch in the wrong or southwestern sector of the city.
The interior of Abbzug's dome glittered like the heart of a geode, with dangling silvery mobiles and electric lanterns made of multi-perforated No. On sunny days the translucent single wall admitted a general glow, filling her inner space with pleasure.
Beside her princess-size water bed stood a bookshelf loaded with the teenybopper intellectual's standard library of the period: Spiders crawled upon the wisdom of Fritz Perls and Prof. Lonesome earwigs explored the irrational knots of R. Silverfish ate their way through the cold sludge of R. Buckminster Fuller. She never opened any of them anymore. The brightest thing in Abbzug's dome was a brain. She was too wise to linger long with any fad, though she tested them all.
With an intelligence too fine to be violated by ideas, she had learned that she was searching not for self-transformation she liked herself but for something good to do. Sarvis detested geodesic domes.
Too much of the American countryside, he thought, was being encysted with these giant sunken golf balls. He despised them as fungoid, abstract, alien and inorganic structures, symptom and symbol of the Plastic Plague, the Age of Junk.
But he loved Bonnie Abbzug despite her dome. The loose and partial relationship which was all she would give him he accepted with gratitude. Not only was it much better than nothing but in many ways it was much better than everything. Likewise, she thought.
The fabric, she said, of our social structure is being unraveled by too many desperately interdependent people. Agreed, said Dr. Sarvis; our only hope is catastrophe. So they lingered together, the small dark arrogant slip of a girl and the huge pink paunchy bear of a man, for weeks, months, a year. Periodically he repeated his marriage proposal, as much for form's sake as out of love. Is one more important than the other? And regularly she turned him down, firmly and tenderly, with open arms, with prolonged kisses, with her mild and moderate love.
Love me little, love me long. Other men were such obscene idiots. The doctor was an aging adolescent but he was kind and generous and he needed her and when he was with her he was really there, with her.
Most of the time. It seemed to her that he withheld nothing. When he was with her. For two years she had lived and loved, off and on, with Dr. There was this tendency simply to drift. Millions were doing it.
It irritated Abbzug a bit that she, with her degree in French, her good healthy strong young body, her restless and irritable mind, was fulfilling no function more demanding than that of office flunky and lonely widower's part-time mistress. And yet, when she thought about it, what did she really want to do? Or be? She had given up dancing -- the dance -- because it was too demanding, because it required an almost total devotion which she was unwilling to give.
The crudest art. She could certainly never go back to the night world of the cabaret, where all those vice squad detectives, claims adjusters and fraternity boys sat in the murk with their blues, their beers, their limp lusts, straining their eyeballs, ruining their eyesight for a glimpse of her crotch.
What then? The maternal instinct seemed to be failing to function so far as she was concerned, except for her role as mother to the doctor. Playing mother to a man old enough to be her father. The generation gap, or vice versa? The cradle robber? Who's a cradle robber? I'm the cradle robber; he's in his second childhood.
She had built most of the dome herself, downloading assistance only for the plumbing and wiring. The night before she moved into the thing she held a ceremony, a consecration of the house, a "chant.
They twisted their long, awkward American legs into overhand knots -- the lotus posture.
Then the six middle-class college-educated Americans sitting under an inflated twenty-first-century marshmallow of plastic foam intoned a series of antique Oriental chants which had long ago been abandoned by educated people in the nations of their origin.
Om mani padma ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. God Bless Our Happy Dome. But he seldom entered there. When she was not with him, at his place or on their frequent travels, she lived alone in her fungus.
Alone with her cat, tending her potted plants, her tomato patch in the backyard, playing her recorder, dusting her unread and unreadable books, brushing her marvelous hair, meditating, exercising, lifting her lovely and longing face toward the inaudible chant of the sun, she drifted through her time, through space, through all the concatenate cells of her unfolding self. Where to now, Abbzug? You're twenty-eight and a half years old, Abbzug.
For diversion she joined the good doctor on his nighttime highway beautification projects, assisting him in the beginning as driver and lookout. When they tired of fire she learned to hold her own at one end of a crosscut saw. She learned how to swing an ax and how to notch the upright posts of a billboard so as to fell it in any desired direction. When the doctor acquired a lightweight McCulloch chain saw she learned how to operate that too, how to start it, how to oil and refuel it, how to adjust the chain when it became too tight or too loose.
With this handy tool they were able to accomplish much more work in limited time although it did raise the ecological question, whatever that meant, of noise and air pollution, the excessive consumption of metal and energy. Endless ramifications. Our duty is to destroy billboards.
They became familiar shapes and smells to the ground squirrels and hoot owls, a major and irritating mystery to the outdoor advertising agencies and the Special Investigation Squad of the Bernalillo County sheriff's department. Somebody had to do it. The local press spoke first of meaningless vandalism. Later, for a time, reports of such incidents were suppressed on the theory that publicity might only encourage the vandals. But as the advertising men, the highway patrolmen and the county sheriffs became aware of the repetition of these attacks on private property and the singularity of the targets, comment arose.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff denied a report that he had assigned a full-time detective detail to the problem. The outdoor advertising executives, interviewed and quoted, spoke of "common criminals". Anonymous letters appeared in the mail of city and county officials, all claiming credit for the crimes.
The newspaper stories mentioned "organized bands of environmental activists," a phrase soon shortened to the much handier and more dramatic "eco-raiders. Nasty letters, pro and con, appeared in the Letters-to-the-Editor columns. Doc Sarvis chuckled within his mask, stitching up a stranger's yellow belly. The kid smiled as she read the papers by the evening fire.
It was like celebrating Hallowe'en all year round. It was something to do. For the first time in years Ms. Abbzug felt the emotion called delight in her cold Bronx heart. She was learning anew the satisfaction of good work properly done. The billboard men schemed, measured costs, drafted new designs, ordered new materials.
There was talk of electrifying the uprights, of set guns, of armed watchmen, of rewards to vigilantes. But the billboards followed the highways for hundreds of miles across New Mexico. Where and when the criminals would attack next no one could guess; you'd need a guard for every billboard. There was a phased changeover to steel. The extra costs, of course, could be passed on to consumers. One night they went out, Bonnie and Doc, far to the north of the city, to level a target they had chosen weeks earlier.
They parked the car out of sight of the highway, on a turnoff, and walked the half mile back to their objective. The usual precautions. As usual he carried the chain saw, she led the way she had better night vision.
They stumbled through the dark, using no other light than that of the stars, following the right-of-way fence. Traffic hissed by on the four-lane freeway, frantic and fast as always, following private tunnels of light through the darkness, oblivious to all but the need to make haste, to get there, somewhere, wherever.
Bonnie and Doc ignored the fanatic engines, disregarded the human minds and bodies hurtling by, paid them no attention at all; why should they? They were working. They came to the target. It looked the same as before. After resting a moment he put down his McCulloch, knelt, turned on the switch, set the choke, grasped the throttle and gave a good pull on the starter cord. The snappy little motor buzzed into life; the wicked chain danced forward in its groove. He stood up, the machine vibrating in his hands, eager for destruction.
He pushed the oiler button, revved the engine and stepped to the nearest upright post of the billboard. She was leaning against the center post, tapping it with her knuckles.
Squeezing the throttle, he set the blade against the post. The saw bounced off with a shriek of steel, a spray of sparks. Doc was dumbfounded for a moment, unable to accept what he saw and heard.
Then he shut off the motor. A blessed quiet in the night. Faces pale in the gloom, they stared at each other. Wonderingly he passed a hand over the post, bonged on it with his big fist.
They thought. After a pause she said, "You know what I want for my birthday? With safety goggles. Find out more about OverDrive accounts.
Edward Abbey was born in Home, Pennsylvania in In , at the age of 17, Abbey set out to explore the American Southwest, bumming around the country by hitchhiking and hopping freight trains. It was during this time that Abbey developed a l We want your feedback!
Click here. Subjects Fiction Literature. The people wait. Sweltering in the glare, roasting in their cars bright as beetles under the soft roar of the sun. That desert sun of Utah-Arizona, the infernal flaming plasmic meatball in the sky. Five thousand people yawning in their cars, intimidated by the cops and bored to acedia by the chant of the politicians. Their squalling kids fight in the back seats, Frigid Queen ice cream drooling down chins and elbows, pooling Jackson Pollock schmierkunst on the monovalent radicals of the Vinylite seat covers.
All endure though none can bear to listen to the highdecibel racket pouring from the public-address system. The bridge itself is a simple, elegant and compact arch of steel, concrete as a statement of fact, bearing on its back the incidental ribbon of asphalt, a walkway, railings, security lights. Four hundred feet long, it spans a gorge seven hundred feet deep: Glen Canyon.
Flowing through the bottom of the gorge is the tame and domesticated Colorado River, released from the bowels of the adjacent Glen Canyon Dam. Formerly a golden-red, as the name implies, the river now runs cold, clear and green, the color of glacier water. Great river — greater dam. Seen from the bridge the dam presents a gray sheer concave face of concrete aggregate, implacable and mute.
A gravity dam, eight hundred thousand tons of solidarity, countersunk in the sandstone Navajo forma- tion, fifty million years emplaced, of the bedrock and canyon walls. A plug, a block, a fat wedge, the dam diverts through penstocks and turbines the force of the puzzled river. What was once a mighty river. Now a ghost. Spirits of sea gulls and pelicans wing above the desiccated delta a thousand miles to seaward.
Spirits of beaver nose upstream through the silt-gold surface. Great blue herons once descended, light as mosquitoes, long legs dangling, to the sandbars. Wood ibis croaked in the cottonwood. Deer walked the canyon shores. Snowy egrets in the tamarisk, plumes waving in the river breeze The speech goes on, many round mouths, one speech, and hardly a word intelligible.
There seem to be spooks in the circuitry. The loudspeakers, black as charcoal, flaring from mounts on the gooseneck lampposts thirty feet above the roadway, are bellowing like Martians. A hash of sense, the squeak and gibber of technetronic poltergeists, strangled phrase and fibrillated paragraph, boom forth with the hollow roar, all the same, of AUTHORITY — Waiting, waiting.
Far back in the line of cars, beyond reach of speech and out of sight of cop, a horn honks. And honks again. The sound of one horn, honking. A patrolman turns on his Harley hog, scowling, and cruises down the line. The honking stops. The Indians also watch and wait. Gathered on an open hillside above the highway, on the reservation side of the river, an informal congregation of Ute, Paiute, Hopi and Navajo lounge about among their brand-new pickup trucks.
The men and women drink Tokay, the swarms of children Pepsi-Cola, all munching on mayonnaise and Kleenex sandwiches of Wonder, Rainbo and Holsum Bread. The citizens wait; the official voices drone on and on into the mikes, through the haunted wiring, out of the addled speakers. Thousands huddled in their idling automobiles, each yearning to be free and first across the arch of steel, that weightless-looking bridge which spans so gracefully the canyon gulf, the airy emptiness where swallows skate and plane.
Seven hundred feet down. It is difficult to fully grasp the meaning of such a fall. The river moves so far below, churning among its rocks, that the roar comes up sounding like a sigh. A breath of wind carries the sigh away. The bridge stands clear and empty except for the cluster of notables at the center, the important people gathered around the microphones and a symbolic barrier of red, white and blue ribbon stretched across the bridge from rail to rail.
The black Cadillacs are parked at either end of the bridge. Beyond the official cars, wooden barricades and motorcycle patrolmen keep the masses at bay. Far beyond the dam, the reservoir, the river and the bridge, the town of Page, the highway, the Indians, the people and their leaders, stretches the rosy desert. Hot out there, under the fierce July sun — the temperature at ground level must be close to degrees Fahrenheit.
All sensible creatures are shaded up or waiting out the day in cool burrows under the surface. No humans live in that pink wasteland. Nothing grows out there but scattered clumps of blackbrush and cactus, with here and there a scrubby, twisted, anguished-looking juniper. And a little scurf pea, a little snakeweed.
Nothing more. Nothing moves but one pale whirlwind, a tottering little tornado of dust which lurches into a stone pillar and collapses. Nothing observes the mishap but a vulture hovering on the thermals three thousand feet above. The buzzard, if anyone were looking, appears to be alone in the immensity of the sky.
But he is not. Beyond the range of even the sharpest human eyes but perceptible to one another, other vultures wait, soaring lazily on the air.
If one descends, spotting below something dead or dying, the others come from all directions, out of nowhere, and gather with bowed heads and hooded eyes around the body of the loved one. Back to the bridge: Discreet applause, whistles, cheers.
The weary multitude senses that the end is near, the bridge about to be opened. The governors of Arizona and Utah, cheerful bulky men in cowboy hats and pointy-toe boots, come forward again. Each brandishes a pair of giant golden scissors, flashing in the sunlight. Superfluous flashbulbs pop, TV cameras record history in the making.
As they advance a workman dashes from among the onlookers, scuttles to the barrier ribbon and makes some kind of slight but doubtless important last-minute adjustment. He wears a yellow hard hat decorated with the emblematic decals of his class — American flag, skull and crossbones, the Iron Cross. Completing his task, he retires quickly back to the obscurity of the crowd where he belongs. Climactic moment. The throng prepares to unloose a cheer or two.
Drivers scramble into their cars. The sound of racing engines: Final words. Quiet, please. Cut the damn thing. Stand back. Like this? But the Indians up on the hillside saw it all clearly. Grandstand seats. They saw the puff of smoke, black, which issued from the ends of the cut ribbon. They saw the flurry of sparks which followed as the ribbon burned, like a fuse, across the bridge.
And when the dignitaries hastily backed off the Indians saw the general eruption of unprogrammed fireworks which pursued them.Car Twelve, Seattle to Portland? Click here to sign up. Find out more about OverDrive accounts. Never did appear. And it better stay that way. Prepare to intercept.
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