To Edward Abbey Wherever You are. By Jim Stiles, 1975 The black and white drawing hangs in our office here in Salt Lake City.
by Julie K. Trevelyan
What boat did you or will you ride in, and why on earth does it have that particular name? Founder Dee Holladay wanted people to ask exactly that, so he named the boats after interesting local people, places, and things. Edward Abbey was a famous (some say infamous) writer of Southwestern literature. Impassioned about the future of the highly-contested western landscapes he loved, Ed Abbey pulled no punches when lambasting the government, what he saw as mindless hordes of tourists, and the greed of those who would destroy fragile and unique lands in search of personal profit. Some of his books are regarded as classics today, including 1975’s The Monkey Wrench Gang. That novel’s premise centered around the blowing up of Glen Canyon Dam, a place and topic still fraught with tension to this day in certain circles. Memorable Monkey Wrench characters lend their names to several Holiday boats. They easily prompt discussions about Abbey and the past, present, and future protections of the lands and rivers through which we travel. Here’s an often-quoted line from his poem, Benedicto: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
Bishop Love –
Characterizing heartless, reckless growth over the innate natural and spiritual beauties of untouched wilderness, Abbey’s Bishop Love was modeled, perhaps a bit overdramatically, on a real person named Cal Black. Black was a wealthy Westerner who backed the building of a nuclear waste site just outside Canyonlands National Park. The fictional Bishop Love symbolizes the more dangerous aspects of modern “progress” when it is jostled up against the wild places and rivers of the West.
Bonnie Abbzug is a young woman from the East who serves as less-than-wide-eyed ingenue in the face of the wanton destruction of the dam. Energetic and intelligent, Abbey perhaps used her character in a way that would be seen as less than feminist today—although many readers regarded and still regard her character as a champion of strong women everywhere.
Doc Sarvis –
A wealthy widower who financially backs all the monkeywrenching activities, Doc is also the love interest of Bonnie, despite a twenty-year age difference. A retired surgeon from Albuquerque, Doc’s hobby is to burn down billboards, which he sees as serious affronts to the purity of the American west as well as any smarts left in the American mind.
Seldom Seen –
One of the little motorboats that pushes the rafts off Lake Powell at the conclusion of Cataract Canyon rafting trips,Seldom Seen was named after what is perhaps The Monkey Wrench Gang’s most complex character, a polygamist “jack” (nonpracticing) Mormon. Based on real life former river guide and current horse packer Ken Sleight, who still operates a ranch near Moab, Seldom Seen Smith was a character impassioned about saving the wilderness his forebears had settled and then slowly began to colonize and modernize. Seldom Seen called Lake Powell “the blue death” since it drowned countless archaeological and natural wonders beneath its waters.
The other Lake Powell motorboat bears this funny name. A Vietnam veteran and Southwest wilderness lover who harbors a vague anger as well as a penchant for the bottle, the character of Hayduke has become a battle cry for many environmentalists. At the start of The Monkey Wrench Gang, Hayduke perches atop a canyon rim high above the Colorado River and sets loose “a howl…[to] rise in the twilight stillness and spread through the emptiness of the desert evening…. One long and prolonged, deep and dangerous, wild, archaic howl.” Based on Abbey’s friend, a novelist and naturalist named Doug Peacock, Hayduke represents the disillusionment with human urbanization rolling over natural spaces that often are best left alone, and the strong desire to save the wilderness at any cost.
Written by Julie Trevelyan.
Julie is a freelance writer and wilderness guide in southern Utah. She especially enjoys books, coffee, yoga, wild country, horses, and dark chocolate.