The late Edward Abbey (above), author of Desert Solitaire and other incendiary classics, often fired off several letters a day to friends, editors, or anyone who riled him up. The four below are from the collection Postcards From Ed: Dispatches and Salvos From an American Iconoclast (Milkweed, 2006).
High Country News, Lander, Wyoming (1 May 1976)
Please don’t print that dumb interview from the New Mexico Independent. I must’ve been drunk or hung over. That’s not me talking, that’s me trying to impersonate a responsible conservationist. I am not a responsible conservationist, I am a wild preservative. If I knew how to blow up Glen Canyon Dam, I’d be out there working on it tonight.
Yrs truly, Ed Abbey—Wolfe Hole
P.S.: Contribution enclosed.
Sam Taylor, Editor, Moab Times-Independent (15 September 1974)
Slim Mabery complains that the Park Service won’t let him drive his four-wheel-drive down the old Halls Creek trail in Waterpocket Fold anymore. Makes you wonder how the Halls family every got down in there, doesn’t it? Do you suppose they drove a team and wagon? Or rode horses? Or maybe even walked? On their feet? Their own feet?
Makes you think about this whole business of the Winning of the West. I’ve been doing some research on the subject and so far have not been able to find any evidence that Coronado or Escalante, D. Julien or Jed Smith or even the cowboys and pioneers when tearing around the West in Blazers, Broncos, and CJ5’s. And poor old Wesley Powell, a scientist, and a major, and a one-armed veteran, he went clear down the Colorado River without a cabin cruiser, without even an outboard motor!
All those people wandering all over the desert and up the mountains and through the canyons without motors. Pretty weird. And not a comfort station west of the 100th meridian. Far out.
Secretary, Department of Energy,
Washington, D.C. (28 November 1981)
We the undersigned are opposed to the further exploration of southeast Utah as a possible repository for nuclear wastes. The mining and milling of uranium have already caused great environmental and social damage to the land and people of Utah; we cannot tolerate further exploitation of this region for the sake of the nuclear power industry and the nuclear weapons industry. We are especially shocked by the idea of storing poisonous nuclear wastes in the Gibson Dome area next door to the great Canyonlands National Park. This is the most irresponsible and narrow-minded proposal yet to appear. That the Government would even consider invading this beautiful, still primitive and relatively clean area with its roads, railroads, drill rigs, power plants and other industrial installations is an outrage.
We respectfully suggest that you take your nuclear wastes, pack them into the space shuttle and launch them off to the moon. Yes, and take the nuclear engineers, the nuclear administrators (including yourself), the nuclear speculators, the nuclear industrialists and all the other varieties of nuclear developers with you. And don’t come back.
Sincerely, Edward Abbey—Monticello, Utah
Tucson Daily Citizen (12 November 1981)
Allow me to offer a modest proposal for a solution of Tucson’s disgusting, exasperating, nerve-wracking traffic problem—I mean bicycles! And bicycle streets! There are many thousands of us in this mad fungoid city who’d be happy to ride bicycles to work each day if only we didn’t have to fear being knocked into surgery, intensive care, and wheelchairs by some marginal humanoid with a penis problem driving his double-barreled eight-cylinder tractor-wheeled 4 x 4 high-rider up and down the city streets. Reserve at least a few streets for human-powered traffic only, and at no expense whatever to us taxpayers; with vast reduction in private expenses, at great benefit to the public air and the public health and the public treasury and the public equanimity, we could make Tucson once more what it once was—a decent, clean, and pleasant town for full-grown human beings. With its balmy, arid climate and gently rolling terrain, our city offers the perfect outdoor laboratory for such a simple and worthy experiment.
Sincerely, Edward Abbey—Oracle
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