Walking with Cactus Ed

Cactus Ed's old Ford pickup suggests the kind of character my truck may someday exhibit.

Cactus Ed’s old Ford pickup suggests the kind of character
my truck may someday exhibit.

I mentioned yesterday that I learned a lot of valuable wilderness advice from the teachings of Don Carre. Subsequent to high school I came to admire, and was profoundly influenced by, the writings of Edward Abbey. More than any other, with the possible exception of my own parents, it is the influence of these two men that have endured for me.

I actually met “Cactus Ed” Abbey in the Fall of 1988, six months before his death. He was on a book tour plugging what was to be his final novel, The Fool’s Progress, and I visited a crowded Keppler’s Book Store in Menlo Park to listen to him read from the new book. It was a priceless moment for me, one I’ll not soon let fade.

Much of Abbey’s work is worth quoting. A few of my favorites appear below.

“There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.”
–The Journey Home (1977)

“The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see.”
–Down the River (1982)

“According to the current doctrines of mysticoscientism, we human animals are really and actually nothing but ‘organic patterns of nodular energy composed of collocations of infinitesimal points oscillating on the multidimensional coordinates of the space-time continuum’. I’ll have to think about that. Sometime. Meantime, I’m going to gnaw on this sparerib, drink my Blatz beer, and contemplate the a posteriori coordinates of that young blonde over yonder, the one in the tennis skirt, tying her shoelaces.”
–A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Notes from a Secret Journal (1989)

“Has joy any survival value in the operations of evolution? I suspect that it does; I suspect that the morose and fearful are doomed to quick extinction. Where there is no joy there can be no courage; and without courage all other virtues are useless.”
–Desert Solitaire (1968)



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