Burying Edward Abbey: The last act of defiance

Late in the day the trucks reached their destination and the four men stepped out into the backcountry of western Arizona. In the back of the trucks, they had enough gear for a few nights of camping — cases of beer, baling wire and tools for repairs, shovels for digging. And they had a body bag, full of dry ice and the corpse of Edward Abbey.

The day was sunny, but it had been a rough week. The men spotted a mesa with a nice view, gathered some tools and walked to the top. When they got there, two of the men, Jack Loeffler and Doug Peacock, started to argue about where to dig the grave.

It was fitting that even in death, Abbey was somehow involved in something just outside the law. Abbey was a writer and anarchist who distrusted big government, big development, big money and the military. He abhorred violence, but was not above mischief. He hiked federal land in the Cabeza Prieta wilderness area without proper permits. He also was said to have done his share of “field research” for one of his more famous books: a novel about a group of environmentalists who cut down billboards and vandalized construction sites to slow development in the desert he loved.

By late in his life, the author of Desert Solitaire, The Monkey Wrench Gang and other works had a reputation as a passionate writer and defender of the wilderness.

But his legacy, really, was only partly written in his lifetime. It would be sealed by his death.

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