Ed Abbey is navigating a convertible down a dirt road in Utah, talking about his rangering days, when he says, in inimitable Abbey form, “But I loved it. I love it all. The miserable road, the dust, the wind, the flash floods and the quicksand, the hoodoo rocks and the hoodoo arches, the ravens, the space, the silence.” There’s a long pause. “Of course, I was paid to love this place.”
If you’re new to Abbey — and yes, there are people who are new to Abbey, and, yes, that’s okay — this is a great way to get a sense of the poet curmudgeon of the American West. If you know him mostly from his written words, it’s an awesome way to see the spirit in flesh.
The film was made in 1985 by Ned Judge, who put it online just a couple months ago. He writes:
An eight minute film essay that I co-produced and directed with Ed Abbey in 1985. At the time I was working for a network magazine show. The executive producer took me to lunch one day. He told me that he was having trouble with his son who was 18. The son thought his dad was a corporate whore. He had told his father if he had any balls at all he’d put Ed Abbey on his show. That’s why the EP was talking to me. Would I see if it was possible? I had an acquaintance who knew Ed and he passed the request along. Ed responded that he’d give it a try. He signed the contract and wrote a script. We met in Moab and went out to Arches National Park to shoot some practice sessions with a home video camera. We would review them at the motel in the evening. After a day or two, Ed was feeling pretty comfortable on camera so we scheduled the shoot. We were all happy with the way it went. But then we ran head-on into network reality. Roger Mudd, the show’s host, was extremely negative about putting an “eco-terrorist” on the show. The executive producer caved (his son was right about him apparently). So this Abbey essay was put on the shelf and never aired. Abbey died 3 years later in March 1989.
Trust me, watching this will probably be the best eight minutes you’ll spend today.