Now More Than Ever: Following in the Footsteps of Eco-Activist Ed Abbey

A Medium-Sized Ugly

We needed to cut down a smaller billboard, much smaller, then return to the behemoth. After we got some more experience under our belts. We had bitten off more than our saws could chew. We had to work faster. That meant more practice. Nothing we could do about the noise—have to hope for snow. That would help. Time, distance and sound were the keys. And I knew just the billboard to cut our teeth on. A medium-sized ugly on the Boulder Turnpike halfway between Denver and Boulder. One I really wanted to demolish. It would give me great satisfaction to see it come crashing to the ground in a heap of broken boards and imaginary bones. Not only did it block out the splendid view of the Flatirons, but the content plastered over it made me cringe. Every time I passed this particular billboard, I wanted to throw rotten tomatoes at it. As it was, I could only flip it the bird every time I drove by.

A Billboard of Fools and Crooks

It sported a political advertisement for two men running for office, as though it were dressed in some threadbare suit a used car salesman would wear to a junkyard ball. The two politicians stood side by side, right arms raised, fake smiles on frowning lips. Above them in bold letters, a slogan read: Now More Than Ever. Right. Now more than ever we don’t need these two clowns. I couldn’t wait to watch them fall in the dirt, snow and rock. Now more than ever I needed them to go away. For Good. At least out here. Every time I passed by in my old ‘55 Ford pickup, they seemed to wink at me as though to say, Vietnam’s waiting for you, my boy. Tricky Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Elected fools, running for a reelection of fools.

The Alaskan Pipeline Rally

The little speech I gave at the rally several weeks earlier in downtown Denver was at first terrifying, but after I got past a sentence or two of my five-minute spiel, I loosened up. I’d never talked in front of so many people. In fact, most of the time I hardly talked to people at all. But really, me and others—including Sven and Autumn—were just warmups to the main speakers, Ed Abbey and Mo Udall. A large crowd filled the park in front of the State House on Colfax. There were banners and fanfare and cheering. The sweet smell of pot hung languorously in the air. The counterculture was in full force, full swing. It was a good day. At that time, the Alaska Pipeline controversy was front and center of the environmental movement. Similar to the pipeline Trump and his government of stooges are trying to ramrod through on Native American lands in North and South Dakota. The pipeline was ultimately built; money spoke then as it does today. I don’t hold out too much hope for the Native Americans in North and South Dakota. They’ve been screwed so many times by the white man over the centuries, I don’t blame them if they harbor animosity. But they’re fighting back now, as we did that day in Denver, because some things—like the health of the Earth—are worth fighting for. At least for some. Not all, unfortunately.

My Guiding Light

Backstage, I got to talk to talking with Ed Abbey again. He was hungover to beat the band, and looked like Death eating a cracker. I got up my courage and asked him if he did indeed cut down all those billboards he wrote about? Or was it one of his fictional stories? He smiled and shrugged, said nothing, turned away as though he was taken aback at the audacity of my question. I knew then, by his resentment, that he had done all those things and more. It was all the encouragement (if you could call it that) I needed. I would go through with my plans and follow in his footsteps. Sometimes it’s easier to let others lead the way than to strike out on your own. This is not something to be ashamed of. It’s just how it is. Visionaries create. Those that come behind add to the vision, sometimes making it better—sometimes, worse. Abbey would be my guiding light, so to speak. He was a father figure, one I never had.



The Night Will Belong to Us

I vowed that the behemoth, as I called the billboard we had to abandon several weeks ago to the cops, was going to fall. But not just yet. Tonight would belong to us. The Nixon and Agnew billboard would come down. I was sure of it. Then we’d tackle the other, the mother of all billboards, the one on I-25. First things first, though. 1am in the morning would be a good tee time for all of us to set off on this thing, a rot on the landscape. Autumn and Pink Bear were to join us. And then we’d be five. I couldn’t wait to start my engine. I was sure I was going to dethrone Nixon and Agnew, send them flying face first into the Colorado dirt. Now More Than Ever, it was my time.



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