Would Ed Abbey Have Done It?

| 6/21/2011 2:25:21 PM


If you saw a boulder impossibly perched on the side of a mountain, with little holding it back from a free fall down the side, what would you do?

That’s the scene in a short essay by Michael Branch at High Country News. Branch and three hiking buddies playing hooky come across an “immense rock” just barely holding onto the mountain. After scanning the mountain side and canyon with his “binocs,” Branch puts fears about hitting a human to rest, and the group is left to wax philosophical about the situation, invoking Sisyphus and a divine plan to help them in their decision: To roll or not to roll.  

When the three American hikers can’t decide they turn to the Frenchman among them—“a scholar of environmental literature [named] ‘Francois’”—who replies simply, “Whenever I am uncertain…I abide by this principle: WWEAD.” Don’t worry, it meant nothing to the other three hikers, either, who all looked to Francois for an explanation. “’What would Edward Abbey do?’ he explained coolly.”

(I’ll give you a spoiler alert here, because I’m going to give away the ending by telling you the hikers’ decision If you want to read the essay first, go here.)

And with that cool proclamation, the four men move with confidence toward the rock, intent on pushing it down the mountainside, confident they’re living in the spirit of Cactus Ed. As Branch watches the scene, he feels a great weight lifted, or thrown downhill, rather.

JWT Meakin
6/27/2011 6:02:17 PM

To answer the second question first: I don't know what Ed would have done, and I bet he wouldn't have known until he saw the rock. Either way, he would have laughed his ass off at hypothetical questions like that. As for me: I would have left the rock standing, thus increasing the chance it would slide at a time of its choosing onto a passing bulldozer.

6/22/2011 11:00:06 AM

"watch with glee"? Why? Dumb primates need training. Not quite as foolish as advice to "log in as yourself".

6/22/2011 10:21:04 AM

I would not push the rock downhill, just like I do not throw whiskey bottles out my pickup window. Edward Abbey probably would have pushed the rock, and there probably still are glass shards along side roads North of Tucson from Abbey tossing empty bottles out his truck's windows. Everyone of us has contradictory characteristics. Everyone! No one is as squeeky righteous as some elevate Edward Abbey to deitific status. He was a man, better than most, to be honored in every way we can. I understand why some say he was angelic and would not have pushed that rock. He may not have every time he came upon such a situation, just every once in a while.

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