Tag Archives: Edward Abbey

Green River Hot Stuff

Boom times in Utah swelled the population of Green River. Even before the arms race prospectors came to Southeast Utah digging up vanadium then radium. By the 1940’s the real rush was on, uranium was needed for nuclear weapons.

In 1977 outside Moab on Hwy 128 everyone camped along the Colorado River. You’d try to roll your rig into the salt cedar for privacy. I traveled through unaware the Atlas Uranium Mill was in full operation just downwind of where I was camping. By 1984 the processing facility closed.

Water from the Colorado River is diverted below Moab for use in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Since 1952 the radioactive uranium mills tailings have been spilling into the river. Nothing about digging out uranium from the Morrison Formation of the Jurassic age has ever made any kind of sense.

Walking along Broadway in Green River, passing by the now closed saloons, new buildings erected next to the crumbling ruins from the old days. You can see the intertwining, you have to wonder who had come here and where did these boomtown miners go?

Modern times the river rafting companies put in here. Summertime the cottonwoods spread optimism and shade. Green River watermelons are feast and treasure. About 900 citizens have stuck it out here since the boom times, back when uranium mining was in full swing it was more like 3000.

Back during uranium’s heyday, when a man could still earn a fair wage for his toil, that’s when Green River was a frontier destination, Town was swelled with hard rock miners packing fat wallets, resisting the Mormon tyranny of faith and sobriety, Friday nights on Broadway this is where love came to be lost and found.

At the foot of Broadway is the Green River train station where the California Zephyr travels through. You can get on and go east to Chicago or west to Emeryville, California. Might as well by a ticket to the moon, nothing seems more improbable than thinking you can escape the life you’ve found here.

Green River today is most of all a gas stop. One-hundred and ten miles west in Salina is the next chance. That would be somewhere beyond the San Rafael Swell and Spotted Wolf Canyon. Motoring east you’ll go another 100 miles to Grand Junction. No fool goes off half cocked out here in this desert. You’ll pay with misery and your life.

Geologists, paleontologists, and archeologists are scattered across the remote hinterlands returning to file reports of nowhere else in the world discoveries. Rockhounding and dinosaur bone finds are frequent.

America’s first people, the Anasazi arrived here 12,000 years before present. Rugged doesn’t describe the countryside and how a soul managed to move from one region to another is unimaginable.

Walking with your fresh polished best pair of boots along Broadway in Green River, that’s where the real riot of humanity was found. Long ago they’d ride up by horseback, then Model T’s, Model A’s, Willy’s and then Jeeps.

I was backstage with a pack of musicians, one was Chris Ledoux. Lot of storytelling was going on. An act out of Wyoming had taken up where his grandfather had left off, traveling between towns playing country music. The player had mentioned his grandfather having played Green River back in the 1930’s. Money for a gig in a boomtown was better than what you make in Cheyenne or Casper. Rodeo champion and country music star Chris Ledoux couldn’t put this touring by Model A out of his mind. All of us had a pickup truck out in a parking lot ready for another 400-mile drive.

Environmental Protection Agency studied the radioactive mine tailings problem left behind by the uranium boom days. The more it rained the more material washed into the Colorado. Closed since 1984 it wasn’t until about 10 years back, they finally acted. Custom trailers had been fabricated so that once loaded would not leak one speck of dust. For years now trailers have been hauling tailings 30 miles north burying the contaminated dirt into a pit. The burial site was lined and will be capped when the work is completed. Projects official price tag is about one billion dollars, but that doesn’t include the radioactive damage inflicted on the human populations both near and far.

The craziest part of me would have given anything to have four wheeled off the desert back into Green River after a long day out prospecting for uranium. Take a shower, put on my saloon dancing duds, hop into my Willy’s and head on down to Broadway chase a few of those cute Mormon girls that have come into town looking to strike it up with one of those hot shot hard rock strike-it-rich types they’ve all heard so much about. There’s no way to account for how good the music was or how proud a daring man might feel holding that night’s love of his life in his arms for the first and last first time.

One thing for sure the half-life of this whole being amorous thing has got to have made Friday nights in Green River the one sure place that a good and not so good girl might go missing in search of eternal bliss until she miraculously reappears at sun up the next morning her heart full and with stories she will never be able to tell.


Minting Ghost Towns

Dirt Track up to Ridge for View of Sunset

You can call me at home. I’m home. Home is where I’ve been spending my time.

For example sleeping in the same bed. I haven’t slept in the same bed for months on end since like ever. OK, maybe in some distant past but not like this.

It’s all food preparation all the time now. I miss a good restaurant, but under the circumstances I don’t miss dining out nearly as much as I covet my current health status.

With Some Spare Time You Can Make a Hinge

I rate my favorite walks on the basis of head count now. A good walk in my book is a desolate stretch of trail with nobody else anywhere. Sorry to zero you out, but these are the times we live in.

My wardrobe counts for nothing. I change it up for my wife, but she doesn’t see my clothes, she just sees me.

That gal of mine and I have no more than a few after supper hours to debrief on the busy days we each have concocted in support of our egos desperate attempt to hide from this horror show we find ourselves surrounded by. I’m making the movie, The Fall of the American Empire. It’ll be out soon.

We have just completed our first jump from California to Colorado. We are totally self-contained risking nothing and encountering next to nobody. We can jump twelve hundred miles in two days time. This is in support of my wife’s work. I’m the professional road dog in the family and with show business shut down I’m playing the role of long haul driver.

Lunch beneath cottonwood in a patch of shade

I miss seeing friends. Miss petting strange dogs.

We’re doing as best as can be expected. I spoke at a safe distance with a proprietor in Cold Springs, Nevada. Cold Springs lies two hundred miles east of Reno, one hundred miles north to Elko, three hundred miles south to Las Vegas, this nowhere spot in the Great Basin is plodding along taking life as it is, was, and always will be.

Proprietor was sunny in disposition and because of the remote location skeptical of anything having to do with the price of tea in China. Warned me to stay away from the goat head thorns, watch for rattlesnakes while walking up the ridge to taking in the sunset, and settle in for the night and take noise from the highway and what sleep I might get as it comes.

Something about a good end of day

This proprietor is hopeful they won’t dry up and blow away. His plan is to bide time and wait the stinking hard times out, no hurry, nothing to hurry about out in Cold Springs, Nevada.

In a general sense Cold Springs because of there being so damn few people living there (a handful of hard scrabble souls at most) that the travelers stopping to slake their thirst or rest their weary behinds will right quick learn they have come to a place that time has asked to stand still.

Most of all you should know that chores and living in Nevada are just two sides of the same coin. Fancy britches and pearl snap button western shirts are of no use. A good herd dog, now there is a useful critter to partner up with. Nevadans come in all shapes and colors, some from the casino populated cities and the rest scattered far and wide over an immense confounding landscape.

The next wave of Great Basin ghost towns are being minted as we speak. Still we figure that our fellow citizens will dig out of the corner they are hunkered down in and will be out there on the high desert soon enough. Come see what is likely to never change. Collard lizard, sagebrush and a posse of turquoise miners will be holed up in a boxed canyon waiting for the privilege of your company. Nothing but cat houses, mustang and hard times for as far as an eye can see. Rural Nevada puts nothing and nowhere at the top of the list somewhere lost on a map. And it is this spot if you set boot to dirt, sweat to brow, hike to the top of that ridge where fellow citizen what you’ll find waiting is what is most worth preserving. This is our America out here.

Edward Abbey’s Cathedral

Santa Cruz River Trail
Santa Cruz River Trail

Tubac   Southern Arizona

Forget about Tucson. It has been eaten. People I care about are trapped there in their cars.

We are wasting away just north of Nogales. We are happy hour humbled by the naked truth of unoaked chardonnay as our enlightenment gateway.

The cowboy here is so long ago. The standin stuntman for cowpokes is the resort, the snowbirds digs, then a road, and a riot of Border Patrol vehicles, and never forget the artists, all the deluded desperados who ended up here and for reasons they no longer so certain as they once were.

Edward Abbey was made of brooding. His dusty hopes were all west of here in Arivaca. Abbey’s melancholy was sacrament. He worked His will by word.

Skunk are in full odiferous bloom. Scorpion are in hibernated bliss. Love and adore them all, Edward Abbey especially.

We are beyond Starbuck salvation. We are immigration station bound, star filled- did you ever see so many inexplicables… masquerading beneath a canopy of illicit drug mule trains?

There is no innocence in this era. We are now all dutifully connected to the immeasurable sorrows of what humanity can put on a front page.

If your scar was soul and if soul was desert? What fool bird would you come back to be? I choose raven. They are fat here. They laugh. They have a sense of humor. And they can eat anything.