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How Ed Went

Wildflowers at Cabeza Prieta NWR

Looking out on this panorama of light, space, rock and silence, I am inclined to congratulate the dead man on his choice of jumping-off place; he had good taste. He had good luck -- I envy him the manner of his going.

--Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

On 14 March, 1989, after four days of esophageal hemorrhaging, the day after the anniversary of Lake Powell's creation, Edward Abbey died at his home near Tucson. He was 62. His instructions to his wife re: what to do with his body, as published in Outside Magazine:

He wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck. He wanted to be buried as soon as possible. He wanted no undertakers. No embalming, for Godsake. No coffin. Just an old sleeping bag... Disregard all state laws concerning burial. "I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree." said the message.

As for graveside ceremony: He wanted gunfire, and a little music. "No formal speeches desired, though the deceased will not interfere if someone feels the urge. But keep it all simple and brief." And then a big happy raucous wake. He wanted more music, gay and lively music. He wanted bagpipes. "And a flood of beer and booze! Lots of singing, dancing, talking, hollering, laughing, and lovemaking." said the message. And meat! Beans and chilis! And corn on the cob.

He was buried, mostly in this manner, somewhere in the Cabeza Prieta desert of southern Arizona.

Years later, David Peterson (editor of Confessions of a Barbarian), wrote a piece in Backpacker Magazine about his trip to visit the grave. Doug Peacock, who was with the man when he died and later buried him, chronicled his own experiences in an article called "Chasing Abbey" (August 1997, Outside Magazine).

Somewhere out there a rock is supposed to bear this chiseled inscription:

January 29, 1927-March 14, 1989

It was not intended to be found.

"If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture - that is immortality enough for me," he had written. "And as much as anyone deserves."

Posted on 14 March, 2006 by Registered Commentergroundskeeper | Comments3 Comments

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Reader Comments (3)

Sooo want to go there. Maybe we'll plan a roadtrip.
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