Forever Wild

We don't know where Edward Abbey is buried. Maybe it's better that way.

    Photo: Keith Carter

"THE LAST TIME ED SMILED was when I told him where he was going to be buried," says Doug Peacock, an environmental crusader in Edward Abbey's inner circle and the prototype for Abbey's most famous character, George Hayduke, in The Monkey Wrench Gang. On March 14, 1989, the day Abbey died from esophageal bleeding at 62, Peacock, along with friends Jack Loeffler, Tom Cartwright, and Steve Prescott, wrapped Abbey's body in his blue sleeping bag, packed it with dry ice, and loaded Cactus Ed into Loeffler's Chevy pickup. After stopping at a liquor store in Tucson for five cases of beer, and some whiskey to pour on the grave, they drove off into the desert. The men searched for the right spot the entire next day and finally turned down a long rutted road, drove to the end, and began digging. That night they buried Ed and toasted the life of America's prickliest and most outspoken environmentalist.

Abbey's grave, a closely guarded secret for 13 years, has become a legend. His friends broke several laws by transporting Abbey's corpse without a permit, interring him illegally on federal land, and forging a death certificate. Ed would have been proud. Peacock and Loeffler, both of whom have written about the backcountry funeral, refuse to spill the beans, saying only that Abbey's grave is somewhere in the southwestern Arizona desert, decorated with feathers, shells, rocks, and other trinkets. There is a rough epitaph hewn into a nearby rock. It is, according to friends, one of the most beautiful and fragile spots in the American desert—a good reason why Peacock and his undertakers hope to keep the secret forever.

If by chance you find yourself in southwestern Arizona and accidentally stumble upon a decorated mound of dirt, avert your eyes, take a swig of whiskey, and head in the opposite direction. Some mysteries are best left unsolved.

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