The Wasatch Behind: Spud becomes Hayduke
"You'll never guess what happened," Uncle Spud said, grinning like a jack-o-lantern.
"Let me guess," I muttered. "You won the Idaho lottery?"
"Better than that," he giggled, "Hollywood called and they want me to play the part of George Hayduke in the Monkey Wrench Gang movie."
"They want you to play Hayduke!"
"That's affirmative," he giggled. "They want someone with outdoor experience, military training, a complete lack of morals and a filthy mouth."
"That'd be you alright," I reckoned. "But Hayduke was a creep, a Vietnam vet who hated other Vietnam vets. He called them baby killers and several other things we can't print in newspaper columns. When captured in Vietnam, Hayduke joined the VC and fought against the nasty Americans, very politically correct. And besides, you're way too old to be Hayduke, he was in his twenties."
"Yea," he said, "but Robert Redford wants to be the Mormon polygamist, Seldom Seen Smith, so they've got to cast all of the other actors in their seventies and eighties. This movie will be a geriatric version of the original story."
"You can't be serious," I groaned.
"Oh yes," he said. "And Jane Fonda might play that luscious chunk of camp meat, Bonnie Abzug. Jane would bring a touch of believability to the whole thing, you know, like Anna Nicole Smith's reality TV show."
"Who gets to play Doc Sarvis?" I asked.
"They wanted Academy Award winner Al Gore, but he's too young and naÃ¯Â¿Â½ve. They're negotiating with Mick Jagger."
"Mick Jagger would have the right attitude for the part," I said.
"We just hope the movie script doesn't get bogged down in the details," Uncle Spud said. "You know, all those pages about how to derail trains, how to make homemade thermite grenades to cut steel bridge girders, all the different ways to sabotage heavy equipment, and how to mix fertilizer and diesel fuel to make a big bomb, 20 years before Timothy McVeigh and the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma."
"Someone said this book is only a comedy," I said.
"Oh, it is," he smiled. "Destroying power lines, derailing trains, shooting at helicopters, blowing up bridges, rolling boulders down on search and rescue vehicles filled with people, shooting at pursuing law officers, telling people the best ways to blow up a big dam - all good clean fun. In fact, someone recently said that Ed Abbey, the guy who wrote the book, called the whole thing a comedy extravaganza."
"I'll bet his lawyer told him to say that," I offered. "But in the book, the gang never kills anybody, right?"
"That's true," he said, "but there is a lot of very funny bombing and shooting. On page 404 we read, 'Without thinking, as trained, Hayduke places his first shot through the [helicopter] pilot's window, accidentally missing the pilot's face.' What could be funnier than that?"
"Doesn't sound like a comedy to me," I said.
"You've got to keep it in the proper perspective," Spud said. "To eco-warriors, any act of criminal mischief, sabotage, and terror is funny if you don't get caught. And besides, there's a difference between sabotage and terrorism."
"Not in my Webster's dictionary," I said. "Look it up. Sabotaging equipment, downing power lines, shooting at people, derailing trains, and bombing bridges and dams are violent acts that kill people in the real world. They are considered acts of terrorism in any courtroom."
"But everyone knows this book is fiction and no one would ever take it seriously," he said.
"In 1979 the radical environmental group Earth First! was started largely in response to this book," I said. "Dave Foreman, the man who organized the group, admits it. Earth First! has done hundreds of millions of dollars in damage though acts of sabotage and eco-terrorism. The group has become so radical and dangerous that Dave Foreman himself has dropped out."
"What is different between this and those old cowboy shoot'em ups?" he asked.
"To those who worship dirt (radical environmentalists), the Monkey Wrench Gang is a modern-day call to arms," I said. "It's a primer for those twisted individuals who might be inclined to follow the recipes outlined in the text. In 1998 we had an incident near Green River where a warped little eco-freak rode a bus here from the west coast, camped out on the desert, and shot a county road grader operator who just happened to pass by. We don't need any more of that. Scrap this stupid movie and let the book die a well-deserved death."