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Chapter #372: Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 5 - September 23, 2019


The 'Abbey's' outpost on Old-66 is long gone - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Edward Abbey & Friends, University of New Mexico (1956-1957) Ch. 5

“Long live literature and reading!” – Jimbo Forrest
“I’m not afraid to die” – Ralph Newcomb
“Sure a lot of noise here!” – Edward Abbey


Jimbo Forrest –
“I returned to Edward Abbey’s journals, edited into the book, “Confessions of a Barbarian”, and decided to look in the index for Ralph Newcomb. A whole bunch of things popped up, including the name of Ralph Newcomb’s wife, which was Scotty (her maiden name was Eileen Scott). There are many references to Ralph in this new book, so evidently he was a much better, longer lasting friend of Ed than I had known or imagined. This “Barbarian” book of Ed’s brings back so many memories.

Edward Abbey, wife Rita Deanin Abbey and son Joshua at Edward Abbey's trailer, Arches National Monument ca.1956 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)A week later, I have now finished Edward Abbey’s “Confessions of a Barbarian”. There were dates listed for each of his entries. Of course, we also knew, but he didn’t, the actual date of his death (March 14, 1989). Whenever you have the time (ha, ha) I recommend you read this series of diary entries. His literary works are one thing, and many have had admiring reviews.

This actual diary of Ed’s reveals, to me, something different. He speaks of his love for his wife (one after the other), and his children (one after the other), and I don’t doubt his sincerity. However, what stands out the most, to me, is extreme selfishness, which I believe, is a (necessary?) aspect of fame, whether one is an actor or a writer. If you give most of your energy to your family, you have little left for self-aggrandizement.

If you read this book, you’ll see he spent an enormous amount of time in his life being alone. In the desert, in the mountains. Almost until he died. Not always alone; sometimes with Jack Loeffler and a limited few other close friends. However, he was seldom with any of his five wives or five children.

(Dead Horses & Sakred Kows)
The author's #2 of 25 published 'Dead Horses & Sakred Kows', a 25th Anniversary limited edition facsimile typescript, which reproduces the original draft of a speech Ed Abbey delivered to the University of Montana in 1985 - Click for larger image(http://jamesmcgillis.com)To produce the many essays and novels that he did, Ed had to spend time alone, in the wilderness, without obligation to family. He became a famous writer. He had an inner compulsion to observe, think, and record his observations and thoughts via typewriter and then to his books. The numerous families get short shrift.

I’m not criticizing or passing moral judgments, only passing on my thoughts after reading this particular diary of his thoughts and activities. What I see is extreme self-centeredness. He had much to say, and took the time (from others) to say it. He was successful, extremely so and, of course, is celebrated for it.

Thinking back, I remember one night when we went up to the Sandias (Sandia Mountains) after my KOB Radio shift ended at midnight. It was then, I believe, that Ralph Newcomb and Ed hoofed it up the mountain in their cowboy boots. It was a dark (not stormy) night, but later with moonlight. I almost had a fistfight with another radio announcer, Don Brooks, and groups on both sides held us back. (That was another story of that night. It had to do with my enthusiasm driving up the mountain, honking my horn. Evidently, it woke Don’s baby.)

Left to right, Ralph Newcomb, Jim (Jimbo Forrest), Edward Abbey, with Malcolm Brown above, ca. 1956 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)People drank, sat around a bonfire, paired off, etc. The night was clear. I was on an upper ledge with a woman named Carol. Down below, we heard the sounds of couples making love in the open air. Dawn came, but I will not divulge my activities with Carol that night. Still, there was a lovely view from up on that ledge, looking down at the valley. I don’t remember if I had to be at work that morning, or not.

Perhaps it was during that particular beer party in the Sandias that someone used my camera to snap the attached photo. Front Row, left to right: Ralph Newcomb, Jim Forrest, Edward Abbey. Back Row: Could this be Malcolm Brown? I met Malcolm once, at one of many desert beer parties (1954-55), and I don’t think ever again. (Kinlock Brown, the son of artist, sculptor, architect Malcolm Brown [1925-2003] verified that his father appears in that photo).


Author’s Note –
Edward Abbey knew classic literature, and developed wide knowledge from what he read. His personal life and strange career inclined him to lonerism and bigotry. On the other hand, Ed intuitively knew that the world could not support an ever-rising population. Most of his adult life, Abbey spoke and wrote eloquently about and against the ruination of wilderness and open space.

In 1965, the author walks alone up the trail to Landscape Arch in old Arches National Monument, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In Desert Solitaire Abbey wrote,
Wilderness. The word itself is music.

Wilderness, wilderness.... We scarcely know what we mean by the term, though the sound of it draws all whose nerves and emotions have not yet been irreparably stunned, deadened, numbed by the caterwauling of commerce, the sweating scramble for profit and domination.

 
Edward Abbey grew up during The Great Depression, on a near-subsistence farm in Home, Pennsylvania. From personal experience, he knew the value of water, firewood and a substantial garden. He often talked or wrote about his desire to go back to the land and live a romantic, subsistence lifestyle. (For Ed, subsistence living also included using his old pickup truck for regular “beer runs” into town).

Jimbo Forrest (Postscript) –
In 2019, the spirit of Ralph Newcomb (left) sits with Jim (Jimbo) Forrest as they discuss their earlier lives in 1950's New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“We did definitely identify Malcolm Brown in that one picture taken “100 years ago”. I believe that was the only time I saw Malcolm. Circuitous email route: Me to you, you to me, me to Jack Loeffler, Jack to you, you online to Malcolm’s son, the son to you, and then you to me. It is wonderful what we can do with on-line computers and the internet.

We have discovered a lot, beginning with an online ad from Amazon to me. I saw a picture of Jack Loeffler’s book, “adventures with ED.” I ordered it. Read it. I wrote to the publisher, trying to contact Jack. They forwarded my letter to Jack; Jack answered. I did something, can’t remember what… there was a big flash and then I was in contact with your blog and you.

How did that happen?

The rest is recent history, including an obituary for the original “Brave Cowboy”, Ralph Newcomb. My head is still spinning, trying to integrate 1954 with now, and all the experiences between then and now.

As we say in Spanish, Híjole!”


End of Part Five and our Story - To read Part Four, Click HERE. To return to Part One, click HERE.

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Chapter #371: Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 4 - September 23, 2019


From left to right, Jim (Jimbo) Forrest, Prof. Alfredo Roggiano, Edward Abbey at the UNM Campus, January 1955 - Photo Credit Julian Palley - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Edward Abbey & Friends, University of New Mexico (1956-1957) Ch. 4

“Long live literature and reading!” – Jimbo Forrest
“I’m not afraid to die” – Ralph Newcomb
“Sure a lot of noise here!” – Edward Abbey


Jimbo Forrest –
“When I knew Ed Abbey, talked with him, walked with him, and drank with him, he didn’t talk very much. He was always listening, I was sure, and thinking, but I cannot remember really having a conversation with him. Reading Jack Loeffler’s book “adventures with Ed (a portrait of Abbey)”, I can see that Ed was a serious introvert, and a very shy, deep thinker. (By contrast, I have been a talker, teacher, radio announcer, TV newscaster, narrator, master of ceremonies, interpreter [Spanish-English], etc.) Ed was tall. I short. As the only two graduate students of philosophy at University of New Mexico in 1954-1956, there was so much contrast between us.

Like a billboard on Old-66, Edward Abbey seems to appear everywhere in Four Corners regional history - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After skimming through parts of Ed’s journals, titled “
Confessions of a Barbarian”, I am now reading the book, slowly, in proper order, underlining countless passages. One sentence after the other informs me now that Ed really was a deep thinker. He put his thoughts into his journals, and later into his many published works. I first met Ed in September 1954. Exactly fifty-five years later, in September 2019, I’m beginning to understand who he was.”

Author’s Note –
According to his friend and biographer, Jack Loeffler, Ed was hard of hearing, which progressed with age. People who cannot hear well often pretend that they can and just listen. No one wants to act the fool (Ed’s book, “Fool's Progress”?). Showing some simple attention to another human can make one look more intelligent. As we know, Ed was an avid reader. He preferred solitude, which did not require listening or speaking, except to “himself”.

Jimbo Forrest –
A 1955 Sears Christmas Catalog, filled with Bullet holes, as Jimbo Forrest oncedid - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“I was at the University of New Mexico philosophy department with Ed for only two years, from 1954-55. After that, we went separate ways to different places, but we did run into each other by chance a couple of times after that.

In the school year 1957-58, I taught English at Española High School, in Espanola, New Mexico, 25 miles or so north of Santa Fe. Being extremely frustrated with the principal of the school while there, I took up shooting a .22 rifle almost every day after school. I put an old Sears catalogue next to the house (we were in a rural area), and filled it full of .22 bullets.

Hunting season came, and I heard my students talking about getting “their” deer. One kid told me he had a 30-30. Well, I went to the general store and bought one, on credit. That made a louder bang, and tore up the catalogs faster.

I went to a hunting area with an old friend, and we trudged along. Before too long, a deer ran across a ravine below me. After all of the practice shooting catalogs, I made a kill. (I still feel guilty about that, and would never do it again.) Ralph Newcomb had told me before that if I killed a deer, he would
Female Mule Deer, standing alert in a meadow - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)help me cut it up, if he could have part of it. Deal made. Both of our families had venison for some time.

Jump ahead a year or two (I have no idea when it was), I was at the UNM campus (can’t remember why) and Ed Abbey walked by me. I hadn’t seen him for some time. We chatted awhile, and I asked him if he was interested in a deer hunt. He said he could probably borrow a deer rifle from a friend, and we could meet the next day.

We met, and drove to a hunting area. He went one way, I another, and we agreed to meet back at the same spot in an hour or two. My hunt showed no tracks, no scat, and no deer. I returned to our meeting spot. Ed had not yet returned. We had bought a 6-pack of beer, and left it there before we went on our hunt.

This photo of Edward Abbey, by Mike Essig is a classic, displaying Ed's feelings about electronic technology and TV, in particular - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Waiting for Ed, I had a beer. (Maybe two?) What to do with the can(s)? Throw them as far ahead as possible. What to do next? Shoot at the cans, of course. A few minutes later Ed dragged in, bereft of any venison. His first comment was, “Sure a lot of noise!” reminded me of actor James Stewart, who would also speak in a laconic manner.

We sat awhile, finished off the beer, said nothing important, and parted. I believe I saw Ed two more times: once by chance, once by design.

Jimbo Forrest – Regarding Ralph Newcomb
Now back to my memories of Ralph Newcomb. When my first wife was pregnant with our first child, drunken Ralph came to our house in North Albuquerque. For reference, our child was born August 2, 1957.

Ralph saw LIFE magazines on our coffee table. He grew angry, resentful, loud, claiming that was ‘NOT LIFE’, or some such thing, and swiped them off the table strongly with his arm. I knew then he was trouble, with a “capital T”. I motioned my wife into the bedroom right next to the living room, told her to keep the door closed and not to say anything. Maybe that is when I grabbed my camera and took the photo of Ralph in the chair, pointing his finger of accusation at me. He announced something about his polio crippling him, and that he was going to overcome it, or he would kill himself… something like that.

Ralph Newcomb raises his finger in accusation to photographer Jim (Jimbo) Forrest at Jimbo's home in Albuquerque, New Mexico ca. 1956 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) Shortly after that, he stood up, removed his jacket and rolled up his left sleeve. He then took out his buck knife, opened it, and declared that he was not afraid to die (or some such thing). With a large swing, he sliced open his forearm. A large spurt of blood shot out, up, and down onto the (used) light gray carpet I had recently installed.

Later, he went outside, backed up against the wall, and shot his head back against the window. The second time it worked, breaking one of the panes. The windows were behind the curtains you see behind Ralph when he was seated. Ralph had brought a friend with him (seen partially in the image) whom I had never seen before, and seemed incapable of doing anything. In that photo of Ralph and friend, there are two liquor bottles. He said that they had been drinking all day, either tequila or mescal, as I remember. Eventually the two departed.

Much like Edward Abbey and Ralph Newcomb did in 1959, this family enjoys rafting the spring flood of the Colorado River near Moab, Utah in 2006 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Somehow, I had a phone number (not clear to me now), and called the person who had been with Ralph. He said that they had called the Bernalillo County Sheriff. I asked if maybe someone could knock Ralph out before he killed himself, or someone else. (This person was fairly big and strong.) He said he had tried, but nothing fazed Ralph.

I remember this vividly, including the season of the year, but not what happened subsequent, and whether I ever saw Ralph again. The idea of Ralph & Ed floating down the Colorado in 1959, as stated earlier makes me shake my head in wonderment. Of course, I didn’t keep up with Ed or Ralph very much after I got married in August 1956 and had three children between 1957 and 1965.”


End Part Four - To read Part Five, Click HERE. To return to Part One, click HERE.

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Chapter #370: Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 3 - September 22, 2019


By the time Edward Abbey was through with his F-100 Ford truck, it had little more than sentimental value - Photo credit Jack Dykinga - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Edward Abbey & Friends, University of New Mexico (1955-1956) Ch. 3

“Long live literature and reading!” – Jimbo Forrest
“I’m not afraid to die!” – Ralph Newcomb
“Sure a lot of noise here!” – Edward Abbey

Jimbo Forrest -
“In this chapter, I will reveal the story of Ralph Newcomb, and guitar playing. I remember a party up in the Sandia Mountains, starting at midnight, and lasting past dawn on a Saturday. With both guitar and vocal sounds transmitting easily through the cool mountain air, there was audible lovemaking going on. I remember Ralph Newcomb running up the side of a mountain in his cowboy boots, whooping and hollering. He contracted polio the following year.”

Author’s Note (Regarding Jack Loeffler) -
Aural historian and author Jack Loeffler in 1971, protesting and educating on the endangerment of Black Mesa and Navajo aquifers - Photo credit Terrence Moore - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Jack Loeffler is a self-proclaimed aural historian, having spent the last fifty-plus years traveling around the American West and Mexico recording folk music, and conducting recorded interviews for several radio series, which he produced for Community Public Radio. He recorded Edward Abbey three times, the most extensive of which he made on January 1, 1983. That was after Jack and Ed left their campsite in the Superstition Mountains and headed back to just west of Tucson. The interview took place in Ed's writing cabin, a hundred yards downhill from his home. A few months earlier, Ed received the diagnosis of “esophageal varices”. Both men knew that Ed’s days were numbered. Later made public, they covered a fair amount of territory in that interview.

When the two men went camping (which was as frequently and for long as they could), they had myriad conversations about absolutely everything. Jack is a lifelong journal-keeper and noted many of their conversations in his journals. He also had posthumous access to Ed's journals while writing his 2002 book, “adventures with ED (a portrait of Abbey)”. Even though Jack did not record any of those campfire conversations, he was able to to present them as they actually occurred.

Jack Loeffler –
Aural Historian and author Jack Loeffler (left) and Jim McGillis at the Moab Confluence Conference in 2008 - Click for larger image (htttp://jamesmcgillis.com)“It helps that I have a fair memory. I've discovered that the act of writing actually helps with memory retention. It was because of Ed that I started writing books. I had a grant to produce a 13-part radio series in 1984. My wife, daughter and I had opted to spend that winter in Tucson to help Ed with his illness. He acted as my “listening editor” for that series. He listened to the whole series twice, and then informed me that it should indeed become a book. He introduced me to a publisher in Tucson, and thus my first book actually came out in 1989 shortly after Ed had died.

I highly recommend Ed's book, “
Desert Solitaire” and his best known novel, “The Monkey Wrench Gang”, which helped invigorate the radical environmental movement. It's not his greatest novel, but it's certainly his best known. Shortly before he died, he asked me to ‘grade’ his books, which was a terrible thing to ask. I answered as honestly as I could, and indeed, Ed agreed with my assessment. I think that “The Brave Cowboy” is my favorite of Ed's novels.

The modest home in Moab, featuring a sandstone hearth, which Edward Abbey shared with his fourth wife, Renee' Abbey from 1974-1978, sold in 2010 for less than $300,000 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The character ‘Jack Burns’ (the spirit of Ralph Newcomb?) also appeared in “The Monkey Wrench Gang” as the ‘Lone Ranger’, as well in “Good News” (pub. 1980), and finally “Hayduke Lives” (pub. posthumously, 1990) where it is revealed that ‘Jack Burns’ is the father of ‘George Washington Hayduke’, and thus the godfather of the radical environmental movement.

Ed's been gone for thirty years as of March 14, 2019. I'll visit with his widow,
Clarke Abbey in Moab, Utah in October 2019, where I have a book signing scheduled for my new book, “Headed Into the Wind: A Memoir”. Ed remains a hero in Moab.”



Jimbo Forrest (to Jack Loeffler) –
“Interesting! I remember Ralph Newcomb well. Actually, I saw him more often, and for a longer period, even though Ed and I were the only two graduate students in the philosophy department. Ralph was really a bit of a wild man, very bitter and frustrated after he, as an adult, contracted polio, around the same time that Jonas Salk introduced his vaccine!”

Jimbo Forrest –
The lower reaches of Lake Powell (foreground) and the infamous, coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in the background, belching nitrogen oxide in 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“I am reading a chapter of Loeffler's book each night. A stint as an Army MP (1945-1947) seems to have sealed Ed's fate as an anarchist and antiestablishmentarian. All too easily, violence can become a way of life. Imagine if they had actually blown up Glen Canyon Dam or that coal train. Revenging supposed “wrongs” can result in worse wrongs.

It is interesting that I knew none of this while at UNM. Maybe that is why Ed was so quiet. In my experience, he was quiet with everyone, every time I saw him with others. He would speak, but after giving the matter some reflection, with virtually a monosyllabic response. To me, he looked like he was thinking all the time (which he probably was), deciding what he was going to say.

That makes me think about speech-inhibited people, or someone trying to speak in a non-native language, looking for the way to say something. Ed and I had very different personalities. Perhaps this would explain Ed’s thousands of different words in his books, and my years as a disk jockey, radio announcer and English teacher. However, the dialogues Ed engaged in with Loeffler fascinated and confused me. The back and forth conversations were not what I had experienced, the few times I was alone with Ed.

The Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad, made famous in Edward Abbey's novel, 'The Monkey Wrench Gang' ceased operations in the summer of 2019. Score one for Edward Abbey - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)I’ve been thinking more about Jack Loeffler, Ed and Jack’s book “adventures with ED (a portrait of Abbey)” and happened to look though the index again. I noticed two references to Ralph Newcomb, which I had not reflected on when I first read the book. The second reference speaks of Ed and Ralph taking a rafting trip on the Colorado River in June 1959 (later featured in “Desert Solitaire”).

When I went to UNM in September 1954 to enroll in the philosophy department as a graduate student, I met Ed, and shortly thereafter, Ralph. Eventually, I spent more time with Ralph and his family, and had a closer relationship over a longer period than I did with Ed. I have many memories of Ralph, and always wondered what happened to him. With regard to Ed, I found out a LOT more about him in the press, but particularly in recently reading Loeffler’s book. In many ways, Ralph remains a mystery to me.

The Peabody Western Coal Company 'Black Mesa Complex' removed their roadside sign in shame years before the coal mine ceased providing coal to the Navajo Generating Plant in Paige, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)By August of 1955, I felt compelled to go to Mexico City, and on to Acapulco. My Spanish was adequate for getting around, but it didn’t register in my mind that “
AGUA NO POTABLE” meant that I shouldn’t drink it. Well, it was hot and humid in Acapulco, I was thirsty, and there was water. At age twenty-two, I was invulnerable, or so I thought. (I did meet a young woman in Acapulco, however, and a year later, we were married, subsequently producing three daughters.)

Returning to Albuquerque for the new school year in September 1955 I started having symptoms, which sent me to a local doctor. She commented on my yellow eyeballs, and dark urine, and informed me that my liver was the culprit. Later, my young brain made the relationship between my liver and “AGUA NO POTABLE”. Not being able to take care of myself, I flew back to Illinois to be with my parents. A week in the hospital, a month in bed reading Russian authors (they wrote thick books), I was up, got a job, and then went back to Albuquerque in June 1956.

Fitted with a custom roof rack and front grill, Plush Kokopelli wondered if this was the large sedan that Ralph Newcomb and family once drove to Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)At that time, my friends informed me that Ralph Newcomb had contracted polio, ironically just before the release of the first vaccine. I visited him, found him on crutches and heard him speak about being determined to return to his previous health, which had allowed him to climb up the Sandia Mountains while wearing cowboy boots, at a fast pace. If not, he considered suicide.

Later, Ralph decided to buy a large, old car, and take his family to southern Mexico; Salina Cruz pops into my head right now. He spoke of living off the land, watching young Mexican women with bare breasts walking around in the tropics, etc.

I became involved in academics at UNM, had my first child, worked at radio station KOB, and heard aught of Ralph. Did he arrive in Salina Cruz? Was he able to climb mountains again at a fast pace? Did he commit suicide? On the other hand, did I hear something about Ralph Newcomb later moving to Oregon?”


Author’s Note –
Ralph Newcomb is a mystery no more. On the website, TheWorldLink.com
is an obituary for one Ralph W. Newcomb (1925-2011). Although not Looking north from old Arches National Monument, toward the Book Cliffs and Thompson Springs in 1965 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)corroborated by other sources, the details of this particular Ralph Newcomb’s life coincide almost perfectly with what we know of “our Ralph” from Edward Abbey, Jack Loeffler and Jimbo Forrest.

The Obituary for Ralph W. Newcomb reads as follows:
“Ralph's journey on earth ended July 15, 2011, in Coos Bay and another journey begins for him. Ralph, 86, of Allegany, Oregon was born June 23, 1925, in Newport, Rhode Island, the oldest in a family of four children.

Ralph's early years were spent in Newport, followed by a couple of years in the military during World War II. He left the military and moved to Wyoming and then Montana, where he became a cowboy and bronco rider in rodeos for a few years. While living in Montana, he married Eileen Scott. They spent the First published in 1968, Edward Abbey's 'Desert Solitaire' has appeared in many covers, including this trade paperback edition published in 1990, one year after the author's death - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)first part of their marriage on a horseback trip, crossing the Rocky Mountain Divide, riding through the Red Desert of Wyoming and then into the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.

Eventually three children were born to Ralph and Eileen, Ralph Teton, Katchina and Scott Ross.

Ralph was an artist, creating beautiful sculptures from soapstone. His subject was wildlife. Deer modeled for him in his back yard. His carvings have been on display up and down the coast. Another talent he had was playing the guitar and singing folk songs. He also studied art, music and anthropology at the University of New Mexico. He received a degree in anthropology from UNM.

Ralph is survived by, Eileen of Allegany; son, Scott Ross; and a brother and sister. He was preceded in death by a sister; son, Ralph; and daughter, Katchina”.


End Part Three - To read Part Four, Click HERE. To return to Part One, click HERE.

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Chapter #369: Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 2 - September 21, 2019


Jim (Jimbo) Forrest with Edward Abbey in Ed's apartment at the University of New Mexico 1954 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Edward Abbey & Friends, University of New Mexico (1955-1956) Ch. 2

“Long live literature and reading!” – Jimbo Forrest
“I’m not afraid to die!” – Ralph Newcomb
“Sure a lot of noise here!” – Edward Abbey


Jimbo Forrest –
“It has been many years since I last saw and spoke briefly with Ed Abbey. That was around 1957-8. It really is another world now. I’m glad I’ve been able to hang-on this long, maybe because I never drank as much beer as Jack Loeffler describes in his book, “adventures with ED, (a portrait of Abbey)”. I’d been a bit of a rebel since my teens, but nowhere to Ed’s extent. Reading now about Ed and Jack Loeffler is an adventure; what they did, and how they discussed things… and how Ed virtually abandoned one wife after another (and his children).

Jerry (Julian) Palley, Dr. Alfredo Roggiano, Edward Abbey at the UNM Campus, January 1955 - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In that photo I took on the campus at UNM, you’ll see the late Julian (Jerry) Palley. When I was twenty-two, Jerry taught me a lot about Mexican music, food, drink, women, customs, etc. A few years later, Jerry told me that he had given up on Ed, after reading Ed’s words: … and then the Mexicans came. At that time, I didn’t really comprehend what Jerry was saying, nor why. Now, however, reading Loeffler’s accounts about their camping, exploring, horsing around, discussions, etc. I can sympathize with Jerry’s outrage.

With his multitude of published works, Ed influenced many people. I suppose an artist can't be criticized for forgetting about human relationships, since he or she is doing what we peons can only imagine, while providing us with a touch of something supra human, the ineffable. Writing about saving the masses from civilization’s crushing of the spirit, while ignoring intimate, dependent relationships mitigates the value of the so-called art.

Sorry for the above, I just was caught up in the ambiance of Ed’s adventures, anarchism and “monkey wrench esoterica”.

Abbey was studying with
Dr. Archie Bahm (1907-1996) of the University of New Mexico philosophy department. It was Ed’s intention to write a master’s thesis titled “An Inquiry into the General Theory of Anarchism”. He got along with his professor very well, at least at the outset, and regarded him as an intelligent thinker and a master of dialectic. The following words are from pages 53-54 in Loeffler’s book, “adventures with ED (a portrait of Abbey)”. When I went to UNM in September 1954, I went to the philosophy department and introduced myself to Dr. Bahm.

Edward Abbey was a good sketch artist, often portraying himself as a turkey vulture - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Of Dr. Baum, Ed wrote,
As a man he’s quite appealing: generous, liberal, helpful, friendly to all. Kind, gentle, considerate in every way, optimistic, tolerant, truly interested in others, quite unselfish... As to my first impression of the professor (and even now, almost 65 years later), I would use the same adjectives as Ed’s words, above. I can see Dr. Bahm in my mind at this moment, in the room where we first met.

In 1954, I was an enthusiastic student of philosophy, having been intellectually stimulated by
Dr. Arturo Fallico at San Jose State College. From Italy, Fallico was a romantic, sculptor, orator, and supreme commander of the English language. With Fallico, I felt excited about discussing ideas regarding where we came from, what we are doing now, and what we will be able to do in the future. We discussed politics, art, social relationships, and improving communication between all of humanity.

At the age of twenty-two, one can still dream outside the limits of practicality. I then decided what I wanted to do with my future life. I was looking forward to getting a master’s degree in philosophy from UNM, then going elsewhere for a Ph.D., after which I’d spend my future life teaching philosophy in some community college or state university. It was not to be. Dr. Bahm, for all his good qualities and sincerity, did not speak the same language with me that Dr. Fallico had used to inspire me to study, talk about, and teach philosophy.

New Mexico is known as 'The Land of Enchantment', as seen its clear air and beautiful sky - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Now, let me go back to my first meeting with Dr. Archie Bahm. We were in his office, and he introduced me to Ed Abbey, of whom I had no previous knowledge. I started talking to Dr. Bahm about existentialism and other philosophical matters. Ed, as was often the case, stood by quietly, listening, and showing interest, but not speaking. I see in his bio that Ed wrote twenty-one books. He was definitely an introvert.

Dr. Bahm was listening, but appeared nervous. Suddenly, he excused himself, sat down at his typewriter, and furiously pounded away. He almost ripped the paper out from the manual typewriter, handed it to me, and stated that he could think better on paper. I should have known at that first meeting that I was no longer in the presence of Dr. Arturo Fallico.

Later, Ed said to me,
You sure know a lot of philosophy!

Ralph Newcomb, who was the inspiration for the character 'Jack Burns" in Edward Abbey's novel, 'The Brave Cowboy' - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Ed got his M.A. in philosophy; I did not. However, I did get an M.A., almost seventeen years later, from the California Institute of Arts, in classical guitar performance. What? Ed’s (crazy) friend, Ralph Newcomb, inadvertently opened that musical door. I also became fluent in Spanish, but that involved two other graduate students at UNM, Jerry Palley and Karl Reinhardt.

Here, in my mind, is Ralph Newcomb, Ed’s friend, whom he met in an Albuquerque jail, and who was the stimulus for Ed to write “
The Brave Cowboy”, all based on Ralph’s personality and behavior. At that time, I had NO idea how the jigsaw puzzle involving Ed, Ralph, and me would eventually fit together. Really, only now am I putting all the pieces together.”


(Jim Forrest’s Memories of Ralph Newcomb) –
Dust jacket of the original hardcover edition of Edward Abbey's novel, 'The Brave Cowboy' - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“Jail with Ed Abbey, classical guitar playing at a nocturnal desert party, him living on the Albuquerque Zoo property (!), midnight party (+ clandestine sex in the Sandia Mountains), contracting polio, slashing his forearm with buck knife, breaking a window with back of his head…

I have several photos of Ralph Newcomb. As you know, Ralph became the inspiration for Ed’s novel, “The Brave Cowboy”. Jack Loeffler’s book is the first book that I have read by or about Ed since I read “The Brave Cowboy”, prior to its becoming the 1962 movie, “Lonely Are The Brave”.”


Author’s Note –
The 1956 Edward Abbey novel, “The Brave Cowboy” and the resulting screenplay for the 1962 movie, “Lonely Are The Brave” have an interesting and intertwined history. Beginning in 1947, Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) had languished in prison for nearly one year. That was his punishment for not answering “correctly” about communism before the House Un-American Activities Committee. During his incarceration, there was a complete capitulation of the movie industry to the post World War II “Red Scare”.

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and Producer Edward Lewis celebrate the breaking of the 'Hollywood Ten' blacklist and Trumbo's return to writing under his own name - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)From 1947 until 1960, the Hollywood movie “industry” blacklisted Dalton Trumbo and nine others. For thirteen years, Trumbo wrote screenplays under the pseudonym “Sam Jackson”. According to Trumbo’s daughter, Mitzi Trumbo, during one eighteen month period, Dalton Trumbo wrote ten Hollywood movie scripts, with an average fee of only $1,750.

Edward Lewis (1919-2019) produced the movie “Spartacus” (1960). Lewis had attempted to write the screenplay for Spartacus himself, but soon hired Dalton Trumbo to complete the task. In the late 1950s, with overt fear of communism on the wane, Lewis gave Trumbo sole credit for the script. By publicly acknowledging Trumbo on “Spartacus”, Lewis (and Kirk Douglas) broke the blacklist of the Hollywood Ten.

For the 1962 movie, “Lonely Are The Brave”, Lewis and Douglas again tapped Trumbo. This time, he wrote the dialog for “Jack Burns”, AKA “The Brave Cowboy”. After a long and illustrious career, Edward Lewis died in July 2019, at the age of 99. Soon after his death, the Los Angeles Times published an obituary for Lewis. Included in that obituary is an old newspaper photo of Lewis and Trumbo together.

The original movie poster from the 1962 move, 'Lonely Are The Brave', staring Kirk Douglas as 'Jack Burns' - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In 2018, a little known YouTube channel published a video titled “Lonely Are The Brave A Tribute”. In less than twenty minutes, Kirk Douglas narrates selected action and his sentiments regarding the David Miller (1909-1992) directed movie. The movie has the distinction of being the last major studio western filmed in black & white. During filming in Santa Fe, New Mexico, author “Edward Albey” (as Kirk Douglas erroneously identifies Abbey) consulted, standing silently by, off camera. No one knows whether Dalton Trumbo ever visited the movie set or met “Edward Albey”.

In the above-mentioned “Tribute”, Kirk Douglas identifies “Jack Burns” as his favorite movie role. Also interviewed, director Steven Spielberg found “Lonely Are The Brave” to be “one of his favorites”. Michael Kane (1922-2007) played Paul Bondi "AKA Ralph Newcomb” in the Albuquerque jail scene. Costar Gena Rowlands and son Michael Douglas joined in the video homage to a great, if unsung character and movie. Walter Matthau (1920-2000) costarred as the laconic sheriff, who was tracking down “Jack Burns”. Carroll O’Connor (1924-2001) and George Kennedy (1925-2016) had featured roles. At 102 years of age, Kirk Douglas is alive and well.

Jimbo Forrest–
Dr. John P. Anton (1920-2014), a visiting professor of philosophy at UNM, with Edward Abbey in 1955 - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“Ed & I were the only two graduate school philosophy majors that year at UNM. He wrote a lot, I talked a lot. He finished his M.A. in Philosophy. I did not. I passed all the course work and more, but I could not even get started writing a thesis. After graduate school, I spent twelve years as a radio announcer in New Mexico and Arizona.

Dr. John P. Anton (1920-2014), a visiting professor of philosophy at UNM invited Ed and me to come speak to an adult evening class in philosophy. We did. Then, following the class, one student invited us and other members of the class to his house to continue discussing philosophy. We all sat in a big circle. I don't remember if we ever discussed philosophy or not. I just remembered; one of the adult students there was Evelyn. She and I became friends, even though I was twenty-two and she was a VERY OLD thirty-one.

Continuing the story of that evening, I just happened to have with me a GALLON jug of Italian red wine. Someone brought some glasses in which to pour the vino, but soon after, Ed and I dispensed with the glasses, and passed the jug around. I remember Ed holding it on one shoulder with his index finger
Rita Deanin Abbey, artist, sculptor and second wife of Edward Abbey, at the University of New Mexico ca. 1955 - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)in the circular glass handle. I don't remember if we let the students have any, or not. I'm sure they admired the high level of academic philosophy we were capable of sharing. Poor Dr. Anton; he had hoped to highlight Ed and me!

When we departed, Ed asked if he could stay at my place. I said sure, but asked why. He said his wife;
Rita Deanin Abbey would kill him if he came home drunk again. (He never told me what she did or said when he did not come home until the next day.) Ed slept on one side of my pullout sofa, and I slept on the other. We both had a class in American Philosophy the next morning. When I awoke, I tried to focus, asking Ed if he was ready to go. He wasn't. I asked him to close the door whenever he left. I rode my bike up the hill to the campus, and went to the class.

I can now say that I slept with Ed Abbey; probably the only male among scores of females. In addition, I remained a virgin! Here is a picture of the sofa that pulled out to be sort of a double bed. In the picture, the man with the guitar is Ralph Newcomb. His wife, Scotty is next to him. On the left side, with the cigarette, is Karl Reinhardt (1931-2018). He was a graduate student
From left, Karl Reinhardt, Eileen 'Scotty' Newcomb, Ralph Newcomb, Edward Abbey, ca.1955 - Photo Credit Jimbo Forrest - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)of Spanish, and helped me learn the Spanish language. On the right, is Edward Abbey.

In the winter of 1957, my first wife, Lucy and I had lived in a basement apartment in Albuquerque for a few months. We then found a nice house for rent for $40/month. Our former property owner had pulled up a light gray shag (remember shag?) carpet to leave for trash. I took it, cut it, and carefully laid it in the living room and bedroom, quite proud of my young-husband-father-to-be-twenty-four-and-a-half-year-old young-self. Then, this guy (Ralph Newcomb) chooses to visit us, cut his forearm, and bleed on our first house, first carpet!”


End Part Two - To read Part Three, Click HERE. To return to Part One, click HERE.

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