Affirmation of a Barbarian

Buckskin Gulch - Paria Canyon
Escalante National Monument
March 20-27, 2008


Cactus Jack, that was the man's name, you see, grinned at me, squinting with his one good eye as he did so, exposing a row of yellowing teeth. At least the ones still there were yellow. I wasn't sure if he was about to stab me with the fork in front of him or if he was going to buy me another beer in the run down Italian restaurant I had found in the middle of nowhere Arizona. Oracle, Arizona, to be precise. Cactus Jack wrote letters to Mizz magazine and Gloria Steinem in his free time, which was pretty much all the time, about women and their "so called rahts." I don't think he had a job, at least not one that required him to go into an office. He had stories about river trips down the Colorado, Mexican islands, living in the a trailer outside of Moab, riding trains from California to Pennsylvania, cutting down billboards with a chain saw, running with a gang of monkeywrenchers, a lifetime of exploring the desert or any wild place he could find. Cactus Jack wanted to burn down the whole rotten, miserable facade of settled society. He was a Barbarian in the truest sense of the word. This was all long ago and far away, but my meeting with Cactus Jack still drives me today and it brought me out of the framework of life indoors and back to the desert, at a time when I needed it more than I knew.

My Experience