ML Lincoln’s Film Wrenched—The Legacy of Edward Abbey

A hundred people came to Jerome AZ’s “Spook Hall” on Thursday, April 17 to view and celebrate director/producer ML Lincoln’s new film Wrenched. (www.Wrenched-themovie.com).

The film Wrenched is about the community of activists that were inspired by the work of Edward Abbey, who wrote so eloquently about the lonesome and beautiful places of the Southwest.

"Wrenched"-the film

Cover of the DVD of ML Lincoln’s film Wrenched.

Abbey fought with his pen to preserve them against the desecration of industries that care only for the money they produce. Today, profits from pollution are virtually synonymous with big business.

Wrenched is an excellent, well-crafted and gut-wrenching documentary. There’s marvelous archival footage of Ed Abbey; interviews with Doug Peacock, Ken Sleight, John De Puy and Ingrid Eisenstadter—people that were the inspiration for Abbey’s book, The Monkey Wrench Gang—and with many others, such as Robert Redford and authors, Katie Lee, Terry Tempest Williams and Charles Bowden.

There are interviews with many younger activists, such as Tim DeChristopher. What connects all of them is their strong passion and unwavering commitment.

Activism Against the Destruction of Natural Edens

Wrenched shows activists against coal mining on Arizona’s Black Mesa and the rape of the aquifer by transporting coal with large slurry pipelines. Against Glen Canyon reservoir (Loch Latrine, as Jeroman Katie Lee calls it) with archival footage of an Earth First rally that dropped a large black plastic crack down the middle of the concrete to symbolize their protest against the dam.

Peaceful protest by Earth First! at Glen Canyon dam

Earth First! protest rally atGlen Canyon dam dropped a symbolic plastic crack on the face of the concrete dam.

Against oil and gas leases adjacent to national parks and other wilderness areas. Against contaminating the skies and waters. Against the felling of old growth trees.

Earth First! became the rallying cry of the activists and civil disobedience and ‘monkey’ wrenching their tools. Their credo: do no harm to people. As the writer Wallace Stegnar said, “Abbey was a red hot moment in the conscience of this country.”

Many people in Jerome and the Verde Valley can sympathize with many of these causes. The area is a hotbed of activism: citizens may not agree with each other, but they will stand up and fight for the issues they feel strongly about. In these times of grave threats from climate change, we must take whatever stand we can in our communities. Watching a film like Wrenched inspires us to get over our apathy and any feeling of being overwhelmed by current events.

A moving part in the film is the old river runner and wilderness guide Ken Sleight making a plea for people to become active and use whatever creative tools they have: talking, educating, drawing, writing, singing, etc.

Police Action Against Environmental Activism

Part of ML Lincoln’s film Wrenched heralds the souls that braved the cudgels of the police, more and more a reality that faces activists. It sheds light on two disgraceful federal actions to shut the activists down.

One was about the two FBI ‘agent provocateurs’, who were caught on tape being told to persuade four activists in Prescott to ‘do anything’ they could be arrested for. After two years, the activists agreed to cut down the power to some irrigation lines near Aguila, Arizona. The feds supplied the encouragement, the tools and the acetylene torch. Two members of the group were arrested at the site; the others in Prescott. The next day, as though by magic, radio, tv and newspapers headlined that the four were terrorists that were attempting to blow up Palo Verde Nuclear Facility, some eighty miles away.  It was a vry large large fabrication.

Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman was also arrested in the same sting on charges of conspiracy. He gave a copy of this book, Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkey Wrenching, to one of the agent provocateurs signing it ‘happy wrenching’. It was enough for his arrest as a ‘co-conspirator.’

It may sound like something out of science fiction, but it cost tens of thousands of dollars to hire lawyers for the court battle that ensued. The first trial ended in stalemate; those arrested plea-bargained the charges to misdemeanors rather than undergo yet another round and another few years tied up in court. The labels “terrorists” still follow all of them around.What is sad is that the plea bargains clamped down on the activities of Earth First! Dave Foreman’s five-year parole stipulated that he not engage in activist activity for five years.

One of the film’s poignant scenes shows Ilse Asplund, one of the young women arrested, talking about her horror at finding that she trusted Ron Fraizer, one of the agent provocateurs to ‘babysit’ her young children.

The other federal action that grabbed major headlines and was featured in Wrenched was the arrest and two-year incarceration of Tim DeChristopher who bid on some of the 116 parcels on oil and gas leases on public lands tjat were being auctioned. Their sale waw approved by former President Bush at the very end of his term, with insufficient environmental and scientific review.

Tim DeChristopher Arrested for Bidding on Oil and Gas Leases

However, DeChristopher’s actions stalled the sale of all leases until Ken Salazar, the new Secretary of the Interior, took office. He took off the bidding block all the leases that Tim DeChristopher bid on, which were adjacent to National Parks. Nevertheless, his actions led to a conviction of a social justice crime and sentenced to two years in a court action that many deemed a travesty of the system.

Tim De Christopher

Tim DeCristopher at a Peaceful Uprising rally to raise awareness about the effects of .climate change

Another poignant moment of the film shows an almost monk-looking DeChristopher filing books in Ken Sanders Rare Books, a Salt Lake City Utah landmark. After 18 months in prison, DeChristopher was given six months of community service with the proviso that he say nothing abut his views or the circumstances that landed him in prison, nor the organization Peaceful Uprising, that he helped found. www.peacefuluprising.org

A DVD will be available for sale May 4 to people who attend film screenings. A fund-raising campaign to procure the rights for broadcast, video and theatrical showings will be held on Indiegogo. Watch for announcement on the website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Kate Wolf Meets Katie Lee: Fires Burning Bright in Old Jerome.

Jerome Arizona Image Series

Photo by Bob Swanson, Swanson Images.com

After a brief introduction, Kate Wolf walked onto the stage of Jerome’s old Episcopal Church with her Martin acoustic guitar, took a measure of her audience, let them settle into silence, and began her concert. No preliminary chat; no guitar tuning. Dusky melodies floated out and curled into the corners of the room, cloaking 150 people in a cozy warmth. Her delivery was melancholy, almost monochrome, the lyrics clear and haunting. After a few songs, Kate talked a little, then began singing again. She was a quiet enchantress, a charisma that came from an unassuming, direct heart. Her audience was spellbound.

Kate was one of a growing number of artists that chose to record independently of the large record labels. I first met her when I began to interview indie artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. She and other indie artists helped spark the revolution that was written about in my book How to Make and Sell Your Own Recording.

The Episcopal Church had just been restored into a beautiful little theater with stained oak floors; wood paneling on the walls, a large stage flanked by heavy, lined maroon velvet theater curtains. The acoustics were so good that Kate did not need a sound system or microphones.

For almost two decades—before the Jerome Historical Society needed it for offices and archives, there were concerts, plays, lectures and historic symposiums. Perhaps the most well known person to grace its stage was Edward Abbey, the great Southwestern writer and wilderness activist, who introduced his movie Lonely are the Brave, based on his novel, The Brave Cowboy.

After the audience bought some of her vinyl records and thinned out, I introduced her to Kate to Katie Lee. Katie was 64 years old, dressed in a wild combo of orange, turquoise, bright maroon, charisma and feistiness writ large. It was as though a doe-eyed fawn was meeting a peacock.

Katie was in her sixties, the reigning elder of some twenty iconoclastic songwriters and musicians that had moved to Jerome in the late sixties and seventies. Shewas an author and folk singer that wrote and sang about the loss of the real cowboys (not those fake Gene Autrey types), wilderness and the tragic drowning of Glen Canyon, replaced by the Lake Powell reservoir, which Katie calls ‘Rez Foul,’ or ‘Loch Latrine.’ Her car license plate reads ‘Dam dams.’ There’s no mistake about how Katie feels about anything. “Tact is a fucking waste of time,” she once told me.

Katie was sharply blunt. “Kate, you’re a hell of a songwriter, but I couldn’t understand all your lyrics. Sometimes you mumble. You need to learn to enunciate. Lyrics are your most important strength, but if nobody can understand them, you are singing to fresh air. Come by my house tomorrow and I’ll help you as I was helped by some of the top professionals in the industry.”

I was taken aback, as used to Katie’s outspokenness as I was. Kate was unfazed, recognizing a critique given from another professional.

The women became instant friends, a mutual spark between two remarkable artists.
Both were fiercely independent women who shared a love of wild flowing rivers and the importance of finding a sense of rootedness in wilderness places. Both were consummate wordsmiths.

Katie arranged for Kate to stay a few more days at the house of a friend of hers across the street. A few days later, at ten o’clock in the evening, just as Katie was getting ready for bed, she heard a knock on the door. A very excited Kate wanted to play her newest song, “Old Jerome.”

The song captures the eerie stillness of a town still waking up to its new identity and the magic hold that it has on almost anyone who has ever lived there.


OLD JEROME
Words and music by Kate Wolf. Copyright 1983 by Another Sundown Publishing Company (BMI). Lyrics reprinted with permission.

Drinking early morning coffee,
talking with good friends,
and walking the streets of rough cut stone

She was once a miners’ city,
now the ghost of a dying town,
but there’s a fire burning bright in old Jerome.

Some have come for fortune,
some have come for love
and some have come for the things they cannot see

Now the grass is green and growing
where the gardens once had died
and the birds sing in the young Ailanthus trees

And they say that once you live here,
You never really go
‘cause she’ll have a hold on you until you die

With her ground moving crazy,
Her fierce wind blowing free
And her ruins standing proud against the sky

Houses cling to mountains
like miners cling to dreams
they hold on so long and then they just let go

And this mountain she’s your mistress,
you’ll ride her ’til you fall
and wash down to the valley far below.

There are stories that tell on Cleopatra
There are stories that never can be told
The wind and the rain sing their mountain lullaby
The copper shines like Arizona gold

And her walls stand strong and silent,
Starin’ out with empty eyes
like beggars blind and lame that do no harm

With their empty rooms that hold
the old town’s memories
and their doorways that reach out like empty arms

In the streets the children play,
climbing up the crooked stairs,
and lovers touch and turn to go back home

And the sound of hammers echo
in the once forgotten halls
and hope stirs in the heart of old Jerome

The moon shines bright on Cleopatra
Where the mines lie sleeping far below
The wind and the rain sing their mountain lullaby
And the copper shines like Arizona gold

“She strolled the cobblestones and got the pictures in her head,” said Katie. “We yakked until well after midnight.”

Katie loved the song so much she etched one of its verses into fresh concrete outside her writing studio and sent Kate a photo of it. In 1987, Katie persuaded the town of Jerome to adopt it as its official anthem. Katie Lee performed ‘Old Jerome’ on the TV special “Portraits of America.” (You can read more about Katie’s books, music and activism at her website: <a href="http://www.katydoodit.com.)

Kate was already infected with the leukemia that would cause her death in 1986. To her mind, she was infected in 1979 after visiting America’s partial nuclear meltdown in one of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactors in Pennsylvania.

“The Government killed her just like it did my dad,” said Katie. “He was healthiest man in the world, but in the fifties, he was living on the edge of the site near Las Vegas where the atom bomb was tested.” (The people and children that were infected with strange cancers from those tests are called downwinders. As an aside, the great activist and conservationist, Terry Tempest Williams, who wrote the introduction to Katie’s book Glen Canyon Betrayed, wrote about how her mother and sister was similarly infected by those same tests in her book, Refuge: an Unnatural History of Family and Place.)

In the year before she died, Kate Wolf’s career began to skyrocket. She was asked to perform at many of the key folk festivals in the Unites States and Canada. Her records were selling in the tens of thousands.

Kate sings “Old Jerome” on her album “The Wind Blows Wild,” released posthumously. You can hear Kate sing the song on https://myspace.com/katewolfmusic/music/song/old-jerome-live-kpfa-berkeley-ca-29077446

Recognition of the fine quality of Kate Wolf’s songwriting continues to this day. Artists such as Emmy Lou Harris and Nancy Griffith have recorded her songs. Since 1996, a Kate Wolf Memorial music festival is been held each summer in Northern California. More information about Kate, her music, and the festival are found at http://www.katewolf.com/festival.

(This vignette will be included in Diane Sward Rapaport’s new book, Home Sweet Jerome, Rescuing a Town from its Ghosts, forthcoming Spring 2014 from Johnson Books (Big Earth Publishing).