The trainman explained that the big freight had stopped because of the ants. The ants? It's the kind of scene that appeals to Abbey--man and nature locked in absurd conflict. Army ants marching down the tracks were being crushed by the millions; now the tracks were so greasy that the wheels had lost their purchase. Abbey's own mesh of personal and natural history is more harmonious. When he finds himself in the isolated and untouched lands he loves, he has a habit of taking off his clothes and strolling around by way of immersion. And here, as in Desert Solitaire and The Journey Home, he finds rewarding spots to disrobe in. The Australian Outback with its stockmen and ""silvertails"" is not unlike his own Southwest with its cowboys and ""candyasses."" A little Mexican island, he makes sure, is a desert island with ""no human inhabitants whatsoever. Not one."" So Abbey is free to explore and ruminate. He loves to travel but it's ""significant movement"" that he seeks, not airplane rides or quaint locales. He regards Mexico ""with extremely moderate love. Best to stay in Wolf Hole, behind the Virgin Mountains . . . the kind of place where an atavist belongs."" Back home he rides the Rio Grande, where the U.S. is on one side, Mexico on the other, and ""freedom in the middle."" Abbey, the self-proclaimed ""extremist,"" expresses his freedom by not going to extremes. He attacks ""the technological mania of the West and the occult morbidity of the East; both are the enemies of reason, and of life and of the earth."" He has the daring to cross a desert in a Ford Falcon, but he also has the intellectual courage to resist the fashionable offbeat paths and take the conventional one. He is insulted at the accusation that he's 30 years behind the times when really it's a hundred. He notes that he's been called ""a creeping Fascist hyena,"" and adds proudly, ""I am a pig lover too."" There's more of him here than in earlier books, and less description--no deterrent, of course, to his following.