A flash in the pan | AspenTimes.com

A flash in the pan

Tony Vagneur

We always seem to hear about the people who came for one winter and spent the rest of their lives here. But, not true to the mold, there are always some “flashes in the pan,” people with potential as local folks, who, in a casual tip of the basin, disappear into the current. It got me wondering how people who have once called Aspen home can actually leave the valley, and needless to say, I’m still wondering.When I was in Ms. Pat Lumsden’s first-grade class, an energetic blonde by the name of Kathy Klockow sat behind me and we became good pals. She lived in the first A-frame-type house built adjacent to the northeast end of the Castle Creek bridge and it seemed that the house, which was much more unique at the time, matched her personality quite well. Her family left town, going to Indiana, I believe, where shortly thereafter, she was killed in a car wreck. That was a tough one to take for young kids of 6 or 7, but we fit it in our psyches somewhere and moved on. The next year, my good buddy Chris Grove, who lived directly across from the school at 131 W. Hallam, moved back to Maine with his family. Hardly had they settled in when their new residence caught fire late one night, killing Chris.After that, as we’d chug up 82 in an old, yellow school bus, coming in from Woody Creek, there was a certain comfort to be found in our vision of Aspen as it came into view every day: the fresh, bright green, flourishing cottonwoods and aspens in spring, taller than most of the buildings; the golden leaves of the same trees in fall; and in winter, the stark, barren sprigs of limbs pasted against the ever-present hanging cloud of smoke, visible every morning, spit out by coal and wood stoves fired by the families of old. Odd perhaps, but of it all, it was the blanket of smoke that gave me the most solace, as it represented the warmth that could be found in each house awakening for another day, the people, my people, enclosed within. About my sophomore year of college, I hired on as a ski instructor at Hidden Valley, a great little area in the midst of Rocky Mountain National Park. It had powder a few days a year and the rest of the time, had snow consistency that made ice seem friendly. Every weekend (holidays included), my fellow instructor Doug Franklin and I would make the trek to work, teaching people more about the use of rope tows and T-bars than about the finer technicalities of skiing. We spent many Saturday nights sleeping in my car, guaranteeing our students somewhat less than our best on Sunday. By the time I finally got back to Aspen for some March spring-break skiing, I discovered with curiosity that I’d begun to prefer boilerplate and promised myself that I would never ignore Aspen Mountain for so long again. At last it came time to graduate and my friends in the CU business school, decked out in three-piece pinstripes as clothier models might be, were all interviewing with this big company or that and wondering aloud where my interviews were being held, and with whom. I did have an offer, from a man I considered the finest professor and businessman on the Front Range, to become a partner in his public relations firm if I’d first do an apprenticeship in New York City for a couple of years. Graduation for us was at the end of the fall semester and it’s reasonably certain that the ink had yet to dry on my last final exam before I was heading home to Aspen, feeling as free as the wind and never looking back. Tony Vagneur isn’t sure he did it right, but he knows he didn’t do it wrong. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to ajv@sopris.net

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