Tony Vagneur: The best of times, off the record
So, in the interest of carrying on Aspen folklore, I spent last Saturday night with five hard-drinking, beautiful women, all of them 10 to 20 years younger than me. Well, not the whole night, but before I get to that, let’s start at the beginning.
Killing some time before lunch, my darlin’ Margaret and I decided to kick around the farmers market. I was curious to see if there still actually was farm produce for sale, or had it turned into a curio shop for goggling tourists? Hard to say what it was, but after walking the whole affair, including a wait in line for some kettle corn, the number of smiles I witnessed could be counted on one hand. Hooray — there were a couple of legitimate farmer food stands.
Just as we hit Hyman Avenue, my neighbor Randy “helloed” me in front of his new eyewear shop (Oliver Peoples) and in the process pointed out the stuffed bull moose head sitting in the back of someone’s pickup truck. Couldn’t really tell if it came from Northstar, but it did remind me of a good Jerome B. Public House story.
Apparently, a horse had died out on the infamous Six-Mile Ranch (Gimpy might know more about this than I do) and a few of the afternoon drinking club, including my roommate Bob Jarrett, put together a memorial, of sorts. They borrowed Billy Keating’s brand-new pickup truck for an ostensible, legitimate errand and, of course, they returned to town with the dead horse in the back of Keating’s new ride. Keating was one of the pub owners and bartender for the day.
No one had thought much further about this, other than guffawing about what Keating’s ultimate reaction might be, so they were pleasantly unprepared for the police to arrive, asking in a rather pointed way who owned the pickup truck parked near the top of the stairs. Oops.
Last Saturday night started out with a kinda slow burn that had potential to burst into flames, if the ingredients came together just right. But we couldn’t see any of that at the moment — we were too busy laying the groundwork for what lay ahead.
We delivered Margaret’s books to Skye Gallery (last Saturday evening was the debut of Margaret’s first book, “Woody Creek: Views from a Homestead”) and hurried home to shower up and gather together the rest of whatever we needed — cases of champagne, snack tidbits, water (are you sure we need water?), and we were ready to lock onto a great evening.
It was a crowd, what a crowd, from wealthy newcomers, well-heeled regulars, curious tourists, hard-worker bees and some of the colorful, native boys and girls we’ve known for 100 years.
Just as we were settling in, the gallery buzz getting loud and festive, two serious-looking sheriff’s deputies appeared at the door, escorting a very attractive woman, and the hum went up a bit. Who was the woman, were the deputies bodyguards, or what? Were they going to close us down? Friends, they were our friends, but they left without the woman.
Dangerously close to selling out of books, we retired to an upscale restaurant for a celebratory dinner. Being the shy and retiring type, I found it quite exhilarating to walk into a sophisticated eatery with five of the most beautiful women in Aspen. Heads turned, waiters stopped, and the maître’ D shook my hand with an envious smile.
Two martinis apiece, three bottles of wine and the stories were excellent. A deep conversation about history and how Margaret’s book laid out the importance of what Aspen has really been about and what kind of people are really important, we were on a consensual roll. One toast lasted in the neighborhood of, oh, a very long time, having to be given over several, humorous interruptions. A table next to us decided we were having too much fun and sashayed out to the patio where it was quieter.
All five of these women have deep, life-long commitments to Aspen and aren’t the kind to mess with, if you get my drift. Pull some big-city (or low-life local) crap on them and you’ll be wishing you’d stayed home.
There was the tale, I have to mention it, of how hummingbirds fly south for the winter, bumming rides on the backs of geese. Neither species was there to confirm it, but it was told wonderfully well. Several stopped by our table to say hello, and as we left, we attracted another woman, sensing the excitement in the air.
The women piled into the car, and being the sober one, I drove us out of there. Damn, what a night!
Direct quote: “Tony, you can write about this but you can’t mention our names. Not even a little bit.”
Margaret Wilson Reckling will have a signing of her new book, “Woody Creek: Views from a Homestead,” at 5:30 p.m. July 9 at Explore Booksellers. Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.