Back where I’ve really always been |

Back where I’ve really always been

Tony Vagneur

Riding the bottomland, looking for cows, my horse Drifter and I are slowly coming upon a gnarled cottonwood, yellow leaves rippling in the soft breeze, its trunk worn smooth by generations of cattle rubbing themselves against the rough bark. There’s a big, red-tailed hawk loafing on a particularly distraught limb, giving his eyes a rest, it appears.Over and over, Merle Haggard’s words roll through my consciousness, unattached to any particular time period but, nonetheless creasing a pattern in my brain that can’t be ignored: “Well, today I started loving you again and I’m right back where I’ve really always been.” Rather droll without musical accompaniment, but still powerful thoughts if they catch one in the proper frame of mind.When I was in college, I pictured myself with three or four wives, living on a large, secluded ranch with 10 or 12 kids, all of us sleeping in one big heap in the huge living room, intricately embroidered pillows and thick down comforters by the dozens all over, around and under us. First thing in the morning, I’d dash out the door and gallop into the rising sun on my favorite mount, the clear, cold air setting me up for a delicious day.Such fantasies convinced me I had already missed whatever it takes to be a true family man and in the time since, there have been a couple of broken marriages and a string of encounters that might be impressive if anyone kept track of such nonsense. Dreams of – whatever it is – have constantly woven themselves in and out of my life, and it seems I’ve chased the elusive exoticisms in a stumbling, but sincere way. Or maybe I’ve failed to recognize the dream?Am I the college professor, the politician, or the composer? Oh, wait, those are your previous husbands. I am the scribe who tastes your love, the elixir of a life passionately lived, all affairs brief, but serious dalliances along the way. We were made for each other, you and I, as it will never last.Does our first love set the tone, if it is a serious affair? Is that the foundation upon which we build the future, even though that inescapable eventuality may not contain the woman who gave us our first experiences with the delicacies of love? Or is it the infatuation, that indescribably good feeling toward someone that gives our hormones free rein, that which is so enjoyably delectable? I still feel that way about lady friends, so whatever it is, don’t turn it off. But maybe our first love’s indelibility cannot be denied? Is that back where I’ve really always been?Was it the way she opened her coat for me on a cold winter’s night, in front of the gymnasium after a losing game, inviting me into her warmth? Or the glimpse of her white neck, open and alive and sensuous in the dim light?Perhaps it’s like a riddle, a question with an answer we can’t quite discern, and even if we guess the solution, it’s all completely open to interpretation. Does it matter, anyway?Up ahead, the raptor, who has dallied longer than he should, fidgets his wings to prepare for flight, drawing Drifter’s ears forward in an unalterable quest for the source. Then, with an almost impalpable flutter and a cursory glance over his shoulder, the hawk is quickly into a fast rising thermal, almost straight up, leaving us to our own way. Tony Vagneur must have a lot of time to think, out there on the wide-open range. Read him here every Saturday and send comments to

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