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Of buffalo and men

Roger Marolt

So, how do you go about proving that hillbillies really did mate with buffaloes? For me it was as easy as attending a small family reunion this past weekend.Now, now, I can tell that you are already getting the wrong idea. This is not a story about lonely mountain people who have lived in the same small town for generations. It is not a recollection about Aspen’s Quiet Years, when there wasn’t much here in the way of entertainment. It is not about cousins and mutant genes and all that other nonsense that hayseed lore is made of.This story is about a knife. And, the bovine-satyr ignoramus who brandished it.It all happened last Saturday afternoon. That was the day on which my brother and second cousin planned a family reunion picnic up the Maroon Creek Valley. There were grandparents and grandkids, uncles and aunts, cousins and siblings, and a few old friends too. We built a fire, cracked open a couple of cans of Coors and pretty much picked up where we left off 25 years ago at the last family reunion, talking about how much things have changed around here and wondering what the heck has gone wrong with this town. Then we started telling all of the old stories again, laughing harder than we did the first time we told them. This is because they are funnier than the first time we told them. They have been so thoroughly embellished over the years that even the people who played roles in the stories don’t recognize them. If half the things they say about me really happened, I would be dead, in prison, or both by now.My brother and brother-in-law did a nice job on the chicken and steaks. Nobody minded the charred parts. Bugs were nonchalantly flicked from mounds of potato salad and we picked at homemade carrot cake as we baited fish hooks. It’s funny that what constitutes a delicacy in the great outdoors would be sent back immediately by even the least gastronomically particular if it were served at any local restaurant.After dinner things got really interesting, though. A train of about 20 loping horses sauntered down the trail past our camp, delivering their deadweight loads of haggard, red-kerchiefed, straw-hatted tourists to the end of a long trip down East Maroon Trail from Crested Butte. A weathered old cowboy, bored to tears, led the way.At this point, I must tell you that we had dogs at our picnic – three, to be exact. And, admittedly, they were not on leashes. Further, the three dogs at our picnic might be the most ill-mannered animals since Godzilla. They would yip at, lunge toward and jump up on a land mine if it were rolled through the front gate, all in a playful way, of course. And now, I’m sure you can see where this story is heading. Our dogs went over to check out the horses as they were coming down the trail. As far as anyone could tell, the horses didn’t even notice. That includes the few of them that were still awake. Then, the worst thing that could have happened, happened. One of the dogs barked – loudly! Even this burst of canine thunder couldn’t annoy the horses, but it was enough to stir the cowpuncher leading them. And, he wasn’t happy about it.Dreams of getting out of those chaps, taking a hot bubble bath, and then slipping into some silk pajamas to watch “Friends” reruns after this long day were chased off into the dark forest by that bark. He scowled across the trail at our gathering and led the horses across the bridge to their waiting trailers. Concerned, my grandmother’s sister’s daughter, along with my brother in-law’s wife, went over to rein in the dogs. As the cowboy saw them approach, he should have sternly reminded them that dogs need to be on leashes. He could have justly given them a good butt-chewing. He might have even called the forest ranger. But, alas, his dog was roaming free, too, and those courses of action were cut off from him.So, this undereducated byproduct of a buffalo/hillbilly orgy resorted to the only option his mosquito-size brain could latch onto. He pulled out a buck knife and waved it at the ladies.At this, the two ladies took the only reasonable action they could, given the circumstances. They stopped, assessed the danger and … began laughing at this numskull. They grabbed the dogs and headed back to camp, leaving the poor Marlboro Man wannabe just standing there, mortally wounded, his pride trimmed tight to the quick.I’m not entirely clear on how he got wind of it, but within minutes of this farcical confrontation, a Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputy showed up on the scene. He heard the ladies’ story and then asked if the man had threatened them in any way. I am not sure what part of the brief story he didn’t understand.He confidently informed us that it is not a crime to wave a knife at someone if that action is not accompanied by a verbal threat. Hmmm …? Anyway, my father’s cousin’s husband, an attorney, rolled his eyes and we let it drop.The story ends with our cowboy friend driving into the sunset in his pickup truck, pulling a trailer with a “Fantasy Ranch” sign proudly displayed on its side. Whether the rascal stole that rig or actually works for that outfit was indiscernible. In the end, no charges were pursued, no lawyers were retained, no restraining orders were sought, and no lawsuits have been drafted. We handled the situation in the tradition of the Old West: cool heads prevailed and we made our adversary realize he is only half a man, at best. That’s good enough.And, we have another story to tell around the campfire at the next family reunion.Roger Marolt knows that if you pull a knife in some other parts of this world, they identify you by your dental records. This character is lucky; they would have never known who he was. (roger@maroltllp.com)


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