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Red, white – and bare

Tony Vagneur

As far as the Fourth of July goes, it wasn’t much of a plan, and the odds of incessant excitement were rather slim. It was a couple of years ago and I’d gone up to a secluded family cabin with a broken heart, delivered to me by a woman who had, in the ways of love, let me off somewhere along the path with very little explanation. We’d spent a lot of time at this hideaway, so I’d come back to purge the place of maudlin memories and get on with it.The year before, I had started rebuilding the cabin’s horse corral, so on this sunny and warm 4th, I proceeded with the project, working along the creek. The sky was cloudless and there was a perfect stillness in the air, save for an occasional songbird. Even the jets and planes at the airport were reasonably quiet, but the 5th would be the usual day of reckoning.It was hot, even at 10,600 in elevation, and the idea of getting a little sun with my shirt off was appealing, but as I thought about it, why not just take everything off and get some full-body exposure? Emerging from the cabin in only a pair of cowboy boots, a Stetson, and with a small bandana around my neck, I felt a little foolish, but being my only admirer, felt I could appreciate it for a while.After a few minutes of work on the corral, the realization came that it would be easy to lose track of time and get seriously burned, so a new scenario developed itself in my mind. I would walk down the trail about a quarter-mile or so, checking out a lush, green meadow and look for an owl who (who?) had made a considerable racket the night before. It would be a short trip of about thirty minutes, by my reckoning, then back to the cabin, put my clothes on, and be none the worse for wear.Deep into the open meadow and about five minutes from the log abode, a grin upon my face and the hot sun penetrating my winter-white skin, there was suddenly a sound that didn’t fit. I didn’t know what it was at that instant, but knew it wasn’t part of the unspoiled world and that it could only mean trouble to my solace in the wilderness. As I did a 180 to ascertain the sound’s source, a woman on a mountain bike came into view, giving me pause. “Oh, thank God I’ve found you – we’re so lost,” was the first thing she said, pedaling directly up to me without quite realizing the full impact of whom (or what) she was talking to at the moment.I spied a small bush off to my left, thinking perhaps I should crouch down there and save her (me?) the embarrassment, but decided that it was more natural to remain natural in the natural world than to act civilized, and stood my ground, so to speak.About then, her female partner arrived and observed the scene before her with a more relaxed and somewhat less-panicked eye. It was, no doubt, obvious from the color of my skin that I was not a practicing nudist and after rummaging through her pack, she handed me a plastic poncho to use as I saw fit.Ever the gentleman, I led the way back to the cabin, wondering if the giggles behind me were of the fun-loving sort. After I regained my clothes, we sat down to a humorous pot of tea and went over some maps of the local trails. On occasion, I see one of the gals around town, who always gives me that certain look, as in, “I know what you really look like!”The event served to lift my despondent emotions, and that night I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face and a lightness of spirit in my bones.Tony Vagneur has been caught in more compromising situations, but remains silent to protect the innocent. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to ajv@sopris.net.


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