Saddle Sore: Tony Vagneur | AspenTimes.com
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Saddle Sore: Tony Vagneur

Tony VagneurThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Young kids are kind of like dogs, if you want my opinion. Although I had thousands of acres of unsupervised personal space to move around in, I usually stuck within whistle distance of the house, just so I wouldnt miss a scrap of what was going on. Every spring, Id hear my dad coming up the road, clucking and talking to a team of magnificent horses pulling a plow.Horses in harness create a unique sound and emanate tremendous energy, what with the leather and iron clacking, tapping and slapping together, all moving in cadence with the motion of the horses, and the vibration of the earth under their hooves, silently calling ones attention to an event of spectacular proportions.We had tractors with lots of horsepower, used for farming, but tractors are not of the earth, and it would have been sacrilegious to plow up my mothers garden with anything other than a fine team of working draft horses. The aroma of rich, fertile black Woody Creek soil being turned mixed with the powerful, unique smell of the glistening equines, and my dads voice filled the panorama of the back stage, Get up Queenie. Come on, Tom, pull dammit.And before you could even get used to the scene, the horses and my dad disappeared back down the trail and my mother and grandmother began the truly hard work of busting up the dirt clods, getting the soil loose and fine, ready for planting. Thats usually about the time I began losing interest, although I could be counted on to plant my share of seeds.For my mother it might have been a spiritual experience of sorts, I dont know, but she and her mother always managed the ritual together, and my absence while the tough work was being accomplished didnt seem to bother her all that much. Sometimes she even encouraged me to go do something else. Those gals raised a good garden, too, and a big one. We had a lot of ranch hands to feed, relatives to impress, and besides, it was something most industrious people did if they wanted fresh vegetables on the table. There were rows and rows of corn, potatoes, beans, peas, zucchini, raspberries, strawberries, radishes, lettuce, and on and on. Sweet peas, tulips, pansies, crocuses and other flowers filled the corners and other off places, and I loved going to the garden.It was something my mother could call her very own, and she was proud of it. Id hear her talking to my dad after dinner, saying how excited she felt inside that things had come up so well, that the garden looked really grand when you stood back and truly appreciated all its sweet nuances, and that itd be a good winter because wed have enough vegetables to last us through.My grandmother, who never wore anything but a dress, and who stayed with us numerous times throughout the summer, would take me to the garden occasionally, and wed get the pick of the day. Grandmad give me a pan to carry things in, but shed carefully wrap her share in her apron, and carry it to the house that way. She was a genius at keeping the produce in her lap, holding it there with the dip in her dress between her legs, and shucking, shelling or peeling whatever it was directly into a bowl or box right beside her.The garden died about the time we moved into a new house. The established patch was too far away to adequately manage, my mothers health was failing, and Grandma wasnt doing much better. It was just one of those changes that, taken by itself wasnt deafening, but in the collective, almost impossible to fathom.Now, its spring again, and Id enjoy nothing more than to harness the team and plow up a garden plot for some lucky kids mother.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.


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