Su Lum: Slumming
July 6, 2010
A few weekends ago I noticed such a sizable crowd gathered by the entrance to the Hotel Jerome garden that I thought it must be a bear sighting, but it wasn’t a bear, it was a horse.
It was a truly magnificent horse, but I don’t think its beauty drew the crowd but, rather, the surprising idea of a horse standing in the Jerome garden. I later heard that the horse was part of a wedding ceremony and that the wedding had been delayed because the horse arrived late, probably due to all the attention it was getting at the Jerome, which may have included free drinks for the horse.
We know how that goes – you stop by the J-Bar for one beer and next thing you know you’re late for the wedding.
I’ve had six horses over the course of my time in Aspen. The first four didn’t really count. We bought two mares from Buck Deane and then found out that they were both pregnant and so was I. The mares each had a filly and so did I: my daughter Hillery. After boarding the horses for a year at what was to become Snowmass-at-Aspen, we sold the yearlings to Klaus Obermeyer. The mares were named Rio Blanco and Wasilla (!) and we never did get to know the babies well enough to name them.
I had a horse named Brook who was terrified of crossing any kind of bridge unless she was following another horse, in which case she’d walk on a high wire. I never knew how many bridges there were around Aspen. Brook was my last horse; I traded her for a Chevrolet station wagon when I finally figured out that between the stabling, the hay and the wintering, it was costing over $50 an hour to ride.
Before Brook, I had a great horse named Rusty. Rusty’s ownership was in dispute and the battling claimants, who were only interested in Rusty during hunting season, settled the question by giving him to me because I was the one who took care of him and rode him.
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Rusty was kept in an old stable near what is now the Clark’s Market complex, handily close to The Aspen Times. I could run down there, canter over to the music tent, lean back in the saddle listening to a couple of rehearsal numbers, dash back to the stable (Rusty liked to gallop on the way back) and stroll back to work.
Back then only Main Street was paved and traffic was sparse. Lots of people had horses and it wasn’t unusual to see them around town or parked in front of the post office or the J-Bar – Rusty spent a lot of time in front of the J-Bar, at the old race track next to the Aspen Meadows, where there is still a discernible path, and up Hunter Creek.
Horse manure was in great demand by local gardeners, so that was no problem, even at the Jerome. Hell, you could sell it! What was considered fertilizer turned into manure paranoia, which led to doggie bags and horsey diapers. Used to be, the best place to plant a garden was next to the outhouse.
I never did ride any of my horses into the Red Onion, but others had done so, including a local cantor whose horse disgraced itself by peeing on the Onion floor, necessitating a public apology from the rider. That was well after I’d traded Brook for the Chevrolet, probably the late ’70s, and as far as I know was the last event of its kind. Alas.
Anyway, it was nostalgic to see the excited attention the wedding horse got at the Jerome, as if a giraffe had appeared in the garden, recalling Rusty (not nearly so elegant) waiting patiently in front of the Jerome, thoughtfully provided with a bucket of water by the staff.