Two years ago, about this time of September, I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle down a back road near Basalt. It was a neat job – stuck the right side of my bike and me to the front of a burgundy Chevy van as deftly as if one had used stick pins. Not much personal damage, other than my left knee impaled itself on a handlebar and my right hip still gets a little cranky now and then. I gingerly crawled down from my crumpled perch in considerable pain, although I could tell already that I probably wasn’t hurt very badly. The good news was that the episode left the bike frame bent, not enough to necessitate a new one, but just enough that my back quit hurting on longer rides. Odd though, for a guy who used to clock at least 200 miles a week, that I haven’t ridden 10 times since, even though a couple of summers have passed.Last year, the day before Thanksgiving, or more importantly, the day before the lifts opened on Aspen Mountain, I got struck by a car in the pedestrian crosswalk at Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs. According to witnesses, I got knocked through the air a ways, but ended up on my feet, maybe like a cat, but probably more like a lucky hoofer. I sustained a bruise on my left femur, just above the knee, that is still occasionally tender. Had I been thinking about turkey and stuffing instead of rippin’ down Christmas Tree (Knowlton’s is the PC name), I probably would have gotten hurt. As it was, I missed a month of skiing and ended up using mostly my right leg until well into the season. I’ve been to Wal-Mart one time since, and don’t think I’ll ever go back.September being my birth month, I wonder if the same forces that put me in the world are trying to take me out about the same general time of year. Last October, my new horse Drifter, a Hancock-bred blue roan (Hancocks are known to be exceptionally tough and ornery), who came to me honestly with a reputation for being a little nasty, and who I had ridden all summer without trouble, tried his best to buck me off, but couldn’t get the job done. If I thought I was a good rider, he took some of that away from me last weekend by planting my face in the dirt in a style that horses, I’m sure, high-five each other over. I’ve ridden him every day since, without incident, and as I write, he gazes my way occasionally with a look of quiet, but impatient friendliness.On a late hike, it’s almost dark, the lightning is cracking over my head, black clouds race from the west toward me, and I keep hustling it up the mountain, endeavoring to get to my truck before the torrential rain starts. Deep, pounding, boogie-woogie piano rhythms go through my head, hurrying my steps, resounding through the cold air, even though I’m a million miles away from any music source. I can’t shake the sounds made by a dark-haired woman with an incredible sense of humor, brilliant on the piano, so good that she can strip the heart right out of your chest with a boogie-blues tremolo and a sidelong glance. I don’t smell the mist, the fragrant humus of fall leaves – I breathe in oil on canvas, splashed there by the hands of another woman, descended from a French voyageur, with a personality strongly like the piano player, or vice-versa, who can steal your heart with a subtle stroke of the brush and a seductive smile that captures you without your consent. The crescendoing energy of piano playing and painting comes together as the lightning drills a ridge close to me and I hurry into my truck just as the incredibly heavy rain starts. My smile is almost a laugh and I’m glad it’s fall, again. Bring on the careless cars and the tough horses. Tony Vagneur thinks cars are overrated, but still trusts his horse. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The past sneaks up on us in the strangest of ways, and I don’t mean bounty hunters flashing those “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters in our faces.