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The Emma pace

Tony Vagneur

Emma. What a great name! My cousin Glenn married a lady named Emma. A couple of years ago, I had a brief fling with a young supermarket checker who called herself Emma. My friends Brad and Niki have a cool and sharp, young daughter named Emma. But the Emma I’m talking about is the little burg just west of Basalt, not an official town, just a falling down old brick warehouse-type building next to a white (also brick), rather Victorian looking, two- or three-story house.It got its start as a Denver & Rio Grande railroad siding back in 1887. And in 1904, John Sloss, a great-grandfather on my mother’s side, bought the place and kept shop there until 1907, at which time he moved his business to Basalt, in a building on Homestead that still has his name across the front.In an ironic continuation of the familial circle, I have incongruously inherited the management of two ranches in the Emma area, both of them most likely part of original ranch Great-gramps owned in conjunction with the store, although continuing research hasn’t definitively documented that fact. And so it was the other misty morning, a chill in the air, that I was out in the cow pasture, changing the irrigation water, when a quiet whistle alerted me to the presence of Tom Yoder, a neighbor out exercising a couple of his horses along the Emma bike and horse path. It was cold enough to see the condensation created by the horses’ breathing and there was something that said the old days aren’t gone, not yet.My daughter’s dog, Earl, as usual, accompanied me on my rounds and heard Yoder’s whistle before I did. Earl, mostly black and tipped in brown, who was once thought to be a Chihuahua but is actually something a bit larger (and more personable), decided to take on a couple of the Angus cows surrounding me – for my protection, I guess. He’s not much bigger than a football but isn’t afraid to get in the face of a 1,000-pound cow. Nothing to do but smile, I reckon.Another neighbor, Billy Grange, drives up on his four-wheeler, making his irrigation circuit, and we talk awhile about the developing hay crop, the state of ranching and a bit about our ancestors, his having been here for generations, as well.Yoder’s coming in now from his early morning ride, looking and being every bit a man of the West, and somehow, as I stand there with Billy, watching the horses and rider go by, there is a far-off sense of Highway 82, but the noise is miraculously absent. Grange and I continue our morning conversation, Earl jumping into my open-top Jeep, while out on the blacktop, self-appointed captains of industry, along with workers humping to pay the rent or mortgage, are making the droning trip upvalley, already tense, even before the actual work of the day has started.The convoluted snaking of gas- and diesel-fueled personal carriages slithering up the black ribbon reminds me there is a high-powered world that exists in our valley, a world that held my attention for years, but one I left a while ago, without remorse or desire to rejoin. It’s quiet here in Emma, if you have the proper frame of mind, and even though ranching pays me less than the entire GDP of the defunct store, I think I’ve found a niche for the next couple of years, at least. And besides, I may be able to grab a coattail from the distant past and know the lives of my ancestors just a little bit better. Tony Vagneur still wonders what he’ll be doing when he grows up, should the day ever arrive. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to ajv@sopris.net.


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