The story of Roger Canard and crew

Roger Marolt

Now that The Aspen Times is 125 years old, I’m hoping that they have forgotten about my history with them. But, I know they haven’t. The best I can hope for is to be forgiven.I first worked for the paper in the late ’60s. I could tell you a heartwarming story, in an innocent time, about industrious paperboys picking up our bundles every Thursday after school, heading off to Tom’s Market, the Red Onion or the bus stop at Rubey Park to sell our wares. And, if my story with the Times ended with a few youthful years of doing only that, all would seem right in this world.With such an impression, you might read this column and think: what a perfect story about an Aspen boy who started out selling papers and eventually worked his way up to become an award-winning columnist. Your faith that wholesomeness and hard work are always rewarded would be sturdily reinforced to where you might even cut out and save this article as proof of such to your grandchildren. A warning to the perpetually optimistic: Hold your scissors! As in most things seemingly too good to be true, this story takes a turn towards darkness.My childhood passed, and I outgrew the token wage I made as a paperboy. In the real world of work, I was relegated to nourishing my fascination with the local papers by reading headlines and absorbing the editorial pages. My favorite section was the letters. The temptation to join the fun in print was alluring, but being of mathematical mind, lacking confidence in expression with the written word, I resisted.Then one day, the devil himself must have picked up my pen. I came out of a trance to find a letter, in my own hand, upon my own desk. Only the signature block was blank. A shiver coursed my veins and verily guided my hand. I scribbled the name “Matt Jones” and delivered it to the post box.A few days later the letter appeared in print. Without knowing it was I who had written it, friends and acquaintances laughed over it and went out of their way to make sure that I saw it. I had used a parody about my dislike of the highly popular condiment mayonnaise to prove that we didn’t all have the same tastes and that, in the same way, it was OK to feel uncomfortable about Gay Ski Week without being mean or hateful. The poignant line seemed to be: “I believe that whatever a person puts between their buns is their own business.” I would be lying to you if I said that the buzz around town generated by that letter wasn’t a thrill to me. The freedom to assert myself without worry over critique or retribution had its appeal. Add to that the risk of getting caught and perhaps you can begin to understand why I couldn’t discontinue my participation in this cerebral extreme sport. Over the next four years I penned more than 180 letters in the local papers. I created 18 different characters, each with a distinct personality. I covered topics of interest to groups diverse as the Aspen Cycling Club and the Pitkin County commissioners. No topic was sacred, and the only person intentionally provoked by the clan of the clandestine was Pete Luhn. Alas, it was proved beyond doubt that my game was not for the faint of heart. One evening, as I reveled in the glory of fury created by my most smug characters to date, the phone rang at my house. It was the intrepid Aspen Times reporter Brent Gardner-Smith, demanding to speak with Roger Canard.He had traced my beloved Canard’s phone number from reverse directory, through the secretary of state of Colorado, to the address where I work. Not finding me there, he tricked my partners in business to say more than they knew. He told me that he had an idea about who I was and what I had been up to. Like a judge he lectured: If I lied to him he would go hard; if I came clean he would do what he could to lighten my sentence. So I confessed.The headlines said it all the next day. Leniency in the court of local public opinion was not granted. I was summarily banned from the Times, for life! For the next two weeks the story was reported again and again by the papers, over the radio, on alternating street corners, and in every coffee joint in town, each version attempting to demonstrate that I was indeed worse than portrayed by the last.I was a broken man. I slinked around town, shadowed by the energy-sapping cloud of shame. Until such a thing happens to a man, he knows not how utterly indistinguishable are the glances of admiration from those of scorn. I knew not who my friends were, or in fact if I had any at all. A long year passed and things settled down. To their credit, and my delight, The Aspen Times extended the olive branch, which I humbly grabbed. Careful not to pick at the scabs, we worked out a plan where I would write a weekly column for them … on a trial basis … without remuneration! But, knowing that I had endured the worst a writer could, I was free to write whatever I fancied, using my own given name. I had survived public scrutiny!Some say that the Times hired me because it was the only way they could get me to stop writing anonymous letters. Others claim that they handed me the proverbial rope so that I could hang myself in public every Friday morning. But I like to think that somehow, throughout the whole ordeal, we got to know each other a little better and became friends, again. The trial period came and went. I eventually was put on the payroll. I am proud to be a part of this Aspen icon. I am the prodigal SOB. And, whatever you may think about this episode, it is history.Roger Marolt invites you to view a teaser from a film being made on this affair from our past at