Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“Wanna go smoke some dope?” she asked. It was 1966, the calm before the “hippie” storm that soon engulfed Aspen, and although I vicariously knew about marijuana and various other drugs, I was still a virgin doper. I had no inclination to start smoking that night, either, but this good-looking girl, whom I didn’t know, had singled me out of the crowd and I figured I’d be a damned fool if I said no.
At the Red Butte Cemetery we fogged up the inside of my car with some “blue de hue” and steamed the windows a little bit afterward with some heavy breathing. It did nothing for me (the joint, I mean), and I figured “grass” was better left to cows and horses. Afterward, she left the baggie, still bulging at the seams, in my glove box, and for whatever reasons, our paths didn’t cross again that winter break.
When I got back to college, the apartment was empty, the hour early and I figured, “What the hell,” maybe I should give that dried weed one more chance. Using newspaper, I rolled a “fatty,” about the size of a good Cuban cigar and began lining my lungs with the power of hemp. I inhaled one large drag after another, expecting nothing to happen, and nothing was, when all of a sudden, I entered another realm. My heart started pounding furiously, my head got fuzzy with colored noise, my body became weak, and the giggles overtook me.
Going in, it scared me some, but once I adjusted to all the physical changes, it was what you could call a reasonably good “high.” My roommate and his girlfriend wandered in about the time I changed realities and immediately noticed something was amiss. “Pothead,” they teased me, although I was mostly oblivious to their presence. Fortunately, that sort of thing wasn’t my cup of tea, so to speak, and it was the first and last time I knowingly got ripped from recreational drugs.
You may think me sacrilegious, but I ended up pitching the rest of the bag, which was still nearly full. Marijuana possession approached a hangable offense back in those days, and I didn’t trust my college friends enough to see who might want the remains. Such paranoia was definitely based in reality and not drug-induced.
By 1970, cannabis had become the “bread and butter” drug of the counterculture and could be whiffed just about anywhere around town. Old cowboys felt peculiar rolling Bull Durham cigarettes, wondering if the penetrating eyes of unshaven, unkempt youngsters, recently arrived, were seeing something that wasn’t there.
Many of those new arrivals, riding a surge of either natural or otherwise drug-induced euphoria, thought it was time to take over the local government and posed Hunter Thompson for sheriff, against incumbent Carroll Whitmire. If you look at documentary film footage of the contest, it really was a rather innocuous and frivolous attempt at change, although the participants on both sides took it very seriously. At center stage, naturally, was the matter of use and possession of marijuana and to what degree it should be tolerated.
Whitmire won, and with all due respect to his memory, I don’t think he had any more effect on the amount of drug use in Aspen and Pitkin County than Thompson would have. Such use had become an endemic tidal wave confined to its own dimensions, and the dire predictions of some business leaders that “dope” would be the destruction of Aspen may have been overstated.
Enter medical marijuana, a latecomer to the discussion, and it has, once again, stimulated the hackles of people on both sides of the aisle. I’ve had several propositions to plow up my horse pasture and cultivate marijuana plants.
We still haven’t moved past “hay” and horses and cows, at least not in my mind, and clearly, that is a phase we have yet to outgrow.