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Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore

Tony Vagneur
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

You might have noticed there was no Wintersköl Parade again this past weekend. Some claim to know why, but the reasons they’ve thrown have been half-hearted bombs. Dumping a 58-year tradition should be treated with more than cavalier shrugs.

The first death blow might have been delivered years ago when public notice was made by the city of Aspen that all parades would henceforth require a permit. That’s kind of like a dare, isn’t it, and before the week ended, I’d loaded up a team of Belgians and headed to town. A buddy followed with the hay wagon and we reconnoitered by the Forest Service offices with some local musicians.

Headed east on Main, I glanced up just in time to see the mare’s headstall come apart, the bit dangling to the side, clearly not in her mouth. Quick action was required to prevent a runaway, and I hollered “Whoa!” before the mare even realized the change in tack. A leather strap corrected the situation, and we headed down Main with renewed vigor, totally aware that dodging such a disaster made us impervious to the usual rules of human endeavor.

We popped some beers, dug the guitars out of their cases and began to pick up a crowd near the Hotel Jerome, lazy afternoon folks looking for something to do. A couple of bikini-clad ladies jumped up and put the moves on every street we covered. Another gal asked if we could meet her over by No Problem Bridge and took off on the run. By the time we circled around, she was coming up the hill with three or four goats.

Word was out and people began looking for us, waving and whistling as we clip-clopped by. The goats seemed to like the commotion better than anyone and soon were jumping on and off the hay wagon with gay abandon, bleating out a certain degree of excitement, tinged with confusion. My cavalier attitude toward the goats made their owner a little nervous and she wasn’t sure if she’d done the right thing, but she stuck with us.

My cousin, Clyde Vagneur, known to be flamboyant, spotted our little shindig and jumped aboard in front of the Elks Club. He grabbed the lines, gave a big whistle to the team, and we thundered down the mall at a gallopolus gait. The cops soon arrived, but just to oversee the excitement, and it all stayed friendly.

With our entourage still in tow and the hay wagon loaded to capacity we headed west and home. Well-known town character, Baltimore Jim, was leading the procession, laying down a line of BS on the public address system connected to his Toyota Land Cruiser.

Baltimore Jim and I, who were occasionally used to meeting up either as the late-afternoon sun burnished the hallowed halls of the Hickory House or just inside the old Red Onion bar, usually had the same conversation. We were going to buy an elephant, mostly to ride to Snowmass Lake. We thought the trail users were getting too numerous and aggressive and needed to give up some right-of-way.

It’s worthy to note that Baltimore and I both quit drinking, which has no doubt benefited the town because sober, that plan and others we concocted never seemed to materialize.

Baltimore was walking outside of his Toyota, yakking away on the end of a microphone cord probably 25-feet long, once-in-a-while steering the vehicle back on course when it began to wander to either side. I was a little put out that he was upstaging my Belgians with such nonsense, and with propitious timing, sidled up the passenger side of his still-moving Toyota and locked Baltimore out of his vehicle.

It started drifting toward Main Street Bakery, and the look on his face when he realized he’d been locked out was worth the whole prank. The thing with a guy like Baltimore though, is that he’s prepared for any contingency, and the spare key he’d hidden probably saved us all a lot of explaining.

We made it home without anyone getting arrested or hurt.


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