Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
It was one of those nights, looked forward to with anticipation by some; others, like me, just ended up there by happenstance. Playing cards was never my forte, especially after my grandmother somehow conned me into playing Canasta for most of one summer when I was still too young to forcefully refuse.
Poker, on the other hand, is a challenge that has less to do with cards than it does with an ability to remain steely-eyed and calm, even as you’re peeing down your leg with excitement at a hand so rare as to be unbeatable. Being able to read an opponent’s body language is a must, and somewhere in there is a bit of luck, but most good luck, as we know, is made by those who know how to stack the odds.
We were at Bill Patterson’s house on Mountain View Drive, just off Cemetery Lane, and along with decks of cards that had never been played there were bottles of whiskey that had yet to be drunk. We started in about midnight, it seems, and the players changed somewhat during the next two or three hours, in conjunction with the closing of the bars, until about 3 a.m. when we got down to a dedicated group of crazy bastards unwilling to quit.
Around 9 a.m., we were out of whiskey and with the brightness of the spring sun decided to drive to town and open up the Eagles Club a little early (a couple of us had keys). Nothing like a continuation of the night before to convince your peers that you really are over the top.
My buddy Bob had just bought a new car for his wife, and in fact, had stopped off at the poker game on his way home from Denver, so she hadn’t seen it yet. Heading in, I had a couple of neighbor gals in my car (they didn’t want to miss the party), and Bob and I started doing figure-eights down Main, beginning at the Hickory House.
That wasn’t a good idea, as just alongside Paepcke Park, across from Sardy’s Mortuary, Bob rear-ended a tourist car with an unfriendly couple inside. Peering like the worst gadabouts, me and my girls drove slowly by, with Jeannie reaching up from the backseat to lay on the horn, as if that would help.
We drove around the block and stopped to assess the situation. The tourist’s car had hardly a scratch on it, but Bob’s brand-new beauty fairly well had the front caved in. I made the observation that since Bob clearly got the worst of it, maybe we should all just go our separate ways and forget about the matter. But, the tourist lady claimed pain in her neck, and although it seemed totally contrived, there wasn’t much arguing with that.
However, I’d had a good night at the poker table and pulled a huge slew of bills out of my pocket, a wad big enough to choke a horse, and offered it to the man in the tourist car, just to test his resolve. He turned his nose up at my offer and insisted we call the cops.
Definitely, this was going to take a little more finesse than I had so far displayed, and as I contemplated my next move, the cops drove up. Down came the window and a fellow Aspen High School alumnus greeted us with a big grin under his cowboy hat, “You boys got a problem here?”
Feeling like we had a chance to avoid scrutiny, my reply was, “No sir, we just stopped to water the cows. We’re getting ready to move out.” With that, the cops drove off and the man from out of town knew he’d been beaten at his own game.
I put the roll of money back in my pocket, helped Bob pull the grill off his radiator, and we all headed east on Main, as if nothing had happened.
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