Tony Vagneur: Saddle sore |

Tony Vagneur: Saddle sore

Tony Vagneur
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

From my perspective, I had the best of both worlds growing up. My main bunk was on the ranch in Woody Creek, and I had weekend accommodations at my maternal grandmother’s house on West Bleeker. Basically, this allowed me to dodge a lot of parental oversight on those days and nights when such management might have been the most needed.

Probably no one appreciated the fragility of this state of affairs more than my father, who usually found himself at the mercy of my mother, in-laws and circumstances, so even though he would have required my presence at home on a more regular basis, he usually relented and allowed me to spend weekends in town.

One particular weekend, my dad informed me I could ski on Saturday, but not Sunday.

Usually, I had the wherewithal to respect a direct request like that, but as Sunday rolled around, blue skies and fresh powder made it totally apparent that I was going to ignore common familial sense. Grandma didn’t know the score, or if she did, she kept it to herself, and by the time the lifts opened, I was at the front of the line. I was 10 years old.

I don’t remember a lot about that day, other than I knew I had to be back at my grandmother’s house by 3 p.m., the established time that she drove me out to the top of the Woody Creek hill, where I would be picked up by my father.

Life was grand, I thought, as I blasted through the Bingo Slot and out onto Little Nell. It’s always been a little dicey roaring out the bottom of Bingo, more so in the old days, and of course, I managed a big yard sale right under the Little Nell lift. One long thong broke, and off sailed a Cortina ski, the blonde ones with the vertical black stripes running their full length. It soared to the right of Schuss Gully, and no matter how hard my friends and I looked, we couldn’t find the damned ski. Time was running short, as the hour had approached for me to make the appointed intercept with my father.

Until then, I had clearly gotten away with skiing on the forbidden Sunday, but now, with the lost ski, there was no escaping a serious conversation with my dad. The only thing worse than telling your father you compromised the bond of trust built over the years between the two of you is having your father discover such dishonorable behavior without any input on your part. Thus, I forged ahead with my story. He responded with a grunt, and while he was still grinding his teeth on that, I hit him with the big one. It was supposed to snow the next couple of days, and if I didn’t “get out there tomorrow,” a school day, the ski might not be found until spring. As usual, I saw it coming, the predictable backhand, the one he never could land, even though he was a championship boxer on the University of Colorado boxing team. And, just barely, I was smart enough to never pose the question, “If you were such a great boxer, how come you can’t ever connect with a backhand?”

It was a stone-silent ride the rest of the way home, and I wondered if I’d ever be able to ski again. Fortunately, I’d been doing well in school, and even though he was on the board of education, he figured the lost ski was a problem that needed our serious attention.

Pretty cool, you might think. I was forgiven the egregiousness of skiing on Sunday, plus I was given the opportunity to take a day off from school to find my lost ski.

Yeah, pretty cool, until you realize that once repatriated, those skis were put on the back porch by my dad, with strict instructions that they weren’t to be moved for a month. And since I wasn’t skiing, he figured I might as well stay home and help him feed the cows every weekend.

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