Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
The behavior police haven’t quite gotten it off the ground with their request for a $50,000 donation and their attempt to make Aspen bland as oatmeal, but their recent quote, “There are some things we just don’t do in Aspen,” already is having an effect on my life. I mean, there are a couple of things I already know not to do, such as ski Aspen Mountain on weekends or get anywhere near downtown Aspen on the Fourth of July.
Imagine my horror when Tom Yoder, of Kemo Sabe, slipped an email through my spam filter asking if I’d ride in the July 4 parade with him. Tom is a friend, a refreshing breath of cowboy spirit and always has good-looking horses (and women) in the parade, so his request piqued my curiosity, but I can’t deny that my blood began to run a little cold, and my knees felt weak, wondering how I could say no. Turned out it was a trick question – he wanted me to ride on his 1928 prison truck, replete with iron bars, while playing my accordion.
If you’ve been following this column at all, you know that for the past 20 years, my accordion and I fairly well have stuck to funerals and a one-time affair at the Community Church, not exactly what you’d call widespread exposure. Parades, on the other hand, are about fun, the limelight and opportunity, so I cornered my good friend, rancher and music icon, Buck Deane, figuring that after some of the musical venues he’s dragged me to, he’d have to join this crazy mission. Besides, Buck has ridden more horses in more Aspen parades than most, and you can’t sneeze at experience like that, especially when you’re tagged to ride on the hood of a historical penitentiary-style truck.
The last time I rode in the parade was in the ’80s sometime, when Red Rowland and I won Best Horseback Entry, a purely superfluous honor. For Buck, it was longer ago than that, but we remembered how it all goes. “Get there early,” is just common sense, so we wandered toward town around 10 a.m., figuring we’d park right in front of Kemo Sabe.
Guess what? Ten ain’t early no more. Good Lord, there were about a hundred lawnchairs already in place around the Catholic Church and on down the sidewalks toward the Jerome. A later conversation with law enforcement (prison truck, remember?) revealed that many of the lawn chairs started showing up around 7 a.m. What’s next, camping out the night before?
What can I say? It was a helluva ride, from one end of town to the other and back. Buck and I sat on the front fenders, on either side of the engine, leaning against the windshield, blocking the driver’s view (Diana, who did a great job), and immediately discovered that not only was it difficult to hear each other over the roar of the finely tuned engine, it was hotter than hell. Perfect ingredients for a good parade, and we ducked our heads, hung on to our instruments (and hats) through the herky-jerky engagement of a clutch and driveline from days gone by and had a great time.
Just like the old days, we busted into the Red Onion to celebrate our success, only this time we drank sodas and iced tea and enjoyed a good lunch. As luck would have it, people we hadn’t seen for years managed to come by our table, guys and gals we grew up with, skied and played football with. “I knew if I walked around long enough, I’d see you guys,” was the comment from a couple of them. You gotta love it.
I guess the “behavior police” don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. If we’d listened to them, we would have never shown up for the parade, and that would’ve been a tragedy. Many thanks to Tom Yoder and Kemo Sabe for the invitation; to my good friend Buck Deane for playing along with an offbeat request; and thanks also to my neighborhood buddy Ed Pfab who stayed home that day and got my hay baled just before it rained.
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