Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
Aspen, CO, Colorado
It was one of those picture-postcard nights in Aspen, big snowflakes coming down, visibility low, and even though those photos capture the beauty of the moment, they never fully grasp the emotion that goes with reality. It’s surprising how quickly things can go to hell.
A group of us had gathered at the Red Onion for an after-work drink or two when someone had the brilliant idea to head down to the Paragon for some music and a little dancing. There was a cover charge, holding up the line for a few minutes, and while everyone ogled the interior, shuffling and stomping the snow off, I looked back into the Hyman Avenue mall just in time to see a couple of guys pummeling one of our group.
I’m no fighter, not by a long shot, but common sense was overpowered by my sense of outrage at the unfairness of the situation. I flew across the mall and dove into the fray, poking fists and swinging elbows everywhere. At that point, we had an even fight going, even though my buddy already was bloodied up from the earlier, uneven odds. Just when things started to get interesting, the arriving sound of a police siren scared the cowards off, and they began to run like roaches exposed to light.
We had ’em dead to rights if they didn’t get away, and before they got a couple of steps out, I had one in each hand, holding them for the cops. The guy on my right was struggling like a newly incarcerated inmate trying to avoid initiation in a prison shower, and soon I was left with nothing in that hand but a cheap, empty ski jacket.
The other miscreant, the uglier of the two, was held with a better-located grip and didn’t stand a chance of getting away. The newly hired cop, incorrectly thinking I had started the brouhaha, boomed out, “Let him go!” You can’t be serious? “Bullshit,” was my well-thought-out reply, and I hung on even tighter. “Let him go,” came a second order, which was once again ignored.
I’ve never had much luck with the police, and perhaps my subconscious mind was replaying the night based on a totally erroneous tip, that my brother was stopped for suspicion of transporting illegal drugs. As a passenger in the car, which belonged to me, I was handcuffed, too. After a thorough search of the auto, which left it almost totally undriveable, the cops sped off, thoroughly pissed that they hadn’t found anything to arrest us for.
Not liking my lack of response, the cop went for nasty, and a well-placed and solidly swung nightstick found its mark on my forearm, which immediately relaxed my grip, allowing the second SOB to take off at a dead run. I was more than a little angry at the law for letting the guy get away, and that, coupled with the pain in my arm, brought out a sincerely delivered, “F*** you.”
Obviously a miscommunication, as they say, and even though two guys had attacked my buddy in the middle of the mall and I had merely intervened to protect him from harm (and in the interest of fairness), I was the one being seated in the police car. It’s hard to imagine, but a further string of invectives and denunciations from my side of the issue continued to flood the cop’s ears.
He was getting ready to throw me in a cell when my good friend Charlie Holloway, who worked for the Sheriff’s Office, happened down the hall. Charlie gave me some sorely needed credibility by explaining to the cop that I likely was telling the truth and it wouldn’t serve any good to lock me up. Still, the cop kept me in the office for about another hour, letting me calm down, I reckon.
The two villains were never seen again, probably to everyone’s good luck, and the cop and I, even though both blessed with an intense dislike of the other, tried hard to get along. Undoubtedly my friend told what started the scuffle, but that’s long-forgotten now. Sometimes there’s no justice, and all we’re left with is the story.
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