Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
Come sit a spell and tell me what youve been up to. My great-aunt Marie Stapleton, in her 80s and who for generations was generically called Aunt Wee, always wanted me to take time out from my very important schedule to fill her in on my comings and goings. These requests started during my high school years, and I can honestly say my heart wasnt in it.Hers was an exhortation reminiscent of the way things used to be done in Aspen, which is to say, making time to get together with your friends and acquaintances, just to visit. Oh, sure, you do that today you say, but I dont think so. Not like it used to be done.Before you rummage too deeply into the vortex of your memory, remember that visits of the kind Im speaking of most often happen without the aid of alcohol, or other mind-altering enhancements.Some days, I go to City Market in El Jebel and see tons of people I know. Its possible to catch up on lifes events in every aisle of the place, and sometimes, after Ive spent an hour or more yakking away, I put the empty cart back and leave, thinking Ill return when it isnt so crowded. Its kind of like Aspen Drug used to be. But that happenstance of events is still not what Im talking about.Imagine, in any neighborhood, eight to 10 ladies perched about the living room, utilizing every available spot, including the piano bench and a couple of chairs from around the kitchen table. Politely, they chat about everything thats happened in their domains since the last time they met. Theyre sipping tea, munching on homemade cookies or other delicacies, and even though not dressed to go out on the town, are spiffed up in something special. There are no cell phones to distract them, no text messages or e-mails from kids or spouses, and the television, even if there was one, would never be turned on. They are visiting.These ladies generally needed something to draw them together, but it didnt have to be much. A girl I know talks about getting sweaty palms and feeling physical pain when contemplating the necessity of visiting for more than a few minutes. Imagine her youth, growing up with a mother in the Northern latitudes, one who used to organize a neighborhood cookie exchange once a month or so. Everyone brought a dozen cookies and took a dozen cookies home. And while they counted cookies, there was a lot of catching up to do, obviously to the discomfort of the above-mentioned friend. The women of Woody Creek used to belong to a group called the Ladies Aid Society, a consortium of ranchers wives who made quilts and other tailor-made articles for people somewhere else, people who apparently needed the stuff worse than the ladies in Woody Creek. Back in those days, most people had trouble finding two nickels to rub together, but homemade treats along with needles and thread made for a grand evening of visiting.If ever there was what you could call a queen visiter, it would have to be Prue Bogue, who ran the Woody Creek Store for years with her husband, Jess. When they sold the store and moved to Basalt, Prue missed her Woody Creek friends, and would have what I called marathon visits at her Basalt house. For hours, my mother and other ladies would sit around the living room in Prues red brick house at the end of Main, talking about everyone recently born and who had died, and everything in between. We upvalley kids got bored hanging around the front yard and spread out, making downvalley friends, as well as getting reprimanded by some of Prues neighbors for acting like kids.The tragedies, triumphs and mundanities of life were played out in stories told by the participants, or those close to them, unlike todays sound and vision bytes of 60 seconds or less.
Tony Vagneur writes here every Saturday and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“If I was moving through the herd, the others would begin walking away, some of them at a jog, taking their calves with them, but the big brown ungulate would face me sideways, reluctant to move, not wanting to give any ground,” writes Tony Vagneur.