Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore |

Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore

Tony VagneurThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

It’s kind of a rush, and I suppose if you ask the mayor, he might elaborate, but when you see a stranger riding your bike through town, your head turns quickly. He sailed by fast, so we thought it best to follow the guy and get a positive bike ID before making a scene about the whole deal. My buddy and I were 13 years old and our minds were full of thoughts on how to deal with such a situation. We were on foot and it never occurred to us that we could be outrun. The “bike thief” ducked into Beck and Bishop’s grocery and we gave the rig a quick once-over, ascertaining that it certainly was mine. A very scary-looking man abruptly came out and reclaimed the bike, knocking us off our train of thought. We plotted to follow the guy home and “steal” the bike back.That bike was my pride and joy, and had come to me the hard way. I’d spotted it in the Sears catalog and couldn’t get it out of my mind. It was an innovative three-speed, just like a Raleigh, and for the unheard of high price of $59.95 cash, they’d ship it direct. Not only did it have an enclosed hub gear system (“High, Medium, Low”), it had a headlamp that was powered by a magneto pressed against the front tire, a kick stand, front and back fenders, a chain guard, and handlebar mounted brake levers. I was 11. We were responsible for buying our own toys, so I’d devised a great scheme to raise the money, which in this day of instant satisfaction, may seem insane. I rented 5 acres from my dad and raised a crop of top-quality Burbank potatoes. I could sell them in town for $10 per hundred pounds, and I sold a few bags that way, getting my grandmother to pose as delivery driver. The market was limited, and after an unusually cold winter (which froze many of the potatoes, stored in the ranch cellar), I ended up selling the rest to a Utah wholesaler for cheap. It took a year to play out, and after paying my father what I considered an exorbitant sum for land, machinery and hired hand rental, I’d earned enough for my dream bike, putting a pittance of change into an account at the Pitkin County Bank, over where the Ute City Banque used to be. Of course, all that fancy stuff like the fenders and three-speed gear system didn’t last but about a summer. There weren’t any bike shops in town except for Freddie Fisher’s fix-it shop, so we were fairly well left to our own devices as far as keeping the things running. By the time it was stolen, it’s suave maroon color had been spray-painted black; it’d been stripped to the bare essentials, its handlebars turned around and neatly rolled with adhesive tape, and naturally (and luckily) the gears were stuck in “high,” which meant it was a little slow to start, but could still fly like the wind. We thought we might need a gun, or at least a big knife, based on the appearance of the bike thief. Squinty eyes that shifted from side to side, thin lips that never smiled, a scraggly beard and a “get-out-of-my-way” attitude signaled danger to our young minds. We pursued him to the Riverside trailer park, behind what is now the Eagles Club, and watched him park the bike inside his house. “No possibility of stealing it now,” we reasoned and settled on a more direct confrontation. Knock, knock.He’d found it alongside Woody Creek Road, he said, and thought it had been abandoned. He couldn’t have known that I’d parked it there while helping with some ranch project and had not immediately retrieved it. A mistake, on both our parts, and I felt bad for the guy, almost thinking I should give him the bike. But I didn’t.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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