Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore |

Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore

Tony Vagneur
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

In our ordered world, there is never a good explanation for improbable happenings, those strange occurrences that feel like they were meant to happen, but leave us wondering why. The nebulous world of coincidence is one that takes a certain amount of adventuresome spirit to enjoy, and we can never know for certain if an event in our lives has been fully coincided, or if our offspring may wonder, years later, at the completion of a seemingly random and simple escapade that profoundly affects their lives.

The package arrived weeks late, in a tattered and strangely pieced together box. It was supposed to contain a pair of L. L. Bean Sorel boots, and should have arrived just before Thanksgiving. Instead, it arrived the week before Christmas, carelessly taped together, and when opened contained one Sorel boot, a pair of Levis and a family Bible. Not something you would forget. Obviously, two boxes had broken open and in the rush of Christmas season, no attention was paid to the contents and the orders were repackaged in a most haphazard fashion.

L.L. Bean sent me another pair of boots and life went on as usual until, a couple of years later, I fortuitously ended up in a friendly bar in Hazelton, Iowa. I interjected my tale of the errant boots into a conversation about the vagaries of the postal service and one of the guys looked at me, incredulously. That same year, he’d received a lone Sorel boot for Christmas instead of the jeans and Bible he was expecting from his mother. What can you say? We drank until closing, admiring the striking synchronism of the situation.

More mundanely, but just as similar, I’d been fishing off a houseboat in Hall’s Creek in Lake Powell. Like all good partygoers, I’d left the baited line in the water, the rod propped up against an engine on the stern of the vessel. Drinking beer on the front deck, I heard a strange noise rearward, and ran to discover that some humongous water creature, most likely a catfish, had dragged pole and reel into the murky depths.

A few exploratory free dives yielded no resolving results, and early in the morning we headed for the San Juan and a week of notorious fun and screwing around. We had guitars, accordions, tanned bikini-clad women, talented spoon players and enough beer and whiskey to extinguish any anguish there was over a lost rod and reel. A borrowed one, at that.

Coming back, we docked the houseboat at approximately the same place as when we began our journey, and like a misbegotten diehard, I began casting off the back of the boat, whiling away the time. I hooked into something apparently huge, and after a certain amount of miscued excitement, began to crank with the trepidation of knowing there would be some form of disgusting trash on the other end. By now you know it was the rod and reel that I’d lost a week earlier. A coup of the rarest kind.

Last week, a friend sent me a book that looks remarkably like one I might write – not in content certainly, but in format, and I’ve been reasonably glued to it at lunch. She sends me stuff from time to time, so it seemed reasonable to ask, “Why?” “You’ll never believe it,” she said, “but unprovoked, it fell from the bookcase, directly at my feet, a book I’d totally forgotten about, and immediately knew I must send to you.”

There may be some scary implications here, beyond the inevitability that seems so intuitively obvious, but I don’t have time to worry about it. I’m still looking for that Bible to send to my newfound drinking buddy in Iowa.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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