Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore |

Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore

“This is 9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

And thus, the Pandora’s box of an unknown journey is opened.

“I’m in Hay Park, and my buddy is down with a definite shoulder injury and a possible closed-head injury.”

Trying to be helpful, I gave up our names when asked and further tried to define our position, it being obvious the dispatcher had no idea where Hay Park was. When she said such a location was not on her map, inferring I might be incorrect, I gave her a calm, “I hate to tell you, but it’s near the base of Mount Sopris. I could climb the son-of-a-bitch from here.” With that, she rang me through to a sheriff’s deputy. Now, by God, we’ll get something done.

As an EMT, I used to work with Mountain Rescue Aspen and have participated in more than a few deliverances from the brink. It was always easy to take the call requesting my services, and the answer was most always in the affirmative. There’s a certain excitement in figuring out the logistics of getting something done, especially when time is of the essence and the rewards for helping someone in need are great, just in personal satisfaction alone. For me, the thought process paralleled the Golden Rule – provide the assistance as though you were the one in need. But now the tables were turned, and I was given a new perspective.

It’s the little things that can screw up an operation of the most meticulous kind, things you might never think of, such as having a charged-up cell phone in your possession. Cell phone service is sporadic in the mountains, and I had to travel all over hell to finally get a signal.

Then, and I’m sure there are good reasons for this, the sheriff’s office kept a leash on me. The deputy said, “Check back in 20 minutes,” to which I replied, “No, I’m not gonna do that. My friend is seriously hurt and I’m going back to check on him.” We got all that worked out, but it takes an inordinate amount of time on the phone, provided you have one, so keep your battery charged. If you’re like me and don’t use a map, carry one anyway, just to avoid arguments with the dispatcher.

For the last time, I checked in with my injured friend, which mostly involved saying I had to leave once again to intersect with the expected arrival of the first responder team, about a mile distant. There’s no more bullshit now – the rain must fall as it will, bringing hail if it wishes, and we can’t worry about it for I’m stuck in one place waiting for rescuers and my buddy in another, barely able to move, left to his own devices to protect himself.

The rescuers are expected to appear from the west, but briefly I hear faint engine noises from the north. “Might be a plane,” I think, wondering who would be flying in such low visibility. But wait, there’s an old jeep road in that direction; oh yeah, that’s a rescue team who took a shortcut to get here. My horse starts acting up at the vision of an all-terrain vehicle and I don’t care, for my smile’s a wide one. The boots on the ground have arrived. Damned right, these folks know what they’re doing. Jody Anthes and David Brown from Western Eagle County Search and Rescue are first on the scene, followed shortly by the Mountain Rescue medical team. I tell ’em where we need to go and they nod with the knowledge of years of experience, and we’re off.

I’ve been seriously traveling the mountains around Aspen/Basalt for at least 55 years, and I’ve never called for help before. It’s a sweet feeling to know there are Mountain Rescue/WESAR personnel who will quickly and competently come to your aid, with a smile on their faces. We should all be wise enough to send them a generous donation.

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