Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Harried might have been my feeling, as a couple of buddies, who at the time owned the Woody Creek Tavern, talked me into delaying a coveted trip into the mountains to become an accordion-playing polka meister at a long-awaited Oktoberfest party.
I forwent the lederhosen and stuck with my usual attire, which may have put me somewhat out of sync with the main group, a loose-knit affiliation of disparate motorcycle mavens and lumberjacks from the valley whose forte was rock ‘n’ roll. My accordion and I filled our niche with fervored festivity and gave the scene some Bavarian flavor, even though most of the polkas were Polish. We didn’t see it coming at the time, but this particular party set the stage for the following New Year’s Eve extravaganza that soon enough turned bloody and ugly, but that’s another column.
Basically, I finished my gig early, bowing out to let the principal band take the music wherever it pulled them. My main memory of the evening was of a very tall and buxom biker babe with a large, intricate tattoo covering most of her back, right down to the top of her low-slung leather pants. Her soft, silky, black hair fell below her hips, forcing her to coax it aside to display the artful design. For whatever reason, she kept her eyes on me and covered my mouth with a delicious lip-lock whenever the opportunity presented itself. She had full, sensuous lips that were impossible to ignore and the sweet, wet kisses lasted for long and pleasurable interludes. Never did we exchange so much as a word between us.
Despite my good intentions, all of that fooling around kept me out too late and I drank far more than reasonable, which considerably delayed my departure for the mountains the next day. A nasty hangover had parked itself over my being like a veil of deep depression and I moved slowly.
Overnight, a winter storm had blown into the valley, and it was with a bit of trepidation that my good mount Willie and I, leading a sure-footed pack horse, left from the ranch around four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s a steep climb in altitude to our cow camp, and the farther up the mountain we traveled, the more intense the storm became. Just as twilight turned to dusk, we entered a meadow close above the cabin, where the low clouds and blowing snow howled around and under the horses, making it impossible to see the trail ahead.
There was the familiar sting of excitement burning in my chest as I bucked the elements, traveling alone and feeling the danger. Pulling up in front of the lonely, dark cabin, opaque shadows were the only discernible shapes, and I was beyond caring that I might fall over when dismounting, simply from the cold in my bones. Then, just as my right foot touched down, a group of nearby coyotes let out their mournful, quavering wails, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. “Please, let this moment last,” was my thought as I hung tight to the saddle, but it was over almost as soon as it began.
With focused energy, I managed to take care of my horses, got a nice, warm fire going and cooked a little dinner, making my pallet up as I worked. Fitfully, sleep came and went, and I looked out into the stygian abyss often, gauging the depth of the snow, which eventually topped three feet.
I’d wander back to bed and slowly drift off, caressing the memory of a beautiful woman who draped her legs around a different breed of horse and whose tattooed trunk and voluptuous lips had become a peaceful, sleep-inducing enigma in the midst of a raging storm and throbbing hangover.
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