Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore | AspenTimes.com

Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore

Tony Vagneur
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

If it wasn’t for the fierce marital argument, one of our better ones with a soon-forgotten reason, I’d have never discovered the place as I did. It’s right there on both sides of the trail, never to be missed, and I’d traveled through there at least a hundred times, without perceiving the true spirit of the setting. At least, not until that night.

I came across this stand of great lodgepole pine in a manner similar to Ichabod Crane meeting up with the legendary Headless Horseman, only it was in the neighborhood of Woody Creek, not Sleepy Hollow. At an hour well past the tolling of the midnight bell, and in an attempt to escape the fury of the good woman’s ire, my trusty steeds and I were rattling along in the dark, the horses clearly into the adventure by the speed with which they walked, and my desultory mood slowly being elevated by the appearance of a silvery, large moon teasing the world with its shy emergence.

This grove of pine has an aura of mystery about it, could even be called a bit shuddery, this place I now call Headless Horseman Woods. Oh, in the interest of base intellectualism, I used to call it the Ichabod Crane Woods, but really, that name doesn’t fully resonate with the spooky atmosphere one experiences when traveling through this area.

Besides, not many folks are called Ichabod and it’s a difficult name to summon from the recesses of one’s mind. Many years ago, one of our employees was commonly referred to as Ich (or was that Ick – I could never be certain) by all the others. Surely his real name must be Ichabod or at least Icarus, I thought, but like some workers before him, it was David.

It was, I suspect, about three in the morning, and as the light from God’s orb above began to wash through the tall, proud standing trees, creating eerie shadows everywhere, a wave of perceived danger passed through my being, chilling me down to the bone.

Thoughts of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow coursed through my mind, and as a red-tailed hawk, disturbed from its nocturnal perch in a skeletalized tree, screeched its displeasure at my presence, thundering hoof beats could be heard coming from around the bend. In annoyance at the state of my own marital alliance, I had a pang of jealously over the thought that a young, wealthy coquette had rejected laughable, superstitious Ichabod Crane’s proposal of marriage and turned him out into the night where he eventually crossed paths with the Headless Horseman, or the Galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as he was sometimes called.

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Lucky Ichabod, I reasoned, just as something appearing to be in the shape of a human head flashed across the trail in front of us, moonlight dancing from its dusky shadow as it bounced across the path and through the trees, disappearing over the ridge on my right. And then as I turned slightly, naturally, I saw it, the dreaded man upon his horse, shoulders hunched into the hollowness where his head should have been, cowboy hat flat against his acephalous form, and the ridiculousness of it all flooded my hazy brain.

Some have said it was but a rabbit that randomly crossed my path, appearing as a bobbling head at the precise moment a rustling breeze created the resemblance of resounding hoof beats in the distance. By now you must think it was I, the horseman without a head, caught just right in the shadows cast upon the gladed wood. Perhaps.

Just the other day, there was nothing but blue in the sky above and as I worked feverishly to clear some beetle-killed trees from the dark, dank shadows that always lurk in the very woodland I have just described, my daughter happened along, to see if she could be of assistance. “Dad, let’s hurry. This place is creepy.”

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