Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore | AspenTimes.com

Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore

Tony Vagneur
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The energy level was already near the bursting point before it even got started, a Halloween party at the infamous Aspen Inn nightclub. Buck Deane and the Buckin’ Strings were headlining the show – Jim McCabe on stand-up bass, Oakie on drums, Otto singin’ and poundin’ the keyboard, with Buck yodeling and leading the vocals.

Except, Buck was missing from the stage and there appeared to be some confusion about getting started: To add to it, there was a large cardboard box at the back of the stage that Oakie was a bit spooked of, but nobody seemed inclined to move it so the band shrugged and got started without further ado. The place immediately began to sway, vibrate and rub itself together, so anxious was the crowd for some action.

Drinking schnapps through a rubber mask that covered my entire head, I incautiously spilled half of it down my front, gluing the knot in my borrowed, elegant cowboy tie together, as I later discovered. About a quarter way through the first set, the cardboard box began to move and suddenly, Buck poked his head out the top, profusely sweating and looking like he’d been sat on by the proverbial operatic fat lady.

I’d taped him in there well before the crowd arrived, so keen were we on keeping his “costume” a secret, and standing in there for such a long time with a guitar and microphone damned near killed him for lack of air. Anyway, the crowed roared, and in the distraction, a girl standing next to me ran her hand under my shirt and bit my shoulder, saying “I know who you are.” With that, I jerked the mask off my head and the party was on.

A different Halloween, we were standing in the Red Onion entryway, just past the Latta sign, using the divider over the steam register as an arm rest. We had on some awesome masks, and began to attract others, anonymous behind their attire, but it was slowly turning into an affair of intimidation, composed of pushing and shoving and ugly body language; we figured we ought to know some of these people, but really, we had no idea who they were. Tempers were flaring and it looked like an early fight might break out, so to cool it down, we spread out along the bar.

My buddy, whose initials might have been JC (he’s like the other JC, the one of Biblical fame, a nice guy, but to offer comparisons beyond that would be the epitome of blasphemy), asked me to hold his beer for a minute, and he bounded down the street after a couple of those who had been particularly obnoxious. I can’t tell you the number of times someone asked me to hold his beer in the Onion, the end result generally being (as I watched) a physical skirmish of some kind. They always retrieved the beer as though nothing had happened.

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In almost a heartbeat, JC was back, but he was thinking out loud he might have picked on the wrong bunch: the big guy had hit him from behind and it still hurt like hell. “Where’d he hit ya,” was the obvious question as JC moved his right arm around like he was working a cramp out of his trapezius. “My neck is killing me,” he said, “that guy really slammed me hard.”

We turned him around a little to get a better view, and spied the knife handle sticking up in the air about four inches, the blade almost totally buried in JC’s shoulder/neck. A couple of guys took him to the hospital while the rest of us looked, in vain, for his assailant.

As it turned out, it wasn’t that big a deal, at least to everyone besides JC. The stabbing had miraculously missed most everything of importance, such as arteries, bones and nerves, and life went on, but it still serves as a solemn reminder to use a bit of caution on Halloween.

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