Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It started out as one of those innocuous trips to Denver, just for a little fun, and I guess in the end, that’s what we had. I was traveling with an Aspen gal who fancied herself a cowgirl on some level (and she made a good one, at that), but who also liked a shot of city from time to time.
Every woman travels differently, and since the journey was her idea, I mainly drove, took directions, and tried to look as handsome as possible. There’s a lot to see on the way, but we mostly took advantage of a well-hidden Mexican joint for lunch and then checked out a couple of historical buildings for sale in Leadville.
Late afternoon, we got settled into one of those high-rise hotels near downtown, snuggled in for a nap, and by the time we’d finished a great Italian dinner somewhere up north, it was time to head for the night’s entertainment, an evening at the Grizzly Rose, line-dancing capital of the eastern slope.
I’d rather have a root canal than go back, but for that night, it provided a wealth of information about what the redneck element does in Denver, at least those who have a few bucks. Wrangler doesn’t make those jeans for cowboys – they make ’em for people who go to places like the Rose.
Like most visits to Denver, you always see someone from home, and this night was no exception. My companion ran into an Aspen friend who coincidentally had plenty of the capsulated drug of choice for the evening, whatever that was. I witnessed the exchange, but no one was talking and anyway, you wouldn’t waste good pharmacy like that on an ungrateful cowboy. Within the space of 30 minutes, this woman who’d had a total of three tequila shots, beer back, could barely walk and took the better part of an hour to tell me she was having fun.
I’ve had a few hangovers in my life, but I’m awfully sure I never had one to compete with what I witnessed the next morning. It was agony to watch what the combination of alcohol and drugs had done to her usually fiery persona. We hurriedly packed and left, no looking back.
We had one more stop to make, a call on a friend of mine who owns one of those shiny office buildings that sports huge, tall windows fronting the parking lot. Since my lady friend was draped across the seat asleep, I foolishly left the keys in the ignition and went inside. A chair in the lobby contained my frame while I absent-mindedly thumbed through a magazine, waiting to be directed into my friend’s office.
A flash of movement suddenly caught my eye and I looked up to see the front of my truck bounce over the concrete parking stop, wheels about 2 feet in the air and headed directly toward the wall of glass. Momentarily and strangely soundless, it was clear the calm serenity of the inner sanctum was about to be vigorously stirred. It didn’t seem necessary for me to move, not just yet, but it’s incredible how many thoughts can go through your mind in the space of a couple of seconds.
Somehow, the resounding crash didn’t register, nor did I turn to avoid the explosion of splintered glass that was sure to follow. Instead, like awaking from a dream, all was quiet and subdued, as it should be. My truck, incredibly, had stopped about 2 inches short of the glass.
How can that happen, you say? The lady inside had semiconsciously reached up to start the truck and get the air conditioner going, not checking to see if the manual transmission was in gear. Miraculously, and to her credit, she hit the brake pedal with her hand just hard enough to kill the engine. Disaster was averted.
She’s still a looker, but that might have been our last sojourn together.
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