Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I came to this world by way of Woody Creek (and the womb, of course), and even though a considerable amount of my childhood was spent at my maternal grandmother’s house on West Bleeker, I’ve only ever lived within the Aspen city limits for a year or two.
A guy named Jarrett and I shared a house on Waters Avenue, owned by the famous (or infamous, depending on your take) Marty Schlumberger. Being a “townie” had certain advantages that I cherished and others that posed a threat to my safety, but all in all, those were good days.
The worst, I suppose, were the occasional drunken crackpots who’d follow me home from the bars with the idea of stomping my butt. For whatever reason, they’d get it in for me; old slights, wise-guy remarks, or think I was someone else, and I’d have to listen to their miserable moans all the way home, “I’m gonna kick your ass,” etc. It never happened. Sometimes, there were jealous boyfriends, but that’s another story.
Cell phones were no closer than the imaginations of sci-fi aficionados, home computers didn’t exist, and personal interaction was an active part of our daily lives. Like the Wintersköl night I stopped by the Pub to see what was happening. My roommate, who’d arrived there sometime earlier, told me not to be surprised, “some Ute Indian women” were going to be “staying at our house.” Well, of course they were. In the celebrations around town, I forgot all about that piece of information until I opened the front door.
Those gals had the place blacked-out, not a glimmer of light to be seen except what slipped through the door, which I had, in my ignorance, immediately closed behind me. Even in my partially inebriated state, my breath wouldn’t come and I could sense life besides myself in the room. From what I slowly ascertained within the dark shadows, they were sitting in chairs with impossibly straight backs, blankets wrapped tightly around themselves, and fully awake at my arrival. I offered them something to drink or eat, and was told, “No lights.” There just wasn’t much conversation and I still don’t know if it was a set up. Jarrett didn’t come home that night.
Shortly after December one year, my friend Tom, or Pinky as he was sometimes known, began asking me, to the point of agitation, if I liked Christmas trees. I didn’t get it, but knew better than to ask for there had to be a prank in there somewhere. Late March, as I dug my VW Beetle out of an enormous snowbank for a trip down valley I discovered, front and back, my car stuffed with discarded Christmas trees. I didn’t specifically acknowledge the dastardly deed, but for a while took to asking Pinky if he liked dog shit.
One Halloween, we built a long “obstacle” tunnel from the front door through the living room, down the hallway past the bedrooms and bathroom, and out the back door. There was some really creepy music on the stereo and we placed a large bowl of candy at the back, reward for surviving the tunnel.
It was a huge hit and near the end of the evening, along came a neighborhood kid with a cute nanny of enticing upper body proportions and a longing sway in her hips. Jarrett cajoled her into a trip down the tunnel with him, and long before they could reach the back door, the two of them were seriously rolling around in the man-made lair. As decidedly pleasurable squeals and grunts rose from somewhere deep inside the now indecipherable mess, the kid got a bewildered and worried look on his face. I walked him home and then finished the night off with a few at the Onion.
If I didn’t have horses and cows and a dog to look after, it’d be fun to live in town again, even though a McMansion has replaced our abode.
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From behind the scenes, the sights and sounds of horse and cattle, and the raucous lifestyle of rodeo culture hasn’t changed all that much since the Snowmass Rodeo arena opened here in the summer of 1973.