We love you, Mary…but what about Jim? | AspenTimes.com
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We love you, Mary…but what about Jim?

I mean, it was a great pleasure to watch as Mary Eshbaugh Hayes ” my former editor and guide ” was inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine anybody more deserving than Mary.

But still, I couldn’t help wondering, what about Jim ” Jim Hayes (or, as he lists himself in the Aspen phone book: Sir James Hayes, KGC, master goldsmith.)

I’m not suggesting that Jim Hayes should be in the Hall of Fame because he’s married to the famed Mary Hayes. No, Jim Hayes should be in the Hall because he’s a genuine, real-life Aspen character ” someone who has greatly contributed to this community just by living here.



I suspect that, for many of you, that might need a little explanation. Jim Hayes hasn’t been on boards of directors of Aspen’s famous nonprofit organizations. He hasn’t been in the newspaper very often. He isn’t, when you get down to it, “famous.”

But Jim Hayes is a brilliantly creative free spirit. He makes his signature silver aspen-leaf belt buckles, of course. But it’s much more than that. He’s a man of many talents. If you’ve never seen him dance … well, you’re missing something special. He has spent endless hours rebuilding Volkswagen beetles in his backyard. He disappears from time to time to study. … Heck, it’s been so many things, I’ve forgotten them all. He has run, officially, for president of the United States.




And when you talk to him, you’re tempted to ask what color the sky is on his home planet. (And, let me be clear, I mean this as a high compliment: Jim just doesn’t seem to be weighted down by the hum-drum concerns of this too-solid Earth of ours.)

Jim, in short, is exactly the kind of free spirit who embodies a very special part of Aspen’s character ” and not just a special part, but an endangered part. Actually, I wanted to say “vital” part, but I realized that that part of Aspen isn’t very vital thesedays.

And there’s the hell of it. Not only is Jim Hayes not in the Aspen Hall of Fame, but people like Jim are beginning to disappear from this community.

I have to admit, it might be too late to keep those inspired people from disappearing altogether, but the very least we can do is acknowledge that they were here and that they were damned important.

Now, I don’t mean to criticize the Hall of Fame. In fact, I’d better make it clear right now that I was once, briefly, on the board of the Hall, before it became painfully obvious that I had way over-committed myself. I was on about three other boards at the time and working more than full-time at the newspaper. I don’t know what I was thinking when I said I’d join the Hall board. In any case, I resigned without (I hope) doing too much damage.

In any case, the people who are in the Aspen Hall of Fame (well, almost all) are genuinely deserving of that recognition. And when you look over the list of inductees (check it out at http://aspenhistory.org/hofnom.html), you have to say, they are all pretty much solid residents.

And there’s my problem. “Solid citizens” are certainly admirable, but there’s a significant slice of Aspen’s character that has nothing ” and I do mean nothing whatsoever ” to do with solid citizenship.

The Aspen that drew me here and kept me (and so many others) here was a town filled with slightly lunatic, creative spirits. It was a town of people who were making up their lives as they went along ” and sometimes, I admit, it wasn’t pretty to watch. But it was a lot of fun to be part of.

So where are those people? You won’t find them in the Hall of Fame.

Where ” to go clear back to the early days of “modern Aspen” ” is Freddie Fisher? He was one of the original glorious loonies that made Aspen special.

Why isn’t he in the Hall?

Where is Hunter Thompson? Where’s Tom Benton? Where’s Bill Jamison?

Where, for crying out loud, is John Denver? (Is he really not in the Hall of Fame? I checked the list three times. He’s just not there.)

And where are the great skiers? Where (again, for crying out loud) is Andy Mill? Where’s Griff Smith? Where’s Scott Edmondson?

Where are the climbers? Where’s Fritz Stammberger? Where’s Neal Beidleman?

OK. I might have wandered pretty far off the track here. Obviously these aren’t all the kind of slightly loopy, creative people I started talking about.

But they are all people who ought to be in Aspen’s Hall of Fame.

Now as I said, I don’t really mean to criticize the Hall of Fame. It’s a good organization, run by good, hard-working people.

But there’s a big part of Aspen’s true spirit that doesn’t show up anywhere in that impressive roster of nearly 70 Aspen “immortals.”

Maybe we need a new wing for the Hall of Fame: the Wingnut Wing, for the people who have been determined not to follow the conventional path through life.

Which brings me back to Jim Hayes.

No, I’m not calling Jim a wingnut. He might not appreciate it.

But he certainly is a wonderfully creative man who has been fiercely determined to follow his very own path through life.

And he ” along with Freddie and Hunter and Tom and Fritz and John and Andy and Scott and Griff and Neal and a whole lot more ” deserves to be in the Hall.

Even if we have to build a new wing.


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