The annual pilgrimage to another land |

The annual pilgrimage to another land

It was on the calendar for weeks: “Haul steers to Delta for Ed.” That’s not something you’d forget, and writing it down was, at best, a superfluous gesture. Ed is the front man for the Sopris Creek Land and Cattle Co., a consortium of Aspen Mountain ski patrolmen (two of them to be exact) who raise beef for sale in the valley. Odd that I, a retired ski patrolman, would be doing their hauling for them, but then again, maybe that’s just keeping it in the family. Ed’s partner, Dick, now a ski ambassador, had to work that day, so there were only two of us to accomplish the task.

Most cattle expeditions start around daybreak, so it was odd that the lady in Delta requested that we not arrive before 3 p.m.

“What’s her damage?” I blurted, thinking it a little strange. “I don’t know,” came the reply, “but when I asked if we could arrive earlier, she said only if we had to, but that it would involve a severe tongue lashing.” Bring the earplugs.

We pulled onto Highway 82 around 12:30, beginning our annual pilgrimage to the land of Gunnison and a lifestyle from 50 years ago. The stock trailer rocked and bumped behind the truck, its occupants trying to find their footing and positions for the long haul, the black one with the long horns clearly the leader. The deep, guttural growl of the diesel engine as we picked up speed was music to my ears and I settled in for a long visit with Ed.

“Didja ever notice that husbands or boyfriends are the worst people in the world to try to teach their women how to ski?” Ed remarked.

“Oh yeah, that’s a recipe for disaster,” I replied. Ed had found a couple sitting in the snow the week before, skis off, and right away he knew the woman had given up on the outing. When asked, the man said yep, he was teaching his girlfriend how to ski, as he knew quite a bit about it.

“Then,” Ed said, “as I got them enthusiastic again, the man sat down on the snow and attempted to put his skis on from a sitting position,” as you might throw on your socks. Long day on the mountain.

From experience, I can say that the general comment after such women escape their husbands or boyfriends is to say, “That SOB will never get me on another ski hill,” or “My mother f—-ing husband is a total jerk.” Clearly a bad move, boys.

The beef was delivered without incident at exactly 3:06 p.m. I was afraid we might get a tongue-lashing for being late, but there was only a “thank you” for being prompt. Been to that place a hundred times with Ed and they’re always nice.

We hadn’t had lunch yet, so we headed to the only place we ever eat in Delta, and no, it’s not called Dante’s Fireball Pizza Palace. We always sit at the same table, back corner, where we can see the crowd without having to acknowledge our own presence.

Going in, it’s always the same — the waitresses give us the once-over, wondering where the hell we came from and are we good tippers, and then I think they flip a coin to see who gets the honor of putting up with us.

“Sit where you want,” said one, and as we claimed our spot, Ed said, paraphrasing an earlier column of mine, “You’re right. The women here are good-looking, relatively speaking.” And he meant it as a compliment to the women.

And then, there she was, our server, late 30s, maybe younger, hard miles on a face that sported an over-friendly, enticing smile. The intricate designer paint on her nails was overshadowed by a very tattooed arm, hanging out of her sleeveless top, an ink compilation that went completely up the back of her neck. As she walked away, she squatted down to pick something up, revealing two elaborate tattooed other-worldly wings that fluttered free for a brief moment, just above the crack of her ass. She smelled fresh blood, I reckon, and was looking to see how far we would take it, but trouble like that can get you hurt or killed in the parking lot out back.

And then Ed started laughing out loud and I wondered what had him all charged up.

“Those old guys in the booth behind us are telling somebody that they’re having their annual meeting today.” Yeah, so? “So, they also mentioned that they’re having it again tomorrow.” They’ll be having it every day, until one-by-one they all die, and no one is left to call it to order. It happens all across America.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at

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