Tony Vagneur: Rolling through the years at T-Lazy-7 party |

Tony Vagneur: Rolling through the years at T-Lazy-7 party

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

Not much for big get-togethers anymore, I climbed on the bus about 2 p.m. last weekend and headed for the T-Lazy-7 Ranch. When’s the last time you rode a school bus?

For that matter, when’s the last time you visited a local business that has been ongoing for 80 years and whose familial roots go back to the founding of Aspen? Hard to do around here when so many businesses grow and fold about as quickly as spring frost on newly chlorophylled green grass.

Rick Deane and I were friends in our high school days, riding around town in a tiny car, something like a Nash that always seemed to be in his possession. He was older than me by a year or two and neither one of us had a driver’s license, so that tells you we were pretty young.

At one point, I was driving my aunt’s ’53 Chevy, Rick in something else, and we consented to a drag race up Maroon Creek. We lined up, neck-and-neck in front of the Aspen Highlands and no sooner had we popped the clutches in our respective cars, burning rubber and squealing smoke, Buck Davis, undersheriff, came around the corner toward us. He flagged us down, smiled and wanted to know what “the hell” we were doing. “See you later, boys,” and was gone.

Still in high school, we had some great New Year’s Eve parties at the ranch, filling the great room of the old lodge up and rocking the night away. They had some big, built-in soft benches around the fireplace that encouraged guys like me to cuddle up with some of those Texas beauties that Billy Hanks showed up with every year around Christmas. To a young kid, two or three years younger than the rest, it might have been the nearest to heaven he’d ever been.

The years rolled on. Rick and I played football together in high school, and then we graduated. He had a Triumph 750 — I’d had a BSA 650. He raced motorcycles; I rode broncs.

An innocuous ad in the paper led me to inquire about a ranch needing someone to manage its stables. The low box number for the reply led me to believe it must be a longtime rancher, so I spoke up. Buck Deane said, “I’ll meet you at the Red Onion to discuss the operation.”

I spent five years at the T-Lazy-7, running the stables and providing sleigh rides for the winter steak night celebrations after my day job on the ski patrol. I have to give credit to Buck for saving my life — I was managing a gravel pit, miserable inside and needed an agricultural release. It was hard work and, boy, I got schooled.

If you’ve never rented horses to people who don’t really ride much, it is an education in patience, a window into making sarcasm work for you, and also genuine delight in watching people have so much fun. Mary Eshbaugh Hayes and Chris Cassatt gave us a full-page spread in The Aspen Times; once for the stables, once for the sleigh rides.

My first wife, Caroline Off, forever referred to as “Off,” was unknown to me when she applied for a job, saying I was going to need some good help. She was correct. What a great woman she was, but you know how things go sometimes.

Buck ran a day camp at the ranch and over the course of those years, he and I became the best of friends. I’ve written about some of our escapades and as we remarked not too long ago, “We really did go on some wild adventures together.”

Sorry, I got stuck on reminisces. Didn’t this start out to be about the 80th T-Lazy-7 anniversary party? Rick met me at the gate, we shared a heartfelt hug that only guys our age can truly appreciate and we got to have a good visit, catching up on a few years between us.

Rugby was never one of my sports, but I gravitated to the rugby club guys, because they were the ones I seemed to know the best. You want those guys on your side, however the chips fall. David Lennon, Jim Spann, Phil Kenney, Kelly Klein, Buddy Ortega, Billy McEnteer, oh hell, I don’t have room for the whole list.

Somehow missed my buddy Gary McMahon, but by now you’ve surely gotten the idea. There were more friends and acquaintances there than you can see in a winter full of Sundays and as my saddle pal Tim Cooney said during the festivities, “It’s a great party and nobody had to die.”

Hallelujah. Instead, there was a surprise wedding. Beat that, with the venerable Pyramid Peak overseeing the entire affair.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at