Tony Vagneur: Sometimes, you just gotta empty your notebook and your random thoughts

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

The following are tidbits from my “Cuttings” folder, scribblings that didn’t make my column for whatever reason. Herewith, I offer them for your perusal. Hopefully, they stand on their own.

It used to drive tourists crazy — they didn’t think kids as young as us should be out on the streets by ourselves, let alone skiing the big mountain, and they were usually trying to lecture us or give us rides home. Sometimes we took the ride and got both.

Up there, high up on the mountain, is where Roy Holloway and I tracked a big buck through an early fall snowstorm, flakes as big as pancakes. We should have never shot him, but the chase is everything and dragging him off that mountain in the snow and the dark proved to be a strenuous challenge for even a couple of teenagers.

It’s an old copy, done in the ’40s or ’50s, showing a lone wolf high on a hill above a lonely homestead down below. Light shines through the windows of the house as the wolf howls toward a starry, black sky, his breath solidly reflected by the cold night air. This painting, which hung in my grandmother’s house until the end, was my favorite from the time I can remember. An exact replica hangs in a tiny, smoked fish shop on the way to Ely, Minnesota, home to more than a few wolves.

A lot happens in the gondola that people wouldn’t want the outside world to know about — and I’m not talking about the making out or the oral sex or just the regular sex, even. No, I’m talking about people talking about their “big” deals in front of us mere mortals.

The nobility of wolves and the poorness of human spirits … Our love’s just another bridge to burn.

Regret is the most potent human emotion? Words are for people who can’t read sign. The case of the Golden Calf 4/18/1918. Main Street Aspen paved in 1938, same year the highway was paved from Carbondale to Aspen. Lift One replaced with 1A in 1971. Indy Pass finally completely paved in 1969.

1st Roch Cup run in March 1947. Roch Run cut in 1941. Skiing Heritage Journal March 2008.

Words I like: Eponymous, loquacious, usufructory, acephalous, anthropogenic, pinguidinous, coraciiform, a veritable similitude, somnambulant cow …

A guy stopped me the other day on the street whom I haven’t seen in probably 20 years, even though we live within a short bike ride of each other. In addition to his outstretched hand, there was a look in his eyes that said he didn’t quite believe that I could look so ragged, but then again, I suspect my gaze gave off similar waves.

A man appeared in the doorway, asking if we wouldn’t like to see the inside of his motor home. We declined his first request, but as he became more insistent and blocked our path down the sidewalk, I guess we acquiesced, for the next thing I knew, we were in the camper with him as he explained how neat it all was. I remember the panic we all felt as he explained he was going to take us for a drive, despite our proclamations that we had to get home.

It isn’t about how good you are, or how fast you can go. It’s about a life’s dedication, an affair of the heart. Treat the mountain with respect and you’ll fulfill your mission, but mistake arrogance for heart and the comeuppance will be severe. For whatever reasons, you’ll find yourself in a pinstripe and goofy tie, freshly shined shoes clacking the spittle-infested sidewalks of a city somewhere. Skiing will be a footnote in another mediocre story about someone who made too much money or drank too much whiskey, maybe both.

The “Aspen Idea,” as alluded to by old hippies thinking there actually ever was an Aspen Dream for any of us, exists only in the eye of the beholder, and is something like religion. It is whatever you wish it to be …

My dad had a classic, 1948 Chrysler New Yorker, fluid-drive, shiny black with a ton of chrome trim and a black, outside visor over the windshield, bought brand-new. A car any young man would want to drive, even today, and the only “fluff” my dad ever owned. Dad was in his 20s then, and he only got to drive it one or two days a week, mostly into town (Aspen has always been “town”) on Sundays so we could go to the Community Church and afterward have Sunday dinner with my maternal grandmother and her family. Other than that, his main mode of transportation was one of several horses he rode every day, either to check the cattle, irrigate the hay fields, or to do any number of ranch chores …

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at