Tony Vagneur: Unwritten rules of the road | AspenTimes.com

Tony Vagneur: Unwritten rules of the road

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

It's been hot lately, with people complaining about it almost everywhere you turn. Personally, it's about time we had a little hot weather — we get it every year, you'd think most of the people running around the valley would know that.

Now if you want to talk about the lack of rain, that's something I can get behind. The snowpack was a little low, as well, but a few good rainstorms can make up for a lot of that. And before we go any further, we need to recognize that it could get a lot drier than it is right now. The damned wind, well past its spring expiration date, doesn't help — it sucks moisture out of the soil faster than a 300-horsepower Electrolux.

If you haven't guessed, it's haying season for us farmers, or ranchers, if you prefer. As my partner Margaret has mentioned, it's a lot of damned work running a ranch. You spend early spring harrowing the fields, cleaning the ditches, and before you know it, it's time to irrigate, a job that goes on day after day until sometime later when the hay machinery gets pulled out of the shed and a chess game between the weather gods and the rancher begins. This year, the rancher is winning, as far as good haying weather goes. We'd trade some of that in for a good rain storm.

With haying season comes moving equipment around from field to field and ranch to ranch, so if you get on the back road anywhere between Gerbazdale and the Circle R, you might see me lumbering down the lane, looking like I'm a little wide for what the county has allowed. That would be correct, but legal.

Trust me: I'm driving somewhere in the neighborhood of $130,000 worth of equipment, inclusive of tractor and whatever I'm pulling, and I'm not gonna risk that investment and drive into the ditch just because you're going too fast and don't want to slow down or move over. Mass is on my side, and no matter what you think, this is not a game of chicken. It's called reality and it's true as well for those road bikers who somehow seem to get a machismo thrill out of hugging the center-line as close as possible.

The other day, cruising along between John Oates' house and the Little Woody Creek turn-off, Phil Sullivan of that working man's taxicab company, "Free Rides for Those Who Need Them," got a look at my mug as he drove by and waited for me in a wide spot down the road to give a big "hello." I stopped, taking up most of my lane because there was no other choice, but had my flashers on and prominently displayed was that big orange triangle that some people think makes such a big difference.

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So there I was briefly stopped, and before I could get going again, Jerry (and I won't embarrass him by using his last name but you probably know him), one of the last of the true ski bums, saw me from across the road and jogged over to say "hi," as well. That's OK, I reckon, we're still out here in the country, aren't we, where neighbors can stop in the road to have a quick chat.

It was dangerous, though, as no sooner had Jerry climbed up the ladder to the cab of the tractor, glass door flung wide open out of necessity, the afternoon exodus from the Aspen Community School had begun. He was trapped, about three feet off the ground, on the side of my tractor by the traffic on Woody Creek Road. Now, isn't that something. It didn't seem like anyone bothered to slow down and the cars were like in a parade, bumper–to-bumper. Neither Jerry nor I could move — we were forced to wait it out.

I respect those parents at the Community School for wanting to get a good education for their children, but I am always taken aback by the rush hour they create out here in the sticks. It's usually one parent, one student, per car, arriving in the morning and leaving in the afternoon, four trips per day. There is a bus, but that may not work for everyone.

Speaking of bikers, I'm never sure what they might be thinking as they come my direction in the other lane. They usually don't acknowledge my existence, their hands look white-knuckled on the handle bars, eyes straight ahead and I'm never sure whether they might swerve into my machinery. Are they embarrassed of their novice ability on the bike or are they just too cool? The women bikers always wave and smile and those driving vehicles mostly do the same. I guess it's mostly a testosterone thing.

Until August, or maybe later, keep your eyes peeled for the big green machine and have a nice day.

Tony Vagneur is still recovering from the Lake Christine Fire evacuation. He writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.