Vagneur: Accepting intrusions

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“No, thanks. We’re good,” I said, waiting for her to signal me through the gate and therein began what was shaping up to be a brilliant standoff.

It’s never that simple, questions and answers, and I could tell by her inquisitorial look and body language that she didn’t really want to know if she could help me. She was wondering how to flex her power a bit and wedge herself in the middle of my business before letting me pass through the mandatory stop.

She couldn’t help me, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask for unneeded help, but how to break the stalemate? It was well before 8 a.m. at the Maroon Lake guard shack, the place where the big red-and-white sign says “WHOA” and they tell you the road is closed to private vehicles – unless, of course, it’s before 8 a.m. or unless you happen to be pulling a horse trailer. Naturally, I did the neighborly thing and stopped but wasn’t expecting a round of interrogation to go with it. Four horses breathed steam out of the slits in the trailer, four people sat in the pickup truck with me, and one would have thought it was fairly obvious what we were up to, although the guard didn’t seem to be catching on.

Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s horse trailers. I mean, let’s face it: A relatively small percentage of the population have any idea what a horse trailer is all about, really, so maybe those who don’t understand just want to chat awhile and have some of the magic rub off on them.

It wasn’t that long ago I was in Colorado Springs, pulling a horse trailer and on a mission to pick up my nephew, Andrew. He’d given me directions, but being the mountain denizen I am and not very familiar with the Springs, I took a wrong turn and, before my error could be rectified without driving over the concrete median, found myself in a long line of very slow-moving vehicles headed to the Air Force Academy. Four-horse trailers don’t turn on a dime like your mother’s Audi, and hell, I hadn’t been to the academy since high school, when some well-meaning lady friend of my mother’s thought I’d make a great cadet, so I settled in for the ride, knowing things would work out eventually.

As we approached the guard shack, it was obvious a car several lengths ahead of me had made the same mistake and, after a courteous wave of the guard’s hand, was allowed to make a left turn and head back in the proper direction.

“Got it made,” I thought, and pulling to a stop, I was prepared to take off again almost immediately. Oops, not so fast, sonny boy. Digging deep, I had to provide a driver’s license and proof of insurance, all the while wondering whether my driving credentials were any business of the Air Force’s, particularly since I wasn’t going there.

To make a long story short, I was forced to detour to the right, a chunky female cadet walking alongside my truck, shouting orders in my ear, giving me a lengthy description of where to go and where to turn and how many stoplights I needed to go through. Luckily, I didn’t end up back at the guard station, but it was close.

Meanwhile, back at the Maroon Lake guard shack and not having the patience to torture our interrogator any further, I broke the standoff with an admission that we were going to the East Maroon parking lot, where we intended to unload the horses, after which one of the people in the truck was going to drive the entire rig back to Woody Creek. Not good enough. “Are you going to camp in a wilderness area?” Lady, we came to ride, not visit.

“I’m sorry to inform you,” she said, still before 8 a.m., “but the East Maroon lot is full — you won’t be able to turn around, and I strongly suggest you unload your horses up on the main road or use another access point.” OK, thanks. Can we go now?

Ignoring her stipulations, we pulled into the almost-empty East Maroon lot, where three vehicles sat, one of them unattended. We flipped a big, leisurely U-turn with the truck and trailer and unloaded our horses in about two minutes flat. As we mounted up and before the trailer left, some guy hollered from behind his camper, “You’re not gonna park there, are you?” Kiss me, big boy.

In all walks of life, not just horse trailers, we accept these intrusions as though we have to. There’s something wrong about it all, but I doubt it will ever change.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at