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Vagneur: Continuing the grandfather tradition

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

What did Robert Frost say? “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Yogi Berra had his own inimitable take on that line: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

But there are forks in the road we have no control over, and the direction is determined by other people. Lest you wonder where I’m going with this, let me say that I’m talking about having a grandson and what that means to me. And, boy, that is a different fork in the road.

A grandkid is two generations away from yourself, shielding you (or him) from any direct function in his upbringing, other than that of a concerned family member. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all involved, but the parents have the direct line and that’s how it should be. But all this puts a different twist in my mind in thinking about how the relationship with my grandson will evolve over the coming years.

We’re a ranching and skiing family, so I’m guessing the kid will get a heavy dose of what that is all about. His parents own the cattle brand that originated with my grandfather, a tie of generations that is significant in today’s ranching circles. How quickly it goes — someday, my grandson, Cash, will own his great-great grandfather’s brand. A kid generally knows the family brand before he can converse in complete sentences.

My granddad was the most important person in my life, at least when it came to the ranch, and we spent endless hours riding horses and moving cows through the mountains. He taught me how to rope a sick cow in the middle of the wilderness and how to snub her up to a tall pine for doctoring. Hell, he taught me how to saddle a horse on my own and how to rake hay. If some bronc hasn’t crippled me up by then, maybe Cash and I will find the same joy when he’s old enough.

But granddads are about more than horses and cows. We know how to take a kid fishing or hiking and can scale the highest peaks. Everyone thinks I should be getting him on skis this spring, but I’m thinking I’ll at least give him the chance to ditch the diapers first. It’s cold out there on the chairlift. My parents made me wait until I was 3, and I remember how cool it was to teach my daughter how to rip down the mountain.

Being out in the mountains and carrying his own weight will come soon enough for Cash. His dad, Ty Burtard, grew up in the Yank Creek Cow Camp (I mean from the earliest age) and runs a successful cow-calf operation with my daughter, Lauren. For the past two years, he has qualified for the World Championships of Roping in Las Vegas with his dad as his partner. Cash’s mother has spent plenty of time on the back of a horse, and for years she wrangled horses and cows out of the Red Canyon Cow Camp — just for fun. If you want to argue with her about it, she has an animal science degree from Colorado State University to back her vision up. She also spent a winter ski-bumming with me. And yours truly spent more summer “cow” time in the Woody Creek hills than I ever did in town. By the time I was 12, my dad would drop me and a couple of horses off somewhere in the mountains above Lenado with instructions on fence fixing or packing salt and I’d be up there for a week or so on my own

Anyway, Cash just turned 1 year old a week ago, so it’s premature to be making bets, but if he leans toward being a cowboy, rancher or skier, he’ll come by it honestly. But if his passion lies in a different direction, we’ll still give him all the love and support he needs for whatever the endeavor.

For right now, it doesn’t matter a whit to me. I’ll settle for those times when he walks my way, arms extended upward in a request to be picked up. My heart swells and I pull him close, giving him all the love I can.

As I lived my life, grandchildren weren’t in the plan, other than an abstract idea that might happen somewhere down the road. And that’s what I mean when I say there is no fork in the road, no decision you can make on your own to have a grandchild. But if it comes your way, it is a very special thing that makes all the difference.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.


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