Vagneur: Of big cows and historical shebangs |

Vagneur: Of big cows and historical shebangs

Tony Vagneur

Back in the 1970s sometime, we had a big ranching day at the Aspen Historical Society, which I suppose, if one thinks about it, likely makes this a historical narrative. Some people were churning butter, quilters were there, and probably a whole lot more. It was in the days before the Mining and Ranching Museum existed.  

My good horse, Kiowa, a buckskin appaloosa, was a model for farrier Twirp Anderson, who gave an exposition and display of what shoeing a horse was all about. Missen Brucker brought her Brown Swiss cow Abigail in for an up-close milking demonstration, something one seldom sees in this area anymore. (It should be noted that Red Rowland’s milk cow, in a pen behind the house at 201 W. Francis, was grandfathered in years ago at the same time the City Council declared that it would, henceforth, be illegal to keep livestock within the city limits.) It was like a small country fair, and other than a lot of people, there surely was more to it than I can remember. 

Missen’s dad, Hans, cornered me, saying their ride for the Brown Swiss, nicknamed Flabby Abby, had been one-way and wondered if I could be persuaded into taking the cow home to their place west of town, out by Twining Flats. I was pulling a long, four-horse trailer that I’d used for getting Kiowa there. “Of course!” The Brucker family was/is one of the best around, and I would have done about anything for Hans or his family. 

The cow with halter climbed into the back stall of the trailer, sanctioned off from Kiowa, who was in the front, without giving it a second thought. She had been well-trained by Missen for whatever tasks were necessary to her job as 1977 Colorado State Champion in the 3-year-old heifer class. And down the road we went, the cow, the horse, Hans, and I. Missen stayed in town, if I remember. What could go wrong?

My equine conveyance built by Hart, out of Chickasaw, Oklahoma, was a bit on the narrow side, and when it came time to unload the cow, it was discovered there wasn’t room for her to turn around — she was a big cow — and she didn’t know to back out of there, as it hadn’t been on her training schedule. However, according to Missen, she was a master escape artist, and the primary reason for Missen once being on Highway 82 at 2 a.m. in pajamas and rubber boots. We fussed with her for a bit, and then with animal-based logic, Hans said he had some beer in the house and maybe if left alone, the majestic bovine beast would do herself a favor by working her magic and get herself out of the trailer. 

It was a hot day, and Hans’ house, in a grove of trees, was nicely cool, added to by the beer snatched from the fridge. We shot the breeze for a while, maybe having a couple, and then with hope in our hearts, went outside to check on the animals. 

To her everlasting credit, Abigail, the big Brown Swiss, had figured a life in the trailer was without much of a future and had on her own backed out and was contentedly munching on grass along the fence. Much as we had hoped.  

It’s a little early for summer time fun, but now that I’ve mentioned the Aspen Historical Society, it might be germane to mention that the annual Hoedown at the Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum will be held on June 9. Details are sketchy at this point, but rumor has it that there will be a cow there for the milking. For kids. Come on.  

Work is coming along nicely on the buildings moved from the Zupancis property, and visions of more ranching exhibits are being passed around in conversation. The upcoming year should be filled with excitement and significance. 

Two important dates stand out: Georgia Herrick Taylor Hanson, executive director of the society for 12 years and who took it from troubled doldrums to the exciting non-profit it is today, will be inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame on April 15. This writer personally thanks her for appointing him to the board of trustees, one of the most important jobs he’s had over the years. 

The other crucial day is July 10, on which a big shebang will be held at the society’s Wheeler-Stallard grounds celebrating its 60th anniversary. Whatever the activities, they will be stimulating and enlivening. Hope to see you around! 

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at