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Vagneur: Still in the game

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

“‘How old do you think I am?’ he said / I said, ‘Well, I didn’t know’ / He said, ‘I turned 65 about 11 months ago’ / I was sittin’ in Miami pourin’ blended whiskey down / When this old gray black gentleman was cleanin’ up the lounge.”

And so begins the philosophical standard by Tom T. Hall “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine.”

You know them, those folks who like to tell you how old they are, even though you didn’t ask, as though older age is a hard-won badge that should impress those of younger stature. And then, once you pass that 50 mark, it seems like many are curious as to how old you are. Frankly, who gives a damn? There are more than a few who take umbrage at Tom T. Hall’s labeling of a 65-year old man as “old.” I’m not old, but if I had another crack at 65, I guess I’d take it.

Aging is this thing that, like a runaway locomotive, we have no control over. One day you’re the youngest member of the hunt, the envy of your elders; the next, you’re the oldest, and those of the younger lot are questioning you about your age, afraid you might hold them back. Or at least that’s how I suppose it might be when you get old. My general attitude is that I’ll wait for ’em to catch up if they really want to ask me how old I am.

A couple of winters ago, a young hotshot passed me on the hike up Highland Bowl, saying something about how he wished old people had enough sense to get out of the way. He didn’t beat me to the top by much, and after waiting for him to take off, I generously gave him a good head start. About halfway down the gut, I spied him at a standstill, resting on rubber legs, his brutal, non-nuanced turns costing him what energy he had left after his speedy hike. On the way by, my yell got his attention, “Get out of the goddamned way,” as I shot a wall of spray over him. Old people, my ass. I’ll probably have to wheel DNA-challenged dudes like he is to their own funerals.

Tom Munn (R.I.P.), for years a good friend and a well-respected member of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, had a song about some young kid hiring an old cowpoke to take him on a guided ride through the mountains. Each successive day, the aged cowpoke climbed higher and faster, on a mission of discovering lost youth and memories, a pace the youngster couldn’t keep, and the old man eventually disappeared into a thick fog that covered the mountaintops. The young man was left there, scared and alone.

And if you young guys are concerned about us old bastards occasionally dipping into what you perceive as your personal stash of young female hard bodies that you so fervently protect, think about this well-worn proverb: “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill every time.”

Oh sure, silver hair that’s lost its gold and eyes that can’t hide the years give us away to some degree, but we’re all in it still — mostly healthy, active, involved and generally at peace with ourselves. The beauty of the soul cannot be denied.

And here comes the point of all this ranting: Pitkin County Senior Services realizes that if the over-60 crowd wishes to stay here and thrive, where our homes, friends and families are, we may wish to establish a list of needed priorities that will lubricate our efforts to continue living here healthfully, saving a dreaded move to somewhere else. Pitkin County is hosting a seminar titled “Senior Summit” on June 24, which will take aim at establishing these priorities. You are invited: Contact Marty Ames at 970-429-2861 or http://www.aspenpitkin.com/ Departments/Senior-Services for more information.

This has been a public-service announcement I didn’t want to make. It seems as though, somehow, I’m making an admission that I’m not 25 anymore, but on someone else’s behalf. The concept of “aging gracefully” seems akin to giving up, and I don’t like it.

Dylan Thomas is more my style, if you can stand a little more poetry:

“Do not go gentle into that good night / Old age should burn and rave at close of day / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

See you at the Summit, I reckon.

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


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