My Life in Ranching
And the road goes on forever...

I realized, on this endless round of travels, that I have been blessed with only a few magical powers. I have two skills: writing and teaching. I have two talents: love and freedom. They ain't much, but they'll do.


When I was a kid, my friends spent a lot of energy not only trying to figure out my mom ("The General"), but trying to amuse her and attend to her strange needs and urges--rides, for example. Lyn (see last road-posting, below) was probably the daughter my Ma never had. When The General died, she left behind some of her antique jewelry. One ring was particularly exquisite--it was made by Tiffany himself. A huge square-cut canary yellow diamond surrounded by small white diamonds. It seemed fitting that Lyn should have it.

But I didn't have a daughter then. Not that I knew of, anyway. I sometimes wake up at night and think, Oh my God! What if----??? But that's a different story from a different life.

In San Antonio, Lyn surprised us and the barf-prone Chayo by presenting her with The General's ring. Tears fell all around.


Aspen, Aspen, Aspen. The Aspen Writers folks are always so full of love and good cheer that it's a pleasure to do stuff with them. And, really, who is going to resist a visit to Aspen?

We stayed in the Aspen Alps. If only I knew how to ski. The Aspen Mtn ski run ends at the back deck of the condo we were in. About 25 yards from our door was The Sky Hotel--you snowboarding hodads know it well. The hot pool and hot tub were in back surrounded by fire pits and full of bubbling hardbody ski scrumptious white peeps looking like they were making a six-pack ab and rubber boobies soup. The Steve Miller was crankin' on the speakers and the toddies and Coronas and chocotinis were on the trays. I kept telling Chayo I was going to take her down there at night so she could see drunk naked people. "DAAAAAD!" was her general response.

My first gig was at Aspen High School. Um. I'd go back to high school just to attend AHS. "Ahhhs!" is the right acronym for that li'l institution, situated on a hill with a ski slope to the front door of the school and picture windows looking up at mountains and pines and aspens and cliffs and glaciers. The kids were great, as all high school audiences seem to be. One kid confided: "Dude, school sucks." I said, "Wait! Look out the window!" He was a cool kid: earring, woolly cap. He said, "I've been looking at that my whole life. I can't wait to get out."

Probably Kevin Costner's boy, to boot.

I was in Aspen promoting Rudy Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima for the NEA's Big Read. So I was in superman mode: take me where you need me and I'll dance around like an organ grinder's monkey. The awesome and intense Jordan took us to the school and back to the Alps. We headed out immediately to rejoin our dear Aspen in the adventure of spending money and trying to wrench one iota of oxygen out of the high mountain sky. We went down to Boogie's, the diner everybody loves. 50's diner upstairs with burgers and fries; jaw-droppingly expensive clothes store below. I picked up a tattered pair of girls' half-booty and third-crotch covering short shorts, and was frightened by their $300 price tag. They were so brief you'd have to wax to wear them, and I thought: You couldn't fit $300 in the pockets!

Megan found a cute cashmere sweater selling for half-price, only $499! We decided maybe burgers instead of sweaters. But we do that every time we go to Boogie's. I will feel like I've made it when I take the girls in there and buy clothes instead of Diet Coke.


Walk, walk, walk. Cough, cough, cough.

TV and movies and crossword puzzles in the condo. Bad nights: coughing and stomach fits and a heating system set to some sort of atomic reactor that made Cindy think she'd gone into menopause and was having hot flashes. I was having hot flashes myself. Groovin' Colorado breakfasts of Kashi! (Luis's family says, "Yuck.") And down valley to Carbondale, one of my favorite towns. Off to the side, a sweet little ranch selling for $88,000,000.00.

In Carbondale High, the kids of the invisible undocumented work-force that keeps Aspen in margaritas, clean sheets, smoked ahi sandwiches, groceries, yard work, clean dishes, burgers, groceries, study. Mi raza! How weird to be in the High Rockies, in John Denver territory, and hear Tijuana receive cheers from the crowd. Oddly, when I told them I had several relatives who had done hard time in prison, they cheered again. That's the spirit!

Big love. Mostly for me. I love those kids.

One mom showed up with a Spanish Hummingbird, and she and her daughter asked for my autograph and kissed their fingers and made gestures in the air as if my book were the tastiest plate of clams they'd ever eaten.


Back up-valley, cruising around. Vegetarian lunch in a lovely bistro with a transvestite hostess. Chayo kept squinting at her, not quite sure what was so interesting about her. I stifled great hilarity as my women-folk tried to figure out what all the weird food was. They settled on tuna-melts, figuring that would be safe. Non-dairy cheese, I pointed out. And tempeh tuna. "What's tempeh?" I told 'em: Think of, like, really chewy firm tofu-like patties that have fish flavor on them! Hyark! I almost snorted water through my nose as they realized they would die if they tried it.

At the condo, the Mexican maids were doing our room. I said hello in Spanish. "Es usted el escritor?" they asked me. We had a swell time chatting about books and writing and Rudy Anaya. "They told us you were coming," one said. "We were so excited."

Oops. Back to work! Back to Carbondale! Another talk! With mayors and senators. Blah blah and ho-ho! They had an amazing Ballet Folklorico that danced up a storm. Then I was outside being interviewed on TV. The sun was setting beyond the mtns, and Mt. Sopris caught a wild peachy glow as if it were being lit from within. It was the world's huge-est plastic decoration. Ever.

The next day was the great treat. The maids at the Alps made a Mexican feast and invited us down to the clubhouse and fed us the best food in Aspen. Then I did my official NEA gig with the official US Government Minister of Wildness and Joy, David Kippen. He's the Director of Literature and the Honcho behind the Big Read. Guy's a laff riot, too. So I did the thing again, and there was all kinds of Big Millionaire Love in the room. And hugs and kisses for all my Aspen pals, Lisa, Jordan, Laura. Our good friend Shere--whom we'd met at Lewis and Clark in Portland a few years back--do you see how this lit thing, this tour thing, is a mind-bending swirl where you don't know where you are or who you'll see?--gave us gondola tickets to ride up to the top of the vast mtn and party with the citizens who were greeting Spring. Snow all day, by the way. So we hooked David and joined Shere in a gondola and swung up scarily into the high rockies. Up. And up some more. And up a whole lot more again.

The big lodge up there was packed with party-goers and jolly jam bands and lots of booze and food. A local woman wiggled her fingers around her chest, twitched her butt, and told me I gave her "Tingles. Just tingles."

Coming back down with David, we were amazed that it snowed up a white-out in the dark and the gondola stopped mid-drop and left us swinging there in the maw of apocalypse.


Driving out in near-blizzard conditions. It was amazing. I love driving my favprite American highway, the I-70 passage through Glenwood Springs Canyon. You've got to go down there.

Chayo saw a bighorn. I blasted REM's new cd to my great delight. Then followed it with the Raconteurs' great new cd. A fine music-day, even if I was certain I was going to kill us all in the blinding snow.

On to Tony and Pam's ranch, where the donkeys and the dogs and the cows all yelled at us. I was having some fun with the huge and jolly red Highlands bull, Mack. He picked me up with one horn and tossed me about three feet. Believe it or not, I couldn't stop laughing. Bull humor.

Our radio pal Jay Marvin came, and we had a wonderful supper and lots of talk, even though I had completely lost my voice and am still having trouble getting it back.

Flew home last night. Got up to teach today. Only realized I had buttoned my shirt wrong when I got home. I told Cinderella, "It makes the students love me more when they see something like that."

Leaving for Washington D.C. at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

I am tired.


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