- Rich Tosches: looking for Tonto in all the wrong places.
The Denver Post has offered me an almost unbelievable job. It's a free-roaming, travel-the-West, find-your-own-stories job. It's the kind of opportunity that makes a writer drool with joy and anticipation. It's the same feeling our village police officers (motto: "To Serve and Protect and ... Hey, Who Wants Another Buffalo Burger?") get when something runs away from a meat-packing plant.
The job title is Rocky Mountain Ranger. As the Ranger, I get a pretty decent salary, terrific medical and dental benefits, three weeks vacation, a white cowboy hat, a mask and a company car, which in this case is a horse named Silver.
(Footnote: The horse needs a little work. Twice last week I yelled "Hi-yo Silver!" which caused him to rear up on what veteran horse people call his "back feet" and throw me violently to the ground, crushing my laptop computer and the box of cheap pens I stole from The Gazette (motto: "Running All Are Stories Threw Spell Chuck").
What The Denver Post doesn't supply, however, is Tonto, the loyal assistant who will ride by my side and call me Kemosabe and speak without using prepositions, just like highly esteemed state Sen. Ed Jones. ("Me make good law. But now big wind. Chase hair down street.")
So I have to find my own Tonto. Feel free to apply for the job, but be warned that there's a list of preferred candidates. It's a fairly short list -- yet still much longer than local merchant Ed Bircham's list of "Black People I Have Hired."
The short list
Anyway, here are some of the candidates:
El Paso County Commissioner Doug Bruce. Doug became interested in the job when he learned we could travel anywhere in the West. The lifelong bachelor, who has run personal Internet ads seeking a date, figures he might be able to pick off a Utah Mormon's stray wife -- if he can separate her from the herd. (On the downside, I can see Doug mooching a ride on my horse when the city, as it did recently, tows away his old, beat-up horse.)
Colorado Springs Councilwoman Margaret Radford. She has plenty of energy for the job, but I fear that if history is any lesson, she'll sneak away some night and quietly trade Silver, my sleeping bag, my hat, my boots and all of my food to Pueblo in return for water rights that we already owned.
County Commissioner and bed-and-breakfast owner Sallie Clark. This is an obvious choice. Sallie could help me retrace the route taken by her great-great-grandfather, William Clark, on his famed expedition with Meriwether Lewis. Lewis and Clark, as you know, found a land route to the Pacific in 1805, although historians believe they would have done it in 1804 if Clark hadn't insisted they start each morning with a three-hour breakfast of apple popovers, cinnamon strudel and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Mayor Lionel Rivera. Lionel would make a fine companion on my travels, especially on nights when I couldn't sleep. I'm basing this on the way I conked out, fell out of my chair and had to be awakened with smelling salts during Lionel's riveting 2004 "State of the City" address. (Even gray-haired County Commissioner Jim Bensberg said he wanted to sleep -- preferably with two young women from his office.)
Broadmoor president Steve "What Drought?" Bartolin. When you're looking for a sidekick to accompany you and your horse on long, dusty rides through the arid West, there cannot be two more important words than "free water." Steve, as you might recall, somehow was able to keep his Broadmoor golf courses flooded with city water throughout the recent drought. (Personal note: In 2003, Steve missed a short putt at a 14th hole and became so enraged that he broke his snorkel over his knee and used his putter to beat a salmon to death.) So I'm guessing he'll find a way to fill our canteens now and then. The $27 mint on my sleeping bag each night will be nice, too.
District 11 School Board member Eric Christen. This may seem like an odd choice. But when I'm hopelessly lost and wandering aimlessly without a clue and the heat makes me start babbling like an idiot, it will be comforting to be with someone who's been there. (And "tonto" means "fool" in Spanish. Look it up.)
City Councilman Richard Skorman. Before he decided to run for political office in our ultra-conservative town, Richard was very familiar with the various parts of a horse -- especially the ponytail.
Air Force Academy football coach Fisher "I Am A Dadgum Christian" DeBerry. The only rule I'd have with Fisher is that when we come upon a water hole, I get to drink before he walks on it.
Time on his hands
Any of those people would be fine choices. But to be honest, I think I'm going to offer the sidekick job to retiring Utilities boss Phil Tollefson. For starters, he's going to have plenty of time on his hands.
But more importantly, if you've ever camped in this great land we called the West, you know there's nothing more satisfying after a campfire supper of stew, baked beans and hot dogs smothered in mustard than to turn to your trusted companion and wipe your mouth on his $650 necktie.
Rich Tosches will continue to write occasional columns for the Independent.