Going Cowboy on Yeager with the Aspen Valley Land Trust

Going Cowboy on Yeager with the Aspen Valley Land Trust

Going Cowboy on Yeager with the Aspen Valley Land Trust

Ever drink 4 Yeager shots and then buy a $3,000 horse at an auction with money you didn’t have so you could save money on gas? No? I have.

A little bit ago I went to a benefit to support my brother-in-law who at the time was the Director of the Board of the Aspen Valley Land Trust, an incredible organization with a mission to permanently preserve open lands for agriculture, wildlife habitat, scenic enjoyment and recreation in the greater Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. Turns out, I overdid it.

Colorado’s oldest land trust has evolved since its founding in 1967 to meet the changing needs of the growing conservation movement. Aspen Valley Land Trust, originally named Parks Association, was created by a group of citizens led by John Doremus, Eve Homeyer and Francis Whitaker, who were interested in preserving the natural environment of Aspen and the surrounding area. The group planted flower gardens, initiated a city clean-up campaign and began an Arbor Day tradition by planting 50 trees along Main Street in Aspen. At the same time, the Parks Association established a separate legal entity, Park Trust, Ltd., in order to receive and manage gifts of land. One of the key purposes of Park Trust was to provide an independent non-government organization to own and protect park lands within the City of Aspen so that these lands could not later be used for other purposes. It was instrumental in promoting the creation of well-known Aspen parks such as Glory Hole and Iselin Park, and still owns Henry Stein Park, Freddie Fischer Park, Aspen Alps Park, Verena Mallory Park, Emilee Benedict Park and Red Butte Open Space – all donated to AVLT in its first decades and beloved by the public ever since.Aspen Valley Land Trust

On the way up to the party one of my particularly free-spirited, adventurous friends took us on a quick diversion to a local dive bar that I had driven by every day and never noticed was there, Stubbies. I mentioned that we were going to an event that was being put on by a very commendable organization and that we should be on our best behavior. Curiosity got the best of me though and with slight trepidation I followed her in. Time stopped, and so did the half dozen barflys already soaked in their poison.  Noticing the Yeager on tap, my ears perked. This was no ordinary pit stop. This place must be famous. To think that I had driven right by it all these years. Then the free shots started flowing to my friend and I, approximately…half a dozen….each.

After about 20 minutes, we stumbled out of the saloon into the blinding twilight, moving as slowly as cherry cough syrup seeping down a sore throat, and headed out to get our cowboy on.

Not a pro at drinking, Yeager gave me that extra mile social boost I didn’t necessarily need, but welcomed. Like a fine wine, my age seems to enhance the buzz on unexpected saturated nights and I quickly become a mischievous wood nymph with an inner light that I’m certain glows out of all of my orifices.

Seating ourselves at an 8 top with my sister, brother-in-law, and my partner in crime, I called forth my inner-calm from deep within. These people helping to preserve our land were stately, elegant and civilized. It was unnervingly quiet.

When my generous mother’s summerhouse in Nantucket came up for auction I leaped out of my chair and climbed up the stair to the stage and took the mic and resorted back to my small sprint in acting back in New York City. The performance went something like this, “How many people out there have ever been to Nantucket?” I asked, encouraged by the small fistful of smiling people raising their hands. I was doing really well bringing in the bids, contemplating becoming Aspen’s top MC, when I got the hook….politely, but abruptly. Exit stage left.

I was humbled and went back to my quiet place, until….the unbroken horse came up for auction. We needed a dang horse! What with gas prices so high this was the perfect solution. Plus we had a barn on our new land in Old Snowmass.

The bidding began. My brother-in-law from across the table was aggressively shaking his head and mouthing NO, while slicing his finger across his neck in disbelief as I continued to raise my hand and outbid everyone. His wife, my sister, egging me on. She had land where we could board the horse. My partner in crime had a brother that broke horses in Wyoming. It would be a fun road trip. And sooooo I  giddyonupped and won that dang unbroken horse, for $3,000 that I was going to have to pull out of my ass the next day. All night, I was so excited. I knew ma hoss was out somewhere in them there fields and I wanted to go out there and talk to my new pet under the moonlight, but I kept getting side-swiped by curious “horse people” asking me questions like; “How long have you been involved with horses?; What will you do with him in the winter time?; Were you aware of the costs involved? Slowly, the sober started coming on. The only horses I was familiar with were Spirit and Flicka.

The next morning I woke up not so excited. How was I going to tell Baddy? At breakfast I stated that, once again, I had bought something big at an auction, but this time it wasn’t a week long vacation at a Chateau in Europe. I gave him the choice of hearing the news before or after his pot of coffee. He chose the latter. When he was ready, I announced that I had discovered a way to save money on gas and that WE had bought a new, unbroken, two year old pet for the kids. Baddy and the boys looked at me incredulously with sleepy eyes and told me that they actually have never had any desire to have a horse whatsoever, and Baddy made it absolutely clear that I was to give my little horsey friend back.

I called the Director of the Board, his finger no longer slicing his neck, and burdened and pleaded with him to reverse my actions, the Yeager on tap beckoning back to eliminate the pain I felt for embarrassing my family, this reputable organization, and myself and he graciously arranged for the horse to be taken back with the money instead going to help save our lands. A beautiful ending to a precarious evening.

About Aspen Valley Land Trust

Land conservation = water conservation Over the last decade, protecting water quality and water resources for the region has become an increasingly important part of AVLT’s work, which has resulted in the protection of more than 67 miles of river corridor and nearly ten percent of the water rights in the Roaring Fork Valley through inclusion in conservation easements. AVLT has also partnered with municipalities and counties to conserve many publicly-owned properties for public use, such as Sky Mountain Park in Snowmass and the Silt River Preserve. Today AVLT continues to pursue conservation of agricultural land and wildlife habitat, as well as scenic corridors and recreational properties from the Continental Divide on Independence Pass to the high country west of the Roan Plateau near De Beque.Aspen Valley Land Trust
Aspen Valley Land Trust
For almost 50 years, Aspen Valley Land Trust has been working with private landowners to secure the future of their land. For most landowners, that future includes planning for retirement, estate planning, and a deep-felt commitment to the land and the future of the area. Most landowners who work with AVLT place a conservation easement on their property. The easement limits future development and certain high-impact uses, while providing immediate tax benefits, including a federal tax deduction and a Colorado tax credit that can be converted into cash. The easement restrictions remain in place even if the land is sold or passed on to future generations. Other landowners concerned about the future of their land and the local landscape, choose to place a conservation easement on their property and then bequeath it to AVLT to be sold, and the money used for additional local conservation. In those cases, the conservation restrictions that landowners created also remain on the land in perpetuity. Still other landowners have property or homes that may not be appropriate for conservation but they want to make a lasting contribution to the people and natural heritage of the area. Those property owners have named AVLT as the beneficiary of their property in their will with the stipulation that it can be sold and the money used to further land conservation locally. AVLT has worked with more than 160 local landowners to help them secure the future of their land. Along the way, we have worked with specialists in all areas of real estate law, tax law, financial planning and estate planning. Whatever your particular situation or plans, AVLT staff is available to discuss options and, with a team of legal and financial professionals, help you explore the options for the future that best suit your needs.



  1. This story is hilarious! I can so see this happening — you make me smile so much Jilly 🙂 Thank you!

  2. Frist time reader, first time commentor…

    I read your comment on Daddy Scratches and had to check out your experience! LOVE IT! Thanks for the laugh…sad thing is…I can see my best friend and I do this too!! We Texans love our alcohol!!

    By the way – did you keep the horse?

  3. Stopping over from the SITS Saturday Sharefest. Great story, I have to admit, I have never heard of anyone buying a horse during a drunken spree. It definitely could have ended worse. lol. My favorite line – “The only horses I knew were Spirit and Flicka.” I can only imagine the stories that would have come had you kept it. 😉

  4. […] The party was going on strong downstairs and I slipped unnoticed into the dining room as Aspen’s Plum TV host Oliver Sharpe asked the film savvy guests Oscar trivia questions.  I slowly walked around the room checking it all out, the beautifully decorated tables, the glamorous evening dresses and the silent auction table where I was under strict orders by Wade to avoid anything remotely resembling a Chalet in Switzerland….or a horse. […]


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