A day with the thorn of the valley | VailDaily.com

A day with the thorn of the valley

Others, usually behind closed doors, praise him as the perpetual watchdog for all of us.

I just call him Michael, and that’s how we began our fictitious day together.

“Hi, Michael.”

“Richard, Richard, Richard. How are you, my friend?”

“Look,” I said with a twinge and my eyes darting quickly from side to side. “Since I’m pretending to spend an entire day following you around, let’s cool it on the “friend’ angle for awhile. I don’t want the right people getting the wrong impression.”

“Whatever, it doesn’t matter to me. Hey, you want some American grown conservatively-financed coffee?”

“I’m not even going to ask, but yes, I would love some coffee.”

Imagining an entire day as Michael’s shadow could be treacherous, so I figured the extra caffeine would help keep my senses sharp. It couldn’t hurt. Besides, you never know when you going to be blindsided by a flaming liberal, a school board member, or a Colorado highway patrolman.

Michael, although referred to often as an insensitive monster, is actually just as human as the rest of us, only he prefers to accentuate certain attributes that we normal folks hesitate to ever show (feel free to let your personal analogies run amok).

Michael is a bulletproof enigma with a heartbeat. Notice I did not say a heart, just the repetitiveness of one that beats. Publisher of a weekly newspaper, owner of Captain Video, devoted husband and father, and prickly thorn in the side of anyone elected or appointed to just about any position in Eagle County, the man has a reputation.

He begins his day on the phone, like many of us, yet where most of our calls last only a few minutes at best, they are measured in half-hour increments with Michael.

“Sometimes it takes a long time to get your point across,” he said on the subject. “People just need to understand the reasons why they are wrong in their conclusions. I consider it personally offensive to leave a point hanging in the air, and I will push to have my point understood no matter how long it takes.”

That was the understatement of the day.

I don’t see how this man accomplishes anything productive during an average work day. He spent the entire morning on the phone either defending a position on a subject or getting more fuel for his fire on another. In between, he barked a few orders to employees about having equipment delivered to so and so by such and such time. But other than that I saw nothing tangible taking place. He did type while talking, and I later found out that he was creating articles for Speakout! while conversing digitally. Maybe that explains the plethora of typos he is accused of weekly.

Speaking of Speakout!, his weekly news report and opinion on political issues of the day, Michael claims to be in the same financial boat as the rest of us yet promises to continue “fighting the fight until changes are made.” I had a difficult time understanding exactly what would comprise those changes.

He is indeed a man of principle. I’ll give him that (although I know a few principals who would like to meet him on a dark ski slope). When he knows he is right on a subject, which is 99.9 percent of the time, his momentary purpose in life is to convince others of his correctness and, of course, them of their ignorance.

Enemies are created any time an individual has the courage to speak out against assumed popular opinion, and rumor has that this even applies to weekly columnists. But toward Michael, a lot of folks never take the time to think through the argument, preferring to react in a quick and all-too-obvious indecisive manner that they usually end up regretting.

What seems to bother folks most about Michael is that he never appears to take the mental abuse personally. Most wish he would, though, and his tactile demeanor infuriates them even more. Yet he refuses to take the bait.

While disagreeing with Michael more than I agree, especially his tactics used during confrontations, I do know that there has been someone like him in every location I have ever lived. Get rid of him, and as sure as VRI predicts a good snow year, there will someone to take his place. Probably a woman next time, too.

The fabricated afternoon progressed with me alternating between laughing at some folks’ absurd arguments based upon emotion instead of facts, and wishing I had worn a bulletproof vest.

“Don’t you ever get tired of being hated?” I asked while sneaking out the back door so as not to be recognized.

“Hated? Hate is such a strong word, Richard. Besides, do you really think some people take what I say that seriously?”

Nothing scares me more.

Richard Carnes of Edwards can be reached at poor@vail.net

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