Vail Valley Voices: Antelope emergency |

Vail Valley Voices: Antelope emergency

Warren Miller
Vail, CO Colorado

On the way to the village this morning, I drove along behind a 1950 Chevrolet panel delivery truck. It was exactly like the one I lived in for three years except it wasn’t fire engine red. As I drove along the narrow road dodging the occasional bicyclist, that truck brought back a lot of memories.

In March of 1951, I was cooking dinner in my truck, after I had filmed Sun Valley, Idaho, for the first time. I had been lucky because during the Harriman Cup races I had been able to show my first feature length film, “Deep and Light,” in the Sun Valley Opera House and earned almost $200 in the process with tickets selling for a dollar each. I had taken movies of the Harriman Cup races and even talked Hannes Schneider into making a few turns for my then-1-year-old film company. The pressure cooker was hissing on my Coleman stove in the back of my truck when I heard a lot of screaming and shouting. Annie, the pet antelope that ate every cigarette butt she could find, was running our way. As she was trying to round the corner to get away from everyone, she did a freestyle performance featuring a hang-onto-whatever-you-can-grab-before-you-hit-the-ground-back-flip.

Her back-flip caught me, knocked the wind out of me and by the time I could talk, my volunteer helpers had demonstrated the proper way to keep a bleeding antelope on the ground while spraying blood all over your clothes.

Annie, the cigarette-butt-eating antelope, had cut a nasty gash in her shoulder when she hit my bumper. She had also covered one side of her body with grease while we were trying to get her out from under the truck.

Blood was pouring out of the wound, and we couldn’t figure out where to apply a tourniquet to her shoulder without putting it around her neck and suffocating her.

Since my helpers were already fairly bloody, the older kid held his hand over the wound and tried to keep it sort of closed up while I took my long tongs off of a ski and tied the antelope’s legs together. Next I wrestled her into my arms and headed for the hospital on the third floor of the lodge to try and get one of the doctors to sew her up. Dr. Moritz was in surgery and the nurse on duty refused to do the emergency repair job. She was a nurse I had known from the many evenings when I had painted murals on casts and was nice enough to sneak some stitching materials into my dripping-with-blood-and-antelope-hair parka pocket. She drew a diagram of just where and how to start sewing on Annie’s shoulder and how to tie the right kind of a knot and sent us on our way. We staggered back down the hall but this time rode down in the passenger elevator.

The lodge guests in the lobby were very surprised as I walked off of the elevator carrying an antelope dripping blood. Outside the trail of blood led from the lodge front door to my truck. There we laid the wounded antelope down in front of my trucks headlights and sewed up the wounded shoulder to the best of our ability. By now the thermometer had dropped to about four above zero and my fingers were getting very stiff as I tried several times to duplicate the knot the nurse had shown me. Before I froze my fingers I stood up on the icy parking lot operating table and stretched my bones as I untied Annie’s legs. She lay there gasping her cigarette butt breath for a few minutes, struggled to her feet and slowly staggered off into the darkness.

The following summer she was found dead near Dollar Lake with no gunshot wounds or apparent cause of death. A ski patrolman, who was working part time with the local veterinarian as his assistant, performed an autopsy and declared that Annie, the cigarette-but-eating-antelope, had died of cancer of the stomach from eating too many cigarette butts.

Maybe it was the cigarette butts that killed her but he did report that she had a shoulder wound that had been sewed up. I do know that in 1951 there were a lot of cigarette smokers dropping butts everywhere, to her unfortunate demise.

Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log on to

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