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A place to be reborn

RYAN SLABAUGHsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad OdekirkSimeon and Bud Hill.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is a follow up to “Board for the Lord,” a story published Feb. 5 about religion and spirituality’s influence on the snowboarding culture.SUMMIT COUNTY – “I’ll give you something to keep your religion theme,” said Bud Hill, a 62-year-old Frisco kid wearing snowboarding gear, an unshaven face and a cast on his left arm. Simeon, his son, sat next to him wearing camouflage snowboard gear, headphones and a cock-eyed posture shaped by a lifelong movement against the grain. “There’s some words in the Bible … Proverbs, 26:15, I believe, but you should check that,” Bud started. “And it says, ‘Train up the child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they’ll return to it.’ “I guess that’s what we’ve both done.”Reconnecting with each other; reconnecting with themselvesFriday was Bud’s birthday, but that’s not the reason this old pastor from Missouri feels like he’s wearing brand new skin – it goes much deeper – and his son offers an anecdote.On his birthday last year, Simeon said, he and Bud walked into the Purple Lotus in Frisco, a tattoo parlor. Brett Caldwell, the owner, applied his art: a snowboarder riding a yin-yang symbol for Bud, and a foo dog for Simeon on his chest, cattycorner to his heart, a Chinese symbol of loyalty.It’s been quite a journey for Bud and Simeon, and their trip to the Purple Lotus symbolized the distance they’ve come and the lessons they’ve learned. Like many, Simeon has skeletons in his closet, but those skeletons, he said, are packed away near the confines of Marshfield Christian Church near Springfield, Mo., a “wealthy, Midwestern” town. In Springfield, a town known in the South for having the world’s first Bass Pro Shop, Bud worked as a pastor and Simeon’s mom, Bari (Bah-ree), was proficient enough as a pottery maker to off-and-on support the family. But they didn’t live in a big house – and they never took ski vacations.

“I wouldn’t call Simeon a troublemaker,” said Bari, while spending her evening on the kitchen floor, taking inventory before a pottery show, “but he did push boundaries beyond people’s comfort level. We lived in the Bible Belt … and that tends to narrow your focus on what the world was like. Anything outside the boundaries is threatening to them.””I was a wild kid,” Simeon continued. “I was dyslexic, which made school tough … so I joined the service to escape where I lived. I got out of a place that was straight out of a movie. Dull. Too (expletive) lifeless.”Bud understood this. He had served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 as an artillery officer, had traveled the world, and he accompanied Simeon when he reported for service. Simeon’s service in the 82nd Airborne ended just before 9/11, and he found a safer place to escape – Summit County. He’s worked odd, seasonal jobs, and said he wants to use his military benefits to go to college after “one more season.” But leaving’s going to be tough. ReconnectingIn 2002, while living in Breckenridge a dozen feet from a bus stop, Simeon found his own spiritual base – snowboarding – which connected him with a culture of good-natured misfits such as Jeremy Davis, an old high school buddy he ran into in Vail. With a revelation in hand, he began to reconnect with his old life. He called home and invited his dad to visit. At the time, Bud had lost his need for adventure, something that had driven him through the ’60s and ’70s. Bud admitted he had bought into other people’s definitions of responsibility.”Two years ago last month,” Bud began, “I tried snowboarding for the first time. I had been to the little puny mountain a few miles north of Kansas City, but this was different. And it was hard. I was so scared the first time; I couldn’t do it. I had to download to get off the mountain. But you know what it did? It put that feeling in me.”So Bud did what no other 60-year-old he knew was doing. He resigned as senior pastor in Marshfield and moved the 415 miles west to the mountains. He bummed couch space, and when he couldn’t find another job with a church, he drove for Resort Express and spent 110 days riding on the mountain his first season.”My wife was my paycheck for a full year, trying to pay the mortgage,” he said. “Here’s a saying for you, because every roadie needs a saying. ‘She’s the potter, and I’m the clay.’ She’s done amazing things for me and, believe it or not, this has strengthened our marriage.”

“When I came out to visit,” Bari said, “we, as a family, connected. I could relate my pottery, something I love to do, to their snowboarding. (Simeon) saw that we love the things we love and we understand his search in life is one we’ve done – the search for our freedom.”Continuing the searchToday, Bud will leave Summit County, the place where his life changed. He will venture farther west and, by the end of the year, Bari will have enough money saved to leave Missouri. She’s selling the house and moving to Washington, where Bud will be a pastor near Othello, “the only town with a Shakespearean name in the whole state.” He wants to use these values he’s learned – or relearned – through snowboarding, such as risk-taking and adventure, as a tool for changing people’s perspectives. But he won’t be the first. The Snowboard Outreach Society, based in Avon, teaches hundreds of underprivileged kids a year how to ride. And groups such as Radical Riders, Climbers for Christ and The Lighthouse in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., are all based in religion. But in these sanctuaries, bulletins are traded for belays and coat hangers are exchanged for ski racks.A community’s closenessBud began to tell a story. Just the other day, after the funeral for all-world Breckenridge resident Chris Ferris, a man who cared for neighborhood kids by letting them hang out in his snowboard shop, he and Simeon “hit the slopes.” They mourned, sure, but that’s how the snowboard culture celebrates a life. After pro snowboarder Josh Malay’s death last year, local riders gathered at the top of Beaver Creek for a memorial, at which Josh’s dad spoke to the mass, saying: “These are the people we need to run the world. You guys, for some reason, get it.”Simeon, too, feels his father “gets it.” “This guy’s a brilliant man,” Simeon said. “I mean, he lived in Iran. He traveled around the world in the ’70s. When my father drove me up for infantry training, he cried, but I couldn’t cry. Now, we cry together, and bleed together, and we’re bros for life.”

“It’s my responsibility,” Bud says, sobering the conversation a little, “as Simeon’s father and as his friend to learn what potential he has, to help drive that forth. It’s gotten us to a level that put the bad stuff behind us. I’m still the dad, and he’s still the son, and we see that other person for the best they have to offer and look into the people to find the potential in them. In that essence, Summit County’s done this for me. This is a thank you to everybody.”Continuing the journeyReconnected with his faith and his son, Bud was presented with a test.Two weeks ago, Bud “planked the table” in the terrain park at Keystone and broke his left wrist. Isolated, hurt and with all the warnings people had given him echoing through his head, he questioned himself. Would he be the man of old, when he would have sat around depressed that he would miss the rest of the season? Or would he be the reformed Bud, who didn’t have much insurance, who appreciated the doctor’s orders, but who believed more in a culture that prioritizes life above jobs, bills and capitalism.”This is what I’m talking about,” Bud joked, waving his broken arm. “There’s something going on. I did the hippie thing, and that was a subculture. Kids with all kinds of potential saying, ‘I see what’s going on in the world and I don’t like it,’ I don’t have to put God’s language on it. You can call it ‘the big mountain vibe’ for all I care.”Simeon tells a story about when he was a junior in high school, in trouble, and his Christian dad gave him a non-Christian book. “It’s hilarious,” Simeon interrupted, “because he’s a Christian minister, and he’s giving me a book about Gandhi. He says, ‘My god’s so powerful, he’ll find you wherever you go.’ He had a point because since I’ve lived here – I’m not a Christian – yet I am a lot more spiritual. “This is a place to be reborn, young and old.” Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at rslabaugh@summitdaily.com


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