Biff America: A new religion on the horizon
I can’t pass by Skippy’s pole without lapping it – exactly three times.
Skippy’s real name is Chris. I nicknamed him Skippy because he was so innocent and clean-cut looking. I also would call him “Elmer-Sex Slave of the Backcountry.” That title was spawned from a backcountry hut trip where he showed up with his new girlfriend and sporting an Elmer Fudd hat his Dad gave him.
I’m fairly certain I was the only one who called by either name but, to his credit, Chris answered to both.
Chris was killed several years ago while riding his road bike. All that remains of him up here in the mountains is his memorial pole and all the memories of those who knew him.
I have written about Skippy a few times over the years, but to readers who didn’t know him I’ll describe him with these three words: thoughtful, patient and strong. He was an athlete without an ego a business man without greed and a busy person who always had time for others.
Skippy’s pole is just that – a pole – mounted into a pile of rocks, on top of a saddle in the backcountry. A few weeks after he died, 50 of us hiked up to that spot just after a snow storm and reminisced and reflected on the life a truly kind and remarkable man.
Several of us offered eulogies, and there was not a dry eye in the house.
One of the speakers, Bob, had just flown in from Mongolia the day before. According to Bob, the Mongolian tradition with a marker such as Skippy’s pole is that those who love him should circle the pole three times thinking good thoughts and wishing Chris a safe journey to the next life.
By the time the half-a-hundred of us had, three times, circled the pole, the snow was trampled and hard-packed. Since that time, I have never been up there with anyone who knew Chris who doesn’t join me making laps around his pole in his honor. It seems many others do the same.
The hard packed snow around the post bears this out.
I don’t know for certain where Skippy is today; I would like to think heaven. Certainly if there is such a place, he would be there. But I can’t help but wonder whether he cares that so many pay homage to him; I think not. I could imagine him approving that we remember his kindness and perhaps aspire to match it, but as far as honoring him personally, I think that would only embarrass him.
Even so, when I circle that pole it gives me time to think about that wonderful person we lost and reminds me that there is much I could learn from him – alive or dead.
After I finish my three laps, I usually go back to being the jerk I was at the start of the day – though hopefully not immediately.
I wonder if that’s how religions get started. We humans honor a person or deity in a repetitive fashion that offers us some meaning, and over the years that practice ceases to become human but turns to the divine. Kind of like the Pope’s hat – about a thousand years ago, one Pope probably put on a funny hat as a joke, then over the years it became a religious tradition.
Who knows – perhaps in a hundred years, taking laps around Skippy’s pole will evolve from a local tradition to a creed.
Whatever the case, it certainly has gotten me thinking how of if I’d like to be honored after my passing. My thought is, if I end up in heaven I’d be so happy I wouldn’t care, and if I were merely composting I wouldn’t know the difference. My mate, however, has some definite thoughts on the issue. She has already started to decorate the Biff America memorial snow shovel so, after I’m gone, my friends can come to our home and honor me by shoveling my wife’s driveway.
Can I get an amen?
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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