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Hay stubble and Bode Miller

Feb 20, 2014 - By Betty Starks Case

I imagine a kinship to the free-spirited Olympian

Why do we love the Olympics? Do we love the challenge, the excitement, the awards through the athletes? Or are we just watching?

I confess to being glued to the evening television programs on the Sochi Winter Olympics lately. When Bode Miller, America's World Cup alpine racer, performs, I soar through the high hills like a low-flying eagle, just reckless enough to make it exciting. But he's the one who must stay on the skis.

When Bode wins, I cheer.

When Bode cries, I cry.

It's not because I'm athletic. Physically, this small body has never responded favorably to vigorous sports activities. In teen years I did have to help top sugar beets and do other farm work that would create an aching back for anyone. But that doesn't mean I liked it.

More pleasant activities were dances in the old Herder's Hall in Pavillion, when my mate-to-be might "hug me up tight and swing me like thunder" in a square dance. If that hurt my back, I didn't notice.

Watching Bode zoom down the slopes in what appears a near-reckless yet awesome performance reminds me of the film I watched years ago of his childhood in the New Hampshire woods.

The log home in 450 acres of forest was anything but luxury -- no water, electricity or other conveniences.

I remember seeing a narrow, wooden, somewhat rickety walk hanging over a stream from the house to an outdoor "bath house." Bode may have acquired a good sense of balance in navigating that high, swinging walk from an early age, while training his body to adjust to low temperatures in the bath house.

I learned that Bode had a sister named Genesis Wren Bungo Windrushing Turtleheart -- Wren for short. And a younger brother named Nathaniel Kinsman Ever Chelone Skan -- Chelone for short.

Does that sound like an aspect of an unusual family that might merit study?

When another Olympic skiing contestant at Sochi began his downhill trip with one ski atop the other, it was a situation I understood.

My first attempt at the sport a few years back ended rather abruptly on Togwotee Pass when I couldn't seem to gain ground (or snow). Digging down, I found my skis arranged in an artistic X, neither willing to yield to the other.

Nephew Rod, who imagined he could teach us the fine art of skiing in later years, provided blunt response to the problem.

"If you get into trouble you can't handle, just take 'em the hell off!"

So I did. I walked back to the pickup thinking that was the smartest thing I'd done all day.

And yet -- when we lived at Pheasant Crest Farm, my mate, like my nephew, envisioned any outdoor activity worthy of a try.

When we awoke to a hay stubble covered with snow one winter morning, he saw only a challenging ski-scape waiting for us to enjoy.

A hay stubble as a ski run? We hadn't learned to ski anywhere yet, but with new powder snow underfoot, why not try?

We dashed off to Riverton for equipment. Back in the hayfield as we skimmed (?) along, saddle horses Brandy and Lady, who came running for their morning oats each day, approached warily now, ears perked and nostrils flaring. They galloped off a way, then snorted and trotted back to examine the peculiar behavior of their resident family again and again.

Misty, the colt, accustomed to our attention and excited over anything that resembled play, tried to get on the skis with us, while Mariah, the cat, lay on her back in the snow rolling little snowballs on her stomach and tossing them in the air.

It was great fun, stirring far more interest than we ever anticipated. You wouldn't expect animals to understand this as recreation and attempt to join in.

Today, recalling my mate's impetuous (to me) outdoor leanings, I wonder if he and Bode Miller might have shared somewhat of an understanding had they been the same age.

Didn't we test our snowmobiles in 20-below temperatures on Togwotee? Coax them over sheer ice on Sheridan Creek Road where the valley yawned a mile below if we slid off the trail? Hike bear country hills to Jade Lake several times without bear spray or gun?

These are only a few senior stunts we survived. So go, Bode, go. You may be 36, but as British playwright Tom Stoppard once noted, "Maturity is a high price to pay for growing up."

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