Alex Cushing: A man among men
A big Grasshopper Soup fan asked me if I could write a glowing tribute to Alex Cushing. My first thought was, who will write a glowing tribute to me when I die? They would have to make up stuff and leave a lot out for it to even glimmer a little. John Donne, a great Seventeenth century poet said, Any mans death diminishes me therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. Alex Cushings passing is a profound sadness to anyone who knows the story of Squaw Valley. His legacy to us, the most easily accessible expert ski terrain in the country, is of epic scale. He was a very controversial and ambitious man, but, like the rest of us, he was simply a man. No man is perfect. Our strengths and weaknesses differ only in kind and degree, and we are all made equal by death, our common destiny.Without the late Wayne Poulsen, Alex Cushing may have never even seen Squaw Valley. I believe they should be remembered together, positively in death so that we, the living, may improve upon their accomplishments, failures and the lasting benefits they have bestowed upon their families and the skiing public of America and the world.In Jane Fiedlers book, A History of Squaw Valley, the Olympic games are defined as athletes who assemble in fair, friendly competition. The Olympic Oath says, In the name of all competitors we will take part respecting and abiding by the rules in the true spirit of sportsmanship.The Olympic Creed says, The important thing is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well. In other words, its not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game. Playing the game in the true spirit of Olympic ideals may be the most important tribute we can make to the memory of Wayne and Alex.Life, after all, is the real Olympics. My words are mere tidbits compared to what Alex Cushing did, but these are for him: My work on earth is done. For every sea breeze and snow flake that touched me there, a thousand joys fill me as I pass through the valley of the shadow of death and wander the four directions beyond the meadow. New horizons begin and have no end. When the heat and cold of mid-August dances up from the desert and down the slopes to the almond orchards and farms, I return to the mystery beyond. My old friend welcomes me there, and we are renewed. It all comes to us now. Come, follow us. Wear out your shoes on the granite scree and run barefoot through the sand as it funnels down to the bottom of the glass, lies still and marks the scope of eternity.We have left the gate open for you. The horses run free on the meadow again and jump the creek unbridled. Tall pines kiss the sky. Lovers embrace and warm the winter with their faithfulness. We continue on with legs of eternal youth, swifter, higher, stronger, where our minds are clear, our hearts on fire with love and our spirits free.The hand that made the mountains, the hand that moved my hand, held up my tall, strong back, now leads me away like Autumn withers the mule ear leaves and the earth turns to seek new stars, and even better lives from those I leave behind.My mountain is for all. I had my turn. My tracks have been erased by new snow. It is in the sharing and the giving I now see and find my rest.Squaw Valley, I am humbled with your brittle rock and patient root. Like your glaciers unbound, I groomed and polished monuments for champions, ordinary men and throngs of dreamers like myself. Help me put the last finishing touches on my soul. Complete me with your generous good deeds and true friendship to one another. Remember me in the colors of the evergreens, the columbine, heather and lupine.I climbed the mountains and heard their glad tidings. Now I leave them, free of all infirmity at last, and even more than I could ever fathom, they are a part of me now.Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, experienced ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived on the North Shore of Tahoe for 25 years.