Locals 2011: Von Wilson
Banjo-pickin’, back-crackin’, unicycle-ridin’ Renaissance man
July 1, 2011
Steamboat Springs — If Von Wilson won the lottery, he says he'd spend his time messing around with work horses. "That's what I'd do," says Wilson, who part-timed at Marabou Ranch this winter leading sleigh rides. "I'd drive 'em any chance I get."
Thankfully, the local Renaissance man has plenty of other skills to fall back on, from coffee connoisseur and chiropractor to bluegrass banjo picker and closet rodeo rider.
Wilson, 47, used to raise work horses growing up in Craig in a third-generation ranching family. He put the pastime on hold for a spell when he moved to Steamboat in 1990 and co-founded coffee hot spot Mocha Molly's with his wife, Molly. The two have three grown children: Matt, 28; Carly, 26; and Wyatt, 19.
After selling the coffee shop in 1996, he went to chiropractor school in Oregon, graduating in 2000, and returned to Steamboat to found Back Smith Chiropractic. The name is a play on one of his other hobbies, blacksmithing, which he pursues "whenever there's work," be it making railings, stove hoods, chandeliers or even toilet paper holders.
He's also a "full-time diesel-conversion tinkerer," as evidenced by his recently converted 1997 Ford Powerstroke truck seen driving across town, which he fills up at local restaurants. But not just any eatery. "I'm a very big connoisseur of grease," he says.
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Wilson also counts unicycling among his unorthodox pursuits. He can make the wobbly ride up Buffalo Pass and down the Spring Creek Trail in two and a half hours from his house on Seventh Street. This winter, he also could be found riding up a snow-packed Blackmer Drive to the quarry and back.
"There are about four of us old farts that do it in town," says Wilson, crediting 12-year-old Mac Skov as his mentor. "It's the best core-strengthening exercise there is."
Locals get their core-strengthening exercise by swing dancing to his banjo playing. Arguably one of the best in the state, he's played in about every bluegrass outfit in town, including local bands Quarter Moon, Ragweed and Old Town Pickers, as well as Northwest favorite Jackstraw during his chiro-schooling days.
But it's back cracking instead of banjo playing that pays the bills, and he wouldn't practice his trade anywhere else for the world. "My clientele here is absolutely the best you could hope for," he says. "Everyone is outdoorsy, in shape and truly in touch with their bodies. Thinking about practicing somewhere else would be difficult."
So is imagining Steamboat without him.
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