Monday, December 03, 2007

RIP Knievel

Jesus. They killed Evel.

When I was a kid Evel Knievel was past his heyday of jumping the Snake River Canyon, breaking hundreds of bones and generally making an American Hero out of himself.

It wasn't so much that I remember actually watching Knievel on TV. I don't think I ever did. But I was familiar with the jumpsuit (and occasional cape), and I was familiar with the man's deeds. Including the fact that the mad would occasionally do time. Tate, the kid down the street, had a Knievel motorcycle toy we relentlessly drove into his wall.

Later, I heard the jail time was for hitting his wife, which may or may not be true. I don't know. Facts about this kind of stuff were impossible to come by in 1981 or so. It was the same way we all thought Mikey from Life cereal had died from a spider bite or Pop Rocks or something.

But if one performed a stunt of any kind, be it jumping off the dresser or hopping your big wheel off a curb, at my house you were labeled Evel Knievel.

Knievel would do time and later more or less disappear from the public eye as he had no bones left to break. Robby Knievel would take his spot as a motorcycle jumping daredevil, and I hear most of Knievel Sr.'s records have been broken in the past thirty years. But Evel Knievel will be the one they remember.

I dunno.

He was sort of one of those mythological figures you build up in your head as a kid. Someone with steely determination and grit you wish you had. It's kind of sad when you begin to tie the notion that he lived his life recklessly to the fact that he was also living it selfishly.

Also, The Admiral's tendency to refer to folks like Knievel as "that idiot". The Admiral knows keeping your bones intact and not being in jail is where its at.

But even then you hold some grudging admiration for the man, maybe the same way you admire the boozy old singers who made up the Flatlanders. Clearly nobody was telling Knievel what to do, just like you couldn't tell those old cowboys. Not a surgeon, health insurance company nor gravity could convince Knievel not to jump over a GD canyon in a rocket cycle if that's what he was going to do. And, dammit, people would pay to see that, so there was something to it.

There's only so many lands left uncharted and unexplored, I suppose, and then they're all mapped. Then you find yourself figuring out what a man can do with high octane gas and some good shock absorbers.

To be clear, nobody killed Knievel. Perhaps Knievel's own lifestyle killed him, but he managed to squeeze a lot of living into those years.

He's been out of the public eye so long, its questionable if anyone will really miss him.

Surely that is not how Knievel saw himself going out, though. How many times did he sit on a ramp, wondering if he was going to wake up in a hotel room somewhere tomorrow, or maybe in a hospital room, or just not be around at all.

2 comments:

Steven G. Harms said...

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

The League said...

Score a culture point for Harms. I had never actually read this poem until today. Ah, the joys of getting an RTF degree and attending the public school system.