Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Innocence Lost


Evel Knievel
1938-2007

I can’t say that I’m a fan of Evel Knievel, I can’t say that I looked up to him, or that he is one of my heroes. But I think that part of my childhood died last Friday when Evel did.
I was a typical kid in the 70’s. I was out side on most days in the summer, riding my Huffy around the neighborhood, and especially riding it in “The Pit.”
My neighborhood skirted an old gravel pit. It was fenced off and had No Trespassing signs all around it, but that didn’t stop us at all, because the fence had openings. I don’t know who put the openings in the fence, and it really doesn’t matter, because they were big enough to ride my Huffy, BMX bike through. The Pit had trails that you could ride on, as fast as you could pump your legs.
We’d build jumps on those trails, sometimes out of wood and cinder blocks, but usually out of dirt just piled up across the trail. In the Pit we were all Evel Knievel, and we’d jump those heavy bikes just as far as we could. The reality was that we would only get a couple of feet, but in our minds we were jumping cars, trucks… what ever. We were dreamers and we could do anything that Evel could do.
When ever we heard that he was going to be on the Wide World of Sports, we’d watch the old black and white TV in the living room with the green carpet, hoping that the rabbit ears would stay where we'd put them so that the picture was somewhat clear.
Howard Cosell would talk about the jump; Cars, Semi-trucks, whatever Evel happened to be jumping that day. And then out he would come on his Harley, cape flapping in the wind as he did a wheely from one end of the stadium to the other, and then back.
He’d speed through the length of the jump, and then drive up the launch ramp, and stand at the top, looking like Elvis on a motorcycle. He was that cool.
We’d watch as he did that a couple of more times, and then without warning, he’d speed to the ramp and then… breathless… we would watch him fly that heavy motorcycle over the cars, wondering if he was going to stick the landing, almost hoping that he wouldn’t. No person on TV is real to a 7-year-old. But he’d almost always stick the landing, and we would breath again.
I guess, to me at the age of 7, he was a hero. He was like a real-life super hero from the comic books that I’d look at.
I guess a part of that little boy innocence died in me on the day that Evel Knievel could no longer cheat death.

God Speed, Evel.

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