Evel, We Hardly Knew Ye

When I was a kid back in the mid-’70s, I idolized four heroes. Two of the faces on my own personal childhood Mount Rushmore were fictitious (Billy Jack and The Six Million Dollar Man), one was very real (Roger Staubach), and the other was the ultimate combination of fantasy and reality: Evel Knievel.  Of these four larger-than-life figures, Evel was without question the one I was most fixated on in those days.  I can still remember both Christmas 1975 and my 10th birthday the following September consisting of nothing but Evel-related toys and accessories.  My extremely overprotective Mom would never let me even touch a real motorcycle, much less ride one, so I guess she figured the best way to pacify me was to ply me with as many Knievel products as possible.

Of course, the crown jewel of my collection was the hand-cranked stunt cycle, but I also had the stunt stadium and transport van.  These toys were all consuming during those cold and rainy late Fall and Winter months, but once the warm thaw of Spring arrived, me and the neighborhood kids hopped on our bicycles (mine was a Sears Free Spirit with a bicentennial red, white and blue banana seat and motorcycle sound effect crank box mounted on the right handlebar) and crafted makeshift ramps out of lumber scraps and anything else long and flat enough to do the trick.

Looking back on it now, those were the most fun and freewheeling days of my life.  I was old enough to leave the house without adult supervision, yet still young enough not to be burdened by the impending pressures of the teenage years.  I never made it more than two feet off the ground on one of those ersatz “jumps,” if that, but I might as well have been flying above the neighborhood eight miles high.  I doubt I’ll ever experience the wide-eyed innocent euphoria of those days, but thanks to the legacy of Evel Knievel – which will without question continue long after his death yesterday – I will always been able to fondly reminisce about those endless days spent riding my Free Spirit.

Godspeed, Evel.

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One Response

  1. This takes me back to that fateful day, a decade ago, when B.I.G. fell. In fact, I think I’ll go play put on my American flag unitard, select “Big Poppa” on my ipod, & pour out some Jack Daniels for Evel.

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