I was born in 1961. I admit it! The reason I share this is because I want to put this in historical context. So if I was born in 1961, then I would have been 13 in 1974. That was the year that Evel Knievel took on the Snake River Canyon. Evel Knievel had a HUGE influence on the boys in my neighborhood. Much in the same way that Mary Poppins inspired me and all my little girl friends to grab an umbrella and jump off the roof of the house, Evel Knievel inspired every kid with a stingray bike to build a ramp and jump over things. Two boys in particular were extremely inspired, their names were Jim and David. Jim is my friend Steve's older brother, and we all looked up to him. He seemed really cool and like he knew something that the rest of us didn't, which made him cool AND mysterious. We watched as he and David built a bike ramp not out of plywood and a cinderblock like all the other boys, but a permanent one dug and built of dirt in the middle of a clearing in the woods. This clearing was at the bottom of a steep dirt path through the trees which led from the street to the park at the bottom of the canyon. They would start at the street, pedal full bore down the narrow path and fly off the jump at great speed, travelling quite a distance before landing. They did this for hours, and we all watched with amazement. After Jimmy and David got good at this, they gave us the command -- lay down in front of the jump so we can jump over you. So we did. Thirteen of us in all. Us older kids lay down closest to the ramp, we weren't idiots you know. Steve, Joe, me, Charlie, Billy, Tommy and Stanley made sure we got the good spots that we knew the bike jumpers would clear. We put all the younger kids, everyone's little brothers and sisters, at the end. After all, they were expendable. After everyone was situated in front of the ramp, the signal was given and the boys started down the path. It seemed like an eternity that we were all laying there awaiting our fate, but it couldn't have been more than about 15 seconds. We could feel the vibrations under us as they got closer. I was a little scared and I squeezed my eyes shut tight, and when I opened them, it was over and we were all a part of Del Rey Oaks history! Nobody got landed on or hurt in any way, which really was a miracle when you think about what actually happened. As a parent, there is NO WAY I would let my kids do that! But I am so glad that I did it. Steve was over here not too long ago, and the subject came up with my boys. Steve and I just grinned and nodded at each other and quietly spoke the same two words: "Thirteen People". I think we are STILL in awe of it!
So anyway, after Evel Knievel died last November, I meant to tell this story then, sort of as a tribute to him. But other stuff kept coming up. And tonight I finally remembered. So here's to Evel Knievel--an inspiration to a generation of bike jumping risk takers, and the fools who laid down in front of them.