Sunday, November 30, 2008

He Died One Year Ago Today

Ah, he was our hero, we four children, the two corn farm sisters and our best childhood friends, the brothers who were sons of our parents' best friends. We heard of his exploits and to us, he always succeeded, never failed. There were no broken bones or hospital stays that WE would admit to, only daring and fabulous accomplishments, each one greater than the last, more, higher, faster, longer, bigger, better, MORE!
We played outdoors at one or the others' house on a Friday or Saturday night as our parents visited inside. We played hard, making our own adventures, standing high, walking on the side of the rolling 55 gallon drum, some probably dangerous castoff from ag chemicals, or at best, from grease or oil for powerful farm machines. We found planks to make ramps to ride bikes over, sometimes stolen from walls of the barn, probably encrusted with lock-jaw infested rusty nails. We played war, hiding behind opposing 55 gallon oil drums and dashing out to imaginary-machine-gun each other, or we lined them up in the ditch facing traffic on Highway 1, dashing out to lob imaginary grenades along with our bursts of imaginary machine gun fire. We lobbed balls over the house and ran like hell for some purpose demanded by the rules of various lobbing-balls-over-houses games which are long forgotten by my too-adult brain. There were bases and teams and 'its' and outs and we never really played quite by the rules because the rules meant the game eventually had an end and winners and losers and we just wanted to play and play and play until our parents called us in for 'lunch', that snack that can be eaten at any time of day in rural North Dakota, but most often, around 4 in the afternoon, and about 9 pm, served to guests visiting in ones home. If the visit was anticipated, there might be fresh-baked cake and pop or if the visit was a surprise, store cookies and Kool-aid. We didn't stay inside long, roaring back out the door with smeared faces and sticky fingers. We had adventures to pursue with a vengeance. And Evel Knievel was our inspiration, our role model, our big dare. It mattered not that Knievel's stunts were of a particular nature and demanded a power motorbike: We were of the mindset that he was the king of all adventure, all things daring, all things risky and potentially disapproved of by parents. That is why my sister and I never did these sorts of things in the light of day when our attentive mother might pop out into the yard at any minute to inquire as to what we were doing and comment on the safety level. No, we saved these things for when our parents were distracted, partying with their best friends. We had these adventures with our best friends, the wild boys, and often, under cover of darkness. Out there, with them, inspired by Evel, we took risks, had real or imagined adventures, worked up a sweat, ran like hell, and maybe even scared each other a bit. We were each others' best friends for many years, growing apart, as friends of opposing genders must in junior high, and especially when entering the big school in the bigger town where cool was of greater importance. One of the 'boys' is gone now, for several years. I had to choose between his funeral and that of a great aunt's sister, and well, buds is buds, even after 30 years. It was a big funeral; he had tons of friends I didn't even know, who probably shared greater adventures than Annie I Over and popping wheelies on banana bikes: Teen-age adventures and then adult adventures, and some probably even on the far side of the law. And now, Evel, our hero, is gone too, for a year now. He inspired us to play harder, run faster, scream louder, stay up later, hide harder. We thought his first name was Evil and that made the allure all the greater. Thanks, Evel. Our childhood was large because of you. Ride on, ride on.
ABC News: Iconic Daredevil Evel Knievel Dies at 69
"No king or prince has lived a better life," he said.


Chuckles said...

"We played war..."

There is a school of thought that contends that playing with guns (toy guns) as a child leads that child to a greater risk of actually using a gun in criminal acts later in life. Knowing you as I sometimes think I do, and knowing me and the kids I grew up with who spent many the day playing cowboys and indians and war and, our personal invention, prison in the just poured basement of a new house, perhaps it is just the opposite...

goprairie said...

i think the difference is in how real guns are treated. and the attitudes. we were taught gun safety from probably before we could walk, to not point a gun at a person ever and to assume it was loaded. and the play was special occasion, a bit naughty and having the aura of the slightly forbidden, not the many times daily of kids with video games today - i worry about that - i read an article by a guy who trains the military to get over their aversion to killing and he claims video games that make it ordinary are similar to his methods. it is a complicated issue.