Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel, Jr., RIP

Finding good prose in the blogging world is as difficult as locating a splinter from the true cross or the crate housing the arc of the covenant. So I’m grateful to Scott McLemee, essayist and polymath, for calling attention to Phil Nugent’s wry, culturally informed, and nonchalantly modulated tribute to Evel Knievel. Anyone who has memories of the 1970s will have flashbacks when reading Nugent’s little gem of an obit. A sample:

 I grew up white trash in the 1970s, which means that I am among the select group that might be expected to be able to explain Evel Knievel to the generations not then yet born. I’m not really sure that it can be done. I can say that for those of us who were of a certain age, the Snake River Canyon adventure on September 8, 1974 marked the first time we really grasped the concept of “hype,” just as those a little older or a little younger figured it out with a little help from the Liz Taylor Cleopatra or Frankie Goes to Hollywood….Evel a motorcycle daredevil by trade, announced that he would jump the canyon with a specially built “supersonic Sky Cycle”, a phrase calculated to conjure the picture of some kind of bike in the mind’s eye. In fact, the plan was to strap the man to a rocket, aim it at the other side of the canyon, and hope for the best. Reports indicate that Evel himself had given up hope of surviving the event by the time it came due but preferred certain death to giving back the money and enduring the jeers of the fans. (The kinks never got worked out prior to the actual attempt; after the first few tests failed, Evel decreed that there would be no more test runs because the actual reminders that he was a dead man walking were bumming him out.)