I can't wait to meet God, and ask why he didn't make me go faster on some of those jumps, why he put me through all this pain. He knows I'm not evil.
EVEL KNIEVEL, SI.com, May 19, 2006
My older brother was a small child when Evel Knievel was performing daredevil stunts for stadium-sized crowds. Big Bro was a huge fan of Evel Knievel and was thrilled when our father brought him to see the swashbuckler in action. Dad thought it would be great if to get a picture of Evel with Big Bro, so Dad tracked down EK’s public relations folks at the event and asked if it would be possible to arrange for Big Bro to meet Evel. Evel’s people said that this would not in fact be possible, and that my father was not the first person to make such a request. It was simply not a tenable policy to arrange for photo ops with every child whose parents requested.
Pop was not used to taking no for an answer and has always been quick on his feet. He put his hand on the shoulder of the man who seemed to be in charge, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, in a tone hushed so that Big Bro, standing longingly at his side, could not hear, “You don’t understand. My son may never have the opportunity to meet Evel Knievel ever again.” My father was not lying. Big Bro might actually never have had the chance to meet him ever again… not because Big Bro was terminally ill as one might have reasonably assumed based on the hushed tones and careful word choice, but simply because the odds of Big Bro ever having the chance to shake EK’s hand were slim-to-none—especially with the army of men employed to prevent such meetings.
“You mean—?” Evel’s PR man asked, assuming the worst.
“Yes,” my father quickly responded, pulling Big Bro tightly to his side, before the PR man could verbalize the words “he’s sick”. Thus, Dad never actually lied*; he failed to clarify.
“Let me see what I can do,” the man in Knievel’s employ said, sincerely, and hurried off.
The man never came back, so Dad and Big Bro assumed he had been unable to arrange to introduce Evel Knievel to Big Bro. Dad and Big Bro joined the gathering crowd to watch Evel perform this night’s feat of derring-do: jumping his motorcycle over some obscene quantity of cars and trucks parked side-by-side.
Before his big jump, Knievel removed his helmet and announced to the crowd, “Tonight we have a special guest with us. He’s the real hero.” And, he said Big Bro’s name. After the show, Dad found the PR agent again who whisked Big Bro and Dad away to have a private audience with Evel Knievel.
Evel Knievel died today. Dad was right: Big Bro never again had the chance to meet Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel, Jr.
* When Dad retells this story today, he is careful to assure the listener that he no longer abides by the same brand of situational ethics to which he adhered in the olden days. He admits that while he did not actually lie in this case, he was in fact dishonest. It is only fair to Dad and the reader that they receive the same disclaimer: This was the Old Dad.
Image accessed from Wikipedia.