The Danger Rangers, Chapter 7
Story by Douglas A. Anderson-Jordet
Illustration by Brianna Anderson-Jordet
If you were young in the seventies you were almost certain to share the same dubious role model as the rest of the scruffy pre-adolescent horde: Evel Knievel. If you were like me, you had at least one Evel Knievel action figure and you got your parents' money's worth out of it. If you owned one or more of his scaled down replicas, it wasn't difficult to recreate Evel's many death-defying stunts, even his infamous Snake Canyon jump. All you needed was something to jump over and a pleasant summer afternoon to waste doing it.
Eventually, however, the scaled down models simply weren't enough and that's when the real trouble began.
My best friend in fourth grade was Doug Benson and our binding element was definitely Evel Knievel. One day in early spring I rode his bus route home and we proceeded to turn his ample country backyard into our own version of Evel Knievel's testing grounds. Doug had the chopper model, while I favored the Snake Canyon X-2 Skycycle.
We pumped away furiously at the pressurized power terminals and set our simulated Evel Knievels whizzing into all kinds of peril. We put our Korean-made American heroes to every test: over the dog, over the garbage cans, over the roof of the utility shed, on and on, until our wiry plastic heroes looked like jump-suited dirt farmers and their vehicles rattled with free-floating parts.
Then we turned our attention to the collection of used bikes that was strewn across his back yard.
"I get The Bomber!" Doug declared. My heart sank. The Bomber was an early sixties model Schwinn with huge blue fenders that made it look more like a motorcycle than a bicycle. Naturally, this feature made it the ride of choice for any discerning 11-year-old, hands down. I conceded; it was, after all, his house. I picked up the purple and yellow number with the sissy bar and banana seat, which I aptly christened The Other Bomber.
Our play was innocent enough at first, the usual endurance race or wheelie competition, nothing very innovative.
Then we noticed a ravine with running water that cut through the back yard. This meager trickle was our own private Snake River and our course of action seemed clear, even predestined; we had to jump that ravine on our bikes. Later I would figure out that our own private Snake river was a sewer drainage, but that never would have occurred to me then.
"I dunno..." I said. "Seems risky."
"Of course it's risky," Doug replied, rolling his eyes. "What's the point of a death-defying stunt that's not risky?"
"Shouldn't we practice on something smaller first?" My friend sneered at this suggestion.
"Did Evel Knievel jump the Rum River before he went to the Snake River?" I couldn't argue with such impeccable logic, so I lined up behind him on the ledge.
I read somewhere that Evel knievel is dying of liver failure, caused by a faulty transfusion as the result of one of his infamous death-defying stunts. As I peered over the edge of a six-foot drop that emptied into two feet of sewer water, I had no time to consider such grim realities. Do or die, so the saying goes. No one loves a chicken, especially in times of such great heroes as Evel Knievel.
Doug went first, kicking up an impressive dust cloud as he launched. He cleared the ravine easily, landing on the other side with apparent ease. He spun The Bomber around and held both arms heavenward in the Universal Gesture of Triumph.
"Wooooo!" He exclaimed. "That was easy! I AM Evel Knievel!" I pondered his proclamation.
"What's the matter?" he said. "Are you chicken?" Of course I was.
"No way," I lied. "It's just that my bike isn't as good as yours. I need more time to calculate."
"Bawwwwk, bawk, bawk!" he clucked.
I squeezed the handlebars tightly, as if that would save me. Gravity finally enveloped me and I swooped down on that ravine like a reluctant chicken hawk hunting a field mouse. I could hear my friend laughing as I launched from the ravine ridge and hung midair in a strange kind of suspended animation. He must have known that I was not going to clear the water.
My front tire landed first, safely on the bank, while my rear tire landed a quarter second later on the water's edge. I could feel the bike buckle beneath me and fold like a wallet. The collision ejected me, as if from an enraged rodeo bull, and I landed flat on my back in the middle of our simulated Snake River, never having time to fully consider the consequences of what I had attempted; perhaps not unlike my great hero himself, that fateful day in Idaho, not so long ago.
As is the case so many times with foolish young boys, I was lucky. I smelled funny and had to wear some of Doug's clothes until his mother finished washing mine, but that was the extent of my consequences, thankfully. The bike frame was easily straightened between an oak stump and a crowbar, so no real damage was done.
"You better stick to playing with dolls," my friend said.
Naturally, I hit him.