A Daredevil’s Legacy

The Snake River Canyon lures the adventurous and the adrenaline junky. Today, we have a constant stream of B.A.S.E. jumpers stepping off the bridge into thin air; in the seventies, it was Evel Knievel and his sky-cycle. I’m not sure what it is about the gaping chasm embedded with rock walls and tumbling waterfalls, but it inspires outrageous acts of derring-do.

If you walk along the Centennial Trail above Shoshone Falls, you can see the mound of dirt where Evel Knievel launched his ill-fated jump on the sky cycle in an attempt to sail from one side of the canyon to the other. My poem muses about the remains of that day.

Shock and Awe
By Judy Grigg Hansen

A small man-made hill,
a launching pad of sorts,
is all that remains
of Evel Knievel’s
audacious plan to soar
from the rugged rock face
of the Snake River Canyon;
sail for a solid mile
600 feet above
shallow water,
sagebrush, and bitterbrush;
and land beyond the
unforgiving basalt walls.

On a gusty
September day in 1974,
Knievel cinched on his helmet,
mounted his
rocket-powered sky-cycle,
and revved the engine.
Rather than an auspicious landing
on the far side of the canyon,
Knievel slammed back into
the near canyon wall
(parachute failure).

the launch pad—
where 12,000 spectators
trampled the restraining
walls to gawk
at the wreck of the sky-cycle—
is dotted with pasture grass
and Canadian thistle.
Jack rabbits have asserted
their squatter’s rights,
and a bob white desperately
lures occasional visitors
away from her nest.

(The photo is courtesy of Jeff Courter)


About Judy Grigg Hansen
I write poetry and nonfiction, and I am passionate about the people, places, and wildflowers of Idaho and the Northwest.

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