The most exciting thing about the summer of ’74 was the news that Evel Knievel was going to try to jump the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho in September. I scratched the days off my calendar every morning. It was all I could think about. It would mean the end of summer, but I didn’t care.
A swollen breeze filled the street most days that August. The Egg River had run dry and all you could smell was soot and decay. Sometimes the wind would push it along, but mostly it came, hung around for a while, and went with no noticeable change in the stink. Eventually, you didn’t notice how bad it got unless a whiff of clean air stumbled by. I don’t think it was much worse than the coal piles, except that it smelled alive. The smell of something dying.
Dad was changing the oil in the Maverick, and Cal and I were sitting on the front lawn, sweaty, stinky, and poking each other with sticks. We were too lethargic to do much else.
“He’s gonna pile into that Canyon like a tub of shit,” said Cal.
“He’ll be wearing a parachute.”
“He won’t have time to pull it. He’ll be going too fast to think. It’ll be like a Roadrunner cartoon. He’ll splat and won’t get up.”
“It’s just a mile,” I said.
“Just a mile? You try jumping a canyon, dipshit. Might as well be jumping the moon. Hell, I’ll bet you can’t clear twenty feet on your bike.”
“He’ll be, like, inside a rocket, Cal!”
“And how’s he going to land? Think that parachute’s gonna slow him down any?”
“He must have figured those things out. You don’t do something like that unless you’ve got it planned. It’d be stupid if he didn’t.”
“So do you think you could clear twenty feet on your bike?” he said. “Maybe off a five foot ramp? You could start from the end of the block and pedal your ass, top speed. Twenty feet ain’t nothing.”
“I could probably do it,” I said. “But I’d have to see the plan first.”
“What plan?” said Cal. “Either you do it or you can’t. I didn’t know you were a little girl.”
“It’s too hot.”
“Aww… lemme get you your dolly, sweetie.”
“Dad wouldn’t let me do it. He’s got this thing against giving myself brain damage.”
“Too late, it’s already been done. You’re a loser.”
“Sure you are. I heard that’s your real name. Little Loser Boy.”
“Yeah? Well you’re a turd.”
And on it went, poking each other with sticks, upping the ante in insults, until Dad told us to settle down. “It’s too damned hot to smack you both, so don’t make me choose.”
For the rest of the day, I thought about making that twenty-foot jump. How hard could it be? Cal didn’t mention it again, either, so I could tell he was thinking about it too.