Friday, July 1, 2011

Stuntman Sam

Among the many things that come to mind when I think of the Fourth of July is Evel Knievel. That starry red white and blue jumpsuit probably has something to do with it. He also did a lot of jumps in the summer, many of them televised around the holiday weekend. I loved the thrill of watching his jumps. I even had one of those action figure and motorcycle get-ups that I'd launch down a flight of stairs.

I've always been somewhat a sucker for cheap thrills. Here's one such incident that also came to mind when I thought of Evel Knievel.

Back in second grade there was a rumor going around that a fourth grader named Sam Gibson was going to attempt to jump his bicycle over a local golf course pond. It was being billed as something like Knievel jumping the shark tank, only this was a 4th grader on a bmx bike jumping over lake carp. Anyway, I was intrigued. I pushed my way up through the cafeteria line to hear the ring leader, Mickey 'Jonesy' Jones, telling a bunch of us wide-eyed kids what 'Stuntman Sam' Gibson was going to do later that day. Jonesy worked up the hype until he had us all feeding out of his hand. Then he hit us with the unexpected: Gibson was going to charge 50 cents admission to watch it.

In cafeteria terms, 50 cents was a lot when you could buy a box of lemon-drink for a dime, a bag of BBQ potato chips for 15 cents, and a rectangular slice of soggy pizza or a soybean hamburger for 40 cents. Shoot, that was good money.

But Jonesy was selling it like a carnival freak. He had me dialed in on the pitch: Today only, a caped Stuntman Sam Gibson, flying over Greenbriar Hills #7's pond on a jet-black wonder bike. My stomach growled. I was hungry. But no soybean burger was going to satisfy the hunger I had that day. My appetite was whet for thrills. So I stepped boldly forward, plopped down two quarters and told him I'd be there.

The afternoon's phonics lessons were a total loss. All I could think about was Gibson's dare-devil feat. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the dismissal bell rang. I made like the wind for the golf course to get a front row seat.

Greenbriar Hills hole #7 is a 97 yard par three over a small pond. The tee box is elevated 30 feet above the pond. I arrived to find two people standing next to a 2 x 10 plank ramp propped up with a cinder block at the foot of the pond. One person was another classmate, David Carey, the other was the event promoter, Jonesy. I was dismayed by the low attendance and reasoned that perhaps 50 cents was too steep a price for admission. But more importantly was the noticeable absence of Gibson. I held out hope that he hadn't gone yellow on us.

Brady: Hey Jonesy, where's Gibson?

Jonesy: Relax kid. He's getting ready.

Getting ready? Where? While there was a half-way house nearby, it was closed during the 0ff-season and it's bathrooms locked up. Other than that, there was only open space surrounded by a thick line of trees marking the out of bounds territory.

Jonesy then clears his throat, takes a step forward, opens his arms and calls out:

Jonesy: Ladies and Gentlemen may I have your attention...

I looked at the other person standing there. Carey rolled his eyes while Jonsey bantered on...

Jonesy: ...Today only, for the amazingly low admission price of 50 cents, you will get to witness "Stuntman Sam" Gibson attempt to do what no other fourth grader, or possibly anyone ever, has ever tried: to clear Greenbriar Hills country club's #7 pond on a bicycle. Many have likely considered it, but none have been so daring as Stuntman Sam! Let's give him a big round of applause.

Jonesy looks at me and makes me feel uncomfortable. He's actually expecting us to clap. He nods his head in encouragement and apparently won't continue until we comply. We being to clap feebly. Jonesy turns to face the #7 tee box and continues

Jonesy: ... Stuntman Sam, are you ready?

From the thicket behind the tee box, the pre-pubescent voice of Gibson squeaks out "READY!" My heart rate kicks up a notch. I wasn't going to be disappointed.

Jonesey: Drum roll, please!

Another a glance toward us, the two spectators, to animate a drumming sound. We eagerly join in this time.

Jonesy: OK Stuntman Sam, this is it. On your marks, get set, Go!!!

Gibson comes charging out of the thicket on his black bmx wonder bike. He's also dressed in all black, but best of all was a flowing black cape.

I should also point out that he wasn't wearing a helmet. But back then, nobody wore helmets.

A transformation had taken place in my eyes. No longer was Sam Gibson a simple fourth grader. No, he had become a dare devil stuntman that was spinning like a monkey toward that plank. At that moment, I believed he had a legitimate chance to clear the lake.

Reaching terminal velocity, Gibson's front wheel enters the ramp. A moment later, he's airborne, flying over the lake --

^^ CHOMP ^^

What the -- ??

I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my neck, and through my peripheral vision, I see Jonesy's vampire fangs...



Gotcha again.

Happy Friday everyone


  1. Simply brilliant. To have a "jump the shark" and a "vampire ending" simultaneously. I would have never thought that was possible. Congratulations, kid.

  2. I don't think I like you anymore.