When he was young, Evel Knievel was a one-man
circus - part celebrity test pilot, part high stakes gambler.
That was a lifetime ago. Today he was terminally ill and he
was driving home to die.
Evel was spanning the 12-mile bridge between Tampa and Clearwater
when he received the call
that saved his life.
It was Debby, the nurse for the transplant surgeon.
Evel, she said, a young man just died in an auto wreck in
Miami. The fatality was an organ donor with a healthy liver
and matching blood type.
Evel, she said, can you turn it around and come back over?
Moments ago the Tampa-Clearwater bridge was his off ramp
to the underworld. One spin of the wheel later it was the
take-off ramp for a fighting chance.
In Butte, Montana where he was born and raised, the Milky
Way glows like diamond dust on the black velvet of deep space.
When the blazing sun dominates, the only thing that makes
its mark on the tyranny of the Big Sky is the streamline of
a jet plane five miles high.
A sky that big over your head makes you want to stand out
and be heard from, makes you want to amount to something,
pushes you to imagine what you can be in life. High above
the jet trails, in the limbo between the Big Sky and the stars,
that's where Evel's spirit was the day they rolled him into
the operating theater.