October 17 ~  Appreciate Life American Hero

"If you don't know about pain and trouble, you're in sad shape. They make you appreciate life." ~ Evel Knievel

Evel Knievel

Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel (1938-2007) was born Robert Craig Knievel on this day in the copper mining town of Butte, Montana and gained international fame tempting death with showmanship reminiscent of P.T. Barnum.

"I've always lived by the creed that you're never a failure in life when you fall as long as you try and get up," he said.

Knievel began his motorcycle stunt shows in 1965 by jumping his motorcycle over a pit of rattlesnakes and mountain lions. He made a name for himself and donned red, white, and blue. By 1973, he leaped his Harley-Davidson over 50 stacked cars at the Los Angeles Coliseum in front of a crowd of 35,000.

"Anybody can jump a motorcycle," he said. "The trouble begins when you try to land it."

In 1974, Knievel survived the highly-promoted and unsuccessful 3/4-mile jump of Idaho's Snake River Canyon in a rocket-powered motorcycle. "I did feel bulletproof," he recalled. "I thought I could handle a motorcycle as good as any man in the world and I was very competent and capable at what I was doing."

Following spectacular crashes and over 30 operations, the daredevil retired. He battled Hepatitis C, contracted through a blood transfusion, and underwent a successful liver transplant in 1999. "No prince, no king, no president has ever lived a better life than I have," he said in a May 2006 interview. "You're looking at a guy who's really done it all. And there are things I wish I had done better, not only for me but for the ones I loved."

Celebrate life.