Evel Knievel defined what it is to try to jump the Snake River Canyon.
For 42 years, we’ve measured all talk of subsequent attempts against the spectacle of his visit.
So to the public and media, Friday’s successful rocket jump carried a tinge of bewilderment. Where was the showcase? The public’s chance to witness a second attempt at history?
Except the kind of history that Evel bestowed upon Twin Falls in 1974 wasn’t the sort that Eddie Braun and Scott Truax sought in 2016.
Evel was a personality. A household name. His attempt to rocket across the chasm drew thousands who came as much to see his swagger as they did for the jump.
Growing up in Twin Falls, you knew what the bare dirt hill east of the bridge once stood for. And you learned about his rocket: that the parachute was deployed too early. Was it the machinery’s fault? Evel’s?
Braun is not a daredevil showman, and he’ll be the first to tell you. He’s a prolific stuntman whose IMDB page lists credits for 247 movies and TV shows, from “The Avengers” to “Two and a Half Men.”
“I don’t care to be famous,” he recently told GQ. “I really don’t.”
It’s clear that he and Truax are professionals. And they were sharp enough to sidestep the public permitting process that defeated several other different teams of hopeful daredevils, choosing to launch instead from private land.
But with no event permit to host a crowd, they signaled they weren’t looking for a repeat of 1974. And Braun wasn’t the showman to have in that role anyway.
We got vague media statements. Repeated attempts to avoid publicity while still courting it. A Friday jump that caused the internet to say collectively: “Today? Really? Well, OK.”
The jump team got what it wanted out of Idaho. Truax redeemed the steam-powered rocket design of his father, who built Knievel’s rocket. Braun got to follow the footsteps of a childhood idol, and then some. Members of the Knievel family were present to finally watch a rocket cross the canyon.
What did Idaho get? Three years of drama and a footnote in our local lore. “Forty-two years later, another stuntman successfully made the jump.”
Robert C. Knievel wooed Idaho for a jump with the world watching. In failure, he ensured he would endure here for decades.
We all might have been the only ones figuring Braun and Truax would be something more.