Late in the summer a few years ago, we took the kids to Bannack to see the old ghost town.
After a day of panning for gold and a little skipping rocks in the creek, we decided to stop for dinner in Dillon on the way home.
I brought up going to Sparky’s Garage, and surprisingly the 3-year-old boy quickly said yes. That was a little strange because back then he was usually only agreeable to going to a restaurant if it gave out toys with the kids’ meals.
A few minutes later, I realized why. As we walked toward the door, Grady looked at me and said, in all honesty, “I bet Keith Sayers is here.”
It was as if Grady was expecting to open the door and see Keith, motorcycle and all, sitting there eating a burger in his motocross uniform.
At that point in Grady’s life, there was nobody on Earth cooler than Sayers. Once he sat in awe while watching Sayers do his thing on East Broadway Street during Evel Knievel days earlier that summer, Grady was all about Keith Sayers.
Sayers was also going to jump the Sparky’s Garage in Butte, while doing a flip, as the highlight of that year’s event, and Grady was really looking forward to it.
The morning of the jump, though, Sayers crashed on a practice jump over the building and he couldn’t do the prime-time leap. We got to watch the YouTube video of Keith crashing, though, and that made him even cooler in Grady’s eyes.
For some reason, Grady also figured when Sayers wasn’t jumping over Sparky’s, he was eating there.
The way Grady felt about Keith back then — and the same way he feels today — is nothing unique. Just about every kid in the city loves Sayers. For all the right reasons, too.
He has brought the best freestyle motocross guys in the world to Butte, and he has put on some amazing shows for about a decade of Evel Knievel Days.
He gave us a freestyle motocross X Games gold medalist, and he introduced us to that crazy bugger Heath Frisby.
This year, Sayers will not participate in Evel Days, if that three-day festival goes on after the very public dispute between the former committee that ran the event and Kelly Knievel, the son of the famed daredevil.
Since Sayers announced that in a letter in the newspaper, some people have felt compelled to attack the hometown hero as if he’s suddenly telling the world he is from Santa Rosa, Calif.
You’d think Sayers was single-handedly responsible for shutting down the mines. You’d think he just fired a pregnant teacher for not being married.
Some unnamed cowards commented online below the letter, some people got nasty on Facebook, and others just speaking in conversation have blasted Sayers for letting down his hometown.
A few things bug me about this. One, Sayers should never be questioned about his loyalty to the people of Butte.
He served on the committee that brought in great events for nine years. Plus, he put his own well-being on the line by performing in the events that we got to watch for free. Yes, for free.
Then, Sayers and the boys would sign autographs afterward.
Two, it’s hard to fault Sayers for steering clear of Evel Days after this latest controversy that was nothing short of absurd.
Sayers was on the committee of hard-working men and women who saw their integrity and honesty questioned with accusations and innuendos around town following the media circus surrounding the disagreement.
Sayers wrote a very elegant letter when explaining that he was no longer going to be a participant in Evel Days. He really did take the high road and even wished the new event organizers good luck.
He said he looked forward to performing for the Butte community again in the future, just not during Evel Days.
Finally, it is ridiculous the way people have been so quick to point fingers in this case.
First people wanted to throw the chief executive out of office, even though he has a long list of accomplishments under his belt in less than a year and a half. Then, they want to tear down the great Keith Sayers.
Sure, Kelly Knievel deserves a little heat for leaving those angry voicemails. Whomever leaked those voicemails to the press deserves heat, too.
It is also fair to criticize the sensationalistic paper for making those messages public and turning a disagreement into a full-fledged feud.
No matter which side you stand on in Butte’s latest quarrel, we should all agree that Sayers should be left out of it.
Actually, it is fair to say Sayers’ body of work should mean he is beyond reproach in this matter. If he never does another show for the Mining City, it should be OK. He has done more than enough already.
After the Sayers letter ran and anger started to come out, one of my sarcastic friends asked a question on Facebook last week.
“Wait, was Sayers Productions the only performance at EK Days all these years?”
No, it wasn’t the only performance, but it was the best. It was better than the Wallenda on the high wire. Better than the Wall of Death. Better than Spanky Spangler lighting himself on fire and jumping off the Finlen.
Now that it is over, Sayers doesn’t deserve our criticism. He deserves our gratitude.
Next time you see Keith Sayers, make sure to pat him on the back and tell him thank you.
I heard he can usually be found eating burgers at Sparky’s Garage.