MAKOTI, N.D. — After suffering severe injuries, including a broken sternum and fractured ribs, North Dakota’s “Flying Farmer” is once again considering hanging up his keys.
John Smith, 57, made his comeback from car-jumping retirement late last month in front of a crowd of 300 people when it went horribly wrong.
Smith attempted to jump over two cars off of a narrow, homemade ramp on his property in Makoti, about 40 miles southwest of Minot in northwestern North Dakota, when the driver's side wheels dropped off. He "spiraled" into the cars he was jumping over and was rushed to the hospital where he stayed for several days, he said.
Even though his recovery will take months and this is far from his only car-jumping injury, he's not sure he's ready to give up his role as North Dakota’s “Evel Knievel.”
“It’s just something that gets in your blood,” Smith said, comparing his desire to continue jumping cars to professional bull riders. “I’m sure there’s been a lot of bull riders and other people that do different kinds of stunts that have been injured, and they just can’t give it up.”
Smith is still on the fence about reigniting the engine of his preferred jumping car, a Chevrolet Caprice. He was injured in 2003 after a jump and had to undergo several surgeries. After a hiatus of more than a decade, Smith decided he wanted to do one last jump, a flying leap over a burning mobile home, in 2016. That jump went smoothly, and he thought it could be a good jump to retire on, while his career was still ablaze, so to speak.
However, Brian Smith, John Smith's 36-year-old son, wanted to do a father-son car jump before the Flying Farmer retired, which turned into the Sept. 25 jump that did not end well for John Smith.
"'Lo and behold, I get hurt again," John Smith said.
John Smith has done well over 100 jumps in his life, and he said he was inspired by "Evel Knievel," who was famous for his motorcycle ramp jumps in the 1960s and 1970s. He said when he was a teenager, he and his friends would jump over railroad tracks. His passion for jumping cars only grew from there.
Before John Smith’s disastrous jump last month, Brian Smith successfully landed his first jump in front of an audience.
Currently employed as a mechanic, Brian Smith has watched his father jump cars since he was a kid. Now, he wants to grow his popularity and create his own car-jumping career, he said.
"I've been doing it all my life growing up and it's fun to do," Brian Smith said.
John Smith has done most of his car jumps on his property in Makoti. But now that his son wants to follow in his footsteps, they are considering performing in other North Dakota cities and other states.
But whether the Flying Farmer travels with his son to perform alongside him is still in question. John Smith said his family, including Brian Smith, believes it's time for him to retire.
"I've always wanted to do this," Brian Smith said. "But, (my dad) is always scared I'm going to get hurt."
Brian Smith said he's not sure he would call himself the Flying Farmer if his dad were to retire. He said that's up to the Flying Farmer himself and whether he'd be willing to relinquish the title.