MAKOTI, N.D.-John Smith, a.k.a. The Flying Farmer, is set to prove again why he was North Dakota's premier stunt performer in his prime.
Smith holds the Guinness World Records credit for driving a car 500 miles in reverse, averaging 36 mph.
Attendees can watch him attempt to clear a burning trailer house Sunday, October 30 at 3 p.m near Makoti.
His last jump was 13 years ago on March 16, 2003. It consisted of leaving an eight foot wide, 30 foot long ramp set at 11 degrees. In an Olds Toronado going 80-plus mph, Smith flew 92 feet in the air before crashing through a stack of eight automobiles stacked two deep. In the process, he knocked off the top five cars before coming to a stop.
His inspiration for his stunt performing career started when he was growing up watching Evel Knievel. "I was a kid, young and impressionable," said Smith.
When he was in high school, he would go out "hunting" in his dad's 1974 Chevrolet pickup. Unknown to his father, that old pickup spent as much time in the air as it did on the road. "He wouldn't have liked that at all," said Smith. "I'm getting older now. Now that I'm a father and grandfather, you're not as fooled as easily as they think you are." Smith found one set of railroad tracks that became his favorite jumping spot in his youth.
After high school, Smith started jumping in a legal manner. He entered a "Jump Of Death" contest at the North Dakota State Fair promoted by Ernie Brookins and won it. "There were a few of us that were die-hard competitors," said Smith.
In the spring of 1992, Smith jumped off a dirt ramp in his field near Makoti. He was attempting to set a world record. While Smith didn't come close to setting a record, he did manage to roll his car four and a half times. "It was pretty spectacular for the people who saw it," said Smith.
A reporter from the Minot Daily News was there and dubbed him "The Flying Farmer" and it stuck.
"This jumping career has come full circle," said Smith, who's latest jump will also be in Makoti.
As his unusual career advanced, Smith began doing a variety of different jumps. He has jumped over cars, vans and bales. He have jumped into cars, and burning pyramids of cars. Smith has even jumped onto a frozen lake.
In 1996, he set his first Guinness World Record at the I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls, MN. The record is for the highest average speed driving non-stop in reverse for over 500 miles. In 13 hours and 48 minutes, Smith went 501 miles at an average speed of 36.3 mph.
His second Guinness World Record came in 1999 at the I-94 Speedway in Sauk Centre, Minn.. His son, Brian, joined Smith when he drove 851 1/4 miles in 24 hours, in reverse, setting the record.
Smith gives credit to his wife, Melinda, who he has literally been tortured with his career choice. "She's had her moments of stress, that's for sure," said Smith. When she found out that he was doing it again, she asked if he had lost his mind. "She knows how dangerous it is. Sunday night, we can laugh about it." Smith's longtime sponsor, Pete's Tractor Salvage in Anamoose, told him that "you're getting too old to do this" upon hearing about his latest endeavor.
While Smith has garnered his fair share of bumps and bruises, "I've been really lucky," he said. "I've cracked a few ribs but I'm pretty lucky. This jump is nerve-wracking because I haven't done it in so long. It's just terrible how hard they hit."
Overall, Smith is certain those in attendance will be entertained. "I'm gonna try to put on a good show," he said. "I've always aired them out, that won't change. I'm going to be a lot more nervous than I used to be."
Admission for ages six and up is $10 per person. Directions from the Makoti Cenex: two miles west (on Highway 23) followed by one and three quarter miles north.