The classified ad included just a nine-word description: "Cane from famous daredevil for sale for best offer." A bold-type title made it clear the cane belonged to Butte legend Evel Knievel (although his name was misspelled), and it included a phone number. But like any good ad, it left the rest to imagination. Was it Knievel's famous diamond-encrusted cane that included a secret compartment to hide booze? Was it garish, like so many of the daredevil's outfits from the late '60s and 1970s? Was it similar to the standard mahogany cane that accompanies the official Evel Knievel action figure?
Questions like these are exactly why 81-year-old Harold LaTray of Deer Lodge has been fielding a lot of calls of late—at least a dozen, he says, since placing the ad. Each caller has asked the same three things: Which cane is it? (It's a less garish, more sensible walking cane with Knievel's name and a patriotic red, white and blue design.) Where'd LaTray get it? (At a garage sale held by Knievel's first wife, Linda, about 20 years ago.) And how much had he been offered so far?
"Depends," he says. "How much are you willing to offer me right now?"
Turns out, LaTray isn't much of a Knievel fan. He purchased the cane at the garage sale because he figured it'd be worth something someday, not because he wanted a piece of history from an American cult icon. Now, he's simply looking to cash in. Any perceived romance in LaTray's enticingly efficient description can probably be chalked up to saving a few bucks not going to a fourth line in the ad.
Nevertheless, the availability of the Knievel cane prompted us to check out other local outlets for hidden treasures and valuable oddities with similarly tantalizing "For Sale" signs. The Indy pages featured a show pig. Craigslist had a vintage University of Montana marching band uniform, circa the copper-and-gold era. As for Knievel memorabilia, someone in Helena is selling an Evel Knievel business card, autographed by the daredevil with a gold paint pen. Asking price: $165. How's that stack up to LaTray's cane?
"Someone offered me $200 for it," LaTray eventually divulges. "But I'm holding out for a little more."