Jesse Draper was born in St. Charles, Illinois, and has yet to find occasion to return. At six weeks old, his parents moved him to Colorado Springs, just long enough to have no memory of the place outside of a tragic big-wheel accident. As a child, one of the perks to living in the foothills of Pikes Peak, was the incredible speed that could be generated flying downhill on three oversized plastic wheels. One of the downsides to living in the foothills of Pikes Peak was the incredible force that was generated by said speed, as the child slammed into the side of a car, which was cruelly parked blocking the sidewalk. When Draper finally managed to get back to the top of the hill – to the safety of his home – his mother screamed and shut the door in his face. She proceeded to call for his father and lock herself in the bathroom crying. She was sure that her son had lost his left eye, and in her shock, she temporarily lost any sense of reason. The eye healed, and his mother managed to pull herself together.
Starting at the age of five, Draper spent the remainder of his childhood living in a small house at the bottom of a much smaller hill in Wheaton, Illinois. For his sixth birthday, Draper’s parents gave him his first bicycle: a banana seat bike with long handle bars that gave it the appearance of one of those West Coast, chopper-style motorcycles. Draper was thrilled at the opportunity to ride in the street where he could easily avoid cars parked on the sidewalk. As he gained confidence, he realized that there were many more exciting things that one could do while riding a bike. The older kids in the neighborhood were popping wheelies, riding on each other’s handle bars, and racing downhill to see who could leave the longest skid marks with their tires. Early one Saturday morning, Draper decided to learn how to pop a wheelie. Most of the other kids were riding lighter BMX-style dirt bikes with short handle bars that made it easier to get the front wheel off of the ground. Draper’s bike was a heavier street cruiser, and he found it difficult to get the leverage necessary to get the wheel to pop up. After many timid, half-assed failures, Draper decided to go for broke, and yanked on the handle bars with all of his might. The front tire launched off the ground and everything began to move in slow motion. The tire kept rising, and for one euphoric moment, Draper felt like he was about to take flight and lift of the ground entirely. And then everything sped up again, and terror filled Draper’s heart as he realized the bike was on top him, slamming him down to the street below. For what seemed like hours, Draper couldn’t catch his breath. With no clear recollection of how he got there, he found himself in his neighbor’s yard, pulling up grass by the handful, struggling to find air.
At the age of thirteen Draper became a skater like the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. Skateboarding in the 1980’s was all about doing tricks. The legendary Tony Hawk was just breaking onto the scene, and Draper had dreams of shredding half-pipes, grinding handrails, and flying around in empty concrete pools, just like Hawk did in his videos. The first step towards proving your worth as a skater though involved mastering the Ollie, a trick where the rider kicked the tail of the skateboard to the ground, while simultaneously lifting the nose of the board into the air with the side of the lead foot. The goal was to get enough air to clear obstacles like curbs, manholes and younger siblings. Draper became very proficient at performing Ollies from a standing position, but he knew that the real glory came with the ability to do so on the move. One afternoon, as he was working on perfecting his skill skating down the hill in front of his house, his front wheels got caught on a rock as he was landing an Ollie. The board froze underneath him, and his momentum launched him through the air and he came crashing down onto the concrete. His left elbow bled profusely as he ran to the neighbors house to get medical attention.
Many years later, when he was a sophomore at Wheaton College, Draper decided to pull out the old skateboard and use it to get around campus. One beautiful autumn afternoon on his way home from class, Draper saw his roommate sitting at the corner in his Grand Am. After a brief discussion with said roommate, it was decided that Draper could get back to the apartment much faster if he just held on to the back of the Grand Am, just like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. A few hundred yards into the ride, Draper’s roommate thought it would be fun to “punch it”, and accelerated to about thirty miles per hour. Terrified, Draper panicked and let go of the car to slow himself down. One problem with skateboards is that they cannot maintain stability at great speeds, but rather, begin to wobble frantically back and forth on their axles. Just as Draper’s skateboard began to wobble uncontrollably, he hit a speed bump. Once again, Draper found himself flying through the air at a terrific speed with only the concrete to break his fall. The immediate impact wasn’t too painful, as Draper more or less skipped off the road like a smooth stone tossed across a lake in the summertime.
A little less than a year after the skateboarding accident, Draper drove down to Ashville, North Carolina with some friends for a vacation at a summer home in the mountains. The trip promised to be epic, featuring days filled with firearms, a small off-road motorcycle, and alcohol. On the second day of the trip, Draper decided to take the motorbike for a ride down the mountain. The gravel roads at the top of the mountain gradually smoothed into pavement down closer to the bottom of the mountain, enabling downhill speeds of up to sixty miles per hour. On one particularly long, and rare, straightaway towards the bottom, Draper opened up the bike, got into the best crouch he could and prayed for a tailwind. But suddenly the bike stalled, locking up the tires, throwing Draper into a high speed skid. A smart man would have calmly squeezed the clutch and put the bike into neutral, thereby freeing up the wheels. Draper was not a smart man. He put both feet on the ground and rode the skid out for a good two hundred yards, miraculously avoiding serious injury. Greatly relieved and eager to put the bike away for a while, Draper started it up and began the slow ride back towards the house. The road bent around to the mountain to left, and was edged by trees that limited Draper’s visibility to not much more than about thirty feet ahead him. As such, he never saw the change from pavement to gravel coming. When the bike hit the gravel at thirty-five miles per hour it fishtailed into a spinning slide. Then the handle bar stuck into the ground, and yet again, Draper found himself flying through the air. It was then that he decided that it is always better to crash on pavement as opposed to gravel. The stones don’t gracefully skip across the gravel, the sink deep into the flesh.
When Draper returned to school in the fall, his roommate agreed to give him access to his Volkswagen Golf in exchange for a parking spot in his parent’s driveway off campus. One Saturday afternoon, on his way into Chicago to pick up a new drum set with the car, Draper stopped about four miles away from campus to get some gas. As he was waiting for the traffic to clear after filling up, a big yellow school bus slowed to a stop in the right lane just short of the driveway, and the bus driver signaled for Draper to pull out. Just as passed the front of the bus, a green Lincoln Town Car slammed into the passenger side of the car at thirty-five miles per hour. Draper’s head snapped to the left and shattered the window before the momentum of the Town Car launched him from behind the wheel over to the passenger seat. Draper sustained only minor injuries thanks to his negligence. Had he chosen to buckle up, Draper surely would have suffered serious injury when the door collapsed in past the steering wheel. It seems that the gods had finally had their fill of his blood, their wrath appeased.