Most of us who still have intact and mostly alive grandparents generally wouldn't be intimidated by them in a physical sense. Then again, most of us haven't really put that to the test (nor should we). When pushed, you might be surprised what our senior citizens have in reserve.
Indiana Jones didn't age well, it turned out, but that's OK because we found a new role-model globetrotting adventurer, and she's old enough to qualify for a 10 percent discount at The Sizzler.
Helen Thayer is a photographer and author with a unique approach to aging: Rather than throttle her life back and take up less challenging hobbies like scrapbooking, Helen decided to travel around the world daring God to bring her down.
She made that hat out of her own mother.
At the age of 50, when most of us are well on the way to heart attack No. 2, Thayer hiked alone across the North Pole. She was the first woman to solo any pole (wow that sounded really dirty) and she pulled her own sled. At 50, who has time to stop for a bunch of dogs to pee on every neat rock they pass by? Helen wrote a bestselling book about the experience and spent her next few years laying low and hiking across every desert in the Americas.
Later, she ate that camel raw.
That all turned out to be practice for her real desert hike in 1995. At aged 57, Helen trekked the entire 4,000-mile length of the Sahara Desert. But marching alone through the world's harshest deserts had only bored her. Antarctica was the real challenge. So in 1997, Helen took a 625-mile walk alone through the South Pole. We should point out that the area Helen walked through was almost completely devoid of other life, and is basically as close to the surface of an alien world as it gets.
Helen celebrated her 60th birthday there, at the bottom of the planet. And did we mention she carried her supplies for the whole trip on a 260-pound sled? And this is all just the tip of Helen Thayer's iceberg of awesome: if normal people consider it a deathtrap, she's walked across it. If Raiders of the Lost Ark had starred Helen instead of Indy, that whole "Nazi" problem would have been over in about 45 minutes.
We're pretty sure she wouldn't put up with any of Shia LaBeouf's crap, either.
There's a laundry list of reasons why Miss Venus Ramey -- better known as Miss America 1944 and one-time Bond-girl candidate -- is a total badass. For starters, she was the first redheaded Miss America, the first Miss America to be photographed in color, and the only Miss America whose name graced the most successful B-17 "Flying Fortress" of World War II. Protected by a crude painting of her namesake's bosom, the Venus Ramey flew 68 missions without losing a man.
Helping keep morale perky.
But none of that comes close to the most badass chapter in the saga of Venus Ramey, which would come six decades later. In 2007 four men decided to rob a tobacco farm in south-central Kentucky. The now-elderly Venus noticed the robbery right away. But rather than call the police, this 82 year old beauty pageant veteran grabbed her .38 and her walker and stepped out into the cold night to deal justice.
Kindly old justice.
Ramey confronted the men, who piled back into their car and tried to escape. But Venus wasn't having any of their crap; she braced herself against the walker, using it like the chassis of a howitzer, and calmly shot all four of their tires out. She then held the men at gunpoint and flagged down a passing driver. Only then, with the situation well in hand, did she call the police.
Who probably also surrendered to her.
But at least she had a gun. The same can't be said for Ann Timson ...
You're walking home from work one afternoon when the sound of revving scooter motors fills your ears. A cluster of the little bikes roar up the road and slide to a stop out in front of a jewelry shop. Three men wielding sledgehammers dismount and charge towards the shop. They bash at the windows while a security guard cowers inside.
As a general rule, big, violent men armed with sledgehammers aren't something one confronts alone and unarmed. If you aren't Tony Jaa, your reaction to that situation would probably be something along the lines of "cry and run."
Oh, hey, speak of the devil ...
That very scenario occurred this February in Northampton, England. Six men in scooters rode up to a Rolex store and proceeded to wail on the windows. It was broad daylight and a crowd of people saw everything. But no one moved to help. No one even drew their phone.
And then Ann Timson, retired septuagenarian and part-time Hulk, burst onto the scene. She straight-up charged the crowd of grown, armed young men and started beating the everloving daylights out of them. With her purse.
That's the robbers tripping over their own bikes to get away.
One moment, we see Ann in the thick of it, swinging wildly as the robbers crowd in around her. Then, a truck blocks our cameraman's view. When it passes, the entire mob is in flight and Ann is giving chase. She even managed to force one rider to dismount. Other locals (who weren't in their freaking 70s) finally stepped in to restrain the man while the World's Slowest Cop arrived on scene a minute later.
All six robbers were arrested within minutes of the attack. We hope, for the sake of their rectums, that no one inside has access to YouTube.
Don't make grandma bring the pain.
"Crippled" is one of those nasty, absolute words that don't generally leave a whole lot of wiggle room. The point at which your "good days" are the ones where you can use a cane instead of a motorized wheelchair is the point at which most men give up their dreams of being Batman. As a general rule, the ability to stand is a precursor to "kicking ass."
Hobbies include jigsaw puzzles and rage.
That's how most people think. And it's also what three would-be robbers felt on the day they tried to snatch a crippled 88-year-old retiree's safe. Biagio Sciscione was minding his own business, thinking about erections past, when a woman from the local church knocked on his door with some questions. While the kindly old man listened to her prattling, two men sneaked inside his house and lifted the safe. They were out the door and almost to their Lexus SUV when Scisione noticed them.
So here's the match-up:
Three young, fit robbers within feet of a running car.
One 88-year-old man unable to walk under his own power.
Common sense tells us there's only one way that all shakes out. But common sense has never told Sciscione a single thing in his entire life. Veins bulging with adrenaline and Viagra, the retired butcher and WWII vet tossed his cane away and ran to intercept the thugs. He gave the first man "a couple of socks" and wrestled with a female assailant. The burglars, confronted by this raging typhoon of geriatric justice, fled.
Ah, a Carnival Cruise. The perfect way for upper-middle-class retirees to get away from it all and drink heavily without the threat of social ostracism. While vacations to South and Central America have their dangers, passengers who pay big bucks for a tour usually get to side-step the poverty-fuelled property crime and raging drug wars.
Next stop, Detroit!
That wasn't the case for a group of 12 American tourists who took a run off the beaten path and hired a guide to take them through the Costa Rican countryside. They were on their way out of the van to check out a beach when three masked bad guys rushed them and started waving weapons around.
One fifty-two year-old woman thought the armed robbery was "a skit" until one of the men jammed a gun in her face. At that point, a mystery Carnival Cruise passenger -- aged 70 -- leaped out of the van like a member of the freaking A-Team and charged the gunman.
When we picture it, there was an explosion.
The mystery senior, who was reportedly a U.S. vet who was "specifically trained in self-defense" grabbed the 20-year-old gunman by the head and executed a move familiar to anyone who watched an action movie released during the 1990s.
The gunman dropped with a broken clavicle, and eventually died of asphyxiation. His two accomplices fled the scene. The whole tour group elected to continue their visit to Costa Rica. Because they'll be DAMNED if something as minor as being jumped by and killing some dangerous assailants is going to get in the way of their hunt for really inexpensive homemade crafts.
We don't want to take anything away from the acts of elderly badassery on this list. We hope that we're as spry when we're that age, but know that we won't be because we're not that spry now.
But that said, none of these people hold a candle to Samuel Whittlemore.
We're going back a ways -- he was born in England in 1695. He started his military career as a British soldier in one of the innumerable wars France and England fought to determine which nation's accent would go on to grace every villain in American movie history. In 1745, the 50-year-old Sam helped to capture the French Fort Louisburg. He walked away with the sword of an enemy officer who, Samuel claimed, had "died suddenly." In 1758, France and England went to war again (it was a bit of a habit) and the 64-year-old farmer was forced to capture the French fort a second time.
"Ok, but make it quick. I have mountains to punch."
He fought next in the Indian Wars and -- at the age of 69 -- won himself a nice set of dueling pistols whose owner had, again, "died suddenly." The Revolutionary War broke out when Whittlemore was 81 and, finally yielding to his advancing years, the old soldier left the fight up to the capable hands of younger men.
For about ten seconds. When the fighting at Lexington and Concord resulted in two columns of British soldiers burning homes and farms along their avenue of retreat, Minuteman Whittlemore was moved to action. He joined up with another group of Colonial insurgents, but rejected their guerrilla tactics in favor of a more direct approach: standing in the path of a redcoat advance.
Like this, except he would have melted the tanks.
Sam waited until point-blank range to fire his musket and pistols, bringing three men down and charging the rest of the column with his sword in hand. The British soldiers fired, and one managed to hit Sam in the face. He went down just long enough to be surrounded and bayoneted 13 times.
Via Revolutionary War Archives
"It's only a flesh wound!"
A bullet to the face and thirteen knife wounds would be enough to stop even the hardiest of rappers. But Sam survived. When his allies found him, he was still conscious and trying to load his musket. The field doctors thought Sam was done for. But he ended up pulling through the night ... and the next eighteen years. Whittlemore didn't die until 1793 -- at the age of 98. Or 897 in 1793 years.
For more unexpected ass-kickers, check out 5 Shockingly Powerful Kids Who Make You Look Like a Coward and 6 Formerly Kickass Creatures Ruined by Evolution.