"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Ben Franklin first said that, and to prove his point, he's now dead as fuck. Now, we can't help you with dodging taxes -- only corporations can pull that one off -- but we can give you a few inspiring stories of people successfully, brazenly, almost casually ducking death, like the Grim Reaper's call is just a jury duty summons.
Standing a burly six-foot-seven, Peter Freuchen looked like a lumberjack fucked a grizzly bear and she gave birth to the physical manifestation of an ass-kicking.
In 1906, at the ripe young age of 20, Freuchen dropped out of medical school and set off to explore Greenland by dog sled. That's where he met his first wife, an Inuit woman named Navarana Mequpaluk, who bore him a daughter named Pipaluk Jette Tukuminguaq Kasaluk Palika Hager and a son named Mequsaq Avataq Igimaqssusuktoranguapaluk -- because even the alphabet rightly feared Peter Freuchen.
On another of what came to be known as the Thule Expeditions, Freuchen found himself buried alive after waiting out a blizzard. With probably the grossest MacGyverism ever, Freuchen took a dump into his hand, shaped his deuce into a chisel, waited for it to freeze rock-solid, and then chipped his way to freedom. Unfortunately, shit-chiseling is grueling work, and by the time he crawled back into camp hours later, his left foot was hopelessly frostbitten. That's when he -- without any anesthetic whatsoever -- performed a self-amputation on his gangrenous foot, hopefully not with his shit-chisel.
When the Nazis came a-knocking during World War II, Freuchen returned home to join the Danish resistance movement. After aiding countless refugees from the Reich, Freuchen was captured and sentenced to death. Of course, he escaped and fled to Sweden, because if Mother Nature herself couldn't murder the bastard, what chance did the Nazis have?
14-year-old Jacklyn "Jack" Lucas was big for his age. But rather than squander his gifts playing football or buying beer for his friends, Lucas instead forged his mother's signature on a recruitment form and went to fight with the Marines in World War II. While trenched in on the shores of Iwo Jima, two grenades threatened to take out Lucas and his squad-mates. Here's what happened next, in Lucas' own words: "I hollered to my pals to get out and did a Superman dive at the grenades. I wasn't a Superman after I got hit. I let out one helluva scream when that thing went off."
Lucas' heroism earned him "more than 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body and every major organ, including six pieces in his brain and two in his heart." He returned home at 17 years old -- not even old enough to technically enlist today -- where he became the youngest Marine to ever be awarded the Medal Of Honor.
Lucas clearly wasn't afraid of much. In fact, there was only one thing that got to him: Heights. But that was still one thing too many for Lucas, so he set out to conquer his phobia by joining the Army -- legally, this time -- as a paratrooper. If you're afraid of bears and haven't already signed up to wrestle a grizzly, Lucas thinks you're kind of a pussy.
On one training jump, both Lucas' main and backup parachutes malfunctioned successively, because nothing helps you overcome a fear like experiencing the absolute maximum that fear can offer. According to witnesses, he was "the last one out of the airplane and the first one on the ground." He survived, of course, by rolling just as he hit, because Jack Lucas was the living embodiment of action movie physics.
In 1809, Sam Houston ran away from his Virginia home at the age of 16. He soon joined up with the Cherokee Nation, where he apparently learned to use every part of the foot to kick life's ass. When the War Of 1812 began, 19-year-old Houston joined up to fight with General Andrew Jackson's army.
While facing off against another tribe at the Battle Of Horseshoe Bend, Houston watched a soldier charge the enemy over an earth-and-log barricade, only to get immediately perforated. That was the first man to charge. Sam Houston was the second. The enemy rewarded his sizable bravery by shooting him with a sizable barbed arrow. In the groin.
Rather than quitting war and going home forever -- as would be perfectly understandable after catching an arrow to the dick-neighborhood -- Houston merely turned to his nearest fellow soldier and asked him to pull it out. When the soldier suggested that maybe they should find a medic because, you know, arrow to the groin, Houston pulled his sword on him and demanded that he remove the shaft, so Houston could launch straight back into the fight. He was rewarded for his renewed bravery by being shot three more times and collapsing onto the battlefield, where he was left for dead overnight. After being discovered still breathing the next morning, he was dragged 60 miles on a litter to a fort, where he was once again left for dead.
Of course, as a certain city in Texas that isn't Dallas can attest, Houston survived to start a prolific political career. On April 13, 1832, he bumped into Ohio congressman William Stanbery on the streets of Washington. Stanbery had recently accused Houston of defrauding the Cherokee while serving as the governor of Tennessee, a fact that did not sit well with a man who had once married into the tribe. So Houston, predictably, beat the ever-loving shit out of Stanbery with his cane. Stanbery pulled a gun and took point-blank aim at Houston's chest, only to have the weapon misfire and give Houston reason to double up on his trouncing. Andrew Jackson had a remarkably similar story about answering a pistol misfire with a resounding stick-thrashing, leading us to believe there was some sort of crippled demon back at Horseshoe Bend, making bizarre deals which traded invulnerability for vicious cane-beatings.
Tibor Rubin was born to a poor Jewish family in Hungary at precisely the worst point in the country's history to do such a thing. At the age of 15 he was sent to the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp, where an SS captain told the new arrivals, "None of you will get out of here alive." Rubin quipped "Nice fellow" to the guy next to him, and then proceeded to prove that SS captain wrong -- unlike 150,000 others at Mauthausen, as well as Rubin's own father, mother, and sister, who never made it out of their respective camps.
When American troops liberated Mauthausen, Rubin vowed to show his gratitude to the country that had saved him. He did so by volunteering to fight in the Korean War, where he proved himself to be an undeniable badass again and again. He started by single-handedly holding off a veritable tidal wave of North Korean troops for 24 goddamned hours, to give the rest of his regiment time to retreat.
He followed that up by manning a .30 caliber machine gun after its three previous gunners had been shot down, and continued to fire that sumbitch clear through the night and into the next day, until he ran out of ammo and was captured by the Chinese.
His captors offered to release him if he returned to his native Hungary, which is pretty much the sweetest deal a POW can hope for: "We'll set you free if you just go home and stop kicking our asses!" is a hard deal to turn down. And yet, Rubin refused ... and instead proceeded to sneak out of the prison camp each night (at risk of certain execution) to steal food and much-needed medical supplies for the comfort of his fellow POWs. He kept it up for two-and-a-half years.
Unfortunately, Rubin's sergeant repeatedly circular-filed recommendations from his superiors that Rubin receive the Medal Of Honor. It was a slight that would go uncorrected until 2005, when president George W. Bush retroactively awarded him the long-deserved accolade. The son of a bitch even made George W. Bush look good.
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Brian Blessed is best remembered for his role as Prince Vultan in 1980's Flash Gordon, and not for the fact that, at 67, he became the oldest man to reach an altitude of 28,000 feet without supplemental oxygen. It's a feat that, until relatively recently, scientists didn't think was possible for anyone, let alone someone who can get a senior discount at the goddamned Sizzler.
Though his attempts to summit Everest have been thus far unsuccessful, due to factors beyond his control, such as uncooperative weather and comrades with less impressive beards than his own, Blessed has conquered peaks like Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro at an age when most people fail to conquer stairs. He's also the oldest man to ever reach the North Magnetic Pole on foot, which he accomplished by walking to the North Magnetic Pole on his fucking feet, punching his way through polar bears and dreadful weather alike. That's right: Blessed says that when a polar bear nosed its way into his tent one night, he punched the apex predator right in the face, causing it to withdraw so he could get some damn sleep already.
When you consider that the man has survived plane crashes over the remote jungles of Venezuela, and once collapsed onstage while performing King Lear when his heart momentarily gave out on him -- only to shake it off and finish the play -- we're inclined to believe him.
At the time of this writing, Brian Blessed is 80 years old and still walks among us mere mortals, because who's going to tell him to quit? God? Not before Blessed has conquered the Mariana Trench, he won't.
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