Tag Archives: child abuse

My Life Stories: The Time I Got Shot

When I was thirteen years old, I lived with my two brothers and my father in New Braunfels, TX. Our father was a rageaholic who would scream at us for hours and spank us furiously with his thick, leather belt any time we broke the smallest of rules. As scary as it was living with him, my older brother was ten times worse. He was a bad seed from the day he was born. He literally stole baby bottles from the other toddlers in preschool. He tortured my twin and me emotionally and physically for years without having to worry about getting arrested for child abuse. Even though he was only thirteen months older than us, he was still too big for us to gang up on. Any time we ever did manage to hurt him in a fight, he’d go “Hulkamaniac” and pummel us, impervious to pain. We rarely told on him, because he would just beat us up twice as bad later as punishment.

One Saturday, my older brother and I were sitting in our bedroom while our father was away at work. I was happily devouring the contents of a carton of Whoppers, which was my favorite candy at the time. I was thoroughly enjoying this luxury, not even caring if I ate enough to give me a stomach ache.

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On the other side of the room, my older brother was playing with my Crosman 760 Pumpmaster BB gun. We all had BB guns, but mine was the most powerful. If you pumped it once or twice, you could probably shoot someone and it would bounce off the skin. If you pumped it fifteen times, you could kill a bird twenty yards away.

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He pumped it up seven or eight times and said, “Hey, Travis. Hold up that Whoppers carton, and let me see if I can shoot it out of your hand.”

Obviously, I told him, “No way. You’re going to hit my hand.”

He replied casually, “Let me put it to you this way, either you let me try to shoot it out of your hand, and hope I don’t hit you… or I’m going to beat you up and force you to let me do it anyway.”

Protesting or running wasn’t an option. So I reluctantly held the carton as high and far away from me as I could. I heard the gunfire and felt my hand go flying backward, letting go of the carton of Whoppers and spilling them everywhere.

Several thoughts went through my mind at that point. First, “Of course he shot me in the hand. He definitely did that on purpose.” Second, “I need emergency medical attention.” Third, “We can’t tell our father about this because he’ll give us the worst whooping of our lives, ground us forever and take away our BB guns.”

With these facts in mind, I inspected my hand to see how bad I’d been injured. The BB entered the side of my palm, just below my pinky finger, and I could see a bump under my skin on the top of my hand, just below the middle finger, where the BB had come to rest.

I was relieved to see the steel ball just under the skin because that meant I could cut it out myself by making an incision in the skin without having to dig into the muscle. Then there would be no need for an ambulance, and our father would never have to know what happened. So I went and found a pocket knife that one of us had won at a county fair earlier that year and took it to the bathroom sink, where I attempted to cut the BB out, but the pain was unbearable.

Losing blood and running out of time to fix the situation myself, I put the knife down and tried another approach, which to my surprise, actually worked. I simply pushed the BB out the way it came. With minimal effort, it popped out the side of my hand and rolled down the drain, leaving a blood trail in its path. Relieved, I put a Band-Aid over the bullet hole, wrapped myself in three heavy sleeping bags and laid under my bed for a few hours, shivering from blood loss and shock.

To this day, our father has no idea one of his children shot another one in their bedroom. It took my older brother a long time to feel guilty about what he did, but he grew up eventually, and we’re good friends now.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Art

My Life Stories: The Eggnog Story

Picture of a carton of eggnog

In 1987 I was seven years old. I had just moved from Pleasanton, Texas (population 8,000) to Paris, Texas (population 25,000) and was starting the first grade. Like any child, I was anxious about making friends and succeeding at my first year of school and life in general.

I didn’t have a very complicated personality at that age. I was so shy that my parents had to send me to speech therapy at an earlier age because I never spoke. It’s not that I couldn’t. I just let my identical twin brother do all the talking for me. He understood me. So he translated for the adults until they caught on to what we were doing and put a stop to it.

I was also trusting to a fault and vividly insecure. Despite my anxieties, I didn’t have a hard time integrating into my new environment because children enjoy meeting new children. So it wasn’t long before I was on a first name basis with a third of the kids on the playground, and I even had my own best friend, a swell kid named Robert who lived within walking distance of my house.

I’d been in first grade for almost a semester, and Christmas break was coming up. One day Robert and I were walking aimlessly around the perimeter of the playground at school after lunch talking about all things Christmas. At some point in the conversation I said one of the things I liked best about Christmas was that stores sold eggnog, and I love eggnog. Robert looked at me like he was a Ku Klux Klan member, and I just told him I was a gay black atheist.

Wide-eyed and with a tone of voice full of accusation, he shouted, “EGGNOG!” I flinched, and he shouted again, “EGGNOG!!” He kept shouting it over and over, and soon other kids standing nearby joined in. In no time there was a crowd of 5-10 children shouting angrily at me, “EGGNOG! EGGNOG! EGGNOG!”

I was just a poor country boy who moved up to the big city and was trying to fit in. I didn’t understand what social faux pas I had broken, but apparently, it was pretty major. I was terrified. So I ran. It didn’t take long before all 40-60 children on the playground saw what was happening and joined in. They chased me through jungle gyms and across basketball courts. I ran as hard as I could, but it was only a matter of time before they caught me and pinned me to ground. I can still remember the crowd surging above me screaming with such sincere disgust, “EGGNOG! EGGNOG!”

Picture of a group of children chasing a lone child.

I don’t remember how long I laid on the ground in a fetal position while my peers pelted me with accusations of eggnog. I remember going home feeling more confused about life than ever. I wanted to be a good person. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to make adults proud of me. But I couldn’t even get the eggnog thing right. I’d gone and fucked up by liking eggnog, and I didn’t even know why that was a bad thing.

These thoughts and question racked my mind all night and the next day until the end of lunch break when my classmates and I were released onto the playground again. I walked outside that day feeling vulnerable. So I hung back by the edge of the building to survey the scene. I made eye contact with a few kids, and nothing happened. My paranoia began to dissipate until I heard a shout from behind me, “EGGNOG!” As soon as that happened, every child on the playground immediately joined in. Again, I was chased around the playground by a mob of angry anti-egg-noggers until they pinned me.

I know there were teachers watching this whole fiasco unfold, and to my memory, they didn’t put a stop to it. I imagine they were just leaning against the wall of the school smoking cigarettes laughing at us.

Gif of Ron Swanson from "Parks and Recreations" looking concerned, then shrugging like he doesn't care.

I don’t know if they ever said anything to any of the other children, but nobody ever said anything about eggnog to me again after that day. It’s like it never happened. At times I’ve wondered if did since my memory is the only validation I have that this scenario ever occurred. Whether or not it was real, the experience shook me deeply for a long time. I didn’t admit to anyone else that I liked eggnog until high school. Even then I did so timidly.

As much damage as this event did to my self-esteem, it taught me a few things:

1: Question everything.

2: People tend to do whatever the people around them are doing, even if it’s being mean to someone else.

3: You don’t have to be ashamed of your choices if other people don’t agree with them. They may get on top of you sometimes, but in the end, they’re not going to spend their lives with you. You can do what you want when they’re not around.

4: Young people do stupid things that don’t make sense. That’s because we’re all born crazy, and life is a life-long struggle to figure out what sanity is. None of us will ever truly know what that is. So we all deserve a little leeway for doing stupid things like shouting “EGGNOG!” at their best friend and causing a riot that scars him emotionally for years of his formative life.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Goals
My Art

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