An excerpt from Ch. 13, “From Baby to Leader” of NEVER SETTLED: a memoir of a boy on the road to manhood

For years, I had been the youngest in the family before Shelby was born. Terri was in charge and played a maternal role when Mom and Dad were both working. When anything bad happened, Terri and Jimmy received corporal punishment (up to forty spankings with a belt) while I, at worst, received five lighter spankings. In addition, Terri and Jimmy often blamed things on me because I rarely received discipline during those days. I was viewed as the baby who was always favored. I was also favored because I was both a cute and cuddly kid. My dad loved to cuddle with us. I had a sensitive nature and I’m sure that my dad caught on to that, feeling sorry for me as the baby at times.

    However, after Jimmy and Terri both ran away and began living in foster homes, I was now the oldest kid at home. Shelby, Shannon and Jesse were all born and suddenly I was in charge of three younger siblings at the ripe old age of twelve years. In just a few short years, I had gone from being the baby who could do no wrong to being the leader who could do no right. I was not ready for this leadership role and I didn’t want it. But it was thrust upon me and I paid the consequences for not living up to that role. Whenever Shannon or Jesse did wrong, as little ones under five often do, it was typically my fault for allowing it to happen. 

This changed everything for me. My view of my dad prior to this, was lovable and cuddly, at least when he was happy and not drunk. My view of my dad after this was hateful and angry at me all of the time, especially when he was drunk. It probably didn’t help that I hit puberty right around the same time, amping my emotions and moods.

    We were in Ault for a short time and then moved on to Hudson, Colorado. Hudson is where my memories became much clearer for me. Our moving slowed down considerably as we began to stay at each place a little longer. Mom got a job paying claims for a health insurance company, starting at MetLife which was later bought out several times and eventually became United HealthCare. However, she was able to keep the same job all the way through high school and beyond and worked in the same office every time we moved. This is also why most of our moves during this time remained in Colorado and within an hour or so drive of Denver. Dad had a few manual labor jobs the first few years, as well, but Mom’s job ended up making the most money and was very stable. We only moved ten more times over the next seven years before I graduated high school. 

    In Hudson, my friends began to matter much more. In a weird twist of events, I became friends with two of the most popular kids in my grade, Troy and Tony. I was still the quiet and shy kid, but for some reason they befriended me. Troy was the ladies’ man who all of the popular girls either dated or wanted to date. He was a good looking kid with dark brown hair, feathered to each side and parted in the middle, reminiscent of a young Brian Bloom. Troy had a nice house, seemed like he came from a bit of privilege and had plenty of friends, yet he invited me over and included me as his friend for some reason. 

    Tony, on the other hand, lived in the trailer park down the street and his family was Mexican. In Colorado, this was both accepted and not so accepted as numerous Mexicans lived in the area, but, as in many areas, Mexicans were looked down upon by the majority of white people, as poor immigrants. My dad was as racist as any from his generation and hated that I was friends with Tony. He was always on edge when Tony came over to the house and kept a close eye on him to make sure he didn’t steal anything. It’s ironic though, when I really think about it and our friendship. Tony brought way more to our friendship than I ever did.

    I was the new kid in the area and Tony was a popular kid who excelled at sports. He invited me into his life and friendship. Tony had fairly dashing good looks for a sixth grade kid and was well desired by the girls and admired by the guys. We used to play football in the street in front of his trailer park. We also played on the playground at school. Playing football with these guys provided both friends and belonging for me. Tony and Troy made a big difference for me because I was still a small kid and not very athletic, but they included me so I belonged. 

Tony introduced me to “high school style” wrestling.

Published by Shawn D. Congleton

traveler, writer, lover of God, thinker, family dude, in no particular order

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