When Nick Castro’s dad found out his son had gotten a tattoo, the man was furious.
Then, he saw the ink: It had his name, Timoteo, designed onto a musical note behind Castro’s ear.
And Timoteo became ecstatic, happy a hundred times over.
When Castro’s mom found out he’d gotten a tattoo, she was angry, too. Castro told the story Friday standing outside Every Mother’s Nightmare Tattoo on West Broadway, the shop name being evidence enough Castro’s mama wasn’t the first to get bent out of shape over a child’s tattoo.
Cheli, a woman who exudes confidence even from a distance, had her own reason for feeling underwhelmed by the design behind her son’s left ear. Yes, it was her name.
“She was mad because it wasn’t big enough,” Castro said.
Castro, who was about to get a Griz paw stamped onto his inner thigh, told the story about his family while waiting outside the tattoo parlor Friday. Incidentally, no one seemed angry in line, probably because most were about to get free ink.
Kyle Handley, the owner, was giving away free Griz tatts in preparation for the Brawl of the Wild football game. People were standing in line for seven, even eight hours to walk out the door with a black or maroon Griz paw, a design with a cursive, Lady Griz look, or a third one with the flag for Griz Nation.
At about 5 p.m., the shop had already inked at least 60 people, and roughly 30 others stood in line, some for moral support, some indecisive. Most, though, were Griz fans in line for the freebies.
“So far, the Griz paw has been most popular,” Handley said, as he drew just that onto the back of one customer, whose friend offered her a green stuffed animal to hold onto for comfort.
Outside, Cheryl Noell of Missoula was getting her very first tattoo. She’d always wanted one, and when the opportunity came for a free Griz design, she jumped on it. As Noell tells it, her son was almost more thrilled than she was: “Mom’s getting a tattoo. My mom is a rebel. Yes!”
Frances Eagleman heard about the deal from her sweetheart, Marcus Old Coyote, and she stood in line debating where she would place the tattoo. She has a red lily on her right shoulder, and the Griz gear would go somewhere else. But where?
“I’m having a hard time deciding between my butt and my foot. I have a big scar that I need to cover up on my butt,” said Eagleman, a UM student studying exercise science and Native American studies.
Griz fans are unabashedly devoted and dedicated, and they’ve been known to show their undying affection for the team in countless ways, some perhaps unconventional. The old tradition of parading goal posts about town comes to mind, but Eagleman’s most inspired act of fanship was taking place right then and there at the parlor.
“I think this is it. I mean, a tattoo is permanent. Griz fan for life, whether I like it or not,” she said.
And come to think of it, whether her boyfriend’s family likes it or not. Old Coyote, studying wildlife biology at UM, has a family tree full of Bobcat fans, and he’s the only one with a heart of maroon. Before Friday ended, he planned to have a Grizzlies tattoo on his forearm, a place everyone, including family, could see.
“I’m rebelling against them being Bobcat fans. They didn’t raise me right,” Old Coyote said.
Once, he admitted he stole beer from some Cat fans only to turn around and sell the same beer to other Bobcat fans. It served them right, but he also admitted he gave the money back.
Inside the parlor, Brandy Conover prepped people for the work, cleaning them up, shaving when necessary and tacking on the stencil. She’d been at it since 9 a.m., and she had her ears peeled for a request she knew would come sooner or later: A Bobcat tattoo.
“I keep waiting for someone to ask,” Conover said.
In another kind of rivalry, there might be room for negotiation, say, the Beatles versus the Rolling Stones, or scrambled versus sunny-side up. Another business with a preference might see an opportunity to cash in big on the backs of their foes, but no price appeared to be high enough for Every Mother’s Nightmare when it came to crossing Griz Nation.
Brad Lane, one of the artists, said there’d be one correct response to the almost inconceivable request for a Bobcat tattoo in the heart of Missoula.
“There’s the door.”
Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, firstname.lastname@example.org or on MissoulaRedTape.com.