Coyote tattoos

This weekend, we were in Louisville, Kentucky and I got a tattoo. Sometimes these race weekends all bleed together for me, with nothing all that out of the ordinary happening to separate one from another This one will definitely stand out. I didn’t have any tattoos, and part of me thought I would go the rest of my life without one. I had been throwing around the idea of getting one for three or four years, but never had a catalyst to actually do it.

The catalyst ended up being Jess Heenan. I’m sure any Behind The Barriers fan is somewhat familiar with Jess. She may also be known as The Cupcake Lady. Her husband, Mike, is the team manager for Rapha-Focus. She comes to a few races every year, and those are always a little more wild and fun than the rest.

Jess started texting me several weeks ago, telling me about how her tattoo artist moved from Milwaukee, her home, to Louisville. She wanted to get a tattoo while she was at the races, and she started to hint around about me getting one with her. I had always had this idea to get a howling coyote on my bicep. I texted the idea to Jess and she said she would get her guy to draft something up.

A moment in my high school life was one of the inspirations for the coyote. I was a senior and one of my best friends, who had graduated early, was working as a bird researcher in Cape May, New Jersey. He swung by at the end of school one day and asked if anyone wanted to go camping at the Delaware Water Gap that night. As the next day was a school day, most of my friends said no, but I was interested. It was foggy and gross on the drive up, which didn’t bode well for our comfort that night. We had two sleeping bags and a tarp.

We parked at a random turnaround and hiked in on a random trail. After hiking around for a few hours, it started to get dark, so we picked a spot to set up our stuff. We threw the tarp down in the woods just off the trail, threw the sleeping bags onto it, and then folded the tarp back over the sleeping bags. That way, if it was raining lightly, we wouldn’t get wet. The problem was that once we were trying to go to sleep, the rain wasn’t light. I didn’t sleep very much that night, as there was cold rain water infiltrating our crappy rain setup all night. It did, however, give me an opportunity to hear a bunch of coyotes scattered around us in the woods, howling their heads off all through the night. It was incredibly eery, but also very cool.

We gave up on trying to sleep at about 5 a.m., and my friend drove me to school. All in all, it was sort of a miserable experience, but I’ll never forget it because of how weird and out of the ordinary it was. I will especially never forget all of the coyotes.

I forced Jess to get her tattoo first, because I was nervous. She got a pair of flirtatious robots that turned out really well. That gave me a lot more confidence when I jumped in the chair. It ended up being an incredibly fun night. The tattoo artist, Biggs, was an awesome dude, and we all had a total blast. It was a weird and out of the ordinary night that I will never forget, just like that night in the Delaware Water Gap.

Sam Smith
Director/Producer, Behind the Barriers