Travis Brown came into our lives from a coffee house where my son hangs out. It is the common meeting ground for smokers in this college town, and before long I was hearing stories of how Travis was getting my son a job on a ranch outside of town, the exorbitant amount of money he was going to be making, that he would learn how to brand cattle, etc. and all that kind of manly testosterone stuff that makes a real he-man belch, fart, and smack-the-old-lady-on-the-butt. Ride 'em, cowboy! Yee, Haw! Finally, after a lot of this kind of buildup, Travis moved in with my son in his little apartment. Just a temporary thing, of course. They were going to get a house together and live out at the ranch where Travis claimed he was working. When said son's birthday arrived, my daughter and her husband and I took them both out to dinner at Red Lobster. It was a good chance to meet Travis.

Travis was a little over six feet tall, gangly, and arrived wearing cowboy boots, jeans, a big silver belt buckle and a white straw cowboy hat. He opened doors for the ladies, said things like 'Howdy, ma'am!' and spoke with great reverence of the female sex. Travis told us of how they were going to be paid ahead of time (a hint, perhaps, that this was TGTBT, too good to be true?) but the checks had gotten stolen, and the boss man was in jail for getting into a fight in a bar. But not to worry, everything would be all right, they had a charge account in a local Western gear store and they were going to buy my son a pair of boots that afternoon after our dinner. Oh, yes, and he also regaled us with tales of roping cattle and bull riding, of which he claimed to be proficient. He told us that that week he was getting paid $1,500 for one night's ride. As he waxed poetic, Travis chowed down with gusto.

After dinner, we parted. I noticed my son-in-law looked a little puce-colored, but diplomatically he kept his mouth shut. The rest of us were quite taken with this colorful Western character. (By the way, he was just 21 years old.) Anyway, time went on and as the stories got more fanciful, we began to suspect that there was a strange smelling odor in Denmark. Being bipolar, and wanting desperately to have a job, especially one that sounded so exciting, my son was strung along for almost two months. But even he was getting discouraged when nothing ever came of the promised job, and when we got the two phone bills (one for a cell phone), that totaled over $350, we both realized that this situation had to end. Son was very careful with his phone bill, so these were all Travis's responsibility. Of course, there was no job, so no money to pay the bill. I tried to get the phone company to release us from the obligation of paying it, but they were adamant. My son asked Travis to move out, and he finally did after much hassle and brouhaha.

We knew that Travis had formerly been in jail as he had told my son that when they met, but I assumed it was for some minor affair. One day I pulled up his name on the Internet, looking up his background, and there was a Travis Brown who had been in jail for breaking and entering in this county. But this person was almost thirty years old, so I figured that either he lied about his age, or it was not the same Travis Brown. However, just for a lark I pulled up the sex offenders' list in our zip code area, and was scrolling down to see what kind of scummy people were in my immediate area of town (and wasn't I surprised to see how MANY there were! I couldn't believe it.) Towards the bottom of the list, guess whose name appeared-and a picture, also, so there was no doubt in anybody's mind that it was the same Travis. Big as life and twice as scary. It seems that he had been jailed at the age of sixteen for sexual assault on a nine-year-old boy! He was in jail for six years and was released at the age of twenty-one, just shortly before he stumbled across my son in the coffee house. And to add insult to injury, he had used my son's address as his own. All sex offenders have to register and have a believable address. Even though he was no longer living there, the address stayed there long after he had left town. I called the police about that and was told that there was nothing they could do about it until they had a new address for him.

Eventually my son filed a civil suit against Travis for the cost of the phone bill. Of course, we knew that we would never collect, but it went on his record and it seemed like the right thing to do. I have looked him up since, and he is living in a town north of here, doing the same con game probably on some other poor unsuspecting folks. The amazing thing in this case was that we were ALL taken in by him, except for perhaps my son-in-law. He had had six years to perfect his line of patter, and I can't imagine all the things that must have happened to him while he was in jail that he felt he needed to lie so eloquently in order to survive. I went back and forth between feeling a kind of compassion for him to sheer anger for his having taken advantage of my son who really needed help and kindness, and found himself caught in the web of the roommate from hell!

*This is not this person's real name.

Nancy Fitz-Gerald Viens December 1, 2004