Actor commemorates defining deaths, channels pain into ink


Richardson remembers a story from their hunting trips when they ran into a rattlesnake and tried to shoot it.

Major trauma can often provide a defining moment in people’s lives, especially when it happens at such a young age. For Cal Richardson, the Fort Worth native used ink to help navigate through the loss of his parents in his sophomore year of high school.

In the spring of 2014, Richardson’s father shot his wife and himself, leaving behind a drunken, barely legible suicide note.

“I remember having two families my whole life,” Richardson said. He described his parents early divorce and how his father’s wife was always like a second mother to him.

Richardson hadn’t talked to his father a year before the shooting, and his body was cremated, so he was never able to get a strong sense of closure. He got the tattoo on the two year anniversary of their death as an act of remembrance. The original idea for his piece was a string of blue bonnets.

“Blue bonnets have been such a relaxing, beautiful thing for me my whole life,” Richardson said. The St. Edward’s student said bluebonnets would bloom in the spring around the same time the deaths of his father and stepmother occurred.

The final idea came out of the festival he and his father went to every year in Sweetwater: the Rattlesnake Roundup.

Richardson remembers a story from their hunting trips when they ran into a rattlesnake and tried to shoot it.

“Looking back on it, I’m kind of glad we didn’t kill it,” Richardson said. “Maybe that means something.”

“The fact that the rattlesnake doesn’t have that rattler, doesn’t have that warning mechanism at all, is very representative of that [suddenness of his death].” Richardson said.

He describes getting the tattoo as a very therapeutic expression. He endured physical pain while being under the needle to get such beautiful artwork out of it in the end.

“That death is so defining of me and who I am and I don’t like it… but because it came to me as a 16 year old, it’s so defining of me.” Richardson said. “I wouldn’t be here today if that didn’t happen.”

His original path was to become an engineer, but after his loss he became interested in acting as a way of giving him joy and expression. He is now pursuing his passions as a theatre major.

“Underneath I’m always thinking or feeling something. I never have a sense of calm, and because of that I come off as very strange to people, and strange to myself,” Richardson said. He said that he was very simple before this, but because of his experiences, he now possesses greater complexity with anxiety and what he details as a “higher emotional IQ”.

“I struggle with being complex,” Richardson said. He tells that a lot of actors have very high emotions but know exactly what to do with them, but he is still in the process of learning. His mental state is still relatively new to him, since this tragedy being just a little over two years ago.

“Even talking about it right now is very therapeutic, because I don’t usually get to talk about this,” Richardson said. “I think me getting this tattoo has allowed me to talk about it.”

“No one likes to have this conversation, and I love this conversation, especially from the angle we’re having about it as a real life event… people think it’s scary… and it’s really nice to do this with you, and it’s exhausting, but it’s okay.”