Hitchhiker lands in Denton after rocky past

Hitchhiker lands in Denton after rocky past

Hitchhiker lands in Denton after rocky past
June 10
16:33 2016

Nealie Sanchez | Staff Writer


Nestled in a store front on Sunset Street is an old, wooden door with a golden mail slot. Behind this door is a miniature gallery filled with canvas paintings. Behind the counter is tattoo artist, Darian Fulks, whose eyes stay focused as he cracks a smile, and knuckles read “home sick.”

Fulks’ past, since age 15 when he ran away from Denver, Colorado, includes hitchhiking, family, motorcycles and bar fights. He left because of the sudden move from the quaint familial life in Arkansas he was used to.

“It was a completely different way to live. Kids there were experiencing things I had no idea about. Whether it was music, fashion or this and that,” Fulks said. “Combined with the fact that I didn’t really know how to deal with the Fulks-side of the family’s expectations of me or deal with socializing with my peers I was completely lost.”

His cumbersome family situation and social differences fostered a will to become independent.

“Growing up in Arkansas and just kind of being who I am developed this kind of independence pretty early on. It was clear to me that I was who I was,” Fulks said. “I had a hard time with people trying to change that.”

He set off on his own by way of hitchhiking. Sometimes stopping to “do a little high school here and there” at Valley View High School in Valley View, Texas. The spirit of freedom was ingrained inside of him.

“I want to experience things that are above average that aren’t normal,” Fulks said. “I began to thrive on it.”

He would end up leaving Texas to hitchhike to Cortez, Colorado until the age of 17. From there, he hitchhiked around the country until age 21. Through this time, Fulks made money doing day-labor.

“You just learn how to get by somehow. You do what you need to do,” Fulks said. “You just kind of live real lean.”

One particular rough patch would serve as a turning point for Fulks through his hitchhiking journey. He was roaming at 5 a.m. through Nebraska and hitched a ride from a truck driver. They stopped for a while, and Fulks felt a certain vibe.

“It was the first time I kind of felt like I was OK, and everything was pretty clear because you’re in a situation where your options are pretty limited,” Fulks said. “You go try to survive or you don’t. That philosophy started to drive me and formed the way I deal with life.”

After having this self-realization, Fulks ended up atrending an art institute associated with the Chicago Museum of Art. In art school, Fulks focused on film, but through his drawing and painting classes, he learned how to communicate what was going on inside through art work.

“Paintings are the only way that I really can communicate with the world honestly and unfiltered. Because it’s not a direct communication,” Fulks said. “It doesn’t go through my brain, so I can say what needs to be said through painting.”

Darian Fulks, Red River Tattoo Company owner, smiles while talking with Justin Crutsinger as he applies the tattoo to Crutsinger's skin.

Darian Fulks, Red River Tattoo Company owner, smiles while talking with Justin Crutsinger as he applies the tattoo to Crutsinger’s skin. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Fulks returned to Arizona from there and made a little living off of selling landscape paintings and doing construction work. During that time, he and his wife, who he was married to for three years, were foster parents and he decided to try Christianity out.

“I was just tired of running around. I was looking for something more stable,” Fulks said.

His bout with Christianity ended when his friend Cathy lost a battle with cystic fibrosis. Now, he considers his relationship with God a personal one. Fulks described the last six months of her life as a struggle with how she didn’t have enough faith in order to be healed.

“I thought, ‘I wish that I was just around her as a human being having fun and doing fun stuff instead of trying to get her healed somehow,’” Fulks said.

After splitting with his wife he met somebody who he started a band with for a short time. His brother-in-law happened to own some tattoo shops in Tucson where Fulks did his first tattoo on his band member.

Red River Tattoo Company owner Darian Fulks refills the ink on his needle before working on more of Justin Crutsinger's tattoo.

Red River Tattoo Company owner Darian Fulks refills the ink on his needle before working on more of Justin Crutsinger’s tattoo. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

“It was awful because I didn’t have the slightest idea what I was doing, and the problem was that I was making a ton of money, so I didn’t care,” Fulks said. “It was the first time I had that much cash for doing something so cool.”

Fulks worked at that shop for a year until realizing he should get some instruction. He ended up at another shop in Tucson called Black Rose where the owner, Mack, was a member of a motorcycle club and Fulks decided he had arrived at where he was supposed to be.

“It was a job and a situation that made it easy to be reckless and it would be O.K.,” Fulks said.

Fulks stayed at that shop for a while and eventually moved to a shop associated with the same club back in Denver which proved to be the same thing but on a larger scale.

This job generated enough money for an apartment right on Mission Beach with a monthly rent of $1,400. Then, the 2008 stock market crash took Fulks by surprise when people spent less money on tattoos.

“It came out of nowhere. I wasn’t paying attention,” Fulks said. “I’m sure other people were but I wasn’t.”

Fulks packed up and headed back to Tucson. The dip in customer base became a source of anger in Fulks. He started to get into bar fights and, in one altercation, was left with a cracked skull.

“Something that I loved was starting to become something that I couldn’t deal with anymore. I became really angry,” he said.

The tattoo industry had changed and he couldn’t find the life he had before. When he met his friend Julia from the flower shop in front of the tattoo parlor he worked at, he didn’t realize yet that she would be crucial to the recovery of accepting that the life he was missing could not be found.

“I went back trying to get that [old life] back because I needed stability and it just wasn’t there,” Fulks said. “I couldn’t deal with it and I just went even deeper out of control.”

On the way back to Tucson, Fulks stopped in Denton to hang with his cousins and get to know them. A week after visiting Denton, he made a friend and a decision that made his life into what it is at present: being charged with a DUI on the Square.

“I decided I wasn’t going to go anywhere. It didn’t make sense to go to another state and have to go back and forth,” Fulks said, remembering staying in Texas for court dates. “I decided to make the best of the situation and with some money that was set aside. I decided to open a tattoo shop here in Denton.”

Red River Tattoo Company owner Darian Fulks outlines the Big Bend portion of Justin Crutsinger's Texas tattoo.

Red River Tattoo Company owner Darian Fulks outlines the Big Bend portion of Justin Crutsinger’s Texas tattoo. Dylan Nadwodny | Visuals Editor

Overall, settling down in Texas has proved to be a positive experience. Fulks’ DUI became a lesson learned and helped straighten him out and establish an air of professionalism for his business.

“All the things that go along with opening a shop and having a business just put a lot into perspective, and I can still capture that feeling of freedom and excitement,” Fulks said. “I poured everything into opening this place up and making it work.”

Featured Image: Darian Fulks, Red River Tattoo Company owner, settled down in Denton after a life of hitchiking and traveling across the country. Fulks opened his shop on Sunset Street. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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