There is beauty and danger in a North Texas spring. It brings a first blush of warmth, the sunny promise of flip-flops, and sometimes, savage, life-altering storms.
But spring is also the time when two of our favorite things come bursting crazily, beautifully back to life: wildflowers, and the eight-wheeled hellcats known as the Dallas Derby Devils.
At first glance, the two things might seem ridiculously discordant: wildflowers and roller-derby girls. But stare at them long enough, and you'll find they share some qualities that are quintessentially Texan: Pretty, unpredictable and untamable. In their full regalia and riot of color, they have such exotic looks that you can't resist dropping everything to have your picture taken among them. Which is why we couldn't resist bringing them together for a photo shoot. They are intoxicating.
Some might not look so tough, but they have to be steely enough to fend off the enemy -- whether it's a nettlesome snarl of encroaching weeds, the deranged spring weather or a bruising hip check.
In their sprawling collective beauty, they are in your face. They will not be denied.
But individually, just like wildflowers, the Dallas Derby Devils might surprise you. Some are zany fireballs from word go; others are such pure introverts you wonder how they came to hear the siren song of roller derby at all. There's even a librarian among them.
The 2010 edition of the Derby Devils lace up their skates for their second bout of the season Saturday, but before they do we wanted to get to know them better. And what better place to do that than in a wildflower field on a windy Wednesday in Aledo?
It was a rowdy, unforgettable afternoon. And as I was driving home, I was thinking how awesome it would be if I could've plucked them all out of the field and adopted them as my new friends.
Real name: Desiree Chartier
Day job: makeup artist for MAC cosmetics
Team: Death Row Rumblers
Doin' derby since: age 20
Got into it because: Her best friend showed her a "derby" flyer, and she got it in her head that it was a car smash-up derby. When her friend took her to a skating rink ... "I knew I was in for some trouble."
What you get out of it: "I love the sisterhood of it, I love the violence, I love the aggression. I love to go drink afterwards. This is pretty much my life -- this and makeup."
Worst injuries: torn ACL, torn rotator cuff and a broken pinkie. "Word to the wise: Safety first!"
Favorite flower: "The bluebonnet! Or a yellow rose. It's all Texas-style."
She's the one who: Was voted class clown and best pivot. Loves to sing karaoke. Known as the crazy one. "I really just talk about poop and fart jokes all the time."
Body art: She's covered in it, but most notable: a huge pink flamingo on her left thigh, and on the inside of her bottom lip, part of her skater name: "Deck'em." Also, she's got a crystal in her tooth. Um, why? "I went to the dentist and asked them to put it on, because I like to be ghetto-fabulous, because roller derby is awesome and ghetto-fabulous like that."
Name game: Her real nickname is Desi, and the "Deck'em" reminded her of ska and reggae artist Desmond Dekker. (Also, she says: "I'm a fighter, not a lover.")
Favorite female bad-ass: Rosie the Riveter and Joan Jett.
Real name: Alysha Vandergriff
She lives in: North Richland Hills
Day job: graphic designer, LunchboxCreations.com
Team: HellRazors, the All-Star travel team
Doin' derby since: 2008
Got into it because: She's been a speed skater since she was 5. When she saw the A&E show Rollergirls in 2006, she knew it was for her.
What you get out of it: "So many great friends. Before this, I never hung out with women. I was a tomboy, I hung out with boys, I got in a lot of trouble growing up at school. I found this, and it keeps me in a straight line. It keeps me focused and athletic, and gives me something to do."
Worst injury: "I've never really been injured very much, thank god. Knock on wood."
Favorite flower: "Black roses, I guess. You're not gonna see any of that out here," she says, looking around the Aledo wildflower field. "I'm not a flower girl, really. I'm a derby girl."
She's the one who: Leads the fist pump revolution. "Fist pumpin' like champs!," she yells, prompting six other Derby Devils to fist pump and "Wooooo!" along.
Body art : Roller skate on her left shoulder (her first pair of skates); Buddha tattoo on her right shoulder. "I'm a Buddhist -- Buddhism kind of saved my life. Like I said, I got in trouble in high school."
Name game: We have a master roster you have to go by, so you have to make sure your name's not already taken. And of course all mine were already taken, so I ended up with Jackie Lation, which works.
Fave derby accessory: Her 30-year-old Riedell skate boots handed down to her by her mom, also an ex-speed skater.
Favorite female bad-ass: "Courtney Freakin' Love. She has a story to tell. No matter what she has been through, and how bad people talk about her, she never lets it get in her way of success."
Real name: Lyndi Stout
She lives in: Euless
Day job: sales associate for RadioShack ("It's a workout in itself."); also goes to school for massage therapy.
Team: Suicide Shifters
Doin' derby since: This is her second season, although injury has prevented her from skating in a home season (that changes on June 16).
Got into it because: She used to work at Coal Vines Pizza in Southlake with a few Derby vets -- The Shocker and the now-retired Scary Cherry Bang Bang. "They always said I'd be good at it and that it was a lot of fun. So I tried out that next October."
What you get out of it: "We have 120-some-odd girls, but we're all close. We may have our fights and our drama, but we all love each other. You always have a family there, regardless of where you come from, and you're accepted for who you are."
Worst injury: She severely broke her leg, ankle and foot. She's got a plate in her leg, and a kick-ass scar to show for it.
Favorite flower: "I don't think I have one. Oh, wait, yes I do." She turns around to reveal a giant hibiscus tattoo on her right shoulder.
Name game: When she worked at Coal Vines with Scary Cherry Bang Bang, one night they were trying to close up, and Scary Cherry locked her keys inside the restaurant. "And I took apart the door. And from then on, she always called me Punk. And that was my name."
Body art: A sun and three stars on her left thigh; her derby name "Punk" with brass knuckles on her left thigh; two music notes and a heart on her left hip; the quote "One day at a time" on her left hip; a hibiscus on her left shoulder blade, three stars behind her left ear, and a cross with angel wings on her lower back.
Fave derby accessory: "My skates! They have my name, 'Punk,' painted on the sides."
Favorite bad-ass female: fellow Derby Devils Rink Panther and Roller Over
Real name: Holly Cocanower
She lives in: Fort Worth
Day job: stay-at-home mom. "I'm married to a fantastic guy, with two sons, 12 and 6."
Doin' derby since: midseason last year.
Got into it because: She's skated all her life, just for fun. It all changed the day she read an article about a woman who did roller derby. Captivated, she contacted the woman. "And she said 'Come to a practice.' And I did, I tried out, and the rest is history."
What you get out of it: Her husband says it's the sexiest thing she's ever done, and her sons have a blast watching her. "I am still scared to death and get knocked around all the time," but she loves it.
Worst injury: "In my very first bout [in April], my shoulder got separated, because I fell into my own team. That was pretty embarrassing."
Favorite flower: "It has to be the bluebonnet," she says, gesturing around the field. "Seriously? There's a reason why it's our [state] flower. And I would pick one, but I don't think I'm allowed to do that. So, just look. It's beautiful!"
Name game: "I'm pretty short, I'm in my early 40s. I was thinking about something I had done recently, which would've been ..." and here she clamps her hands to the top of her face and stretches it comically backward ... "Botox. So I thought: 'Botox ... Botox ... Bo Toxin!'"
Body art: "Do braces and Botox count?"
Fave derby accessory: "I just LOVE our new uniforms, but I didn't get to wear it for the photo shoot. I also love my McDavid HexPad roller derby shorts that protect my bum when I get clocked."
Favorite female bad-ass: Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from Terminator 2
Real name: Marquel Anteola
She lives in: Fort Worth (with her husband)
Day job: librarian
Doin' derby since: January .
Got into it because: She watched DDD play all last season and got hooked. Then she heard about tryouts and got to know a bunch of girls in the league. "And the vets have been very welcoming."
What you get out of it: She's always been active; she has a few marathons and a triathlon under her belt. But derby pulled her out of her comfort zone into some exhilarating fun.
Worst injury: So far, just some really good bruises.
Favorite flower: Indian paintbrushes. "They're similar to the bluebonnet, but they stand out a little more in the nice green grass."
Name game: She wanted something that related to her career, but all the saucy librarian names were already taken. So she went for cultural and alliterative: Foxy Filipina.
Body art: an island in the sun on her lower back; religious symbol on her right ankle.
What do her library colleagues think of her new hobby?: "They say: 'What? You do roller derby? You're a librarian.' But they've been really supportive, and a lot of them come to cheer me on."
Is there a misperception that you're all just a bunch of bad-asses? "Well, roller girls are bad-asses," she corrects. "But there are a lot of professional people in the league, and everyone's really smart and educated, and this is just something fun to do, it's an outlet."
Fave derby accessory: knee socks
Favorite bad-ass female: "The Bride," Uma Thurman's character in Kill Bill.
Real name: Danielle Call
She lives in: Arlington
Day job: This Texas Woman's University grad majored in psychology, has worked in retail management, and now she's back in school for ultrasonography.
Doin' derby since: This is her second season
Got into it because: "I started watching it three or four years ago, and oh my gosh, it was so much fun. It was when it was still at the roller rink, and it was BYOB, and you could bring your own chairs, and we just went with all of our friends, it was a big Saturday night thing every month. And I was like: 'Those girls are so awesome, and someday, when I'm done with school and I have some time, I'm so gonna do that.' And I'm doin' it."
What you get out of it: a challenge, an awesome workout, new friends, confidence and pride in being a strong woman
Signature move? "Flying out of bounds. Being hit. Oh, it happens pretty easily, I've gotta work on that."
Worst injury: torn rotator cuff
Favorite flower: "I like them all, they're so pretty."
Name game: "I was on the Slaughterers, and they all have very tough names, and 'banshee' was the toughest thing I could think of, and I have blue eyes."
She's the: Sweet one. She's self-deprecating, and when she rams someone on the track, she apologizes. "I'm trying to home in on the bad-ass part; it's a little tough for me, I'm a little bit too nice. I'm working on it." But wait 'til you read what she says about her "tattoos."
Body art: "I have a pin-up girl wearing nothing but rocket-powered roller skates tattooed on my uterus. My tattoo also has a tattoo on her shoulder of a smoking gun that says 'hard-core.' 'Cause I'm that hard core." (We hope she's kidding.)
Fave derby accessory: "I love my pink fishnets, but I'm going to go with my padded derby shorts. Gotta save the tailbone and protect the baby-maker. Plus, my husband digs the sexy egg-crate pattern it leaves behind."
Favorite bad-ass female: "Sookie Stackhouse [of HBO's True Blood] is pretty bad-ass. First of all, her name is Sookie. Secondly, she kills and dates vampires. And, lastly, I'll admit it, she's hot."
6 Ft Fortress
Real name: Kaitlyn Cunningham
She lives in: Dallas
Day job: works in advertising; art buyer
Team: Suicide Shifters
Doin' derby since: October.
Got into it because: This Michigander had years of street hockey and inline skating experience, but didn't get into it until she moved to Dallas and saw a thrilling championship bout. "It was a tie score, overtime, the crowd was on its feet, and it was the most amazing energy I had ever experienced." She bought some quad skates and went for it.
What you get out of it: "It's just amazing to be with so many strong and powerful women. And it's fun and it gets out all that aggressive energy. I used to do martial arts, and my sensei used tell me I had a lot of anger-management issues that tai chi was helping me with. So I'm focusing on channeling my energy in a positive way ."
Worst injury: "I've never been more bruised or injured in all my life. These girls are tough. If you just get up and keep playing, every girl out there has injuries, knee braces, has popped their shoulders out of joint, and you're like: 'Man I'm gonna get right back up there, because I don't wanna look like a wuss.' It's a little competitive, you've got your derby scars."
Favorite flower: I love wildflowers, but I'm rather fond of a fuji mum. Just one single flower in a vase is really elegant and beautiful.
Name game: She loves all the raunchy names like Jackie Lation and Annie Rection. "But I wanted my parents to come watch me, and they're very good Catholic people, so I wanted something that's not so in-your-face. I'm tall -- I'm only 5'11, but with skates on I'm over 6 feet tall. And I knew I wasn't very fast yet, so I thought, well, 6 Ft and I'm gonna be a blocker, so, a fortress. It's a play on words that works well."
Body art: none!
Fave derby accessory: Her helmet. "It's covered with Kidrobot stickers."
Favorite bad-ass female: Helena Bohnam Carter, Milla Jovovich or Lady Gaga.