By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"They were my family for many years," he now says. "That's kinda why it hurts for what happened to me because I still consider those guys my friends. I'm not going to be well-liked for this, and I'm not going to be very popular, but I still don't have any remorse or regret for having been with those guys because most of them are really, really nice. I just want them to leave me alone."
Still, he hides. Just in case.
Paul Millender does not ask for forgiveness for his past sins. He does not regret his days as a Confederate Hammerskin or even say they were a mistake. He explains merely that it was who he was back then--a troubled young man looking for a home, a punk-rock rebel with a mohawk and without a clue. A follower.
Ask him now, and he says he might have even been a Mormon had they come calling instead of the skinheads. Except the Mormon missionaries don't hang out around the skateboard parks and don't offer unlimited supplies of beer and a place to live.
Millender was born and raised in Irving. His mother and father divorced when he was a young boy, and he says his father became a "religious fanatic." Millender felt something was missing in his life, and he needed something to fill in the gaps of a broken home.
He says he first ran away from home when he was 13, and he stayed away for about a year--living at friends' houses, eating out of McDonald's dumpsters ("They always throw away really good burgers"), and hanging out at skate parks. He would occasionally attend school, but he preferred to drink and skate and listen to new-wave music like the B-52's, Devo, and Adam and the Ants--tame stuff for a young rebel. For a time, he lived underneath the Bachman Skate Ramp with a couple of friends who would later turn him on to the skinhead movement.
"My mom worried," Mouse says. "She begged me to come back, but I was not ready at the time. I learned when you're 13 it's hard to make it on your own. You go and hang out with friends, and that's basically what you do."
He returned home but left again when he was 17. By that time, he was into punk rock, sporting a mohawk, and hanging out at clubs like the Twilight Room and the Theater Gallery, early punk venues in and around Deep Ellum. The punks and the skinheads hung out at the clubs, and there existed a tenuous harmony between the punks and the skins and the suburban kids who made their weekend sojourns downtown.
Mouse says he first hooked up with the skinheads at the Twilight Room, where skate pals introduced him to a new way of thinking. At first, he says, they offered him a place to live, free food, and instant friendship. It was a "sweet deal" too good to pass up.
"It was like, 'Hey, we always got a place for you to hang out if you want,'" Mouse says of his initial introduction. "I didn't really think much of it. It was fun, but it's the reason a lot of these kids get in gangs. It's almost like a family unit kind of thing. They bring us in and say, 'We'll take care of you,' and it's nice because you miss your family, so you've got this family unit that sticks together, no matter what."
But, subtly, his new family unit became more and more motivated by hate. Mouse says he does not know how or why, but his friends--his family, as it were--began griping about how Jews controlled everything, and that blacks were trying to destroy the white race. They would drink and become restless, go downtown and start fights with the punks, make racist fliers and tack them up on walls and telephone poles, then talk about white pride till they turned red. They even read passages from the Bible, twisting the words into a call to arms.
In retrospect, Mouse believes the racial ideology was introduced to the group by a member of the local Ku Klux Klan who ran something called "The Rescue Team, or something like that." As his friends started getting into anti-Semitic and racist beliefs, Mouse followed.
"They get a lot of kids that way--a lot of kids from dysfunctional families, a lot of these kids who have no direction," he explains. "They seek them out and give them this option, and they say, 'You don't have to believe in what we believe in,' but pretty soon they're giving you literature to read, and you start believing it."
They found fertile soil in Mouse. "I've always had...I don't know if you'd call it racist views, but I do have some racist in me, but I can't help that.
"I just went along with it, and, at some point, I did believe a lot of what they said. They used a lot of quotes from the Bible, but any religious organization--any organization, period--can twist the Bible to mean what they want it to mean. The Black Panthers do it, the ADL [Anti-Defamation League] does it with their little almanac or whatever they have, so at some point you're like, 'This makes sense, we are doing the right thing. The White Pride thing, the whole deal, this is the right thing to do.'"