What could have killed Evan Selbe instead made him stronger.
The 16-year-old Minneola High School student stands 6 feet tall with or without his Browning 725 Citori shotgun leaning on his right shoulder.
His ears ring loudly with truth whether shots fire or not.
"Kids at school are picking fights and causing more harm with words than what a gun can do," Selbe said.
He spent seven years being picked on "since kindergarten," but took the offensive when Clark County 4-H introduced him to the sport of trap shooting at age 12.
Selbe then divorced himself from the physical and emotional violence of bullies and devoted himself to winning awards for trap shooting. He has won state champion titles in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.
As an athlete who felt the sting of rejection more than once on the basketball court and football field, he relishes the smell of success and gunpowder that comes with responsible and accurate marksmanship.
"I hate fighting people, so I chose to get away from things that turned me down," Selbe said.
As far as the high school sophomore is concerned, doing his best in trap shooting now matters more than thoughts of suicide. Particularly, "what I have to do, what I need to do and what’s safe," he said.
He resents when people say he and his peers are irresponsible or have a proclivity to violence because, he said, trap shooters are instilled with responsibility and maturity.
Personally, he added, "It gets me away from the feeling of not being accepted."
He emphasized the mutual benefit shared among a whole community of supportive trap shooters, as well as his family. Had it not been for them, Selbe said, he would not have been given permission to pursue his passion to the All-American level he wants to reach.
Minneola High School does not offer the sport as an extracurricular activity, so he transferred his potential to Ashland High School’s athletic program.
Eventually, however, the amateur athlete needed more of a challenge than his competition in Ashland’s 2A trap-shooting circuit provided.
He is now an active member of the Kansas Trapshooter’s Association and the Amateur Trapshooter’s Association.
What has to happen, Selbe said, is a master’s degree in gunsmithing so he can be his own boss and make his own brand of gun.
"I recommend this sport for anyone, especially if you’re being bullied," he said. "It gives me the feeling nothing can stop me from what I want to do, and if I’m doing something I enjoy, I can be happy."
Editor's Note: This story is part of the Good News Initiative where the Dodge City Daily Globe will be highlighting a positive news story daily, sponsored by First Dental of Dodge City.
To send inquiries about possible positive news stories, email managing editor Vincent Marshall at email@example.com.