He was banned from campus during the great Frisbee fracas of 2012, but the Sun God of Sewell Park vows to rise again.
It’s a hot August afternoon on campus, and Frisbee Dan is tossing discs as tubers drift along the San Marcos River through Sewell, that green sanctuary on the campus of Texas State University. Students swim or sunbathe on the grassy hill, guys play pickup basketball, and Frisbee Dan, 52, commands his usual disc launch site near the riverbank.
You can’t miss him. He’s been flinging Frisbees here for more than two decades, wearing his infamous short shorts, the wide-brimmed hat, the goggles, and the smears of sunscreen. A black shin guard shields his right leg when he feels like kicking a Frisbee before catching it or spinning it on his finger.
He hauls in another behind-the-back catch, lets out an astonished chuckle, and shakes his head no — not in his house.
“Don’t even go there,” he says before skipping the disc along the grass like a stone across still water. “This is impossible. I don’t do these very often.”
Frisbee Dan, less widely known by his real name, Dan Barry, has been throwing Frisbees for most of his life — beginning long before he jumped out of a moving pickup truck in his native state of Ohio, injured his head, spent 10 days in a coma and moved to San Marcos in 1986 to seek care from a local rehabilitation center. He found work as a landscaper and began spending his afternoons at Sewell Park in 1990, relying on his balance and timing to overcome the loss of peripheral vision on his right side.
Several years ago, another Sewell Park icon contender arrived on the scene. Dillon Scott was taller than Frisbee Dan, tanned, shirtless and buff, with a white mane flowing from his receding hairline.
“He actually taught me to throw a Frisbee,” recalls Scott, 56. “You get bored after a while. He was always there. I was always there. We eventually started throwing.”
Scott drew attention for his dance moves, the way he lifted his hands to the sun as he listened to trance, techno and dubstep tunes piped through his earbuds. Over time he earned a series of nicknames, from Poseidon to Zeus to Apollo, until one of them stuck.
“I ended up the Sun God,” he says.
Both men enjoyed the attentions of Texas State students, not minding or noticing when it occasionally took on a harder edge of mockery. The Sun God’s rising fame caused friction with Frisbee Dan, however, and the resentment seemed to spill over in a video produced by the University Star in April 2011, when Frisbee Dan insulted the Sun God for not working, and for living with his mother. They traded words. On Jan. 13, 2012 — “a day that will live in infamy,” according to the Sun God — Frisbee Dan tossed a disc that landed at the Sun God’s feet.
“I should have tossed it away,” recalls the Sun God. “He comes and picks it up, and as he’s walking away I say, ‘He’s a f—ing insect.’ He turns to me and starts raging on me, just raging, raging, spitting. I go, ‘Get away from me.’”
“Do you know who I am?” Frisbee Dan said, according to the Sun God.
“Yeah, you’re a f—ing dick,” he replied.
The Sun God says he pushed Frisbee Dan once, while Frisbee Dan says he was pushed four times. Either way, the altercation was reported to campus police, who banned the Sun God from campus for one year. Talk of intervention by the Associated Student Government failed to materialize. An online petition went nowhere.
Frisbee Dan declines to discuss the matter in detail.
“It was not supposed to happen. What he did was not natural, and that’s why he’s not here,” he says. “They asked me not to bring it up to anyone at any time. I’m not supposed to get into it.”
Eight months after the Frisbee fracas, Frisbee Dan continues to play at Sewell each afternoon, while the Sun God spends his afternoons downriver at the city-owned Rio Vista Park, where he sits on boulders and cheers along the kids who zip down the tube chutes.
“I call them the Rio Vista Village People because it’s a more chill crowd here,” he says. “As you can see it’s a lot more fun over here with the tubes, the kids, the dogs. I think it’s more representative of San Marcos.” Even still, he adds, he misses his old haunt. “Sewell is more of a spiritual place for me.”
Sewell is closer to the river’s headwaters, and he says he can feel the energy pouring out of Spring Lake. In March, he self-published a book called “River of the Innocents: A Spiritual Journey,” a fictional account of his own relationship with the San Marcos River, and he has circled Jan. 13, 2013, on his calendar — the day his exile from campus will come to an end.
“There will be a party at Sewell,” the Sun God says. “For sure.”
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