People ask: why do you go by the name Scooter? I mean, you’re an old man, not a dog or Barbie’s younger sister’s friend!

Photo of my baby self most likely by (Uncle) Jerry Martin.



When you hear the moniker “Scooter,” do you think of a middle-aged man? Probably not. An old man? Absolutely not. Nonetheless, except in certain financial and legal situations, my preferred name is just that.

There is, of course, a reason.

My birth name was Basel Webster Smith. I was named for my father, Basel (pronounced Bayzel by the cowboys and dirt farmers from whence he sprang), and Webster, for my mother’s grandfather.

Not that it mattered. My grandfather nicknamed me Skooch and called me that for the rest of his long life. This was because I slid along the floor on my belly when my mother and I lived with her parents in Dallas for my first six months on Earth.

She and I then joined my father in Imperial Beach, California. Both of these living arrangements were due to my Marine father being called up for active duty. The Korean War had erupted less than a month before I was born.

Skooch quickly evolved into Scooter, which stuck. I grew up with it along with friends Mikey, Shorty, Lefty, Big Petey, and Little Petey in the Richardson, Texas, neighborhood where we settled after the war.

Chris, Gary, and Paul were also part of the gang on Maple and Pittman streets, but those names don’t fit the narrative. Pay no attention to them.

After a while, my parents began to think that I still went by Scooter because I was embarrassed by the name Webster. They offered me a chance to change my legal name when I turned 12 years old. I wasn’t crazy about Webster, the handle of a man I never met, so I said, “sure!”

I asked them to change it to Daniel Basel Smith, Jr. to honor my father.

From there, my folks and I had visions of me being known by a more adult name like Daniel, Dan, Basel, or even D.B., but that was not going to happen. 

I started junior high school with my new legal name, but when teachers used it in roll call, the other students laughed and corrected them. “His name is Scooter!”

Therefore, since everyone I knew, child or adult, still called me that, there was really no chance for change. Pretty easy going, I just rolled with it.

At about the same time, the kid from my neighborhood we called Shorty started insisting that everyone refer to him as David. It never took. Frustrated, he developed a pretty big chip on his shoulder.

I joined the Navy in my senior year of high school. In the two semesters of college I attended before going on active duty, I was known as Daniel on campus. Well, except by old friends and a very small set of new ones. This was the closest I came to bearing a more normal name.

There was, however, one temporary change of my name. While I was on active duty, everybody in the armed services called me Smitty. No one called me Scooter.

The thing was: if my surname had been Brown, I would have been Brownie. If it was Jones, then Jonesy. That’s just how it worked. Yet, if my last name had been Hueppelsheuser, like one guy in my squadron, I would have been called H Fourteen. The system wasn’t perfect.

After my time in the Navy, the Daniel/Scooter split continued through my extended college years. To further muddy the waters, I experimented with signing my artworks “SSmith” or just “Scooter”, and my written work “D. Basel Smith”.

Yes, D. Basel Smith. Not pretentious at all.

Soon, I became a professional artist doing computer graphics and animation for video and film. At that point, I thought the more adult sounding “Dan Smith” was too plain and people wouldn’t remember it. Choosing to stick with Scooter, I made peace with the whole issue.

Twenty years later, Dan Brown became a best-selling author. Millions of people remembered and still remember his name. So, there’s that.

I added “Scooter” to my checking account along with my full legal name. Later, when I hung out my own shingle, I worked under that brand because that’s how my client base knew me.

As silly an appellation as Scooter Smith may be, my mantra became: don’t argue with the name that people write on checks to you.