By the time he graduated from Prescott High School, served a year in the Marines in California and returned to attend the fire academy, his fate as the Granite Mountain hotshots' joker was sealed.
He joined the hotshots in 2010, was recently hired by the Prescott Fire Department and was supposed to start next year -- a safer job, he figured, for a married man with two kids.
He was funny, and enormous -- 6-foot-4 inches with a chest so broad, his grandmother said that hugging him was like embracing a refrigerator.
She said she generally didn’t worry about Travis being a firefighter -- her father was, and so is her best friend’s husband -- but she worried after he was out fighting the recent Doce fire nearby.
So last Thursday evening, when she stopped by to see Stephanie and her granddaughters and her son happened to be there, she took the opportunity to tell him how nervous she had been.
"When you're in New Mexico, it doesn't feel real, but this is too close to home," she said.
She said her son reassured her.
"He said, 'It's OK, we're the best crew. I'm always safe, and I know what I'm doing,'" she said.
That was the last time she saw him.
Shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday evening, her cellphone buzzed with a news alert: Some firefighters were trapped.
"How did you hear that," Stephanie wrote, "News?"
"Bad, bad news. 19 fatalities. Hot shots involved."
"I'm freaking out," Stephanie wrote, "My mom is coming over. Let me know if you hear more."
The last message was sent at 7:36 p.m.
"It was very rugged conditions: boulders and dirt. I guess they found a small ledge. They thought below them was clear, but it wasn't," she said.
The crew apparently didn't have time to retreat to their designated safety zone, she said.
She said officials told the families that the men's bodies were found clustered together.
She said she is troubled by the fact that rescuers were not able to reach the hotshots before they died, or slow the fire with slurry and water drops, known as "Bambi buckets."
She said she was reassured to hear that Darrell Willis, a former Prescott fire chief and now the fire department's wildland division chief, was among those who stayed with the bodies at the site overnight.
A friend in the fire service compared the fire that overtook the hotshots to uncorking a shaken champagne bottle, in that "it just exploded," she said.
The fire caught everyone off guard, she said.
"They said that they knew the boys would prefer to go by the way they left," she said.