What with all the COVID-19 worries going around, I’ve noticed many “long-hairs” wandering about that I doubt would normally wear their hair that long. I guess it’s a sign of the times.
Truthfully, I’ve never been real fond of getting my hair cut even in normal times. It’s not that I have anything against barbers, it’s just that it brings back painful memories.
Back many years before I started school, I used to spend a lot of time in my parents' newspaper office. By letting me play in a corner with my blocks and toys, I’d keep occupied and it would save them the expense of a babysitter.
One particular day I grew tired of whatever I was doing. I decided to do a little exploring on my own. I soon discovered the big press that printed our weekly newspaper.
At one end, just about the height of my chin, was a long steel trough which held the thick black ink that fed the press.
Naturally, I decided to examine the ink a little closer and stuck my hands in it. For some odd reason I then began rubbing the stuff in my hair. Something told me that what I was doing wasn’t what I should have been doing. I ran to my mother looking more like a short minstrel player than her offspring.
People several blocks away reported hearing a loud commotion as my mother attempted to wash the ink out of my hair. As last resort they were forced to shave my head.
That was probably my most hairy experience, but it proved to be just one of many stories in my childhood that was centered around my tresses.
A few years after my inky episode, Slick came into the picture. Slick was a buddy who had a wonderful quality — whatever mischief I didn’t think of, he did. We made a great team.
One day Slick and I decided we would like to become fashionable. We gave each other “butch” haircuts.
Both Slick and I had traditional length hair at the time — just long enough to comb over. We decided combing was too much work. We took turns cutting each other’s hair with one of my mom’s sewing scissors. The end result was we both looked liked we had been in a cat fight.
Back in those days parents would usually cut their son’s hair themselves until he reached an age when they felt it was safe to expose him to the questionable atmosphere of a barber shop.
That’s because barber shops were often men’s hangouts. Rumor had it that stories of questionable value were told there. Games of chance were also said to be played there.
I finally reached the age when my parents allowed me to go the barber shop myself. This was a big deal for a kid of 10.
While waiting my turn in the chair, I can still remember listening to a farmer describe to the barber how he fought off a fierce hog in the feedlot with just his bare hands.
A few years later came the flattop haircut. Most small town barbers wouldn’t attempt such a clip job, so several of us would carpool to Ames just for a flat-top.
It was there that I received my first cultural shock. While sitting as still as possible while the barber “leveled” me, I became aware that the person in the chair next to me was a GIRL!
I dared not look to the side but my nose detected the scent of perfume. When the person said, “cut it short” there was no doubt ... it was a girl.
I couldn’t move my head for fear of getting a lopsided cut, and that made it even more terrible. The very idea of it — a girl in a barber shop.
That was many, many haircuts ago. Since then I’ve witnessed a multitude of changes — not only in haircuts but in where the haircuts take place.
Today it’s nothing to observe men and women in line at a shop waiting to have their hair “styled.”
I have yet to see Slick in one of those lines.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.