Cowboy Cut by Jack from DFW
t was a hot summer, one of the most scorching heat waves in twenty years, reaching over a 100 degrees by 9 a.m. and staying in the 90s even after the sun rested in the west. I was spending my first summer after graduation as a ranch hand at my uncle s place in West Texas. I had been invited by Uncle Joe to work for him, training horses and herding bulls, before attending college. I landed a baseball scholarship to Texas Christian University, but being an expensive school, I would need more money, and the work would allow me to earn extra cash and keep my body physically toned. I enjoyed the outdoors; the vastness of the dry, flat, windy prairie made me feel a sense of freedom that I relished. My days were spent at the ranch. My nights spent drinking with the older men and carousing after the local girls for a few hours of uncommitted sensual bliss. But, it was hot.
Two weeks had passed and the temperature continued to rise. After rising at 6 a.m. and working passed midday, Uncle Joe approached me to make the drive into the town to do some errands for him.
You know David, you might get some relief from the heat if you shaved that beard and cut the mop of hair, he suggested. There s a barbershop in town, take time for a visit before heading back to the ranch. Most of the men have flattops and crewcuts. You should try a buzz cut.
Shave my beard. Cut my hair. The thought had never crossed my mind. I had spent a week and a half growing my scruffy beard. I was proud of it. By the age of 15, I had needed to shave. The private high school that I attended did not allow male students to have facial hair, and sideburns could only grow to the middle of the ear. The few times that I attempted to break this silly rule; I had been humiliated to shave in the vice-principal s office in his attendance. Oddly enough, the school had no regulations on hair for boys, a negligence that I took full advantage by letting my hair grow to a singular length about a foot bluntly cut above my shoulders. Straight, thick, and dark blond, to me my hair personified a lion s mane representing my strength, youth, and redneck attitude. My mane by no means negated my masculine build; six feet two I stood with wide shoulders, ten inch biceps, a 42 inch chest with well-defined pectorals and six pack abs, supported by long, log-wide but slender legs. My face was still ju
My cousin, Jim, and I, loading up with Copenhagen, speeded, in his 4X4 Dodge Ram, for the 25-mile trip into the small, lazy town. Jim was a year older than I. He, also, was spending his last summer at the ranch, having enlisted in the Marines to escape his one-note country life. As he drove, I wondered how his close-cropped hair cut would look on me.
While we ll in town stop at the barber s, I said.
You going to get a haircut like me. I was wondering when were going to come around. Ain t the heat killing you under all the hair? Jim said.
Yeah, it s hot. Well, maybe, I was thinking about it. I ve had long hair since I was 10 years old and I like the beard. Maybe, I ll just take a few inches off. Barber any good?
Dude, Charlie s an old-fashioned barber, been cutting hair since the 50 s. Real handy with the clippers and razor. Don t think he knows any new hairstyling. I could take you to the beauty shop, I suppose.
No. How does he cut your hair?
Taking off his black felt cowboy hair, Jim exclaimed with pride: Boy, I get a military haircut, high-and-tight flattop. He cuts it into a horseshoe on top and skins the sides with a straight razor.
Think it ll look good on me?
Can t be any worst than it is now.
I took my hat off and pulled my hair up, trying to vision a short haircut through the rear view mirror.
It s going to be a joy seeing you in the chair, wish I had a camera. Or, are you going to wimp out on me. The beauty shop s right over there, girly man? Jim said laughing.
Jim s last statement anger me. I don t wimp out of anything. I said defensively. I couldn t believe that I was going to shorn my beloved locks. But, I made my decision right at that moment. I was going to cut my hair short, very short.
Well then, Let Charlie scalp you. You good for go?
I m good for go, I said decidedly.
Jim suddenly halted the truck in front of the barbershop. We stepped out, spending our tobacco fatties unto the dry, cracking dirt, and walked into the barbershop. It was if we stepped back in time. The shop was tiny, with a single, black patent leather- and- chrome barber chair with a large single mirror, clean and neat, and unmistakably small town. Old time country music playing on a portal radio behind the chair and the humming of an overworked air-conditioning unit were the only sounds of life in the shop. It smelled of Vitalis, cigar smoke, and shaving cream. I noticed an arsenal to haircutting devices: large black clippers, tiny edging clippers, pointy shears, a variety of steel clipper attachments, and an assortment of combs setting in a blue-green liquid, all arranged to perfection on a shelf on the mirror. The faded wooden floor was unexpectedly bare with only a few strains of brown black and white hairs swept into a small pile around the chair. In a town of dust and hay, the only signs of dirt on the floor were from our dry muddy, dingy boots. We stomped our boots of the loose dirt not realizing our impertinence.
Anyone know where to get a haircut in this one horse town, shouted Jim.
I m coming. Looking at Jim, You back. Didn t I cut your hair yesterday? said the tall, lanky barber. I marveled at his immaculately groomed snow-white beard and buzz hair. He was balding in the front and his short beard and haircut appeared to be the same length.
My hippie cousin s getting one today, answered Jim.
Take a seat, cowboy.
I sat intrepidly into the barber chair, my long legs straddled with my boots flatly on the ground.
Sit back son, the elderly barber said as he folded my collar into my shirt, placing a towel with my collar on my shoulders, next came a ring of tissue paper around my neck, and a barber s cape that resembled the lone star flag of Texas. I was literary prepared for the shearing.
This is my first time in here, I said attempting to ease my sudden nervousness.
I see that. Are going take you hat off?
Embarrassingly, I had left my hat on my head. I gave it to Jim, shaking my hair free and combing it into place with my fingers.
Let me guess, said the barber in a slow Texas twang. You going into the Marines? Jim brings all of his friends to me. Don t worry. I m military trained. I have you inspection, regulation shaped in no time. You kin?
Yes, cousins, I mean no; I m not going into the service.
Awfully hot this summer. What are we doing to this then?
Looking at Jim, I said coldly, matter-of-factly, confidently, Take it all off.
The beard too? Asked the barber.
I kinda like the beard, I stated.
Well, let me take it down to one day s growth, leave the goatee? You young guys like goatees.
I agreed in silence. The barber tilted the chair back so I lay on my back, took the tiny clippers, the high pitch tone of the clippers and the scrapping of my beard resonated on my eardrums. The barber was quick but he spent the most time shaping the hair on my chin and mustache.
How about the hair? asked my cousin.
The barber glanced at Jim, rubbed the knuckles of his large hands against the tiny stubble on my face, saying, About this about like this.
The barber took a large comb and roughly combed my long locks. He picked the large clippers, placed one hand at the back of my head, holding tightly like a vice gripe. The buzzing sound of the clippers was all I could hear despite the radio, air conditioner, Jim and the barber s conversation, and my racing, beating heart. The barber paused for a second, as the clippers were millimeters from my scalp, and I stopped breathing, caused by conflicting emotions of fear and exhilaration. As the clippers plowed through a wide strip on the top of my head, I came back to life, sitting in silence and without any movement. It took only about six minutes for the entire haircut, but minutes moved in slow motion for me.
My former glamorous hair was falling all around me. After the top of my head was reduced to stubble, the barber moved to the right side, all around the back of my head, and finally finishing at the left temple. I felt lighter and cooler.
Looks good, looks good, laughed Jim smiling a devilish grim, as the barber repeated the process with the tiny clippers, but still I remain stoic. The barber loosened the cape and tissue around my neck. But, he was not done. He took a shaving cup and stiff brush and spread cream all around the bottom of my neck and around the ears. He held a straight razor in his large hand, sharpening it against a leather strap. He shaved an outline around the ears and nape of my neck; the sensation was over whelming. He turned the chair around facing the mirror. I smiled approvingly to my new appearance. I rubbed the stubby hair on top, ran my hand along the buzz sides, and slapped the nearly bald back of my head. I looked different but somehow more manly. I stepped out of the chair with my right hand feeling the shorn lion s mane, my left hand reaching to my back pocket for my tin.
Jim gave the barber $6. This one s on me, he said.
I placed my black cowboy hat on my head, and it fell hitting my ears. I paused with confusion, putting my hat back several times on my head, only to fall again and again. Jim laugh, You have no more hair, dude. Come on lets go buy you a new hat and drink some beers.