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We go to Pownal - and get scalped! by Jack A


Going to Pownal - another unwanted ear lowering adventure. (Fictional story based on haircut memories from my teen years.)

This story is set in 1975. I'm a freshman in high school in a small New England town. I had a buddy, Earl Smith, who lived on a big farm with all sorts of fun stuff, tractors, old machinery and there were all kinds of things I loved to mess around with. He was on the same bus route as I and often I 'd stay at his house when my folks were away. Our parents were friends with Mr. and Mrs. Smith too, and we would sometimes go there for Sunday dinner or go to the fair together or do other fun things with the Smiths.

Thursday night at dinner, Dad told me that I'd be staying at Earl's for the weekend, because he and my mom were going to New Jersey for somebody's wedding. Kids weren't welcome so I had to stay home. My clothes for the weekend were already packed, and would be delivered to Earl's house while we were at school, so all I had to do was get off the bus there tomorrow afternoon. It sounded like fun. Friday turned out to be just another boring school Friday, and by 4 o'clock I couldn't wait to get out of there and back to the farm to ride a tractor or do something else for fun.

We got off the bus at Earl's house, and soon after we returned from our adventures there was a big dinner with lots of fresh milk and home grown food on the table. Life was good. Dinner over, we watched TV for a while, and then Earl's mom popped her head in the living room. "Better get to bed boys, tomorrow we're going to Pownal first thing, and we don't want to spend all day there!" Earl groaned, and said "Not already, Ma, it's only been six weeks since last time!" I had no idea what they were talking about, but I figured I was going along for the ride anyway. Running upstairs, we hit the sack immediately.(When Earl's mom said do something, I'd already learned you were much better off doing it right away.)

After a big country breakfast early the next morning, Earl's dad drove us all to Pownal. Earl, his little brother Kenny the brat, and me were stuffed in the back seat. We spent most of the ride teasing each other like boys do. Earl's mom and dad talked Farm Bureau business up front. We got about ten minutes away from Pownal, and Earl's mom turned around to talk to us. After a minute,I finally knew why we were going to Pownal.

"Earl, you and Billy go in Sam's first, and after you are done Dad and your brother will be in for their haircuts. What???? Haircuts?? I went to a nice modern barber close to home, not to Pownal! It had been almost two months since my last trip to the barber because I was trying to grow my hair longer. I wanted to look like the guys my age on TV, especially the guys that went surfing. Nobody at home had told me I was getting a haircut! I explained I didn't need a haircut right now, I'd just go to my regular guy at the end of the month. Earl's mom turned around again, and told me she'd been talking to my mom about this weekend, and going to get a haircut with my friend was actually my mother's idea. Darn! I had to go to the butcher's, I mean barber's, today! So much for surfer hair!


The Buick pulled into the empty gravel parking lot by the one room barbershop. It was in a tiny wood sided shack, no bigger than my bedroom, and the place was really shabby and showing its age. "Okay boys, head on in there and we'll see you after we finish up at the feed store." We both groaned and got slowly out of the car, ready for the executioner. Kenny stayed in the back seat,having a short reprieve from Sam's scissors. I followed Earl past the rusty barber pole, and the creaky wood door had an old dusty bell that announced our presence. It was so dark inside I couldn't see much until my eyes adjusted to the light. "Who's first, boys?" said the barber who appeared from the back of the shop. "Earl, why don't you go first, I'm not quite ready yet", I said. I was still hoping for a reprieve myself, and I wanted to see how this guy cut hair before I was going to sit in that old barber chair. It looked like it could have been a seat from a '59 Buick convertible, all leather and chrome with a worn footrest and arms split open showing the foam inside. Hopefully this barber gave haircuts that looked better than that barber chair. He didn't look anywhere as bad as his barber shop, with a clean white coat over his street clothes.

Now I forgot to tell you how Earl usually wore his hair. My friend was one of the last guys in school who still had a "crew cut". (At the time everyone said a crew cut was any haircut done all over the head with clippers, usually really short) When Earl got haircuts, his hair was often so short you could see white skin through the remains of his black hair. He'd been mentioning something about growing his hair longer for winter recently, but I guess that wasn't going to happen yet. Me, I just had a normal regular boy's haircut, with a part on the left. I had managed to grow long bangs I could comb back to look cool. At least I thought I did. My parents weren't as enthusiastic about my choice in hairstyles, but they let me wear my hair that way anyway. I think they secretly would prefer a crewcut like Earl's, just like I had in elementary school. Since it had been so long since my last scissors cut, my hair had grown out to where it was curling up at the ends, and I just couldn't get it to lay straight anymore. Yeah, maybe I did need a haircut after all.

"Okay, we're ready! Look down, Earl," old Sam said. He'd already been pretty quick about getting the white barber's cape over the chair and it's victim, and tying a tissue strip tight around his neck. The black clippers sounded like an old electric drill, and Sam snapped a blade on them as he talked. Clippers with blades that come off? I'd never seen those before. I was used to the ones that hummed, and my barber only used them around the bottom edge of my hair and my sideburns. Sam's clippers sounded like my mom's Sunbeam mixer once the blades were in place. There was no guard on this machine of torture. It really didn't look like our visit was going to end well.

Sam started skinning the back of Earl's head. That's awful short! Looks like another crew cut for poor Earl. I really didn't want to watch any more of the carnage after that, so I checked out the rest of the barbershop. The round flourescent light fixture in the cracked yellowing ceiling was full of dead flies, and a full fly strip hung from its center. The buzzing fixture lit the place dimly, dirty as it was. It was the blinds hanging in the cracked front windows that let in enough light for Sam to use his torture rack of clippers, scissors, and combs.

The walls were painted that ugly green that hospitals like to use, and the old gray painted wooden floor had loose nails and splinters sticking up in places. A worn path around the barber chair and to the cash register was evidently from Sam's shoes, and the rest of the floor had several worn spots too. The waiting chair I sat in looked like an old school bus seat, and was about as comfortable too. Two metal folding chairs were next to it, and a magazine rack full of ancient Field and Stream magazines and last weeks newspapers. Looking around, I noticed there was only one mirror in the place. It was a small one too, hanging on the wall behind the green metal cabinet where the combs and bottles of hair tonic were stashed. A hook on the cabinet's side held an old leather strop, and the other side had a line of hooks that held four well used clippers. A rusty porcelain sink was mounted to the wall next to the cabinet. Its faucet was dripping constantly, and sounded like a clock ticking off the seconds I had left until doomsday. Cut hair had built up in spots under the cabinet and barber chair, and anywhere else a quick sweeping wouldn't reach.

I looked up to see Earl, almost bald again, getting out of the chair. That was fast! "My dad will pay when he comes back with Kenny for their hair cuts", he said. " Billy, it's your turn now!" I slowly rose from the bus seat, and walked the five feet to the chair like a prisoner facing execution. To say I was scared would be an understatement. I slowly sat down in Sam's worn out chair. It was actually comfortable! I grabbed the ends of the armrests with a death grip as the same white cape was draped around me and over the chair. Sam wrapped a tissue strip tightly around my neck, and pulled the cape really tight before hooking its fasteners together behind my neck. I could feel the cold metal hooks dig into my skin. It sure wasn't very comfortable. I waited for old Sam to ask me how I wanted my hair cut, and finally, after jacking me up in the air, he said "What will it be today, son? A number one all over like your buddy?" "No, not that short!" I told him. I explained I just wanted a regular trim, keep it as long as possible,and definitely not a buzz cut. "Okie dokie, let's get started", he said as he snapped a new blade on the same black clippers. He combed my hair like I usually wore it, except the hair in front now hung over my eyes partially blocking my view of my feet. Sam sounded disappointed that he wasn't lopping off all my long brown hair with those clippers. What had I let my parents trick me into?

to be continued......




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