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Gale gets taught a lesson by Shant

I grew up in the most northern part of New York state. Lake Placid, where the Winter Olympics are held, was only 30 minutes from my home. All the towns were very small. The town I grew up in had a population of only 400 people. It took four towns combined to make up my high school and my graduating class had only 32 students.

Most of us started kindergarden together and knew each other the entire time growing up. Everyone basically got along fine. Even with classes as small as ours however, you would still find the cliques that every school had.

One guy in particular, Gale Susie, was the class bully. It was surprising he was so intimidating because he was only about 5’ 8" tall and weighed around 140 pounds. He was the only Native American in our school and maybe that’s why he had such an attitude.

I kept my distance from him but I secretly did admire his hair. He had the thickest, blackest hair a person could have. He wore it slicked back with the sides covering about half his ears. The top was beautiful. Perfectly straight, it was probably over 6 inches long and he brushed it straight back making it stand up as high as he could.

Gale would pick a fight with anyone. He especially enjoyed bullying guys that were the least bit timid or were smaller than he was. He really got off on guys being afraid of him. He picked on this one guy in particular, Andy Haynes, all the time. I’m sure looking back that Andy dreaded every single day he had to go to school.

This was around 1970. School policy at that time was that all boys had to take one semester of shop and all the girls one semester of home economics. Can you imagine if a school tried to enforce something like that now? I remember making a metal dustpan and hand tooling a leather belt and that was what I did in shop class.

Each day, five minutes before shop class ended and the bell rang and students went on to their next class, Gale would put his things away and head to the back of the room where there was a mirror. He spent the remainder of his time wetting his hair and combing it back into his pompadour look that he was so proud of. He obviously didn’t care if anyone saw him pampering his hair, he was that much in love with it.

One day while he was combing his hair, out of the corner of his eye he spotted Andy and went over and started harrassing him. He did not realize that Mr. Seminatore, our shop teacher, was standing directly behind him, watching what was happening.

Mr. Seminatore was the only Italian person in our school. He was by far the largest man in the school. He was around 30, stood over 6’ 2" and weighed probably somewhere between 220 and 240 pounds. He had played football in college and was heading to the pros until he blew out his knee his senior year, ending his football career. He moved to our town and taught shop, driver’s ed. and coached several sports teams. He was a hunk! He had dark brown curly hair cut very short on the sides and back with just a bit of length on top. No one ever messed with Mr. Seminatore. You knew that you were no match for him and made certain not to cause him any trouble.

Mr. Seminatore walked up directly behind Gale and without Gale knowing it, reached out and grabbed a handful of his long hair and with one hand lifted him right off the floor! Gale started screaming in pain, his feet dangling in the air. "Why are you always picking on Andy? What has he ever done to you? I’ve heard that you bully quite a few other guys too. You and I need to have talk. I want you to show up at the end of the school day for detention."

Gale left without saying a word. During the afternoon he wondered what was ahead of him. That afternoon Mr. Seminatore called Gale’s father and told him about what was going on and felt that Gale needed to be taught a lesson. Again, times have changed. Today, a parent would probably say, "Oh no, not my son. You must be mistaken," but back then, the parent usually deferred to the teacher.

Gale’s father told Mr. Seminatore that he had his approval to do whatever he thought would help get Gale to straighten out. He said that ever since he had turned 15 he had gotten more and more cocky. He actually told Mr. Seminatore, "If you can figure out a way to get that hair of his cut as part of his punishment, I’m all for it. He’s so vain about that hair of his. It drives me nuts! All he does is stand in front of a mirror admiring himself. I can’t get him to do any work around here. I’ve told him repeatedly that he needs to get a haircut, but he just ignores me."

"Don’t worry, I’ll be glad to make that part of his punishment. Just to be sure, you’re fine with me going ahead and doing what I think needs to be done. I just don’t want an angry parent coming back to me complaining about how I disciplined his boy." "Don’t worry about it. I hope that maybe this will do him some good," his dad said.

The school day ended and Gale reported to Mr. Seminatore’s room. Mr. Seminatore was in the front of the shop, grading papers, just waiting for Gale to show up. "Good you’re on time. That’s a start. I’ve been watching you bully Andy several times lately and that has to stop. You need an attitude adjustment. Also, every day I see you cutting out of class early so you can go and spend time combing that pretty hair of yours. You need to realize that rules apply to everyone, including you."

"I’ve got a few more minutes of work to do. Since you’re so into your hair, I want you to go in back and comb that pretty hair of yours into the best looking pompadour that you can. When I come back to see you, I want to see every single hair in place. You’re so proud of that hair of yours. Let’s see how good you can make it look. I want to see it look the best it can. Do you understand?"

Again, no one ever argued with Mr. Seminatore. Gale didn’t understand what Mr. Seminatore was planning on doing but went to the back where the mirror was and started working on his hair. It only took a minute or two before he pretty much forgot that he was there because he was in trouble, he just got lost in his thoughts about how great his hair looked. "No one has hair as nice as mine," he said to himself.

In a few minutes Mr. Seminatore came back to where Gale was standing. Mr. Seminatore never raised his voice, there was no reason. He had Gale sit in a chair across from him and began talking. "Gale, you really need to make a change in your attitude. Why do you get pleasure from having other people be afraid of you? Do you really enjoy having people be uncomfortable around you all the time? You throw off so much negative energy. That is not going to be a plus when you finish school and are out in the real world and have to work and get along with people."

"You need to be taught a lesson, something to remind you that it is wrong to go around bullying people." Mr. Seminatore was standing behind Gale at this time and calmly reached over and ran his hand through Gale’s hair. "You did a good job combing your pretty pomp. You really do have nice hair." He then lifted a large lock of Gale’s hair up and chopped it off, almost to the crown! Gale tried to jump up, but was no match for Mr. Seminatore.

"You just sit there and take what’s coming to you. When I’m done cutting your hair you won’t have to worry about spending so much time combing it at the end of class. If you change your attitude and quit bullying the other guys, you can grow it back out and have your pretty hair for the next two years, but if I hear one word from anyone that you are picking on someone, I’m going to have you back in this chair cutting all your hair off again! It’s totally up to you how you want your hair to look. You just need to think twice before you act, because you know what the end result will be."

"You wait till I get home and I show my father what you have done! He’s going to be down here as fast as he can and you are going to be in for a lot of trouble," Gale said.

"Actually, I talked with your father this afternoon and he and I came up with this plan. He says you’re getting too cocky for your own good and need to be taught a lesson so don’t expect daddy to come running down here to defend you. Now you just sit here and let me finish this and then you go home and think about what has happened here today."

From that point on neither Gale or Mr. Seminatore said another word. Mr. Seminatore continued lifting up Gale’s beautiful locks and chopped them off. By this time Gale had tears running all down his face. He knew that he just had to sit there and take it. He just hoped Mr. Seminatore would leave him enough hair to comb back.

Mr. Seminatore was secretly enjoying himself. He hated that his own hair was curly and therefore he did not grow it out. Many times he had watched Gale comb his hair and he had often thought about what it would be like to have such straight hair that you could do anything you wanted with it. He had also thought how he would like to cut all Gale’s hair off, but never dreamed that it would actually happen and here he was just destroying this guy’s beautiful hair!

Mr. Seminatore finished cutting each lock off until Gale had little hair left on his head. Little did Gale know that the scissors however were just the beginning of the haircut. Once Mr. Seminatore finished cutting off all the length he pulled out his clippers. He put on a #2 guard, forced Gale’s chin almost to his chest, and ran the clippers over his entire head! Gale was going to end up with his hair cut down to about 1/4" all over! That really got him sobbing! So much for mr. tough guy!

When Mr. Seminatore finished buzzing Gale’s head, it was unbelievable how much hair there was on the floor! Gale definitely wasn’t feeling too cocky right then. All Mr. Seminatore told him was that he could leave and he would see him tomorrow.

Fast forward a year and a half. It was now the end of Gale’s senior year. He definitely had learned his lesson that afternoon with Mr. Seminatore and had changed his attitude. At first, it was merely because he wanted to let his hair grow out and he definitely did not want to sit in Mr. Seminatore’s chair again! Eventually though, he realized things did get better once he got the chip off his shoulder.

The final week of school, Mr. Seminatore was again sitting at his desk, grading final papers. He heard a knock at his door and looked up to see Gale standing there. Gale asked if Mr. Seminatore had a minute to talk with him. "Sure," Mr. Seminatore replied, "Come on in."

"I just wanted to thank you for helping me get my life on track," Gale said. "I’ll never forget that day you cut my hair, but it probably helped me more than anything else and I wanted you to know that I really am grateful. I did turn my life around and if I hadn’t gotten the haircut it may not have happened."

"I can’t afford college right now so I’ve decided to join the army and then the military can help me pay for school after I complete my service. That means that next week all my hair is going to come off again. This time however, I look forward to it because I’m looking forward to my future. I was thinking that to celebrate that I’ve turned things around perhaps you’d give me another haircut, that is if you would be interested," Gale said.

A smile came to Mr. Seminatore’s face. "I tell you what. I’ve got a few more minutes to finish grading these papers. Why don’t you go on in back and comb that pretty hair of yours into the best looking pompadour you can. When I come back there, I don’t want to see a single hair out of place and then we’ll celebrate the start of your new future."

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