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Coach and the Last Day of School by elliott


The last day of school 1975. I was almost fifteen and looking forward to the summer. My last class that day was Science, taught by Coach Gray, the head football coach. He was your typical football coach, big and tall, very masculine and tough. He had moved to our small Mississippi town the previous August to accept the position of head football coach. He quickly got a reputation around the school for several things...he always seemed to have a big wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek, he wouldn't hesitate to use his thick wooden paddle and most of all - he hated long hair on teenage boys. He had started the school year off by making all of his football players get a haircut. Nothing too severe, just a regular taper off the ears, off the eyes, off the collar. Since I didn't play sports and wasn't yet in high school it didn't affect me.
I lived alone with my father because my mother passed away when I was young and I am an only child. My father had his own accounting firm and was gone a good bit. Our small town was safe and I had been staying alone when my father was out of town on business and thought nothing of it. My father was not too strict on me, especially concerning haircuts. He took me to the barbershop about every six weeks for a trim. My father was much older when I was born and always had the same haircut, a medium short flat top. He simply didn't insist that I have a short haircut, however. He did have several rules I was expected to live by, though. He knew I had a high IQ and demanded that I study a lot and make good grades. I liked school and studying so I didn't mind. Another thing I had to be sure to do was to be polite and respectful to all adults, especially teachers. Usually I had no problem with that but Coach Gray and I just didn't seem to like one another. A few times he had asked me why my father allowed me to have long hair when my father preferred a short haircut. I just always answered that my father let me decide what type of hairstyle I wanted for myself. He would always scowl and make a comment that he hoped one day my father would make me get a man's haircut.
Not long before the bell rang at 3:00 p.m. to signal the end of the school year Coach Gray announced that there were several boys that needed to get a haircut over the summer and he included me on the list. After he named the boys that he thought needed a haircut that summer he said in a stern voice, "If you boys come back to school in the fall without that long hair I may just take you to the barbershop myself." A few guys laughed and I said under my breath, "Yeah, I bet you will." This got a big laugh and Coach barked, "What was that, Townsend?" I was about to reply, "Nothing, Coach" when the bell rang. Coach said, "Class dismissed except for smart aleck Townsend here." I knew I was in trouble. My first thought was my father was going to kill me. He simply didn't put up with disrespect to a teacher and I had broken one of his cardinal rules.
The class left quickly and I just sat at my desk. As soon as the room was empty Coach said, "Come to my office, now." A feeling of dread was in my stomach as I followed him to his office. He sat down behind his desk and reached for a pack of Levi Garrett chewing tobacco and proceeded to put a big wad in his cheek. He said, "Okay, son, I didn't hear what you said but I know you made some smart remark. I don't tolerate backtalk in my class so you and I are going to have a meeting with the Board of Education." I winced, knowing what was coming. The Board of Education was what he had nicknamed his paddle. It was about a quarter inch thick and about a foot long with several hole drilled into i. He did said something that really surprised me, "Even though I'm not required to I'm going to call your father because he and I are friends I think he would want to know about this. What is the number where he's working right now?" I gave him the number and he immediately dialed my father. The accounting firm answered and Coach asked for my father and just a moment he was on the line. Coach gray told him what had happened and that I had made a smart remark when he had told me to get a haircut over the summer. My father was quiet for just a moment and then I could tell he was extremely mad. He asked me what I had said to the coach and I told him I didn't remember. My father's side and said okay son if that's the way you want it. He then told Coach gray that he had his permission to paddle me and that he didn't think it would be a problem for me getting a haircut over the summer because as soon as he got home from his business trip he would be taking me to the barbershop himself to make sure that I got a summer haircut I would long remember. Coach Gray told my father that he would be glad to take me to the barber shop and it would be no problem whatsoever and he would make absolutely sure that the haircut I got would last me all summer. I was a little surprised when my father told him that was a great idea and then he told the coach something that really surprised me. He told Coach Gray instead of giving me the normal five licks to give me 10 if that was okay with him. Coach gray told him that would be just fine. My father told me to do exactly as Coach Gray said and he would deal with me when he got home. My father said goodbye and hung up. Coach Gray said, "Okay, son, you know what to do. Let's get this taken care of. Stand up, drop your pants and put your hands on the desk." I did as I was told. Coach Gray told me to count off the licks and to be sure I included Sir at the end of each one. It was the hardest paddling I had ever gotten. By the time he was through my butt was burning. As soon as he finished he said, "pull up your pants and let's get to the barbershop."
I followed Coach to his truck knowing this was not going to end well for me and my hair. We rode in silence to the barbershop and we were there in about two minutes. Our small town only had two barbershops and we had arrived at the one I had only been to a few times, my father and I usually going to the other one. The one Coach took me to was owned by an older gentleman who was a Marine in World War II. He had the same dislike of long hair on boys as Coach did and my nervousness increased.
As we were about to get out of the truck Coach said, "Here, son, have a chew." He held out the pack of Levi Garrett and I hesitated. I had been chewing at school for about a year but I didn't think he knew it. He said, "Son, I said get you a chew. I've seen you chewing at school and I told you to get a chew. Now, fill your cheek " Again, I did as I was told. Coach handed me a styrofoam cup with some tissue in it and said, "You spit when you need to but you keep that chew in your mouth the whole time you are getting a haircut. Do you understand me?" I answered,"Yes, Sir."
We walked inside the ice cold barbershop and I got in the chair. Mr. Kennedy, the barber, spoke to Coach and then Coach spoke the words that sealed my fate. "Mr. Townsend is out of town and asked if I could bring Elliott down here for a summer haircut. What's the name of that short haircut that Marines get?" Mr. Kennedy answered, "You mean a high and tight?" Coach Gray, "Yep, I think that's exactly the haircut this young man could use this summer." Mr Kennedy chuckled and said coach gray, I think you're exactly right. This young man has way too much hair on his head and a high and tight will look good on him this Summer. Do you want the regular high and tight or the recon? Close quote coach Gray answered, "Oh, I didn't know there were two of them. Is the recon the shorter version? Mr Kennedy said yep there's a regular and then the recon, the regular is one and a half on top and zero on the sides while the recon is one on top and razor shaved on the sides even higher up then the regular high and tight." Coach gray looked me right in the eyes smiled and said, "I think the recon is the better choice don't you, son?" I answered quietly yes sir. Coach Grace said speak up son and tell the barber what you want. I spoke up and said "Mr Kennedy I'd like a recon high and tight please." Mr Kennedy said, "Why of course son it would be my pleasure."
He started by putting the paper strip around my neck and then fastening the cape tightly around my neck. He pushed my head forward as far as it would go until my chin was resting on my chest. I heard the sharp sound of the clippers turn on and when the cold metal touched my neck I involuntarily flinched. Coach gray barked out, "You sit still son and take your haircut like a man."
Mr Kennedy ran the clippers of the back of my head all the way up the crown. He did this several times moving from left to right. He then went back over the sides again to make sure they were as close as possible. He then went over the top with a number one guard getting the top as even as possible. He then wiped down the sides of my head with a warm cloth and then applied shaving cream. He stropped the razor and then shaved the sides so they were completely smooth. Every so often I would spit tobacco juice in my cup and look at Coach Gray and he had a look on his face that I can't describe, a mixture of satisfaction and happiness. After Mr Kennedy finished shaving the sides he went back over the top to blend the top to the sides. After he was completely through giving me a recon he wiped down the sides of my head with a liquid that was cooling and stinging at the same time.
When he finished he turned the chair around I couldn't believe how I looked. There was absolutely no hair left on the sides it was complete skin. The top was no more than one fourth inch long all over. I have to admit it was a great looking haircut. I was so surprised how much I liked it.
Coach gray paid Mr Kennedy and said "What do you tell him, son?" I answered obediently "thank you for my haircut Mr Kennedy."
We got in the truck and as he dropped me at my house he said, "No hard feelings, son, I was just doing the right thing." As he drove away I rubbed the sides of my head and thought, "I couldn't agree more."




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