My Favorite Barber

It was in the late eighties. A time of yuppies, when country girls still had big hair, and when wrangler jeans had just come back in style, courtesy of Mr. George Strait, that I lived in Central Kentucky. I remember visiting that town during one of my interviews. The town had a fountain square right in the middle. A man was standing there on that hot July day, a distinguished older man with white hair. He was wearing a kaki suit and a white broad brimmed straw hat. His tie was pastel. Though I never spoke to him and never came to know him, it was he who sold me on the town.

Working as a new comer in one of the local banks allowed me a little recognition. Mrs. Lackey came by soon after I got settled in. She was the sole self appointed representative of the “Welcome Wagon”. She presented me with a straw basket full of small items and gift certificates to local shops. She must have been in her seventies at the time but she was poised in appearance and happy in disposition. She immediately set me to concerning myself with the social aspects of living in this small community. I joined the town’s Rotary Club and went to weekly Chamber of Commerce luncheons.

Most everyone in the community was nice and welcoming but somehow being a country boy at heart, I never quite fit in at the country club.

My favorite part of that town was the barber shop.

It stood only about a half a block away from the fountain. It was tucked in a much larger building. Its store front was not long but the shop went back deep. The front walk was always swept clean and a small brass bell would announce you as you entered. The floors were black and white checkered tile, the walls were white Formica and the ceiling was a white drop down. The chairs were old but recently covered and comfortable. The magazines were all recent and a small murmuring television was perched upon the far wall. The two barbers stood erect in their starched white tunics.

I was young and even more susceptible to flattery than I am today. As I entered it would be Mr. Clarke nice to see you, be with you in a minute. As I settled in the chair it would be Mr. Clarke how is the stock market today or Mr. Clarke what is your opinion of the day’s current events or on some particular investment. They solicited my opinion and advice on any number of different subjects, all very pleasant and it would always be Mr. Clarke this and Mr. Clarke that.

The talk was often jovial and while they seldom teased me, teasing was a big part of the local humor as well as a large part of the town’s unique identity. Both of the barbers were part time farmers and spoke often of tractors, crops, and weather, things I like to talk about but they would often tease other patrons.

They gave a nice hair cut and I often made excuses to go to that shop more than I actually needed. I enjoyed the company of men, the smell of talcum powder and the cleanliness of the shop but the best part was when the hair cut was through. The first time it happened I just about shot out of the chair. Anyway, here goes. After cutting my hair and removing that piece of paper from around my neck he draped a large piece of tissue over my shoulders and slipped onto his hand a Swedish massager. The first time I was a little scared, tense and feeling somehow as if I had lost a little of my masculinity by allowing this to happen. But after I learned to relax it was wonderful. His buzzing hand rubbed my sore shoulders and in an instant I was putty. It probably only lasted for only fifteen seconds or so but it was a really great fifteen seconds.

I think he charged five dollars. I always tipped.

I got started out going to barbers as a boy however when I reached puberty in the seventies, I along with all the other guys had to have our hair “feathered”. Something that barbers either could not do or would not do because they had better sense than to be a part of a young man walking around with “feathered” hair. Lots of the guys would talk about the hair dressers, you know, guy talk. I think they liked the hair dressers for more than a good hair cut.

I must be old because I find that I no longer wish to find any sort of sexual undertones when I get a hair cut. Women are in all aspects of my life, save one; the barber shop. Give me the company of men and men alone if only for fifteen minutes or so.

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