Barbershop blues

    Barbershops are making a comeback, and I for one am glad of it. Guys simply aren’t meant to get their hair cut at places like salons or boutiques.     
    At a certain age, boys begin to separate themselves from their mothers. This is mainly due to the universal aversion boys have for maternal at-home haircuts.
    “Mom,” I would exclaim after my mother had given me a trim. “It looks like you plopped a bowl on my head and mowed off everything that stuck out.” Mom eventually grew tired of my whining and allowed me the extravagance of getting haircuts at a barbershop.     
    Mom would hand me the $2 a haircut cost back then and drop me off at the Main Street barbershop that was owned by a guy named Helmer Dahl. As I walked into his shop for the first time, Helmer greeted me with a cheery, “Hello there, young sir. Have a seat!” I liked Helmer right away.     
    Helmer’s barbershop smelled of clipper oil and cigarette smoke and manly haircare products such as Vitalis Hair Tonic. If you had to wait, there was a large selection of manly reading materials to pass the time, magazines like Field and Stream and Outdoor Life. Helmer also had a plethora of comic books for his younger clientele.     
    I went to Helmer for haircuts for many years and learned two things. First was that Helmer didn’t care if my hair was a tangled mat of silage particles and oat chaff. Second was that you could tell any kind of joke in Helmer’s barbershop, just as long as it was funny.     
    After Helmer retired, my wife said we could save a bundle if she were to cut my hair at home. But it’s never a good situation when your barber says things like “Oops,” or “Let me get a bandage for that,” or “I can’t keep the bowl straight if you don’t hold still.”     
    At my wife’s behest, I was introduced to the world of hair salons. My first impression of a hair salon wasn’t good. The place reeked of industrial hair chemicals, and its walls were plastered with posters of emaciated supermodels who sported hairdos that defied the laws of physics. The only reading materials available were magazines with cover stories such as, “Drive your man wild with these flirty new perms.” Yeesh.     
    Yvette, my hair technician, ushered me over to a plastic sink and proceeded to wash my hair. Like I hadn’t already done that when I took a shower the previous week. I was then instructed to sit in a mauve-colored, electronically adjustable, fiberglass chair.     
    Yvette tried to untangle my mop, often stopping to remove bits of hay from her comb.
    “Do you use a conditioner?” she asked.
    “I used to,” I replied. “But it gave me too much trouble, so I took the thing off. Now I just windrow my alfalfa without it.”     
    Yvette decided to change the subject.
    “How often do you comb this ... whatever it is?” 
    “Once a month, whether it needs it or not,” I replied proudly.
    “And what sort of tool you use? An eggbeater?”
    I’m not sure, but I think Yvette was being sarcastic.   
    Things seemed to be getting tense, so I thought I would lighten the mood by telling the latest blonde joke I had heard. But before I could start the yarn, I was struck by a philosophical quandary: Would a person be offended by such a joke if the person hearing it – Yvette, for instance – was blonde by choice? Given the fact that Yvette was holding a pair of sharp scissors, I opted not to risk it.     
    My wife said my haircut looked great. I thought my new do looked suspiciously similar to the one recently sported by Lady Gaga.
    As soon I as I got home, I snuck into the bathroom and ran a wire whisk through my hair. Otherwise, I might have spooked my cows.     
    I get my hair trimmed nowadays at a honest-to-goodness barbershop in a nearby town. They never complain about the foreign matter they find in my mop, there’s a good supply of manly reading materials on hand, and the only thing on the wall, other than the mirror, is a battered old hockey stick – a souvenir of some guy’s glory days.     
    And the people who cut my hair call themselves barbers, not hair technicians. But best of all, I can tell any kind of joke that I like, just as long as it’s funny.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: [email protected]


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