Thursday, June 14, 2007

Haircuts and Hillbilly Hugs, Part I

“If you believe it, you will experience it.” The statement of defrocked Charismatic bishop Carlton Pearson pierced my road weary mind as Barry and I listened to an NPR pod cast while driving west on I-70 towards the Damele and Paiute turquoise mines in Lander County, Nevada. Bishop Pearson had run afoul of his church when he developed the Doctrine of Inclusion; in essence a philosophy that there was no God-created Hell, and that everyone is saved, no matter what their faith.

Loneliest Road in America
The Hwy 50 Road Sign

Bishop Pearson had decided that humans, not God, created Hell. He also came to the conclusion that God was love, not the mean-spirited monster portrayed by many of the ministers associated with the Charismatic movement. The other ministers immediately understood how Dr. Pearson’s doctrine might adversely affect their ability to scare the fire out of their flocks and were not amused.

Not long after hearing Bishop Pearson’s pronouncement, Barry and I arrived at the junction of US Highways 89 and 50. We were about to begin our journey on the, “Loneliest Road In America.” Bishop Pearson’s words kept banging around in my brain, mostly because I agreed with his reasoning, but also because I had recently decided I need more interesting experiences in my mundane life.

Ironically, my experiential revelation had occurred two weeks earlier at precisely this same spot. Just one block north of where Barry and I currently sat waiting for the opportunity to turn left, in a dusty, timeworn storefront just off Main Street, Salina, Utah, stood Natch’s Barbershop. I had stumbled upon the salon late one evening as I fumbled about, trying to find Highway 89. There was no traditional barber pole to indicate the business’ specialty; just two hydraulic chairs and a lot of hair tonic on the other side of a large pane of glass. After discovering Natch’s, I realized that Highway 89 began at the intersection and ran north, so it was not long before I was back on track.

The next day, as I retraced my steps on the return trip, Natch’s began calling to me. I did not need a haircut, but felt compelled to go inside and see what kind of experience I could gin up. I steered the car into a parking slot in front of the building and piled out. Inside the shop, slouched in one of the lifts, was an also timeworn woman of about 70 years. “Do you take walk-ins,” I asked in too large a voice. It was apparent the traffic at the shop was not overwhelming, so I thought I was on firm ground. “Yes,” she said, jerking her thumb toward the remaining chair, “He will be back in a few minutes.” “He” was her husband of numerous decades, and He returned shortly.

Mr. Natch was a pleasant, medium height, maximum circumference man, maybe a few years older than She Natch. Assessing my scalp, He said, “So, what should we do?” On the opposite wall was a poster featuring hair styles of the 1950s. The placard had obviously been hanging in the same location at least 50 years, and had become a bit tattered. I briefly considered a flat top, but decided it might startle my family, partners and friends. Intuitively I knew I would have to ease into this new lifestyle.

One of the sketches on the poster looked a little like Clark Gable, without the pencil thin mustache. Taking that as a sign, I asked, “Can you make me look like Clark Gable?” “No,” She snorted, without the slightest hint of apology. He Natch seemed in agreement, so, understanding She was likely correct in her evaluation, I asked for a lowly trim. Old habits die hard.

While I was taking myself to task for not being more bold, I surveyed the premises. Bottles of hair tonic that appeared to have originated before World War II were arranged about the room. Layers of dust on the containers indicated they had not been rearranged since originally being placed on the shelves. I wondered whether there might be a market for them at the Twin Rocks trading post.

Taking out his clippers, He began to carve. It did not take long to recognize that this was going to be an interesting encounter. I looked straight ahead and tried not to move, lest He lop off one or both of my ears. An exciting experience was one thing, but going about like Vincent van Gogh was another thing altogether. Every once in a while I cast a sideways glance at She, who continued to slump in the seat next to me, to see if she approved. Although her eyes drooped and she appeared to be nodding off, She smiled like the Cheshire Cat.

When the process was complete, I asked the charges, and He, admiring his handiwork, announced the total cost to be $10.00. I quickly glanced at the mirror and noticed the cut was smartly slanted and more closely cropped on the left than the right. Now, I have had hundreds of haircuts, but never one so memorable. So, along with his standard fee, I gave Him a $2.00 tip.

Paiute Turquoise Cabochons
Turquoise Cabochon from Twin Rocks Trading Post.

Back at the Twin Rocks trading post, Zigy, who was a regular at Twin Rocks and had been in a just a couple days before my departure, noticed my new trim. “Something’s different,” Zigy announced, “Let me take a look.” Circling me several times, he mused, “Ahh, sure. Hum.” Finally he queried, “How much did it cost?” “Ten dollars,” I disclosed in my most budget-minded tone; neglecting to mention the tip. “That is the best $10.00 haircut I’ve seen in recent years; shorter on one side, crooked in the back, it’s great,” Zigy pronounced. “Shoulda’ given him a tip.”

Reflecting back on Zigy’s comments, I clicked the blinker and turned west onto the Loneliest Road, continuing the search for nuggets of turquoise and nodules of knowledge.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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