I love Norman Rockwell paintings! Without speaking a word, Rockwell is a master storyteller. Pictured above is one of my favorites, and it does tell a story . . . a story that I know so well! I have the picture in our bedroom, and everytime I look at it, I think of Daddy.
For as long as I can remember, Daddy was the neighborhood barber. His barbershop was very mobile; it might be our living room, as it was when he cut the hair of soldiers on manuevers near "the little house" on cold winter days. I'm sure he "lowered the ears" of some on the front porch. At the "little house" beginning early on Saturdays, men and boys from the surrounding neighborhood would wait their turn in our yard. By this time, Daddy had a second-hand barber chair under a shade tree; it wouldn't raise up or down, so if he needed height for a child, he added a board across the arms. But the "shop" I remember most was the makeshift, rickety shed in our backyard when I was a teenager. Below, you can see a photo of it and his clippers that I keep in a shadow box.
Daddy was never trained to cut hair; in fact, I'm not quite sure how he and some of his brothers picked up the trade. Out of necessity is my guess! He never knew many different styles, so you got the style he knew how to cut! Which brings me to the title of the Rockwell picture above . . . "Sheer Agony" it says! No words needed! But you might ask some of the boys - who are now older men - and they could explain that to you, especially when they left with a haircut very similar to an army recruit's cut . . . or "peel."
You see, Daddy was a barber at Ft. Polk - or Camp Polk as it was called then - for a number of years. It was his job to see that every recruit - and he might have seen 100+ a day - left the barber shop with no hair or very little hair! And so, he was very skilled at that particular style! Not everyone went away bald, though, for many of the older men came for just a trim. Of course, they wanted the trim to last for a while, and they certainly wanted their money's worth! After all, 25 cents . . . 50 cents . . . then a $1.00 was hard to get back then.
My brothers were probably the most difficult to please, causing some "heated discussions" in the backyard. Middle Brother had beautiful hair and wore it in an Elvis-like cut. And so he took a mirror to the barber chair with him, and tried to tell Daddy exactly where to cut . . . and not cut. I believe Younger Brother followed suit and always had a mirror handy, too! Not always your normal barber shop chatter (or do men "chatter" at the barber shop??), I'm sure! Ah, what memories!! And by the way, he cut my bangs, too . . . and yep, they were always too short to please me!
This story is getting way too long, so I'll bring it to a close . . . just as Daddy brought his hair-cutting days to a close when he became so shaky that he was unable to use his clippers. I miss him, but I'm thankful for memories like these and so many more that keep him alive in my heart. One day, I'll be able to talk and laugh with him in a place where the words "sheer agony" will not exist . . . a place that even Norman Rockwell can't depict in a painting . . . or even imagine in his most creative moments! Now, that's something to look forward to!