September 12, 2003

Some Off the Top?

image copyright Fred First

There was a young fella hanging out, Ralph the barber sitting in the chair, the visitor propped back against the wall just inside the door like he was holding it up; he backed out with a goodbye that said "I'll probably be back to continue this conversation" when a paying customer cast a shadow across the doorway that framed the midmorning skyline of downtown Floyd.

"Hey Ralph! You got one more haircut left in ya?" I asked, as if I was a regular customer. He would recognize me without really knowing much about me, other than I used to have a physical therapy clinic just across the street. I looked out through the clinic window at his silhouette so many times, paused in conversation beside a customer who had come in as much for the conversation as to get new sidewalls over his ears. There were usually two or three more fellas in worn boots and overalls sitting slumped in the faded naugahyde chairs; they had no intention of giving the barber anything more than an account of their abuse at the hand of their wives or a few good-natured jabs about what a sorry barber he was.

"I'm 'bout half here this morning" Ralph told me lazily, shaking out the cotton coverlet with a snap as I sat down in the leather chair. My hand fell naturally on the arms worn smooth by a hundred thousand calloused hands over the thirty years Ralph has stood behind that swivel seat. His feet shuffled on the floor padding so thin I'm sure it doesn't do much to absorb the weight from his new hip joints.

"Well if you're half here, be sure and start with the back half that needs it most, and I'll give you three of your six dollars if that's as far as you get before you give out on me" I said, already back in the small town rhythm of see-saw banter that came so naturally when I worked in town. Folks like Ralph had lived here long enough to be part of the landscape and there was a palpable barrier in the conversation if you seemed too proper and polished.

I have to confess: Floyd the Barber from Andy Griffith pretty well spoiled me, so that when I looked across the street at the Floyd Barber Shop, I was always half expected to find Floyd from Mayberry standing in the doorway in his starched white jacket, hair slicked back with a half tube of Bryllcream, scissors and long black comb sticking impressively out of his top pocket. I could hear him humming pleasantly to himself while he waved to passersby. But Ralph is the next best thing. Plays music with his customers, especially Friday afternoons before the Jamboree next door at the Country Store.

Posted by fred1st at September 12, 2003 06:34 AM | TrackBack

got to love these small towns around here. sadly, many many people have no idea what life is like in them. it's good you're telling these sorts of stories because they're true and they won't be around much longer. rock on fred. (i obviously have never visited the floyd barber shop though. hahahaha)

Posted by: bud at September 12, 2003 09:30 AM

Enjoy your mayberry musings and your weekend as well. I have a feeling you would in any case, however. Some folks just have a knack for making the most of who and what are at hand.

Posted by: Anne at September 12, 2003 10:44 AM

Is Ralph a Geezer? I wonder. Would love to give him the Test! How'd your hair come out?

Posted by: Doc Rock at September 12, 2003 11:43 AM

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Posted by: Haleh at September 13, 2003 01:45 AM

I oughta give old Ralph a try. He couldn't do any worse than that guy at Great Clips who butchered my silken locks last week.

And six bucks for a haircut?? I paid twelve for the sheep-shearing I got.

Posted by: Curt at September 15, 2003 11:18 AM

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