Jack toughs it out like the grandson of a Marine he is. (Photo: McKenna)
Mini-Mac gets initiated at Uncle Bill’s Barber Shop
There are certain rites of passage all men must go through as we make our flatulent way from diapers to Depends.
Fortunately, nature makes sure that we don’t remember some of the more painful moments, like circumcision or junior high. Whereas others, like the first time we break a bone or need a few stitches, or the first time we have a make-out session or see a Playboy, seem to stay with us like Boy Scout badges sewn into our souls.
But there are other big moments that tend be a little hazy for us, like our first Little League game, first day at school or the first time we get a haircut. Alas, even if we can’t remember some of these moments very well—well, that’s what dads and brothers and cellphone cameras are for.
I recently took my two-year old Jack, aka “Mini-Mac,” to get his first haircut at Uncle Bill’s Barber Shop at the corner of Main and Line Streets in Bishop. As is often the case, Christoph and his handlebar mustache was manning the barber chairs.
“He’s pretty small, but we can give it a shot,” Christoph said with a shrug, as he dusted off a chair.
I hopped in first, requesting a classic buzz cut. The kind of “whiffle,” I’ve been getting every summer since I was about as tall as a wiffle ball bat, more or less Mini-Mac’s current size. While Cristoph buzzed my hair off and told stories of giving a thousand crew cuts a day to Marines when he owned a shop in San Clemente, Jack watched in wonder from one barber chair, while I sat in the other and wondered when my now freshly cut “salt and pepper” hair had gone so light on the pepper.
Jack was up next, and even though he gave the immediate, somewhat panicked look of a Marine about to be sent into battle, he quickly composed himself (his Grandfather was a Marine in Vietnam, for Pete’s sake) and sat there teetering on just the right side of miserable while Christoph began buzzing his light brown hair off.
“He’s doing real good. Some kids can be real squirmy,” Christoph said, while transforming Jack from a shaggy-headed toddler to a little boy. “Sometimes you need to bring them in when they’re asleep, but not him. He’s not too squirmy at all. He’s doing just fine, which is good because sometimes when they’re
squirmy their haircuts can come out pretty funny.”
By the time the haircut was halfway done, Jack looked like an old pro in there. He stared out the window, watching traffic trickle by on Highway 395, while Christoph—in classic barber shop form—regaled us with stories.
“I’ve only ever worked in shops,” he said, pausing for build up, “barber shops, gun shops and pawn shops. You get to met a lot of interesting people working in shops.”
Christoph has been a licensed barber for a quarter of a century now and Uncle Bill’s, with its small, striped barber’s pole inside the window, has been a staple in the heart of Bishop for nearly as long.
As Mark Twain so accurately wrote on the subject, “All things change except barbers, the ways of barbers, and the surroundings of barbers. These never change. What one experiences in a barber’s shop the first time he enters one is what he always experiences in barbers’ shops afterward till the end of his days.”
When he’s not cutting hair, Christoph hunts coyotes in the Great Basin. He does it to help out many of the grateful ranchers of the expansive region, and some of the hides get sold and even make it as far as Russia. Keen and wily coyotes are considered to be extremely difficult to hunt.
By the time the haircut was over, it instantly seemed like Jack was a little more wily himself. Maybe it was all the talk about coyotes, but it was as if Jack had left his toddler ways lying on the floor with his shaggy hair and had instantly become a feisty little boy. And I’m not the only one who noticed his change.
After getting his first buzz cut, people quickly started commenting that Jack seemed more independent, more rambunctious and that he looked a lot more like his dad—and the good Lord knows Mini-Mac is certainly going to need those first two traits to be able to put up with the last one.
So I’m glad to report that Jack’s first trip to the barbershop went well, and he’s now made another successful step through one of the rites of passage we men must make, as we make our way from the hairless world of Spiderman tighty-whities to a hair-in-the weirdest-places age of wearing boxer briefs. One more down, about one million more to go.