Oly Farnham gets his hair cut and discusses Steelhead By Wadin' Boot In the midst of a powerful storm Oly Farnham sat in a barber’s chair in Hood River, Oregon. Head hung forward long locks of hair fell to the unhesitating blades. They fell down the drape and in small rivulets to the ironscroll that held his boots. The last time he sat in a chair so fine he was a teenager, black curls falling to the floor to be swept up by some kid Oly knew but whose name had slipped him. His hair was now more salt than pepper. And with the chair spun, the mirror staring him back, there was the barber and a man he barely recognized. Rather than stare at himself, or at the man stuck in his own monotonous drivel about sports Oly cared little for, he looked at the barber’s crap. There were pictures of men and fish, boys holding birds by the neck, others of trucks with carcasses strapped to them. Here’s where the stories were. How to derail this barber's tale about the merits of a quarterback’s arm sprained in a tackle that “shoulda been called.” With the clippers off, and the sounds of rain beating on the shop window, the story about the football game was coming to what Farnham supposed would be its conclusion. The Barber did less work and more gesturing the closer he got. It sounded like he had this monolog memorized, rehearsed and staged. Half his head was shaved, the other long. “Referees. You can’t trust them.” Farnham, sensing a moment to move on. “Let me ask you something.” “Yeah, sure thing Chief.” “how’d you catch the fish?” “Which one” There was only one. Farnham nodded up to the mounted Steelhead on the wall, draped in a single line of tired mint-green Christmas tinsel. “Well you know a fisherman never tells his secrets. Just like a woman never tells her age” “You want a tip, tell me the story.” The barber laughed as he moved some combs into a blue vat of disinfectant. A raspy high pitched and abrasive laugh. That old thing? He paused longer, rearranging the scissors, the straight razor. It occurred to Farnham that the barber didn’t catch the fish. In front of him were two framed state haircut licenses, both with low-grade photos. One for his barber, and one for younger man with a handlebar mustache and slicked hair. Studying the glory shots on the wall, he could find the kid, or at least he thought it was the same guy, you had to imagine his head without the ludicrous mustache, but most of the photos it was the kid and his friends There were a couple of other random guys but none with his barber. The barber held up the clippers again, his hand a little shaky and began working on the side he hadn’t yet touched. He spoke a lot slower than he did with the last story. “I was fishing the Sandy. With my friend Joe. Joe’s the other barber here, he fishes a lot more than I do. We were throwing spoons. And I hooked him.” “that’s it?” “What else do you want to know?” “Well it's a fishing story right, and in the rules of fishing stories you tell a bunch of crap, exaggerate things some, make me jealous, and I try and figure out what's true and what's not." "like I said, what do you want to know?" "How about we start with what time of year.” “I don’t remember.” “Where on the river?” “it was maybe a mile upstream from the bridge.” “What bridge?” Farnham sensed blood in the water, he wanted to catch the barber out. He knew, deep down he knew it, the barber did not catch the fish. The barber’s hand was now moving quickly, much faster than he did during the football story. Closed-ended questioning wasn't getting him far, he wasn't a subtle interrogater. Just then a gust of air moved through the shop as another man entered. Oly couldn’t see him, but the jangle of the small bell on the door bounced a couple of times after the door was pushed shut. “Hey Dennis.” “Well hello Joe, it’s good to see you made it through this tempest.” “Tempest.... Dennis you crack me up....just a little rain that's all.” Farnham studied his barber. Dennis. He looked nervous, shifting gaze between Farnham on the chair and Joe putting his coat on the rack. Joe fussed a little with some stuff up back, tuned the radio without asking, off the smooth jazz to some bantering radio people who seemed to be smugly self amused over some freak news story about a man who turned into a woman and now was in some legal trouble because he/she wanted to turn back into a man. The guy wanted the State of Oregon to pay for all of it. No-one thought that was a good idea. Joe came into Oly's view and took a seat in the other chair. Held a coffee cup to his lips. Dried his hair one handed with a small towel, head tilted and threw it in the corner. He Nodded over to Farnham. “Helluva storm.” Farnham surprised himself, he was still wanting resolution, hound dog senses were spoiling him, leading him down an inquisitor's path: “You know how that Steelhead was caught?” Joe looked at Dennis and Farnham caught it all. Dennis looked flat, shrugged his shoulders. Worked on the remaining top, thinning out, moving quickly, twice the pace. “Yeah, sure I do, I was there.” “Where was it?” “Who wants to know?” “Oly Farnham, that’s me.” He held out his hand from under the drape, hair fell onto his boots. Joe leaned over, switched the coffee out of his right hand, and shook Farnham’s. His hand was hot and confident. “Sandy.” “What’d you catch him on.” “I didn’t catch him… Dennis did….Right Dennis?” Dennis looked relieved. “He caught him on a Spoon. Fought that thing for ten minutes. You should a seen my boy Dennis here, he’s a helluva fisherman, taught me everything I know.” Joe winked at Dennis In the background the radio personalities were asking what kind of sexual preference you had if you wanted to be a woman and then returned back to a man. They agreed on two things, that anyone who defined themselves solely by their sexuality has it coming to them, and that age would be particularly unkind to those people. “That’s right, Joe would be a just another guy with a mustache and his hair tonic if it weren’t for the fishing and hunting…” Joe laughed, got up and dipped his finger into a tub of mustache wax and pulled his whiskers into a delicate curl. Farnham couldn’t help but feel the joke was on him, he knew there was more to the story and yet, whatever moment there was to get the truth, was now lost. He felt stupid about his inquisition, what was he trying to do, catch the guy in a lie? Make him feel bad? Find a fishing spot? None of it was really important to Farnham, his time here was brief. Who wants to know indeed. The moment was never his and who was he to pry. There was a friendship here, one built on shared interest, business and mutual tolerance. This was Joe and Dennis’ place, the Man’s Hair Shack. And Oly’s hair, now rubbed with some kind of pomade, looked damn good, even if it did smell like crap. Dennis sure knew how to cut hair, fish too. He would leave Hood River after his cut was done, he would hitchike someplace else. He would meet a girl who knew how to fish. And that girl would first notice his neat cut and his fishing rod, and those two things would cause her to pull her car over and pick him up. He owed a lot more to Dennis than the $15 he gave him, though it would take him much longer to figure that out… Fore and Background on Oly Farnham This one's for those steelheaders that seem so troubled about whether or not they might be gay.