“Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”
Us Texans can be braggarts, pompous asses, and supercilious zealots about our state, history, and traditions. To us, “everything is bigger” in Texas. I won’t deny this because it happens to be true.
We are divinely blessed with the big sky country, enormous cattle ranches larger than most states, the vast rolling prairies, Big Tex and the State Fair, The Fort Worth Fat Stock Show, the Big Bend National Park, big-assed rodeos, colossal oil and gas fields, big cattle with massive horns, tall longneck beers, fat fluffy biscuits, and my favorite, “big hair.” I happen to have first-hand knowledge of the big hair phenomenon. It happened in our household.
In 1956, an artistically inclined Fort Worth beautician that happened to be my uncle figured out he could take a woman’s healthy, shining long hair and transform it into a towering monument of femininity. Teasing, ratting, poking, backcombing, and then mold the mass into a two-foot mountain of tortured follicles. To keep the sculpture in place required a minimum of one or more 16-ounce cans of flammable cancer-causing lacquer-based hair spray that was known to explode when in the vicinity of an open flame. Who knew a hair-do could be so dangerous.
It was a winning combo for the beauty shops. Women had to visit their beauticians to achieve their “big hair” style, and the shop sold the spray to hold the sculpture in place. It was a gold mine, and within six months, every beautician in Fort Worth had doubled their business and was driving a Frank Kent Cadillac. The good times were rolling in, and Texas women would never look the same.
My hair-fixin uncle entered a hairstyle show in Dallas and needed a model. My mother, ever the good sister, volunteered for the job, and off the two went. But, of course, Dallas was the forbidden zone for us, Fort Worth-ians, so it was a shock to the family when my mother consented to go.
As children, we must repeat an oath, pledging to never, under any circumstance, visit Dallas, except for funerals and weddings, and then don’t spend your money there; keep it in Cowtown. Amon Carter watched over his sheep, and the Leonard Brothers needed our support.
As a cold Saturday in late December, turned to nighttime, and then late evening. My father grew increasingly worried about his wife’s whereabouts.
“How long does it take to fix some damn hair?” He said for the hundredth time. The weatherman on Channel 5 had forcasted a big sleet storm that might hit at any time.
Dinner was a sack of White Castle burgers. My sister went to bed early, and I, in support of my father, sat up watching “The Mummy” on Nightmare Theater. My father was outside in the cold, pacing on the front porch, chain-smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes and cursing Dallas.
Around 10 PM, my father joined me in front of the television as the mummy was killing his final victim with a chokehold; the front door opened, and there stood my mother with a furry gargoyle perched on her head.
The lighting from our Christmas tree cast an eerie glow on her form. Tiny glass ornaments in her hair reflected the red and blue lights, making her an angelic Christmas version of “The Bride of Frankenstien.”
She staggard to the sofa plopped down, and fell over sideways. My father gently lifted her to a sitting position and placed a cushion behind her back. I noticed a small pile of broken hair where her head had landed. She began to weep. There was no consoling her; the more we tried, the louder she wailed.
Uncle said that a jealous competitor had switched his hair spray with a can of spray glue, so the hair-do would be permanent. The good news is they won the hair show, and they got a big trophy and a check.
The following day, mom left the house early. When she returned, her hair was as short as a man’s.
I was sad to see the hair-do go. I thought the tiny ornaments in her hair looked pretty cool. After all, it was Christmas time.