Friday, May 8, 2015

A 90 Minute Haircut

Mackay is a small town of about 500 people, located 50 miles north of Atomic City.
It is a quiet, peaceful, beautiful little town that is surrounded by mountains.
The entire Lost River Valley from Arco to Challis has a severe water shortage (resulting from a combination of a few years of low rainfall and low snowfall, a lot of irrigation through the summer, and no limits on the number of wells that have been drilled, for decades).
With the Salmon River, the water shortages decrease above Mackay, but (as it was hundreds of years ago out west) water is king.
It was then and it is now, and even in the year 2015 there are still battles fought over water rights.
Reading all the stories about legal battles and hard feelings and rich developers and meetings and law suits I am always amused, because even though we live in the desert Atomic City sits over an aqua duct.
Nobody over grazes here or over irrigates here or fights over water here.
We have no shortages of water to meet the needs of our tiny nothing little community, and pay only a standard (and reasonable) fee for water use each month.
Regardless of all the hang wringing over water in the valley, I like Mackay very much.
It is a sweet little town whose population has remained constant or fallen slightly over the years.  People smile and nod to each other out of politeness even when they have no idea who you are.
Some of the buildings downtown are run down.  Some of the stores have closed permanently.  Some of the stores are open only through the summer.
Arco is a dying town.  Mackay struggles but generally seems to be holding its own (likely because of the mountains and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities).
Land is expensive there.
A couple of weeks ago I was getting ready to hold an event in Arco.
I had worked hard on the event, and wanted to post some fliers in Mackay.
I didn't know it at the time, but the event would turn out to not be a great success.
I won't organize it again.
At least not in Arco.
But on this day (a week before the event) I was still enthusiastically working to see it through.
And so we found ourselves in Mackay...............

After parking the truck on a side road in town LC said goodbye and drove away in search of a place in town to get a hair cut, with my promise that I would catch up with him when I was done.
Armed with fliers and tape I wandered along the sidewalk looking for businesses that were open.
There were not many but I posted fliers when I could.
Eventually I crossed over the main road and continued in the direction that I knew LC was headed.
Within only a couple of minutes I saw him standing outside a business and waving me towards him.
He had found a fishing and tackle shop, and once inside (and after handing the owner a flier), we spent the next 20 minutes talking to the owner and his friend about Mackay, Arco, Atomic City and fishing.
It was an easy going and relaxed conversation with two elderly locals.
It turned out that the barber shop had permanently closed down in town, but an elderly lady cut hair out of an adjoining building and was slated to arrive soon.
 And so we continued our comfortable visit until the store owner alerted us to the arrival of hair-cutting-lady.
Smiling and saying our goodbyes, my Mountain Boy and I walked out of the store.
I looked over towards the Tahoe and saw the outline in shadow of our dog.
She was watching us and I turned towards LC, telling him that me and my dog were going to wander in town until he was done..................
Opening the door to the Tahoe I stood, simultaneously blocking Kory's way and reaching for her leash before she bolted past me, as she is often apt to do.
She enthusiastically jumped down from the seat and then jumped down onto the sidewalk, ready to be sprung from the bondage of a vehicle.
She wanted to walk.  She always wants to walk...............
I never fully realized until moving to Alaska, that the only real way to see a town is on foot.
You can drive through a town a thousand times and still not see all of the little things that make a town unique.
The only way to see those things is to walk.................
I stood still for a moment, silently regarding this building that was sitting in the center of the length of main street in Mackay.
It could very well have been a beautiful building in its hey-day but on THIS day it was a mess.
A roof filled with holes and rotted shingles.  A structure filled with faded and chipped paint.
Looking at it I could imagine it being a sweet little building at one time.
Now, standing on the sidewalk as my dog pulled on her leash silently beckoning me to begin walking again, I could never imagine anyone putting enough money into it to give it new life.............
Looking back the way we had come.............
And looking up at the Clock Cigar Store sign on the ramshackle building..............
I had been totally focused first on the exterior to the cigar store building, and then focused on the wonderful sign that was posted above the door.
So focused in fact, that it took me a moment to realize that when I looked to my right I was not looking through a front entrance window.
I was looking through an empty space where a pane of glass SHOULD have been.
I was so surprised to realize that there was no window, that it actually took a moment for me to digest that information.
Stepping closer to the building, I peered through the open space, suddenly curious to see what the inside looked like.
It was a mess and I wondered why it hadn't already been torn down...............
A metal sign posted outside the newer city hall, letting visitors know that they could get information on the Mine Hill Tour inside.
Walking inside the building with Kory close at hand, I handed the smiling woman behind the counter a flier about my event, and then proceeded to pick up maps of the Mine Hill Tour as well as other trails in the area.
Once I walked outside again, I sat down on the step to city hall, opened the maps and eagerly scanned them.
They were good maps.  Topo maps.  Detailed with major trails, campground, mountain lakes, creeks, all highlighted.
Stashing them into the largest pocket of my light backpack, I looked at my dog who was face to face with me.
Smiling at her I reached over and stroked her furry face, rubbed her funky ears, and then kissed her on top of her furry head.
Time to wander some more................
Looking towards a fishing-gun supply store across the main two lane highway, with the mountains in the background..................
We had been wandering for just a short time - perhaps 20 minutes - and I decided to turn back, unsure how long LC was going to be.  Typically in Blackfoot (where he normally got his hair cut) he would have been done by now.
One more look at the dilapidated cigar store................
I don't know why, but these kinds of unexpected sites always speak to me.
Maybe it is because there is always a story behind them and I am curious to know the story.
I was surprised to see this little stuff rabbit - all dirty and missing a leg - laying in the grass between two buildings, and I snapped this picture automatically and without thought.
And then I stood looking down at it for a brief moment, wondering what the story behind him was.
Why was he lying here?  Was he innocently dropped by a child who is now missing his favorite stuffed animal?  
Who knew?
Just one of those unexpected things that you come across in your travels if you are looking for the unusual or unexpected................
LC was still nowhere in site, and so Kory and I bypassed the hair cutting place, bypassed the Tahoe and continued to wander.
Looking down at my pup I saw that she was doing just fine.  Happily wandering.  Happily investigating.  Happy to be with her momma.  It was all good.
As we passed by the small town grocery store I suddenly realized that during my introspection we had walked past outdoor scenes that had been painted on the windows.
I snapped this last painting as we reached the edge of the store, but knew that I could get the others on the way back.................
I love this old sign painted on the side of a building................
Returning to the Tahoe I unlocked the door and reached inside for a bottle of water.
Taking a swift drink I squatted down, cupped my hand, and poured water in my hand.
Kory loves to drink water out of my hand.  We spill a lot doing it that way, but I really do think that it is a bonding thing between the two of us.
With 3/4 of a bottle of water either drunk or splashed over the sidewalk, I stood up and again looked towards the hair dresser.
Where the heck WAS he?...............
Finally I stuck my head inside the door, intent on trying to learn the status of a man getting a hair cut, and was immediately surprised by what I saw.
The lady standing over LC was very old, and she had his hair combed into sections, as a woman would typically have her hair cut.
They were not even close to being done.
Smiling at the lady and smiling at LC (and realizing that he was still going to be a while) I told him that we were going to walk a couple of blocks beyond the main street.
We had more time to wander than I had imagined, which was fine now that I knew...............
One last picture of the cigar store..............
By this time Kory and I had again walked down the highway that cuts through town (and as we walked across the road heading for some old buildings a block away) I noticed that the hamburger joint where we had enjoyed a meal last summer was permanently closed and that the building was for sale.
Outside the empty restaurant sat a weathered log bench, and surprisingly on the bench sat a partially consumed mug of beer.
Another one of those surprising things that catch you off guard, I looked at it for a moment before deciding that someone must have taken their glass with them after leaving the local bar and then left it on the bench after resting on the way home.
Or something like that.................
A sign found posted in an empty store window.................
Signs found at the ATV off-load park...................
One more block away and we found beautiful views of the mountains.
Once you reach Mackay the mountains are constant, and the drive through the Big Lost River Valley between Mackay and Challis (and then on to Salmon) is beautiful.
Made more so by never ending mountains, the Salmon River, and increasing quiet and isolation.
I love this area.
From our vantage point I could see the mountains, but also some interesting buildings.
A home a few hundreds yards away from where we stood, and a couple of empty, partially falling down structures that were all kinds of beautiful.................
We walked.  We wandered.  We took pictures.  We looked at maps.  We drank water.
By the time we got back to the Tahoe LC STILL was not outside.
Holy Crap!
How long does it take to cut hair??
Grabbing for one more bottle of water I again took one more long drink and then poured water into my hand as my tired and hot puppy drank.
As I was screwing the top back onto my plastic water bottle, LC finally appeared.
Like a little kid he pulled off his baseball cap, waiting for my approval or disapproval of his new head.
Smiling at him I told him "It looks great!!  
But did she have to cut it one hair at a time??"
She was old.  She was opinionated.  She was talkative.  She asked a lot of questions.
And somewhere in that mess, she actually would make occasional cuts.
A haircut in a small town.
They do good work.
If you don't mind sitting for 90 minutes.................

 While getting a haircut, I thought about my failed marriage. Instead of feeling bad, I thought I’d grow a beard, move to the mountains, and start over..........Jarod Kintz

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