The highway to Durham, Arkansas, and beyond, is known as the Pig Trail. It is a favorite route for those heading south to Little Rock. Despite that, it is narrow and winding with no shoulders and deep wide ditches on both sides. The wide curves tend to fall off the mountain during heavy rains. I’m on my way to meet a man, a special man who has stories to tell me.
After turning onto the Pig Trail I’m forced to concentrate totally on my driving. In Durham I have no trouble finding the building that is being renovated. It and the general store, make up most of the town. After a suitable time of picture–taking and looking over the barn of a structure, I make my way to the barber shop and Dal Collins.
The sagging door to which I’m pointed is at the back of the general store. I peer through the screen into the muskiness. There’s an occupied barber chair, a stooped barber and on a wooden bench, a couple of elderly men and an empty space. I slide in and sit.
The barber, who of course must be Dal, glances at me and takes a careful snip at the thin gray hair trusted to his shears. He can tell right away that I don’t want a haircut, not unless I want my mostly angry mop styled around a shaved neck and trimmed sideburns. Anyway, this is not one of those new-fangled beauty shops that cater to both men and women.
Dal is used to being interviewed. He’s been quoted in newspapers as far away as Little Rock, even been on television occasionally, mostly because he has plenty to say about everything and no qualms about saying what he thinks. I suspect this notoriety might cause Dal to get a little more colorful than he would otherwise, but I figure to take my chances.
After closing out a discussion about the proposed landfill that has everyone up in the air, he says to the room in general, but for my benefit, “I get a dollar a haircut. Oughta get five. Hear tell they’re charging as much as seven in some places.”
In the gloom of the single-windowed, narrow room with its ancient barber chair, I eye the steady-handed barber. I’ve been told he’s nearly ninety, but I can’t see the age on him.
I ask him about the Durham store and he goes right to the heart of the subject without any meandering. “Place is over a hundred year old. Spencer Bassett, he ran a store there for seventy-five year or more. When I was a kid, we pitched pennies in there. There was cracks in the floor….” He holds up thumb and finger and measures out a good half inch, then continues, “…and they went right on through. Indian heads. Far as I know they’re still down there under the floor.”
I think about that a while. Maybe I won’t write anything about the rare pennies. I wouldn’t want an army of treasure hunters overrunning the quiet little town in a state that, for some unknown reason, attracts its share of those. Of course, he could be applying what I’ve come to call the “hillbilly yank” on my leg.
His other tales are for another time, and when I thank him and push open the creaky screen door, he says, “You come back again, real soon.”
I never got around to paying him another visit, and he’s gone now. Nope, he didn’t retire, he passed away one night and just didn’t open up the next day to open his shop. By then he was surely otherwise occupied. Do angels need haircuts?
From Wandering In The Shadows of Time, 1994 Edition with update.
Interviews and wanderings by Velda Brotherton