One of the first things a farm family learns is that it need so stockpile the cash reserves – if there are any – whenever they can.
Sooner or later we all find out that livestock and grain prices can fall. They can fall hard and they can fall fast.
We first experienced the crunch in the 1990s when hog prices went through the floor.
When examining the bills and the checkbook, there was no questioning that we had to cut back. One of the first things that had to go was haircuts in town.
I had never cut anyone’s hair. The very thought of doing it myself was a little hair-raising, but I figured if my husband wasn’t afraid of looking like Lyle Lovett did back then, I should not fear the process either.
And so I plowed ahead.
I took our two toddler sons to town to get their last paid hair cut from a professional.
I brought bags of fruit snacks with me because, of course, they needed something to occupy themselves since they couldn’t pretend to be farming while they were sitting in the chair.
The barber clipped and visited while I watched what he was doing. I paid the man, said good-bye and left there for the last time, hoping I had it figured out.
Our boys were small enough that their first haircuts were in booster chairs on top of the kitchen table.
A towel and clothespin served as the haircut apron, and a package of fruit snacks deemed them oblivious to what was really going on. (It seemed a better option than a hairy lollipop.)
Of course, our sons being very young farm children, loved to talk about the farm.
One of them in his very young home haircut days, watched as I put the clipper head on the clipper, and told me, “That looks like a corn head.”
Well, of course it did.
Right from the mind of a farm kid; to this day when I put it on the clipper, I always think of it looking like a corn head.
The home haircuts continued over the years and they moved off of the kitchen table.
A few years later when that same son got a little older and it was time for prom, he once again found himself in the home barber’s chair.
We were chatting and catching up on his life, when I dropped the clippers onto the cement floor.
“That thing better still work,” he said firmly, imagining having to face his prom date with half of a haircut.
Luckily for all of us, it did keep working.
The years have passed, and I have visited with all of our guys about the farm and their dreams; I’ve heard and talked about their problems, and laughed and listened to their jokes and life stories they have shared with me.
I look forward to that one-on-one time spent together.
Recently our sons came over for their post-harvest ‘do.
The back door popped open and I heard a familiar voice yelling, “Mom? Is the barber shop open?”
It’s the one good thing I can attribute to the hog market decline of the 1990s.
Lack of funding made me hone a new skill and in exchange, it gave back to me more than I ever imagined, in terms of cultivating important relationships.
It happened 20 minutes at a time and all it cost us was a hair clipper. I have been truly grateful. There are lessons in hard times.
These days I spend time hoping their haircuts don’t look like a corn head actually did the job.
Maybe it’s why they all wear their caps so faithfully.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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