The night before my Basic Training haircut.
When I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base on February 1, 1972, among the first order of business was the haircut. For me and many other recruits, this was a matter of no small delight for the three barbers shearing our shoulder-length locks down to military crew cuts. We paid for the haircut, twenty-five cents if I remember correctly. When it was my turn, the thin, grinning guy with several teeth missing said, “Lookie here fellas, another pretty one.”
My wavy, shoulder-length hair fell to the floor joining a pile that could have been a couch cushion. As my hair hit the floor, the third barber took a break and started sweeping the curls and waves into a waste bin in the corner.
Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” was released more than two years before in September of 1969. The barber was humming while my hair floated to the floor. I had not heard “Okie from Muskogee” at that point in my life. I would hear the song in Denver after basic training when country music would become part of the background sound of my barracks life.
Whether the humming hair harvester was serenading me with Haggard’s Hippie-Hating Hymn of some other country call to arms, he enjoyed sending my transient tresses to the floor.
With shoulder-length hair and head-to-toe discomfort, the barber knew I was a Yankee. Because I was at Air Force basic training in February he could assume I was a Liberal, but not rich enough to buy my way out of the draft and took the safer route of the service in which about one percent were in the line of fire and 99 percent were on big bases protected by the Army.
He would not have guessed that the skinny recruit he was shearing was the son of two enthusiastic Goldwater Republicans and that I had, in fact, enlisted before my draft number was published. Two months later, my sister would send me that draft number, 269, written on a small poster she sent in a large, brown envelope, much to the amusement of my fellow basic trainees.