i have been followed by tornadoes through illinois, iowa, into nebraska and looping through missouri. and everybody’s a little jumpy in tornado alley because joplin is just an hour away from kearney where i have landed. but i figured that no tornado would find me because the town–although well respected as the birthplace and the final burial ground of jesse james (not a facebook friend of mine)–it is also a very small town. once you get away from the macdonald’s, burger king, pilot and mobile gas stations that cling to highway 35, kearney’s business district is little more than one intersection–washington and jefferson. i was there yesterday afternoon, having lunch at fat boy’s before i would go to my facebook friend #133 darrell’s barber shop and beauty salon. suddenly, all the patrons and the owner were standing out back on the porch. a tornado had touched down in eastern kearney, which is to say half a mile away.
the owner of fat boy’s graciously ordered up everybody a drink. across the street, at city hall, people headed for the basement. we had the beer cooler. i think i chose my safety zone very wisely.
once the sirens stopped, i got a call from darrell who had been hunkering down at his house not far from the salon. he was in the mood to do some major changes on me.
after all, i had never had my hair professionally colored.
“i can tell,” darrell said cheerfully.
i cut my own hair, have for the past four years.
“i can tell,” darrell repeated.
i don’t use straighteners, blow dryers, curling irons, hair spray, deep conditioning masks, or extensions.
“i can tell,” darrell sighed.
darrell is more than a hair artist. he holds a community together. and not just because he recently instituted a policy that unemployed people can get their haircuts for free. no, no, he does more. people come in to get themselves made over but they also come in to chat and to hear the news of the town. darrell is also one of the founders of the historical society of kearney, which is how i met him: i wrote a history of kearney. much of the previous histories of kearney have focused on jesse james and the town struggles to create an identity outside of that long shadow. in believing that history is always being written, we are in agreement. when darrell spent two hours devoted to the transformation of arlynn, we agreed that i should keep my eyes closed.
“i’m a redhead!” i squealed.
“yes, because that’s your personality,” darrell said.
i think i look so good that i’m never washing my hair again. just kidding, darrell! darrell promised to hit me up when he next comes to chicago. he loves to go to a particular orchid store in villa park and he wants to see the planetarium and the field museum. i said i’d love to host him. secretly, i want him to keep taking care of my hair.
when a town is as small as kearney, it’s easy to believe that the quality of artistic endeavors will be lesser than that of something coming out of new york, los angeles, london or paris. in derrell’s case, that’s utterly untrue. he has trained with many of the most sophisticated stylists. he is familiar with trends i read about in vogue just that morning. he’s an artist whose medium is hair because of the quirk of family–he had a wife and a son (born blind) to support and his father in law was a barber willing to sell the family shop. darrell heard opportunity knocking but he has lived his life in such a way that opportunity knows how lucky it was to be invited in.
you can friend darrell through the facebook identity haircut salons–and if you mention this blog, tell darrell you want fifteen percent off your next visit!