Tell Me a Story #4
I lost my hair when I was 10 months old - no one knew why back then, it just fell out one day, see. I grew up on a farm in Windsor, Colorado just South of Nunn and West of Greeley. It was just farms and patches of dusty dirt out there so we really didn’t go to the doctor because it cost too much money. I grew up very poor. That was in 1935.
I was very self-conscious of my appearance and I always wore a hat except when I went into the Church on Sundays. I couldn’t wear a hat in the sanctuary. People would walk up and rub the top of my head and throw comments at me. Grown-up people in my church would just walk up and rub the top of my head, a little kid. I hated that so much. It made me so mad and angry and very sad and everywhere I went, people looked at me.
When I got a little older, we moved into town, onto 5th street in Greeley and my Uncle gave me his bike, see. My Uncle Art rode the bike to work when he worked for the Union Pacific railroad. The bike was old and it was manufactured before the war. I was surprised it didn’t get melted down and used for war metal. My guess is because he rode it to work. See—that bike might have wound up as part of a gun barrel on a Sherman tank to kill Nazis or blow the head off Hitler but it didn’t, and I rode that bike everywhere escaping the grown-ups and their barbs.
One day a guy from the Lions club pulled up in a big mercury sedan. He stopped me on my bike and asked me questions about my hair, my appearance, my history. I never understood why people cared so much about the way I looked. I hated the questions the man from Lion’s club asked but he was an adult so I answered his questions. I pointed to my house and he walked over to my Mom and they vanished under the shadow of the screen door. I thought I was in big trouble. After the man left my house, my Mom sat me down and said the man in the Lions club was upset because I had no hair and I always wore a hat. He said he was going to see if people from the Lions club would raise money to buy a toupee for me. They must not have liked looking at a bald kid wearing a hat riding around the neighborhood on a bike that should have been melted down for war metal, see.
The man and his friends at the Lions Club raised the money needed for the toupee and one day after school my mom picked me up in our 1940 Ford and I went into town to get fitted for the toupee, see. It was a strange thing and it felt foreign sitting on top of my head, and it was so hot from the tape or glue. I missed my hat, see. I wanted to simply be left alone and wear my hat and ride my bike. But now even that simple pleasure was ruined by a guy who had a problem watching a bald kid in a hat ride a bike around his neighborhood. He had the problem with me, imagine that. And he had hair, and I did not have a single hair on my head and I never would.