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A buzz cut grows above all the rest.

Byline: Bob Welch / The Register-Guard

When, shortly before Memorial Day, I decided to get a crew cut, I figured the humiliation would come fast and furious, like the Ducks' loss to Indiana in their home opener last year.

Boy, was I wrong.

The humiliation actually came much later - when the crew cut started to grow out and, like some UO chemistry-major-turned-dance-major-turned-religious-studies-major, my hair just couldn't figure out what it wanted to be when it grew up.

And, man, was it growing up. And up. And up.

I had the Jack and the Beanstalk of hair. I started looking like Kramer from "Seinfeld."

I had a crew cut gone wild, more jaggedly uneven than Three Fingered Jack.

"So, Welch," a colleague said. "It's crossroads time. What's it going to be? You can't just let it stay like that."

Now, guys don't normally comment on each other's hair, and the fact that this guy felt obligated to do so only added to my concern.

How had it come to this? Where had it all begun? Why do fools fall in love?

(Wavy transition to the Welch kitchen, pre-Memorial Day.)

"When I was a kid, I'd get a crew cut every summer," I said to nobody in particular.

Nobody in particular reacted.

"Maybe I should try one again."

Suddenly, my short-haired younger son, Jason, perked up, obviously moved by my evocative recollection and semi-bold suggestion.

"Let's go, dad," he said, "I'll give you one right now."

The last time I'd made such an impetuous decision was in 1971, when I had offered my buddy Mark $20 to cluck like a chicken and flap his "wings" while circling the Corvallis High choir, midsong, during an all-school concert.

But it wasn't like I was having a spear put in my nose, right? It was just a crew cut. What could go wrong?

"Let's do it," I said.

As mentioned, the crew cut itself wasn't the problem. The problem was that it kept growing straight up as if fueled by steroid-laden lawn fertilizer. I've seen shorter U.S. Open rough. In PC terms, my hair was "horizontally challenged."

On vacation, I started wearing a hat. Once, when I took it off, a source close to me burst into laughter.

"Are you scared or something?" she asked.

Like a verbal smoke bomb, someone else rolled out the word "porcupine."

"You might try some gel," my source said.

I'm not a gel sort of guy. "Give it time," I said. "It will flatten out."

"You've given it nearly four months," she said. "It's showing no signs of retreat."

"I believe in gravity," I said.

"Your hair obviously does not."

Crew cuts are like lawns, I decided. You have to keep them mowed or they get scraggly. I didn't want a crew cut any longer. I wanted my hair to go east and west, north and south, instead of simply "up."

"Come on, act like you've been here before," I muttered in the mirror. "Don't just stand there, part!"

Nothing. "OK, from you guys over, go left. The rest, right."

Nothing. I became the demanding father trying to deal with the tuned-out teenager. "Talk to the hand," came the unspoken response, ` 'cuz the hair's not listening."

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. One morning, I looked in the mirror. The fickle follicles of fate had grown in my sleep. I was now 6 feet 8, most of that in Pick-Up Sticks.

I was tired of living this way. Tired of being being called names. (Flashback: "Porcupine!' ... `Are you scared?' ... `It's crossroads time!')

My hand reached for the gel. I closed my eyes. And - I know you're dying to know the rest of the story, so I'll tell you:

My friend Mark took that chicken-clucking dare. He was expelled from school for a week.

Bob Welch can be reached at 338-2354 or at
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 11, 2005
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